Tag Archives: kids

Summer Inspiration for Kids

1 Jul


Seeing as summer vacation is quickly approaching for my three kids I’ve been thinking a lot about meaningful ways to pass our time together this summer.  We’ll be away on vacation for a total of four weeks this summer which leaves us four additional weeks here at home.  We usually spend our days either at the beach or out discovering new walking trails or doing a quick trip into the city.  But there are definitely lots of moments where we find ourselves at home and I really want those moments to be enjoyable, fun, memorable and even maybe a little educational.

As I’ve said in the past I’m a big believer in letting kids be bored.  As you can read here even the experts are advising it.  When my kids get bored they get creative.  They dig out all the art supplies or the big box of lego and they get busy for hours on end (although I do admit that the “mama I’m bored!! moments leading up to this can be quite frustrating!).

This summer we decided as a family that there will be no computer/ipod before 6pm.  Our days will be spent reading, playing, swimming, baking, painting, writing, building, selling lemonade and whatever else they come up with.  The kids were on-board from the get-go and have already started thinking of special projects to pass their long, hot summer days.

Here are some of the projects that I’ve been thinking of proposing to the kids this summer:


These 26 art lessons that were created and curated by the super talented Deborah Harju are definitely on our list of projects to try out this summer.  Deborah not only includes step-by-step instructions for her projects but she also includes interesting and educational background information to the various methods, styles and artists that go with them.  I really can’t wait to try the Geometric Design with Islamic Art project, the Intro to Neo-Plasticism project and the Leaf Painting project (which involves a hammer!).  There are projects for kids of every age and ability.

DSCN4431Another great place for creative ideas is the blog One Bunting Away.  Giova is an avid and passionate snail-mailer and she includes lots of really beautiful tutorials  on her blog to make your snail mail more beautiful (I did a guest post in her Flat Project last month).  Projects like these will really motivate my kids (and me!) to write lots of letters to friends and family around the world this summer.  Plus, it’s a great way for my Dutch schooled kids to practice writing in English.  Some favourite projects that we’ll definitely be trying are the Accordian Envelope, the decorated poems and the felt envelopes (because we love to sew!).


This is also the summer that my kids are going to learn to cook and bake.  I’ve noticed that they are really starting to become interested in helping out in the kitchen and they often ask questions about what tastes go together or what foods are the healthiest to eat.  One of my daughters actually started baking on her own this past winter.  She has officially perfected her great grandmother’s biscuit recipe and I’ll admit that the fact she made them for me 10 times in a matter of 2 weeks has definitely motivated me to teach her some new recipes.  I love all the recipes found on Sheri Silver‘s blog called Donuts, Dresses and Dirt.  They are usually quite simple, don’t have long lists of ingredients and are healthy.  We’ll definitely be making the Sugar-free Honey Lemon Cake, the Fruit Leather and the Honeydew-Lime Ice Pops (above).


And lastly I have a list of Ted Talks for Kids for those moments when it’s just too hot to move or do anything or when they’re exhausted after a long day of tennis camp.  These Ted Talks are absolutely amazing, inspiring and very educational.  My kids have already watched a few and they were enthralled from the beginning to the end.  There are many talks given by adults on subjects such as Life in the Deep Oceans, Mathemagic (my kids loved this one) and Sketching Electronics.  There are also fascinating talks by kids such as Tavi Geninson who created a space where girls could find each other and redefine feminism or Sirena Huang who is an 11 year old professional violinist.  I know my son will be excited to see the talk by 12 year old Thomas Suarez who is a world renown APP developer.  Check out Ted Talks for Kids here and Ted Talks by kids here.

mg_9778And again this summer I’m going to make the kids an activity garland like I did last year.  It was a huge success with all three of them and they still talk about it often and ask when this summer’s garland will be finished.   I sewed up different sized pockets on a garland where I inserted various surprise activities for the kids such as a photo challenge, a wooden skewer architecture challenge and a recipe challenge to name a few.  They spent hours working together for these projects and at the end of the summer we made a little book with some of the finished projects and photos of the finished projects.  Check out last year’s post which explains it all here.

So let summer begin!  I’m ready.

A Kid’s Life : Switzerland

5 Jun

I’m really excited to have a new interview for my A Kid’s Life series on the blog today.  Over the last  months I’ve been busy looking for interesting families from around the world and I’ve found a few great ones that I’ll be interviewing in the coming weeks.  I was recently reading back through the previous interviews from Italy, Japan, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The Philippines, Colombia, Germany, Belgium, France and The Netherlands and I still love to hear what family life is like in all these countries and cultures.  Learning about all the little differences in our daily lives is fascinating and I’ve discovered that my kids absolutely love reading these interviews as well. They get a huge kick out of learning things like a baby’s first food in Japan (fish paste!), that school starts really early in Colombia and The Philippines (7:30am), the fact you can learn Chinese as a 2nd or 3rd language in Tasmania and that kids in Germany only go to school for half days (they thought that one was quite unfair).

Today we’ll be hearing from a family living in Switzerland.  I met the super dynamic Elisa at The Hive blogging conference a few weeks back and I immediately Ioved her energy and positive personality.  I just wish I’d met her at the beginning of the week-end and not 5 minutes before I was leaving to catch my plane!  Elisa lives with her family in Zurich, Switzerland and has a great blog called Globetrotting In Heels where she writes all about fashion, travel and much more (she’s really funny!).  I loved her candid interview and am now craving a good Swiss roesti and raclette dinner.

So, let’s hear what family life is like in Switzerland…

What country do you live in?

We currently live in Zurich, Switzerland.

Are you and your husband the same nationality?
No, my husband is Swiss, I’m Italian. Ok, technically I should probably say yes, since I am a naturalized Swiss citizen and now have a Swiss passport, but really, it’s purely a burocratic thing. I’m no more Swiss now than I was a few years ago – but don’t tell the Immigration Office, ok? 😉

Do you both work? Or does someone stay at home?
Right now my husband Sascha works and I mostly do the mom thing, do some volunteer work and the occasional freelance assignment. I’ve also recently gone back to school, so I am studying for an international diploma.

How many languages are spoken in your house? What one(s)?
Three: Italian, German (mostly of the Swiss variety) and English.

How many kids do you have? What are their ages?
I have two girls: Sarah is 13 and Stella is 7.


At what age do kids start school in your country?
Kids start school at 7 but both my daughters started at 6. When they are ready they are ready. I never would have pushed if they weren’t but when kids aren’t challenged they get bored, and when they get bored they get in trouble! Best to avoid that by keeping a child occupied and give him enough new things to keep him/her interested and engaged.

Click to continue reading all about family life in Switzerland!

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Origami Dress

12 Apr


Last year I posted about our favourite homemade Father’s Day gift, an origami shirt and tie garland.  The kids loved making it and their Papa loved receiving it.  We still admire it on a daily basis and according to my site statistics it’s the one readers come to visit the most (it’s even featured on the Disney blog Spoonful here).

As some of you may know, origami is very popular in this house (post to prove it here).  We spend hours folding everything from cranes (once we even folded 1000 for a special friend), balls, mice, pianos and even the odd piece of lingerie.  Whenever we have kids over to our house the origami box is usually the first thing that comes out and my kids love passing on their folding skills to others.

Since Mother’s Day is coming up (On May 12th in Italy) I thought it would be a nice idea to make the origami dress version of the shirt and tie garland.  My kids learned how to fold this dress a few years ago and we have a house full of them.


For this garland the kids folded tiny versions of the origami dress and then sewed them onto round pieces of paper.  The garland can be folded (carefully) up and slipped into an envelope to be opened on Mother’s Day.  Very sweet.


The kids also folded some larger dresses and made them into cards.  They only glued the top of the dress onto the cardboard which makes the skirt puff out a little.  Very pretty.  And very quick to do.

Here is a little video of my daughter showing how to fold a paper origami dress.  Please ignore the irritating music, I’ll try and find something a little more soothing soon.

Bits and Bobs

2 Apr

It has been a pretty busy and action filled few weeks around here.  We had my in-laws here for two weeks, an 11th birthday celebration, Easter and many day-trips and outings along the way.  Despite the horrible grey and rainy weather is was a really wonderful time for all of us.

Every now and then when I’d mention to friends that I had my in-laws here for a few weeks they would look at me with pity and tell me things like “you’ll get through it” and “hang in there”.  But luckily for me I really do have the greatest and most easy going in-laws ever.  I’ll admit it, I was quite sad when they left.  And the kids are still wandering around the house at a loss for what to do without their enthusiastic playmates that were always available to play a (4 hour) game of Monopoly, go for a walk into town or partake in a Ping Pong championship.

Here are a few images of our past few weeks:

A little trip to Lago di Como and lunch in the famous town of Bellagio.1-IMG_7098

I’m still in shock that my teensy weensy little twin baby girls turned 11 last week.  How did they go from being able to fit in their Papa’s shoe to these long lanky pre-teens?


It was a rarity that we actually celebrated Easter in our own home this year.  Usually we are in Belgium at the grandparent’s house or somewhere far away on vacation.  Last year we were actually admiring the cherry blossoms in Kyoto on Easter morning.  But this year we really appreciated the first sun we had seen in weeks by strolling along the lake and then enjoyed an amazing Peking Duck dinner (not very Easter-y but so delicious).

Easter stroll at the lake.  Learning how to skip stones and admiring the perfectly round dot on the back of the Jack Russel who kept us company on our entire walk.

Traveling With Kids: Marrakesh

28 Mar

Time for another of my Traveling With Kids columns over on the fabulous creative parenting blog Classic Play.  This time I write about our time spent in the city of  Marrakesh during our recent trip to Morocco.  Marrakesh is a charismatic city full of so much colour and culture.  After our calm time in the Atlas Mountains it was quite a culture shock to arrive in this busy and charismatic city full of everything from monkey tamers, to donkey carriages to vendors selling everything under the sun.  Pop on over to Classic Play to read (and see) more!


Have you ever been to Marrakesh?  What was your favorite spot in the city to visit?

Embroidery With Kids

6 Feb


The last ten days have been a little rough around this household.  A few kids caught an evil virus and were laid up with high fever for over a week.  I don’t remember the last time any of my kids were so sick.   And I had forgotten what it’s like to be house-bound for OVER A WEEK.  But we survived.  And we had some lovely moments together over the past ten days.


At a certain point I was fed up of playing Connect Four, Phase 10 and Ingenious so I went and started rummaging through my sewing room for some ideas of something creative to do with sick kids.  I found an old box full of wooden embroidery rings, a roll of old burlap, large needles and some colourful yarn and thread.  A perfect activity for kids who don’t have the energy to get off the couch but are bored and in need of something to do with their hands.


Using burlap to teach kids embroidery is ideal because it’s so easy to get the needle and thread/yarn through the largely woven fabric and even possible to reverse if a mistake is made.  And the contrast of the earthy textured brown material with brightly coloured thread  is absolutely lovely.  One little piece of advice would be to always zigzag the edges of the burlap beforehand to reduce fraying.


I quickly showed the kids the basics of embroidery and then left them to create whatever pattern came to mind.  We all sat around the living room with the fire blazing and listening to classical music playing in the background.  So cozy and slightly Little House on the Prairie-ish.


After the designs were done we made them into little miniature pillows using different coloured velvets for the back.  The kids are so proud of their creations.  Their mama as well.


Fabric Scrap Christmas Balls

7 Dec

This year I haven’t had so much time to make lots of new Christmas decorations but I have made some of these little fabric-scrap Christmas balls for our tree (I also sold some at the Swedish Christmas Market).  They are super easy to do and a perfect holiday craft for kids.  And they’re beautiful!  Mine might not be in the traditional Christmas colours but they do brighten up any tree or room.  And what a great way to use up all those fabric scraps you’ve been saving for years (or is that just me who does that?).


First of all you need to get your hands on some Styrofoam balls (of any size).  Take a long wooden skewer and gently make a hole that goes all the way through the ball from the top to the bottom.  It might take a few stabs to get it through.

Now take a piece of ribbon and gently push it through the hole with the help of the wooden skewer so that it comes out the other end.  Tie a knot so that it doesn’t slip back through the hole (I also added some wooden beads on both sides of the ball).


Combine white glue in a bowl with some water (it should be quite liquid-y) and grab a small paintbrush.


Go through your material scraps and pick out a selection of your favorite materials.  Cut them into small pieces of different shapes.


Now you just have to glue the tiny fabric scraps on the ball.  I brush a bit of the watered down glue directly on the ball then as well on top of the material.  You can overlap the scraps so that no white shows from the ball.  Be a bit careful not to get too much glue on the ribbon (or else it will turn stiff).  Let hang to dry overnight.


We’ve made over a dozen so far and they look really lovely on our tree.



8 Nov

Today I sewed the most adorable little smock in the world.  So adorable it actually had me contemplating having a 4th child just so that I would have someone to wear it.  Little kid’s clothing is so sweet and small and gives me pain in my heart that my little ones have grown so long and lanky.  It’s true what all those boring adults said to us as kids about time passing so quickly (while pinching our cheeks).  I mean, it’s November folks.  November!  Sinterklaas (very important day for every Dutch speaking kid on December 6th) and Christmas are just around the corner.  Which means 2013 is upon our heels as well.  Deep breath.

So as I was saying before having that little panic attack, I made a gorgeous little smock from an easy Danish pattern my friend found in Denmark (it helps my other friend is an amazing seamstress and teacher and managed to figure out the pattern even if it was in a foreign language).

I used a beautiful fabric from Petit Pan and some great polka dot bias that I found at an Amsterdam market a few weeks back.  Unfortunately I was short a bit so I had to use some yellow bias for the neckline and armholes but in the end I like all the different colours.

I added a little polka dotted pocket at the front so that the little one can store all of their favorite treasures found on their path.  Emptying my kids pockets is one of my favorite things to do.  The things you find tell so much about their day and their personalities.  There’s actually an amazing initiative by some Dutch ladies that revolve around taking photos of zakschatten (pocket treasures).  Pop over here to read all about it and see some great photos of kid’s pocket treasures.

I’m going to be honest.  I would put my kid in this as a real dress with a shirt and leggings underneath.  It’s too sweet to be just a smock.  You’ve got to love the Danish design and French fabric combination.  Now off to make 10 more of these!


11 Oct

Last week-end the weather was beautiful, the kids were keen and our bike wheels were full of air so we decided to do a beautiful bike ride along the Canals of Navigli.  The Navigli Canals run from the north all the way down into the city of Milan.

We started our ride in the small town of Nosate which is about a 30 minute drive from our house. We loaded all five bikes in and on our cars and off we went.

We started off on our bike ride mid-morning and cycled a few hours before stopping for a picnic on the lawns of the Villa Gaia in the town of Robecco Sul Naviglio.

The car-free cycle paths are beautifully maintained and wind along the canals through lush forested areas.  We were lucky with perfect warm weather and blue skies (without any mosquitoes!).

Every so often you have to cycle through an old town many of which have quaint little restaurants and bars in which you can stop to eat or have a drink.

Along the canals you come across many of these old abandoned Renaissance villas.  Who on earth abandons a mansion such as this?

It’s possible to ride along the canals from Lago Maggiore (Sesto Calende) all the way into Milan.  This time we managed a little more than 40 km but we hope to do the entire ride into Milan next year.

I really do live in a beautiful place.

Traveling With Kids Column on Classic Play! (Sleep in the Hay, Switzerland)

4 Oct

Today over on Classic Play! you can read my newest Traveling With kids column.  This time I write about our recent “Sleep in the Hay” experience in Switzerland.  We stayed at a beautiful farm in the Swiss mountains above Lugano and the kids were in heaven the entire time.  Breathtaking views, wonderful walking trails, lots of animals, farm fresh cheese and goats who shared our sleeping quarters.  What more could a kid want?  Check out my post here.

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