The Ultimate Parents' Guide to the Holidays
With years of scouring the children's market and 10 kids among the three of them, the founders of Babyccino Kids are well-versed in all things child. Just take a peek at their blog for brilliant craft ideas, extensive travel guides, cultural insights, and new items and brands.
A long-distance correspondence among the three friends—who were spread across Europe (Courtney Adamo in London, Emily Walmsley in Paris, and Esther van de Paal in Amsterdam)—forged the blog and online marketplace of goods from independent children's boutiques across the world.
We spoke with van de Paal and Adamo about everything from their own family traditions for the holidays, to what they're gifting the children on their lists—and even how they steer clear spoiling children. Read on for their expert insight and gorgeous picks.
What are your family's favorite holiday traditions?Esther van de Paal: This year for the first time I have made an advent calendar, but not an advent calendar with gifts or candy, but one with activities that focus on togetherness, goodness and fun (of course!). Activities range from "Let's go for a walk in the dark after dinner and bring flashlights," "Let's prepare a picnic for the animals in the forest," "Let's have breakfast for dinner," "Let's say three things about each family member that we love about him or her," "Let's have a picnic by the Christmas tree," "Let's cut out snowflakes and decorate the windows," "Let's discuss charities, pick one and make a donation," and many more. Even though this is the first year we're doing this, it's been a huge success and it's most definitely going to be a family tradition.
Courtney Adamo: I use the same advent calendar every year, which has small pockets on each day for little presents. The kids take turns opening presents throughout the month of December, and it’s such a fun way to build excitement and anticipation for Christmas. It’s also a nice way of spreading out the gifting, meaning I can give them less on Christmas Day.
On Christmas morning we make my mom’s famous Butterhorns (cinnamon rolls) and eat them straight off the tray while unwrapping stocking presents.
You're all avid travelers: What tips would you give to fellow parents traveling with kids for the holidays?Van de Paal: I like to take audiobooks for the bigger children, it keeps them entertained (and quiet) for hours. In busy public spaces (i.e., the airport), it can be handy to dress your children in bright colors so it's easier to keep an eye on them. But overall, we like to say: "Just do it!" The more relaxed you are, the easier it is to travel.
Adamo: Just do it! I think parents are so often put off by the big schlep of travel, or the jet lag, or the fears of the unknowns. My biggest advice is to be flexible and willing and just go with the flow.
What children's activities do you take advantage of in your respective cities during the holiday season?Van de Paal: The canals are so pretty during the season! It's the perfect time for a canal cruise. After New Year's Day, there's a giant bonfire where everyone can bring their Christmas tree to be burned. (Most people use their bakfiets to transport their tree!) It's quite a spectacular sight and the children love it.
Adamo: London becomes so quiet over the Christmas period because so many people go away—it’s magical! We love taking advantage of a quiet city all to ourselves and often visit our favorite museums (Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, British Museum).
What is your family's favorite holiday-themed children's book(s)?Van de Paal: I love classics like The Snowman, and Richard Scarry's The Animals' Merry Christmas (a childhood favorite!), and for the classic Christmas story, I like Dick Bruna's Christmas for it's simplicity, both in the text as in the illustrations.
Adamo: My children’s favorite Christmas book is Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree. It’s such a sweet rhyming book and has such a lovely message. I’ve been reading it every evening to the kids!
You often feature crafts and projects for children on your blog. What's one of your favorites?Van de Paal: I like simple, seasonal crafts like this leave splash project or stamping holiday wrapping paper. For the coming weeks, I'm planning on making 2D Christmas decorations using Fimo clay, something I think all my kids will enjoy (and me too).
I also loved the pillow stamping craft—with the eraser on the back of a pencil we created confetti pillows. We chose sweet candy colours that go really nicely together, and the result was darling. I specifically like this craft because it's so fun for all ages (even for adults!), and the result is really cool and useful (and would make a great present!).
Adamo: This is a really old post from our blog, but we love making these potato-stamped holiday cards. The penguins are always so cute!
What toy trends have you seen for 2014's holiday season?Van de Paal: I really like seeing a lot of "old school" simple and handmade toys this season. The focus seems to be on heirloom toys, often made from natural materials, and really encouraging children to (pretend) play, and be creative.
Adamo: I’ve noticed a trend toward handmade and unique, and a back-to-basics philosophy, which I love!
What is a favorite children's line new on your radar?Van de Paal: I love the nostalgic toys and children's accessories from Argentinean brand Fanny & Alexander. They work with local artisans to create simple yet beautiful products that children love. (Canvas School Satchel on Esther's daughter Ava, at left, and Wooden Camera, held by Courtney's daughter Ivy, at right)
Adamo: This is a tricky question for me to answer. There are so many good ones! My favourite clothing brand might be Mabo Kids, although they’re not that new.
Adamo: I’m giving my daughter one of these handmade dolls from Mamma Couture. And my youngest daughter wants these pretty fairy wings from Belle Enfant (her big sister has them and she’s been asking for her own pair all year!).
What gift are you looking to give a boy on your holiday shopping list?Van de Paal: I discovered these retro, lightweight skateboards at our ShopUp event and they are so cool! Definitely getting one for Pim.
Adamo: My oldest has asked for a new bike, and the other one wants roller blades! That makes Christmas pretty easy for me. I’m sending my godson a handmade teddy bear from Polka Dot Club (they are the most beautiful teddy bears).
What gift are you looking to give a newborn on your holiday shopping list?Van de Paal: This handmade teddy bear has just so much character.
Is there a sweet spot when it comes to the number of gifts to give a child? In other words, how do you prevent spoiling during the holiday season?Van de Paal: We usually give one or two more "serious" gifts to our children, and then the rest of the gifts are very practical: The girls get new ballet outfits, a tennis outfit for Pim, new shoes for Ava, they all get new underwear and pajamas ... and I always buy a few books as well. Hmmm, that does sound like spoiling them, doesn't it? But it's Christmas, after all.
Adamo: Our kids get one bigger gift from Santa and then one gift from us. That’s it. And we (Santa) also put around five little gifts in each of their stockings. I think if they get too many gifts, it can all become too overwhelming for them and they forget to appreciate each one. We definitely adopt the quality over quantity approach with our gift giving.