I’m off on another one about balance. We’ve recently entered the world of gaming. It’s new territory. The seven-year-old has become gripped by Minecraft and has asked for FIFA from Santa. He’s gone digital. It’s fine. We’re OK with it really. It’s a rite of passage, isn’t it? Yes, he’s tuned into the gaming world a little earlier than we might have liked, but he enjoys it, it keeps him entertained and sure isn’t Minecraft all kinds of educational?
We limit his screen time and, in the interest of keeping the scales level, we’re encouraging creative play more than ever across the board with simple toys that will fire the imaginations of all three.
I’ve put together a list of some of the toys that my kids have been enjoying that inspire open-ended creative play. The brands included are all Irish too. Yay!
CREATIVE TOYS TO IGNITE THEIR IMAGINATION
Arckit is a multi-award winning, Irish architectural model building kit, originally designed for use by architects. They’ve recently launched Arckit Play as a means of opening up the world of architecture to kids, encouraging them to get creative and use the power of their imagination to build dream cities and structures. It’s a free-form model making system which uses ‘click and connect’ modular parts and is perfect for youngsters who fancy channeling their inner Dermot Bannon. In fact, Dermot has given the stuff a big thumbs up.
We’ve been using the Arckit Play City Scape set and both the five-year-old and the seven-year-old have enjoyed getting stuck in. The set includes various pastel-coloured components and a booklet with some thoroughly modern design ideas. Building it takes thought, skill and dexterity and the models are quite delicate in comparison to Lego but they’re loving being able to create realistic models of football stadiums, shopping centres and the likes. Lego and Minecraft lovers will really enjoy it. Stocked by Eason’s, Art & Hobby and Arnotts and Amazon.
As is the case with most parents, Play-doh crushes my soul. It ranks highly on the list of things that render your house irreversibly fecked after you have kids. I no longer buy it. I even attempt to hide it and re-gift it when other people buy it for my kids, such is my loathing for the crumbling, pliable altogether horrid compound.
This stuff. This STUFF! I first discovered it on a market stall in Monaghan last Summer. I bought some and I could immediately sense my brand loyalty swirling and growing.
This non-messy, non-toxic modelling clay comes in ten colours, all of which are intermixable to achieve any shade on the spectrum. It bonds without adhesives or heat and dries naturally after 24 hours to a rubbery consistency. It’s reusable when stored in the airtight tubs. It doesn’t get wedged in between the grooves of your shoes, nor does it stick to carpet, hair or upholstery. It’s like Play-doh’s clean, well-behaved cousin. Welcome at ours any time. We’ll be putting some tubs in the stockings.
If your kids love Play-doh but it makes you die inside – or worse, you’ve imposed a blanket ban on the stuff – then Clayotic is a super alternative. You’ll be supporting another fab female-led Irish business – it’s made in Louth by Louise Swords, a former Montessori teacher.
Available from www.clayotic.ie
AWAY WITH THE FAIRIES*
The Fairy phenomenon continues to grow and we’re big fans of fairy doors here. Both of my older kids now have fairy doors in their bedrooms and while, admittedly, we go through spells of inactivity, when the lines of communication open up between the human world and the fairy world via sparkle pens and tiny pieces of paper, there’s nothing quite like their excitement.
We’ve enlisted the help of our fairies quite a bit lately – they give wonderful gentle reminders about kindness and sharing and kids not flaking one another and their words are generally heeded immediately, unlike mine. Watching the kids write updates and engage with their invisible house guests is entirely adorable and we love how it takes hold of their imagination completely.
Rachel & Adrian Allkin handmake their range of beautiful and very reasonably-priced fairy doors and accessories in Loughrea, Co. Galway. They stock fairy door kits complete with dust and key, an array of fabulous, colourful accessories and freshly-caught fairy toys. They even sell fairy houses and gorgeous garden accessories. We particularly love the Christmas decorations they sent us for our fairy doors. Our kids were more excited about their fairies’ bedecked doors than with our own tree!
Check out awaywiththefairies.ie for their full range of sets and accessories. Really gorgeous!
YellowBird sells gorgeous wooden toys and hand-crafted personalised wooden items. It’s run be self-confessed wooden toy addict, Ciara Kavanagh who has a passion for selling unique items that tend to foster imagination and don’t need batteries, electricity or software.
Their range includes gorgeous personalised wooden tool kits, filled craft boxes, tea sets, writing kits and chess sets – all beautifully personalised – as well as colourful toys for smaller babies and toddlers. The focus is on inspiring creative and imaginative play with high-quality, durable, wooden toys that will last a lifetime.
We received a gorgeous artist’s set filled with crayons and markers, perfect for our art-mad five-year-old. The personalised wooden box makes it extra special and it’s something I know she will use for years. Check out yellowbirdgifts.com for their full range of gifts and toys.
We’re Lottie Doll brand ambassadors and if you follow the blog you’ll know that we’re big fans of these age-appropriate, Irish-made dolls for girls and boys. Lottie’s message is this: Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You. Lottie, Finn, Sammy boy and their ethnically diverse friends have been designed ‘to empower children to be themselves, be imaginative and most of all – to have fun’. Lottie Dolls look like kids and they dress like kids. Lottie doesn’t wear make-up, jewellery or heels. She doesn’t look like she belongs on the cover of FHM, nor does she sport attire characteristic of a lady of the night.Check out their inspiring STEM collection which includes Robot Girl Lottie and Fossil-hunter Lottie! They’ve also added some new accessories to the range including the Lottie Treehouse. Read more about why we love them here or visit the Lottie Website.
Baby Chic is a Cork-based online kids and baby store. It’s run by mum, Thea Quirke and sells a fabulous range of quirky clothing, toys and accessories for babies and kids. Her carefully-curated collection of toy brands includes Lanka Fair Trade Toys, Goki, Holztiger, Tegu and Orange Tree. Expect high-quality, colourful wooden toys. We loved the Tegu magnetic blocks. My toddler loves Magformers and traditional building blocks and this was a marriage of the two.
Baby Chic’s clothing range caters for kids up to the age of eight. They specialise in colourful & fun clothing & accessories from organic & fair-trade brands such as Piccalilly, Blade & Rose (we love Blade & Rose), JNY Colourful Kids and Funky Giraffe. Her discerning eye makes for a gorgeous collection full of playful, bright, colourful patterns. Shop their gorgeous collections on babychic.ie.
IRISH COSTUME COMPANIES WITH A DIFFERENCE
Mermaids & Dragons
We’re big fans of dressing up here. You might have read my recent review of Mermaids & Dragons, a Meath-based kids’ costume company. Lucy, a mum of two girls, designs high-quality, durable, costumes inspired by real professions like doctors, firemen and Gardaí as well as elaborate knights’ helmets and princess clobber. Read my review post for more information and check out the fab free printables Lucy has developed to enhance your children’s dress-up experience.
If you love buying Irish, check our another gorgeous costuming company, Fable Heart. Claire Pérez, mother to three girls, began designing and sewing at her kitchen table three years ago and has created a beautiful, ethereal, dreamy range of truly unique costume pieces including gorgeous stitched crowns, lush velvet capes and tweed waistcoats. Follow them on Instagram to almost cry daily at the prettiness of it all.
GIGGLE & PLAY
One of my favourite online rabbit holes, Galway-based toy retailer, Giggle & Play, started out as a seasonal company selling stocking fillers and has since grown into a thriving online retailer selling an array of original, thoughtful, timeless toys. It’s one of those sites that pulls you in and entangles you. You’ll want one of everything.
Brands are very carefully chosen and the range includes retro-inspired toys from French brand Vilac, gorgeous classic toys and decorations by Danish brand Maileg, wooden toys from Hape and Discoveroo, as well as fabulous Irish brands like Alimrose and Pippa Blue. Staying true to its origins, the site has some gorgeous stoking fillers too, including quirky stationery and colouring books, small puzzles, kids’ tattoos and chemical-free nail polish. Proceed with caution. It’s all fab!
Have you spotted anything you fancy? Perhaps you’ve tried some of the products on the list? Would you add anything else? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And I don’t have my shopping finished yet, so I’d love some more suggestions!
- *I was sent items from some of the businesses listed in return for my honest thoughts. I’ve also included brands that I have no relationship with. As usual, the post includes my honest opinions and I only ever recommend stuff I genuinely like.
- This post contains affiliate links which means that if you make a purchase via that link, I get a small percentage of the sale and I can buy myself some festive Glühwein with the proceeds. Huzzah! You can find out more about affiliate links and how I work with brands on my Disclosure page.