Category Archives: Kids

Shop Small this Christmas

I love Christmas shopping. My planning usually starts months ahead of time thanks to the glorious world of online shopping; creating lists, bookmarking my favourite shops and deliberating on what to buy for each friend and family member. Formally I would always do most of my shopping at the big brand name stores, but over the last few years I am buying more and more from smaller business, supporting those who live and breathe their products or the labels they stock, and I really enjoy knowing that I am buying something that isn’t mass produced, from a fellow mum, young entrepreneur or artist.

I’ve compiled a list below of my favourites in affordable home wares, kids clothing, toys and art for my readers.

For Kids

Cissy Wears

Still one of my favourite for online kids shopping. CW stocks an extensive range of cool kids clothing, toys, gorgeous books, stocking stuffers and now even has a lovely range of gifts for adults.

Dudes n Dolls

Really cool and well-priced rompers, harems pants, dresses and leggings in neutral colours.

Eco Toys

The best place to buy sustainable, non toxic and fantastic quality kids toys. Some of the boy favourite toys (and Xavier’s amazing Wishbone Bike) have come from here. I’ve also found that Eco Toys offers the best price compared to other smaller shops with similar products. They gift wrap too.

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Lil’ Creatures

My friend Carly is the creative genius behind Lil’ Creatures, without a doubt the cutest in kids and babies costumes. Think reindeers, koalas, bunny’s and wombats . A unique gift idea for any little one.

Mini Willa

The cutest affordable prints for kiddos. I have the ‘Rabman’ (“Is it a rabbit, or a man? No it’s a Super Rabman”) print for Xavier for Christmas – Scandinavian chic at its best. They also have a small clothing line and a few other items that ship worldwide, but the prints are where it’s at.

Rookie and Co

Buy a personalised snapback for a little boy (or girl) that fits comfortably and looks cool and they’ll love you (only hats my two will wear). One of my go to gift ideas.

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For Adults

Established for Design

EFD is a fantastic little online shop (there is a retail store in Malvern East Victoria too), showcasing the best in emerging, independent and local designers. A lovely range of art, jewellery and home wares, with heaps of options under $100.

Kip and Co

My favourite in bright, colourful and unique bedding. Also have a lovely range of towels, tableware, PJ’s and fantastic large comfy beanbags (I’ve just bought one for the boys).

Maissone

This gorgeous home wares shop in Singapore, Tiong Bahru, which conveniently (and dangerously!) has a lovely online shop too. Michelle stocks beautiful Thread Design linens, jewellery, planters, clocks and has a great selection of copper (the new must have) living accessories.

Norsu Interiors

Melbourne based home wares boutique specialising in Nordic and European designs. They recently opened their Art Lab, selling affordable, good quality prints.

Sketch.inc

If you’re looking for something truly original and unique, check out Sketch.inc. Becky Kemp hand paints kokeshi dolls in her studio in London. Karl, Frida, Anna Wintour, Amelia Earhart are a small selection of the dolls you can buy or you can order custom painted kokeshi’s (send a picture and she will paint for you) for something extra special. She also sells lovely prints, brooches and stationery.

Studio NL

A small family run business, Studio NL (formally Naked Lunge), sells lovely haberdashery, home wares, beautiful little cloth dolls and small selection of accessories. Lots of stocking filler ideas.

 

Happy Shopping Friends!

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Top 10 Toys to take on the Plane with Kids

It’s that time of year in Singapore. The international schools are on their summer break, its hot and humid (even more so than usual, that is!), and most of the playgroups and sports classes are on hiatus. Many of my expat friends have disappeared to Europe, US or Australia to see their families or take a long family holiday.

We are well-versed on the art of travelling with kids. More is better. Bringing out toys or snacks one at a time is a must. Keeping as much of the kids routine intact on the plane as possible (dinner, PJ’s on, brush teeth, story, milk, sleep). Xavier at 3.5 is easy, happy with an iPad, a movie, a snack. I still bring toys etc to occupy him, but on the most part he is a dream. Marcel at 1.5 is hard work. Stubborn, confident, distracted and wilful. Hence my need for oversupply of options to keep his active little mind engaged.

For those struggling to think of ideas of what to bring on a plane with their little ones, here are my top 10 Toys/Activities to take on a plane.

Playdough – It’s amazing how long I can get out of a couple small tubs of playdough and a few cutters and rollers!

Books – I always bring 2 lift the flap books for Marcel and one of Xavier’s favourite (longer read) books.

Stickers – They will end up everywhere, but will keep the kiddos entertained. Ideally one with a sticker book.

Mini Puzzle – The best we have found are small (9 piece ) puzzles you can colour in, great craft and activity for 3 +

Activity Books – Xavier loves activity books (word finds, mazes, colouring). Marcel will have a scribble of a wipe clean book, or a felt/magnet book works well.

A bag of small toys – I usually pack a lunch bag with a variety of small toys – takes ages for them to sift through.

Duplo or Lego – a small zip lock bag of Duplo for under 3, Lego for 3+ works a treat. You will likely spend a good deal of time hunting under the seats for all the pieces, but it will definitely give you a few happy moments with the kids!

Etch A Sketch – Just a small one. Marcel loves scribbling and pulling the lever to wipe the screen clean.

Finger Puppets – Easy to carry and interactive. Trying to get the puppets on their chubby little fingers is half the fun.

Giftwrap a New Toy – Gift wrap a new toy for the plane (matchbox car, dinosaur, something small). Only bring it out when all other avenues are exhausted. Unwrapping is half the fun.

FullSizeRenderHopefully this list will provide some respite!

Happy travelling.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Family Fun – Where to go in Singapore

Weekends are family time in our house. Gone are my sleep ins, long lunches, spontaneous shopping expeditions with girlfriends and the odd (who am I kidding, regular) afternoon nap. These have been happily (in the most part!), replaced with running around parks, bike rides, animal watching and discovering our newish home with my three favourite boys in tow.

Singapore is one of those places that is built for families. Water parks, playgrounds, indoor play centres, museums, libraries are liberally dotted all over island. A lot of the activities we list among our favourites are free or reasonably priced.

Here are my favourite places to take kids in Singapore:

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is our number one place to take the boys. Walking distance to Marina Bay Sands, The Gardens are a stunning example of the beauty of nature coupled with awe-inspiring architecture. If it’s too hot or raining a visit to the Flower Dome or Cloud Mountain make for the perfect respite. The Far-East Children’s Garden is free, suitable for all ages and has a fantastic water park. There are yummy restaurants and cafes catering for every palate, and a good outdoor hawker centre. During school holidays they always have free craft activities for the kiddos and there are safe areas to ride bikes and fly kites. Something for everyone.

The Gardens are open 7 days from 9am. The Children’s Garden closes on Mondays! (I found that out the hard way..)

Tickets for the Flower Dome or Cloud Mountain start from $8.00 for children (those under 3 are free).

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Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are another weekly favourite for us. Gorgeous open spaces, stunning lush parkland, a great place in a built up city to escape and let the kiddos run and explore.

The Jacob Ballas Childrens Garden has a small waterpark, playground, maze, treehouse, herb gardens, the boys love it. We also take their bikes, pay $1 and grab some fish food from the dispensers near the Tanglin Gate entrance and ride down to the lake to feed the (hideous) cat fish and other fishies there. A fun and low key way to spend an afternoon.

The Botanic Gardens are open daily from 5am, Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden from 8am (closed on Mondays). Admission is free.

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Singapore Zoo

If you’re willing to brave the heat or have the kids stay up late for the Night Safari, the Singapore Zoo is fantastic. You can have breakfast with the orangutans, watch the elephants paint (no, really!), step into the Fragile Forest biodome or take the tram on the Night Safari and observe the animals roaming freely, literally within touching distance.

The boys love (really love) the zoo. Xavier adores animals, and when you can see lions, tigers, polar bears, giraffes, monkeys, stinky warthogs and crocodiles within the space of a morning he is literally in heaven. But it can be a hot and tiring expedition! One we enjoy, but usually when friends are in town or for a special occasion.

The Singapore Zoo is open 7 days from 8.30 am. Get there early!

The Night Safari is open 7 days from 7.30pm.

Tickets for both are 10% cheaper (up to 30% if you use a local credit card) if you buy online in advance (and you don’t need to bring a print out, just your phone). Prices start from $18.90 for children (those under 3 are free).

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Tanjong Beach

Located on Sentosa Island, Tanjong Beach is a lovely little stretch of beach, perfect for young ones to have a play and a quick dip. There is a yummy restaurant (Tanjong Beach Club), we normally grab brunch and head down for a swim and sandcastle building expedition. There are beach volley ball courts, dogs are welcome and there is plenty of space for a kick of a football or a bike ride.

Open all year round. Admission is free.

The Tanjong Beach Club is open from 11am during the week (Closes Mondays) and 10am on weekends .

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Pony Ride at Horse City

What kid doesn’t love a pony ride?! Horse City, on Turf Club Road is our favourite spot. On weekends $10.00 will get you a ride on Jameel, the resident pony. Feed the donkeys, ponies and have a cuddle with a rabbit, a perfect spot for an animal obsessed kiddo. Horse City is just down the road from The Grandstand, a great shopping complex full of gourmet butchers, bakeries, delis, one of my favourite coffee places in Singa and loads of shops and indoor play centres. A great area with something for the whole family.

Pony rides start from 10am on weekends, $10.00 per ride. $2.00 buys you some carrots to feed the animals.

Asian Civilisations Museum

We finally had a look at the ACM a month ago, and were pleasantly surprised with what we found. The Museum is FREE and there is currently a wonderful exhibition on the top floor ‘Once Upon a Time in Asia: The Animal Race’ for children, on now until 16 August. There are fun interactive displays inspired by objects in ACM’s collection, you can make your own art to take home, there are storytellers recounting Asian tales and the kids can learn about the Chinese zodiac and more about their animal sign (Xave wasn’t too pleased to hear he was a rabbit, year of the dragon was much more appealing to a 3 year old boy!)

ACM opens daily from 10am, 7 days. Admission is free.

S.E.A. Aquarium

One of my favourite place to take the boys on my own is the S.E.A Aquarium at Sentosa. All indoors (i.e. Air Conditioned!), easy to get around with a pram and one place where both the boys are mesmerised. The variety of sea creatures is incredible. The tanks and enclosures are pristine, there are over 800 species and 100,000 sea creatures to view. It is simply spectacular. We love heading to the largest viewing area the ‘Open Ocean”, sitting down right in front with a snack and just taking in the grace and splendour of some truly magical creatures, while mesmerizing Harry Potter-esque music plays through the speakers.

The Aquarium opens daily from 10am. I would recommend going first thing, it gets very busy in the afternoons.

Admission starts from $22.00. Children under 4 are free!

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And there you have it, a guide to our favourite activities and places to visit in Singapore.

Enjoy!

My Neo Life

AN

xo

Dressing My Neo Boys

Before my glorious kiddos were a part of my life, I readily acknowledged that I would love to have girls. For completely superficial reasons. You can do cute things with their hair. They can wear a million more styles. You can accessorise their outfits. They can wear tutus. Dressing boys didn’t seem as if it could be interesting. However, after I became the mother of one and then two boys I have found this does not necessarily need to be the case.

What I discovered is that boys’ clothes are awesome. And there are a number of funky, cool and creative labels out there that cater for my Wild Ones.

When dressing boys (or girls for that matter), my one rule is, if they don’t feel comfortable, never make them wear it. I follow a lot of my favourite boys labels on Instagram (find me @myneolife!), and there are heaps of little dudes wearing bandanas, belts, necklaces, sunglasses. Xavier is just not into it. He likes his snapback hats. He likes wearing shirts with the sleeves rolled up “like Daddy”. He loves shoes. And he enjoys picking out his outfit with me in the morning. And both of us are happy with that.

Marcel, at 15 months, is obviously oblivious to anything fashion. He is an aficionado at eating close to his body weight at each meal and prefers any food item likely to stain his clothes! I learnt to dress him in dark colours or strip him down for meals. I love him in rompers and mismatched prints. And leggings look divine on his chubby little legs.

Singapore life has taken away my ability to buy sweaters, hoodies, cardigans, beanies. All the winter staples I used to love dressing Xavier in. But, the upside of living in virtually one season all year round, is I can spend a little more on T-shirts, good quality shorts etc as they are worn to death.

So, while I will always get a thrill when I see the next Vogue cover, I can also get excited about printed boys t-shirts. Drop Crotch skinny jeans. Tiny sneakers. Snapbacks.

My Favourite Boys Designers

Bandit Kids – Retro, skater kid style. Their drop crotch sweatpants have been Xavier’s absolute favourite.

Duke of London –  Crazy animal prints. Hammer pants and nappy covers are their most popular. Beach boy style.

He and Her the Label – Buttery soft fabrics, versatile leggings, shorts and onesies. Exceptional quality, interesting prints and colours.

Hugo loves Tiki – Unisex brand, inspired by the European lifestyle. Lovely printed t-shirts, leggings, pullovers.

Jnr Cooper – Owned and designed by an Aussie Mum of 3 boys. Versatile, street wear style clothes for boys. Their JZ chinos are the BEST.

Mini Rodini – Swedish children’s wear company. They embrace prints. Mainly of animals. Xavier’s favourite! Also have a great basics range.

Nununu – Contemporary kids clothing, for lovers of the monochrome look.

Popupshop – Organic basic wear, with very cool digital prints. Think tiger pants, panda sweatshirts.

Rookie and Co. – Snapback hats, made to fit ages 2-4 perfectly. You can customise or choose from their signature designs. Xavier’s ‘X’ hat is his firm favourite. Great gift idea.

Whistle and Flute – Canadian family owned and operated business. Their signature t-shirt is the Kawaii Cloud. The. Cutest. Ever.

Zuttion – Bali cool, distressed t-shirts, sweaters and awesome printed shorts.

The Best Online Boutiques Most of the brands above sell straight to the customer via their website, and almost all offer international shipping, however I also buy from the following online boutiques:

Cissy Wears – UK based, stock a variety of European brands and most of those listed above. Also retailer of MarMar Copenhagen, Danish brand that make the best leopard print leggings for kids.

Hipkin – Aussie based, always have great sales. I usually wait until the end of the Aussie summer and stock up on sale items for Singapore year round!

Mini x Style -US based, all the best brands and a few I love the look of (soft gallery, sons and daughters, grey label). If your little one is into accessories they have a great range of sunglasses, caps, hats, the works.    

Happy Shopping!

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Sick Boys. How I deal with illness.

As every parent out there, I hate when my babies are sick. Marcel and Xavier have just come through a chest infection/cold. Fever, runny noses, coughs. Hearing your little ones laboured breathing and coughing is the worst. I just want to do anything I can to make them better.

I’ve learnt a lot about how to deal with kiddies sickness over the last 3 years. I’ve learnt that if they don’t eat for a few days its ok and nothing to worry about, as long as they keep their fluids up. The worst thing to do is try to force them to eat. I’ve learnt that all rules are out the window. If they want to be fed at night, feed them. If they want to fall asleep on you, let them. If they want to watch TV for most of the day, fine. It’s all about keeping them as comfortable as possible and their minds off feeling sick. Medicate them. Putting off giving a baby ibuprofen or paracetamol makes no sense to me as it lowers their fever and gives them the chance to get into a deep and restful sleep. If they have a really high fever wearing one less layer makes sense, but taking any further layers off or lowering the air conditioning just gives them chills and will make them sicker. If they are asleep don’t wake them for any reason, their body is trying to heal.

My boys handle sickness in completely different ways. Xavier, even at 3, will wake multiple times during the night  and needs a lot of comforting. He always wants his daddy when he is sick. He will go off food for ages. Marcel sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. Yesterday I think he slept 18 hours of the day. He wants mummy and no one else. Sitting him in his baby bike and wheeling him around the house cheers him up.

I’ve found that blowing bubbles and baths are amazing distractions for both boys. Playing music. Icy poles and watermelon are two things they will always eat, and give them a little energy. I know now that a great way to lure them back into food is to cook their favourite things (even if they aren’t the most nutritious), and if they only eat 2 bites it’s a win and they are on the way to recovery.

And importantly, make sure to (try) to take care of yourself. The hardest thing is if you are sick concurrently with your kiddies. The best defence is to eat well, drink lots of water and sleep when you can. You will need your energy.

We are off to Sydney and Tasmania this weekend for a holiday and friend’s wedding. It couldn’t come soon enough.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Neo is ONE.

I read somewhere once that we are merely caretakers of our children’s lives. We have them for a few precious years where they trust us implicitly, are dependent on us for love, care, support. And then it all changes. They want to do things for themselves. They start to have their own opinions, beliefs, aspirations, goals. And ultimately their own lives.

Which makes the first few years even more precious. My baby, Marcel is ONE this week. No longer an infant. No longer waking during the night. Starting to stand and will soon take his first steps. Saying “Dadda” and “Hi”.

My eldest, Xavier is three and already asserting himself as an individual in his own right. He knows what he likes and doesn’t like. He prefers Daddy to Mummy (most of the time). He wants to go to the toilet on his own, put his shoes on himself, and pick his night-time story. He loves going to preschool, and doesn’t like telling me anything that happened that day (“what did you do at school Xave?”, “We played Mum, that’s all”). He loves dinosaurs, animals, riding his bike.

I still remember vividly when both boys were born. That feeling when you hold your baby for the first time. They were so alert, eyes wide open, staring at the world (and YOU). I love the squishiness of a newborn. The way they smell. It’s just so precious.

And whilst there is part of me that finds it so sad that those baby days are over for both my boys, the older the boys get the more exciting motherhood becomes for me. Seeing their little personalities emerge. The changes to the way they look. Their likes and dislikes. What kind of person they will become. (I just hope they are kind and happy). I’m excited to see them grow and develop.

But as I head towards the weekend and Marcels birthday, I’m going to hug my boys tighter. Consciously take snapshots of their interactions, the funny things Xavier will say and the concentration on Marcel’s face as he tries to stack blocks. Because it is all going to be over in an instant. And I want as many memories of these days as I can get.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

My Travelling Life.

Living the life of an expat means one thing for me. Travel. Travel to see your family, travel to explore your new country or region. When we lived in the Caribbean in our pre kiddo existence we would head off every 6 weeks or so. New York. Los Angeles. Toronto. London. Cuba. Jamaica. Sydney. The flights were sometimes long, sometimes delayed. I once booked a connecting flight and mixed my ams and pms up and spent a night at the Miami airport. I read a lot of books. Watched a lot of movies. Drank.

Life travelling with kids is so different. Delayed flights go from being a mild irritation to a quick calculation of adjusted sleep times. Snack, nappy and toy inventory. I no longer saunter around the airport buying duty free makeup, stocking up on magazines and sneak in a cheeky vino prior to the flight. I no longer wear a cute outfit and bring all my toiletries for a quick re do of my makeup before landing.

Having said that it’s not all bad. The upside constantly taking the kids on flights (Marcel had his first international flight at 12 days old!), is that you and they are well trained on the drill. You know what to expect. You know what to do to keep them happy on a plane. You know exactly what and what not to bring. And you also lose the anxiety of what will happen on the plane. Because you know after a few short hours it’s all over. You have arrived.

Xavier, at 3, absolutely loves flying. He knows the drill. He insists on bringing “Dog” his favourite toy who has been on every flight with him. As soon as he is seated he will pop his headphones on and watch a movie or kids programme. He has a drink and snack. Sometimes a nap. Does his colouring. Plays with his dinosaurs. Really, he is a dream. Marcel is at the age where his attention will only be on one thing for a maximum of a couple minutes before he is onto his next. He needs lots of toys, snacks, attention. My husband and I will take turns occupying him and given Xavier can amuse himself for a period of time, with any luck we can both can now (almost!) fit in a movie and eat our meal on the plane.

I have learnt to always bring more rather than less. Don’t just bring a bottle of milk and a toy. I have a Mary Poppins bag of epic proportions, crammed with toys, extra clothes, snacks, treats, IPad, books, colouring books, crayons, wet wipes. And always a change of clothes for Mum and Dad (I learnt that the hard way!).

I also learnt that the timing of the flight is critical. For us, night flights are avoided like the plague. The kids will sleep ok, but you never do. Arriving at your destination with two tired kids and two sleep deprived parents does not a fun holiday make. We love morning flights. Earlier the better. Waking the kids up for a flight usually means by the time you board, they are close to needing a nap. With any luck we can have both boys sleeping at the same time. Heaven.

I am still conscious that our boys can disturb fellow passengers on planes. I really try to keep them 100% happy to minimise the irritation to others (I have been on flights where I have received the eye roll when a single guy is seated next to us). I take great satisfaction when someone comments on how well they have behaved when we are disembarking. But you know what I have learned? If we do have a meltdown, if we do have a nappy disaster, if our flights are crazy delayed. We will still make it. We will still enjoy our holiday. And the people on our flight may be bothered by our crying babies, but they will still get wherever they need to. To their holiday, their business meeting, their home. And you are very likely to never see them again.

In three short weeks we are off to Tasmania for a friend’s wedding. We have a few days in Sydney to break up the flight and see family and friends on the way. My Mary Poppins bag will be at the ready.

My Neo Life

AN

xo

First Flight with two boys