We’d heard that the Jiuqian Music & Arts Center was just 15 minutes from our Shanghai hotel. But the Chinese-speaking driver just kept driving and driving… An hour passed and we were officially very, very far from the urban, international city of skyrises.
The driver slowed down, checked his map, then pointed out at a field, and looked at me with a very puzzled look. “I’m beginning to think this is a wild goose chase.” Adam, my 7 year old son asked, “What’s a wild goose chase?” I assured myself that this would be a story to tell for years to come. But I also couldn’t stop thinking about how much my family needed a bathroom after a long day out and about in Shanghai. We turned around, nearly giving up but then we saw the address posted on a small gate into a set of four industrial buildings. I’m pretty sure the driver was disappointed we weren’t headed back to Shanghai, & that he was stuck with us out in the middle of nowhere.
“mypootle helps travelers discover destinations with soul” and because of this, we thought they would be the perfect partner for our Let’s Go To Morocco Sweepstakes! You read right… we’re giving away a Moroccan adventure to one lucky family. We went there. Now you can, too! This sweepstakes will kick off on Monday June, 2nd and we can’t wait to share all of the details, but until then, mypootle is sharing their top hotel picks for family travel. From African safari’s to Normandy Chateau’s, mypootle has you covered!
Toddlers, tweens or teens, travelling as a family poses some quite interesting challenges. Ever since the mypootle HQ increased its headcount with a pint-sized pootler, trips away have become really rather complicated; once dreamed of havens of stylish tranquility we realize are actually adult only retreats with their doors and swimming pools firmly shut to anyone under the age of 14, although the suite may be roomy with a claw-foot bath, we now seek inter-connecting rooms so that we don’t tiptoe around our slumbering mini-explorer in the dark. Whilst the restaurant may come with all sorts of stars, it’s important that we have a kiddy meal available at 6pm. From baby-sitting to self-catering apartments, playrooms to early dinners, here are our pick of the best places for families; places that will ensure that you’ll all have an enjoyable holiday.
Long haul flights can look a little daunting if you have an active, energetic toddler in tow, but if you are coming from England’s winter then we suggest South Africa. With its sunny climate, dramatic scenery and unbeatable wildlife is top of our list. More Quarters, Cape Town is the perfect city-escape for families with kids of all ages. Super stylish and spacious apartments, the 1-bedroom spaces can sleep 3, the 2-bedrooms sleep 4-5 and there’s even a house for 8! Apartments come with a fully fitted kitchenette, so head to Neighbourhoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill to stock up on artisanal goodies including organic veggies, cheese, wine, olive oil, pesto and chocolate. Kid plus: See penguins at Boulder’s Beach.
No trip to South Africa would be complete without a safari and Madikwe Safari Lodge is a fantastically kid friendly lodge in the malaria free Madikwe Game Reserve. There are two family suites and a mind-boggling number of activities to keep the little ones busy, from family safari drives and Bug CSI to making molds of tracks, painting and drawing. If your little one wants to squelch around, then they can help the ranger wash the safari vehicle whilst there are also chances to try out their culinary prowess with pizza making in the boma. Kid plus: The Ecohouse will keep them out of mischief in case of bad weather.
Pack the bags and family and retreat to Monte da Vilarinhain Portugal, a hilltop refuge in the southwestern corner of the Algarve, just a stone’s throw from the unforgettable beaches of Costa Vincentia. With a mix of apartments and studios, most with their own kitchen (a few share kitchens) or kitchenette, there is a family friendly spirit at Vilarinha and children (from babes to teens) are welcome. There is no shortage of things to do! Little adventurers can swing, slide and climb in the adventure playground, there are mountain bikes to ride, a lovely pool, over 30 hectares of valley to explore and beautiful beaches close by. Kid plus: For toddlers, there is a playroom with many toys! If you fancy European city hopping, then let us suggest a few seriously stylish children friendly boltholes. In Florence, stay at Casa Howard, an eclectic B&B just moments from the city’s beating Renaissance heart and book the Play Room with its connected sitting room and free-climbing wall. Kid plus: There is a Walt Disney library to pick and choose from, perfect for tired little pootlers at the end of the day. In hip Berlin, Ackselhaus & Blue Room offers a great way to experience the city as a family. Some rooms and apartments sleep 4 and many come with their own kitchenette. It’s leafy and secluded, located close to cafes, parks and sights and breakfast is served until midday, so no need to rush in the morning. Kid plus: iPads to rent – pre-loaded with films, music and books!
Safari in Kenya’s Northern Frontier at Sabuk Lodge. Set slightly apart from the main lodge, the Eagle Cottages come with 2 en-suite bungalows (one king and one triple), a sitting room, plunge pool and a dedicated team to look after you. The lodge itself is still a family home and inside is comfortably, elegant and rustically stylish, there are sofas with colourful cushions to throw yourself onto, woven rugs and through it all runs gnarled wood, stone boulders and makuti thatch. There is no minimum age, a baby listening service and early meals for those with early bed times are available. Kid plus: Camel trekking! Live like an aristocrat and take the family to a French chateau in green gastronomic Normandy. Chateau de Saint Paterne is brilliantly child friendly; some rooms come with a little side room with both single and bunk beds while baby monitors can be provided. The gardens are home to a gorgeous pool, trampoline, badminton, croquet, Ping-Pong and plenty of run-around let-off-steam space. With the delights of Normandy to explore, its idyllic villages, beaches and rolling hills, a short stay here may not be long enough… Parent plus: A little port decanter sits in the bedroom.Dar Les Cigognes is a supremely stylish boutique hotel in Marrakech. The riad, which takes its name (“house of storks”) from the long legged birds that circle their nests on the palace ramparts just across the street, is a former wealthy spice merchant’s house which has been extensively redesigned by the architect Charles Boccara transforming it into a luxurious and stylish Moorish retreat. This hotel has large central courtyards complete with fountains, citrus and palm trees, numerous little salons and staircases and is one of the few riads to offer inter-connecting rooms. Irresistibly calming, Dar Les Cigognes is the perfect place to retreat to after a day spent haggling in the souks or sipping mint tea and taking breakfast on the terrace is breathtakingly lovely. Kid plus: Helping to make the yummy pastries… or maybe the best bit is actually eating them!
“Can you find Iceland on the map? I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the North and it’s in the Atlantic Ocean.”
We’ve been traveling since our kids were very small and now that my twin boys are nearly six, we’re finding it’s getting a lot easier and a lot more fun… and they’re really curious about where we’re going to go next! Our last trip was a European trip which included Iceland and Denmark that were new to both my husband and me, we weren’t sure what to expect. But, that is the adventure in traveling with our family and all of us learn a lot along the way. For me, the toughest part of packing is realizing I can’t bring 5 pairs of shoes or outfits that I “might” wear… that space goes to an extra pair of shoes for the kids or a just-in-case outfit for them if they spill or have an accident. We like to travel lightly so that we can take public transportation and walk with our luggage if we have to. But every family travels differently! For us, here are a few of our favorite tips and maybe they might be helpful to you too:
The first thing we do when we book a trip is find it with our kids on a map we have in our office. We talk about how many hours it will take to get there by plane or train and discuss where it is in comparison to other places we’ve been. We wonder together if it will be hot or cold and if there will be swimming pools or animals to see. We think about the food that is grown there and what we might like to eat.
Then we buy books. Sometimes I buy them online so they show up when we first start talking about a trip, or the kids and I go to the library or bookstore to pick them up together. We like picture books that are set in the place we’re visiting or travel books about the place. If we can find a family-friendly DVD we do that too. For our recent Iceland trip, my guys enjoyed the travel clips on the Tourism Bureau’s website. We also like the Dodsworth books by Tim Egan -we’ve read them for Paris and Tokyo and we’re curious where Dodsworth will travel next.
If the country speaks a different language we make sure we know at least “hello” and “thank you”. Dover Publications makes coloring books that are in French, Spanish and English and Usborne Books have great 1000 words books in many languages too. We’ve found that if the kids can say “hello” and “thank you”, many people are much more receptive to us bringing our kids almost anywhere.
A couple days before the airport we buy a small toy that’s under $10. This saves the panic of having to find souvenirs or treats for the kids when we get somewhere to entertain them, and it gives them something to look forward to after they nap on the plane, or get to the airport or whatever the agreed pact is for opening the toy.
And when the travel day arrives, we think of some kind of walking/running/energy-burning activity before the flight – especially if it’s a long one! We wake up extra early if we want don’t want a late night in our destination or we nap if we want to keep them up to get our family on a new time schedule if we cross a couple time zones. We’ve found that walking and taking public transit to the airport from our home in Seattle gets a lot of pre-trip energy out and saves us a few extra dollars for coffee at the airport. Which is definitely another travel must for my husband and I!
I have been a fan of Zid Zid Kids for a long time, admiring the work of Julie and Moulay. They create beautiful items for play and home, all made in Morocco by hand. I find the pieces and overall aesthetic to be so charming.
Moulay and Julie live in Morocco and speak French, Arabic and Spanish to their children daily – so it was only natural that their next endeavor would be a creative hands-on language program for children! Petit Zarafa is a play-based multi-language learning subscription website for little citizens ages 2 and up.
My children have Chinese flashcards that they play with when their grandmother visits from Taiwan, but we haven’t picked them up in a while.
The combination of the activities with learning lessons, grasping different sounds with familiar tasks, is inspiring to me. My kids love playing with games and are currently learning letters & numbers at their own schools – it will be interesting to see what they gravitate to most with this program. In general, my kids love listening to stories… I’m sure my mom, a former French language teacher, would love to teach them French stories. It would be magical if they could speak a little bit of French when we visit my sister in Europe this summer.
Are you teaching your children a second language? What do you find works best? I’d love to know!
Warm weather opportunities are popping up all over. But with the possibility of April showers, there are a number of indoor activities to plan for eager (and antsy) kids. Here are few crafts that can build excitement and enthusiasm for the season. Plus, they’re perfect for nannies and sitters looking for more hands-on projects to engage kids.
Bath time is often a struggle. Make it a little more fun with double-duty bunnies. You can create these little rabbits out of brightly-colored washcloths that can later be used in the bath. Check out this example.
Using plastic eggs and hot glue (kids will need help with this!), there are a few fun filled ways to create festive headdress. Encourage their creativity by allowing them to add whatever accessories please them. Here are some images to jump start your creativity.
Here’s a project you haven’t done since preschool, but perfect for an Earth Day lesson. Grab a pinecone from the yard; tie about a 12-inch piece of yarn or ribbon in a tight knot around the top so that the ends hang evenly (these will then be tied around a tree). Spread peanut butter or honey all over the pine cone. Then pour bird seed onto a plate and roll the sticky pinecone over it. Hang the pinecone on a tree — and tie another knot. Gather around and wait for the birds to come.
Re-create the World
Who doesn’t love an excuse to make marshmallow rice treats? Your kids will love sculpting a globe out of the yummy dessert and covering it with green and blue sugar. As a sweet bonus, try putting some gummy creatures on the earth too! Give a little planetary talk, discuss the amount of water versus land and explain how we need to take care of these elements… And then dig-in!
Whether it’s your front yard or a neighborhood eye-sore that needs a little sprucing, nothing helps decorate more than flowers. In honor of Earth Day, head down to your local garden center (preferably by bike, it’s Earth Day, after all!) and buy some blooms. Then get planting. Tip: A perennial flower will allow your kids to see their hard work year after year.
Matzo House Here is an April-version of the wintery gingerbread house! Encourage your children to play with their food (finally!) by creating this Matzo house that is fun to make and actually tastes good too.
We’ve partnered with 4Moms, Care.com, Minted, Petunia Pickle Bottom and Plum Organics to bring you one amazing prize package for baby. You have two weeks to enter and receive special offers (get $10 off your tea order of $50+) when you sign up for mailing lists. So, just what will you win?
We were thrilled when San Francisco photographer, Carol Vaziri, reached out to Tea about working together on a photo shoot. Her “natural and curious” style of photography captured Tea perfectly. The idea behind the shoot — “How Do You Wear Tea?”. Dressed up or dressed down, kids are constantly climbing, running, jumping and Tea is right there with them. We love seeing Tea in action, keeping children comfortable and stylish while they experience everyday magic. So, how does your little one wear Tea? Share your photos with us… they could end up on teacollection.com!
We asked you to use #teacollection in your Instagram photos and we were so excited to find that you did! Each month we’ll round up 12 of our favorites and share them with you here. Now, it’s possible that your #teacollection photos may end up be on teacollection.com, so show us how your little citizen’s wear Tea and don’t forget to use our hashtag! See our new gallery here: http://www.teacollection.com/static/tealook.html
Whether you’re a new mother or a mother of five, you’re probably too busy too search out the latest and greatest products for your little ones. Imagine receiving a care package each month filled with just that… Let us introduce you to Citrus Lane. The items are carefully chosen, “No marketing gimmicks, no paid placements — just real recommendations from real parents for products that solve real problems”, and knowing this, we were so honored to be included in their February box. We’ve teamed up with Citrus Lane to give one lucky winner a 6 month subscription. Know someone who is expecting? We think this would be a perfect gift – paired with a few of our layette pieces, of course!