Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Gender-neutral Busyboard for little Tilda - Circus!

I love the fact that gender-neutral toys and apparels are now on the rise. I absolutely could be the central figure in Celine Dion's recent advert - have you seen it? Growing up as a tomboy, passionate overall lover, I'm the one voting for everything-is-for-everybody.

That's why I love busyboards. When babies start playing with them, their minds are clean plate. 

Baby boys and baby girls alike love to pull, push, switch, touch and roll. As for the designs, busyboard should be bright and bold, and...

The theme can be anything that you put into it. 

I saw around many boards the crowns for little princesses. And you know what? It's totally okay, as long as boys are getting their share of crowns, too! All kids are little world's royalties, in my universe. So, hail to the kids!

I made this board for little Tilda for her first birthday. As many, many people out there, last year I was swept away by amazing "The Greatest Showman". 

Photo: Nico Tavernise

The circus is for boys and girls alike. Isn't it marvelous? When I think Cirque du Soleil, or acrobatics, or clowns, or bearded women - they're just amazing for all genders, all ages, all people. 

Photo: Cirque du Soleil

So in pursuit of new themes that would be bright, gender-neutral, and a step off the beaten path, I chose...


For the color scheme, I was working with purple (the Pantone color of 2018) at the time, and I love how it turned out. Usually, I'm not that confident in my ability to combine the colors. But this time I paired purple with yellow and pink, and just loved it. 

The pattern itself is very simple. If you want to know how to paint a busyboard, I wrote about it before.  

I picked the elements that work best for a one-year-old toddler. Spring door stoppers are a huge hit and an absolute must for any age. Plastic pipe is always cheered by babies who are in their "drop-the-thing" stage. Hooks and wheels help to stimulate fine motor skills. The rollers, too.

How does busyboard help to develop fine motor skills? Here, take a look. 

In this video you can spot the exact moment when Tilda comes across rollers and starts mastering the new precise movement with her fingers. 

Extra touches make difference. 

The switches on this board are very special - next to on/off, they have writings in Japanese. How sophisticated is this, teaching your baby Japanese at 1 year old? 

Kidding! But yeah, this is not something you come across at any store. That's good thing about collecting odds and pieces wherever you come across them (my little hobby). 

Just struck me that there are elements from Japan, UK, Ukraine, and maybe three more countries on this busyboard. Wow. 

Well, this just gave me an a-ma-zing idea for my next batch! 

For more inspiration & design ideas, click here

For step-by-step tutorial, click here

Or, skip the fuss and contact me to design and make a custom board for you! (I do encourage you to take this route)

Friday, February 8, 2019

How To Paint a Busyboard: lots of inspiration!

Do you need to paint a busyboard? 

Of course. Who would miss such fun? 

While the functionality of this developmental toy will stay there, whether you paint it or not, the aesthetic side should never be left aside. 

When I'm making a busyboard, the background pattern massively influences the whole theme, making it from a simple toy for toddlers into a true activity center. And just think how brilliantly it can amp up your kid's playroom design. Nothing says "fun" like a big vibrant busyboard on the wall. 

I love crisp and bold patterns. They look fun, catch the eye, stimulate and deliver the idea. The best part about them is that they are so easy to paint. 

You will need: 
1. Painters tape
2. X-acto knife
3. Acrylic Paint 
4. Foam roller and a brush
5. Old newspapers
6. A pencil
7. Compass or some small bowls

Step 1.
Pick the color pattern to your liking. For me, the best combo is two main colors and one accent. 

Step 2. 
Apply the prime coat of white color for the brightest result. Without it, wood will absorb a lot of paint and your color will end up looking translucent. 

Here, see how the wood grains show through the yellow: 

If you like this more natural look, though, - skip the primer

Step 3. 
Lay out your design with painters tape. Depending on the complexity of the pattern, you might need several rounds of Steps 3 - 7.

Of course, straight lines will be the easiest. 

Step 4. 
If you want to have some round accents like circles, waves or rainbows, you can make them with bowls. Trace the shape onto painters tape and cut out with the knife. 

If you want to make shaped elements, like these clouds, for example, make a stencil. Print, trace and cut out your desired pattern. Same goes for names or initials.

Step 5. 
Leave the tape on the areas you DON'T want to be painted. 

Step 6. 
Apply one or two coats of paint. Use different rollers for different colors. Let dry.

Step 7. 
Peel off the painters tape. 

Step 8. 
Using your brushes, fix the imperfections. 

Step 9. 
Add the accent color. If there's just a touch of it, no need to hassle with paint and rollers - use brushes.  

Step 10. 
Let dry thoroughly before the assembly.   

So, it's as simple as stick-paint-peel-repeat. You've got it. 

Drive inspiration from whatever comes to your mind. Cars, planes, ships, fire engines, names, favorite movies, books, anime (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ or literally whatever. Use anything your baby loves most, making a super bright positive spot in the playroom.

If you need help re-thinking your idea into a graphic pattern, drop me a line here. Together we can come up with something cool. 

You can also take a look at these trending colors and patterns of 2019, or get inspired by more of my busyboards.

Monday, March 26, 2018

How to learn numbers with toy cars - super easy learning activity!

This is a great activity to learn numbers, it is super easy to make, and your little one will love to help you on the way. Lying on the intersection of cars play and learning, it couldn’t amuse both little boys and their parents more! 

Do you have any troubles teaching numbers to your kids? I’m constantly on the lookout for good solutions because this is an area of struggle for Emir. He is good at counting and has no problems adding numbers, but it’s hard for him to memorize their very looks. He only can name 4, 5, 1, 3 and sometimes 7 more or less confidently. 

So when I came across this numbers teaching idea on Pinterest, I was immediately sold. It requires literally no added costs aside from about 6 minutes of your time.  

You’ll need: 
  • Masking tape
  • A cardboard box of approximately A4 size (a cereal box will do, cut it in half and tape the borders)
  • Sharpie
  • 10 toy cars like HotWheels, Matchbox or similar

Step 1. Take your cardboard box and mark the parking lot spaces inside. Make sure each is enough to fit a car. 

Step 2. Draw numbers from 1 to 10 in each slot. 

Step 3. Pick ten cars with even roofs, big enough to fit a number. 

Step 4. Cut pieces of masking tape to fit each car. 

Step 5. Stick the masking tape on cars and write the numbers on it. 

Step 6. Ask your kid to match the cars with the parking slots. 

Easy-peasy, huh? 

We have over 200 toy cars by now. Toys, DIY, and education combined - what more can you ask for? Your boy is guaranteed to be engaged. 

Share how it went on the original Pinterest post - I love the new option “Did you try this pin”. It really adds to the community. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/417075615484881068/ 

Here are several more educational projects with toys from my Pinterest boards I plan to try out soon. I really feel sometimes that I’m behind with the educational activities. Of course, they have a lot of stuff happening in kindergarten, but support from home is priceless. And it’s so good to feel like you’re nailing this parenting thing and in a fun way.

Love how these masking tape shapes can be made huge!

A very similar idea but for learning names spelling. Making this one today!

This custom alphabet book requires quite some input, but it is oh too cute and can become a treasured memorabilia for all family. 

This rhyming basket must be really fun! I love how it evolved for the older kids from the sensory basket idea. 

Also, a super easy letters-learning activity that needs no supplies at all. Genius! And it can be tweaked for very different subjects. Think basic maths with adding numbers, or matching countries/states and their capital cities. 

Are there any parents of kids with ADD here? What tricks do you use to help your little ones focus on learning? I could really use some advice. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

10 Cool Origami That Will Get Your Kids Excited

To Grandma Lydia

My best origami creation never went beyond the simple ship. This post is celebrating the Grandmother - the perpetuum mobile of our house, origami ninja and the biggest Lego Technics fan that I know.

Grandma Lydia encouraged Emir to start building from Lego (not Duplo!) as early as when he was three. Now, when he is five, they build Lego Technics kits together - and she is much better at it than me or my husband would ever be. Also, it's due to her obsession with toy cars Emir's collection have spilled over two hundred long time ago.  

In 1970s Grandma Lydia been working in the oil and gas industry in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. She was leading the datacenter team, so the programmatics and engineering are in Emir's blood.

This year, she won my deepest respect by handling a challenge that I was too faint hearted to approach.

After we came back from Vietnam, we were down-handed a gift from friends. Four or five extremely expensive Lego Star Wars sets, half-disassembled and mixed in one ineligible very expensive pile.

Emir added to the mess, slowly disintegrating the ships into smaller and smaller details. It ended up as a pile of blocks sprinkled with droids, Jar Jar Binxes, and siths. Here you can see it in the orange crate on the left.
I tried to reassemble them - once. I lasted maybe 3 minutes and found maybe two of the details I needed.
So when the grandma came there was the moment of truth. For six or seven nights, behind the closed door, she was sitting at the tutorials and rumbling through the pile.

Finally, she would proudly walk out of the room and show us the whole fleet, in all its glory. Mind - blown.

Origami Weekend

This story gives you a slightest hint about grandma Lydia's diligence (and a bit about her OCD).  So when grandma and Emir proclaimed the Origami weekend, I knew this was going somewhere.
Two days later, they produced a whole fleet of the paper ships, boats, motor boats and yachts of maybe 7 different kinds - at least.
But then, then Emir asked for a tank.
How many ways to make a paper model tank do you know? Yeah, thought so.
Turns out there are at least three. They started, and then they only stopped because it was time to go to sleep.
As we didn't have any origami paper at home, I gave them some gift paper that we had around since winter holidays. That was my contribution, and I'm positive that I did outstanding art-direction. Aside from that, all credit goes to the engineers and manufacturers, of course.

Models and Tutorials

So here are the close-ups of the models with all the tutorials for them linked. I googled for all of them in English for you, though they're pretty intuitive to follow. Try googling them in your language if you prefer.

Origami tank number one - amazing shape. I love the proportions.
Origami tank number two - probably amphibian as it reminds me of a frog just a little.
To make the cannon, roll the paper around a straw, secure it with glue, let dry. Then attach to the tank body.
Repeat until you get the desirable amount of tanks.
Extra reinforcement incoming: origami jet airplane. Isn't it just beautiful? The starred paper is the key.
Origami speed boat. My favorite. Sleek lines, impressive design. A far cry from your usual paper boat.
Same tutorial with slightly different paper size gives even more predator look to it.
The origami sailboat is lovely and so subtle. Reminds me of the Cannes harbor, stuffed with yachts. I'm reserving this one for myself.
An origami rowboat. I guess Emir painted the eyes on all of them because in Asia, the eyes on boats are traditional - and growing up between Vietnam and Thai, that's how he sees the boats now.
Origami steamboat. Bigger and of more oceanic shape. Can go trans-atlantic with ease.
This origami boat is with a cap of some kind. For me, it looks like a canoe for the long journeys down the river.
Last but not least - a small and very intricate origami boat. Tight design makes it quite durable, so you can make several of them and start a race.

Origami Playtime!

So Emir had a whole fleet at his disposal, and a proper set of the ground vehicles to support from the shore. We decided that an army like that definitely needs a strong general to lead the offense. General Potato took on the command!
He did quite well... Until the tanks went frenzy and turned the weapons at general himself.
While the ships harbored peacefully around the lighthouse.
Making and playing with these paper models is so much fun. By now, they’ve lasted for several weeks already. The starred motorboat and the tank #2 are my favorites.

Skills that origami helps to develop:

  • Precision 
  • Engineering 
  • Imagination 
  • 3D thinking 
  • Art direction 
  • Ideation 
  • Fine motor skills 
  • Research 
  • Diligence
  • Following directions

Other benefits of origami

Versatility - whichever theme your kid is into at the moment, you can find hundreds of relevant objects. Vehicles, dragons, dinosaurs, ninjas, jungle animals, farm animals, cars, town, people, puzzles - you name it.

Free toys - for all you frugality lovers, it’s a perfect way to give your kid a bunch of new toys. And then dispose them light-heartedly. They're free, fun, quick and recyclable - features that make me very happy.

An experience to cherish

We’re blessed with big multitalented family, where everyone is keen to teach kids their special skills. I couldn’t be more grateful for this very special relationship with grandmother in Emir’s life. Yet, I would never think that she will be the Lego and Origami expert in our house.

Lesson learned: never let the stereotypes fog your thinking. People always have the potential to impress.

There is a stereotype that in Western world grandmas and grandpas tend to spend less time with their grandkids and be more focused on themselves. Is it so? What do your parents love to do with your little ones when they get together?