Tag Archives: kids

Superheroes at Home

Iron Man 3 is out right now, and Man of Steel and the Wolverine later this year. Sequels to Thor and Captain America are coming up, too — and I’m looking forward to see them all. I am far from being a die-hard comic book fan, but I do love those superhero movies!

My very first superhero crush was Superman. That a man could be so strong amazed me. He could lift huge and heavy objects with ease. And bullets? Not a problem. And best of all, he could fly! Christopher Reeve, to my little girl self, was the perfect male specimen. He was ridiculously handsome and charming, muscular too, but not in that scary, bulky, I-spend-too-much-time-in-the-gym way. And I totally fell for that bumbling shy guy Clark Kent alter-ego. All in all, he was dreamy.

Via The Justice Bulletin

Later on, there was a whole slew of superhero movies to feast on, starting with Michael Keaton as Batman, Tobey Maguire as Spiderman, and (swoon!) Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and the list goes on. M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable remains one of my favorite films of all time, which gave incredible insights into superhero and villain archetypes and their psyches.

Superheroes are larger-than-life characters that embody the best (and in certain moments, the worst) of very human qualities. They serve as some sort or role models for us normal mortals. Some of them, like the X-men mutants, invite us to discover and embrace our uniqueness. Others, like Spiderman, inspire us to move our focus beyond ourselves and use our gifts for the good of others. And still some, like Batman, give us hope that we can survive our traumas and tragedies, and be all the stronger for them. We see our dilemmas in theirs, and our journeys in their stories.

So, although I don’t think I’ll be collecting any action figures, or buying any life-size models, I get how profoundly some people identify themselves with a particular hero or other, and how much they want these characters represented in their homes. If it comes to that, there are ways that it could actually work, as these images show.

Via Pianeta Mamma

Via Muralsdirect

I think one insight into making it work is to resist the urge to cram the superheroes into every single nook and cranny. Restraint is the word. Confining the characters to murals, for example, is a wonderful way to bring in the the big guys and gals and still have a lot of decorating leeway for the rest of the room. Appropriating the color palette of the mural helps pull in the rest of the room so everything is a cohesive whole.

Hanging some comic book art or wall decals works too. I especially like the simplified graphics in this bedroom below.

Via La Maisonette

Via BS2H

Via Inthralld

But if you must go all out, then go for it. But keep the actual logos and figures to a minimum, and go for atmospheric elements that enhance the theme — play with textures and other elements that are related to the hero’s universe. Check out that awesome chest in the image above.

Via Pitut

The Batcave above will be a wonderful hideout for wannabe Bruce Waynes out there. And the brick walls below are just the kind that Peter Parkers would love to climb.

Via Inthralld

I am far from being a die-hard comic book fan, but I do love those superhero movies!

Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , ,

Picking Up the Pieces: LEGO Design Projects

If you have had any exposure to children over the last few years then surely you have noticed the explosive renaissance that LEGO is enjoying amongst the smaller set. Packs have evolved from the simple combinations of bricks that I played with as a kid to complex set-ups like the Star Wars Death Star, which includes more than 3000 pieces (and a hefty price tag)!

Image: NBC News

There are stores dedicated to the stuff, catalogues to pore over and (as of last week) a hotel at the LEGOLAND Resort. I’m sure that many parents are sick of having all the bits and pieces underfoot but I must admit that seeing the bright little cubes brings out the kid in me. I just want to dive in and create.

Image: Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick

I’m not alone. Artists and designers around the world are turning to LEGO as a medium of choice. New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya uses it to create dynamic sculptures.

Image: Dwell

French designers Simon Pillard and Philippe Rosetti, who work collectively as Munchausen Design, pulled off a colourful IKEA hack when they covered one of the company’s kitchen islands with over 20,000 LEGO bricks. Now there is a home improvement project that would keep the kids occupied over the school holidays!

Image: abgc

When Boys and Girls, an advertising agency in Dublin, approached the design and architecture gurus at abgc to redo their new digs, they had only one request: make the space playful but not juvenile. To inspire the team, Boys and Girls provided a Charles Mingus quote: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” In the boardroom, the result was a stunning but sophisticated table crafted from over 20,000 brightly coloured blocks. How could one not be inspired sitting around this fantastic piece of furniture?

Image: My Modern Met

The folks at the graphic design company NPIRE in Hamburg did their own remodeling using sets from their childhood collections (as well as 80 new ones) to construct a dividing wall in their office space. And talk about dedication- it took over a year to complete! Check out the photos at My Modern Met for an overview of the slow, painstaking project.

Image: house of anaïs

Additionally, numerous designers and artists have been inspired to replicate the product in their own work. Lunatic Construction creates a variety of custom furniture pieces, from desks to coffee tables, using brick-like blocks in a rainbow of colours.

Image: If It’s Hip It’s Here

Swedish designer Staffan Holm taps into his childhood sense of fun, inspired by LEGO, to temper the gravitas of his CEO desk. He crafts the piece in solid beech and MDF coated in enamel paint to evoke the toy’s iconic shape; the result is a masterful combination of modern and baroque styles.

Image: Megx

Let’s face it- we all need a little more whimsy in our lives. I used LEGO to construct the architectural fantasies of my childhood and seeing it now makes me smile as I remember the hours of imaginative play that it inspired. Seeing these creations makes me want to dive back in and build something just as fun but on an adult-scale.

If you had the time (and the blocks), what would you like to make out of LEGO?


Posted in Design | Tagged , ,

Playful Design

crochet playground

As if I needed another reason to wish I was in New York right now, the MOMAs Century of the Child: Growing by Design exhibit is in full swing and oh how I wish I could be there to check it out.  Nowadays, incredible design has infiltrated the playroom and the playground, and parents and children alike are choosing high-end designer toys and furniture in lieu of boring plastic alternatives, but this is not a new phenomenon. Designers have been creating for children for ages because it allows them to unleash their inner child, and because they know that great design enriches us all. In honour of the Century of the Child exhibit I thought we could have a look at how playful design has been incorporated into the creation of schools and playspaces. Not only are these spaces beautifully designed, they also help foster a child’s natural curiosity and love of learning.

crochet playground view 2crochet playground 3Crochet Playground by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam via playscapes

This crochet playspace created by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam is pure inspiration. Not only is it remarkable to look at, I imagine it would also be tremendous fun to play in.  The incredible playgrounds Toshiko creates are made out of miles of yarn and much of the work is done by hand. To see more of these beautiful playgrounds head here.

Swedish Open SchoolSwedish Open School via Apartment Therapy

Swedish Open School 2Swedish Open School via apartment therapy

Often, design for children takes into account philosophies on education and child development, as is the case with the open schools movement in Sweden. The open school is one that does away with walled classrooms in favour of open spaces where children can interact with others of various ages, and learn independently. The Telfonplan School pictured above is modern and airy, a far cry from any of the boxy schools I’ve ever encountered.

Leimondo NurseryLeimondo Nursery School via dezeen

Leimondo Japanese Nursery SchoolLeimondo Nursery School via dezeen

This open concept Japanese nursery school is the work of architects Hirotani Yoshihiro and Ishida Yusaku for Archvision Hirotani Studios. The design allows natural light to come in through skylights, and a sense of openness and interconnectedness is created by artful cutouts in the walls between rooms. I only wish I could see this space full of toys and children playing, without which the space is beautiful but a tad sterile.

Ecole Maternelle PajolEcole Maternelle Pajol images via Palatre et Leclare Architectes

Ecole Maternelle Pajol interiorimages via Palatre et Leclare Architectes

I think any child would love to go to a school that looks as joyful and colourful as this Parisian kindergarten. Architects Palatre et Leclare converted an old school from the 1940’s into a rainbow-hued place to learn and play. I wish all schools could look like this.  For more pics of this phenomenal project go here.

crochet aligator playgroundCrochet Alligator Playground by olek via designboom

crochet alligator playground by olek, seen upcloseCrochet Alligator Playground by olek via designboom

Here’s another example of a crocheted playspace; this one is in Sao Paulo and it is the creation of Polish street artist olek. An original alligator playground sculpture, designed by Marcia Maria Benevento, was covered over the course of the week in crochet for the SESC Arts Show 2012. My crochet hand gets tired just thinking about all the work this must have taken.

That’s a wrap for our look at design for children’s spaces. If you’re in New York be sure to check out the Century of the Child exhibit, and let me know how it went. The show runs until November 5th.

Happy Friday Everyone!


Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , ,

Sanrio: “Kawaii” Means “Cute”

Hello Kitty in a Kimono

A Hello Kitty Cherry Blossom Collector's Doll. Image from Sanrio.

Sanrio is a Japanese brand that embodies total cuteness. They make incredibly cute objects that feature incredibly cute characters. My little girl self was obsessed with the stuff. They were just so cute! I collected them like craaaazy! I had stationery, hairclips, jewelry, lunch boxes, and mini-thermos bottles, bags, socks and shirts. You’d glimpse any or all of my favorite Sanrio characters in any given area in my room or closet: Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars (aka Kiki and Lala), My Melody, Patty and Jimmy.

Nathalie in a Patty and Jimmy shirt

Little girl moi in my favorite (faded) Patty and Jimmy T-shirt.

It turns out that Sanrio is just as popular now. Hello Kitty is still the VIP character but the rest of the gang are still around, joined by lots of new characters. And gosh, there are a couple of theme parks already in Japan – Puroland and Harmonyland. And a Hello Kitty theme park in China is definitely in the works.

Hello Kitty Land

The proposed Hello Kitty theme park. Opening in China in 2014. Image via Entertainment Designer.

I had a great time catching up with these old friends. I realize now that I must have surrounded myself with a whole lot of froufrou pink stuff back in the day, but they were part of my childhood, and they made me happy, and 8-year-old me won’t apologize for her tastes.

Besides, who am I to judge my kiddie self? There are still a whole bunch of Sanrio stuff that I actually still want!

Vintage 80's Sanrio

A well-loved Little Twin Stars case from an Etsy user. Via Etsy.

Hello Kitty Bling. Via Sanrio.

Sanrio utensils

Breakfast with Hello Kitty. Via Tumblr.

Sanrio mixer

Now, this is something I could really use. It's adorable! Via Hello Kitty Blog.

Sleep mask

There's hardly any pink here. Via Sanrio.

Kero Kero Keroppi

Who wouldn't fall in love with this one? Kawaii!

I think Hello Kitty and the other Sanrio characters have embedded themselves in the psyches of a lot of people, who express their affinity in ways more extreme than I would.

Nails inspired by Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty nail art. Via We Heart It.

Dressing up as Kiki and Lala

Cosplayers dressed up as The Little Twin Stars.

Sanrio characters in cupcakes

Sanrio-themed cupcakes. Via Cutest Food.



Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged ,

Cookbook Review: Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

A cookbook for preschoolers, Pretend Soup.

My two year old made us dinner last night, sorta, and it was awesome.  Here’s what happened:

My two year old isn’t particularly interested in eating.  Weirdly, he loves novel foods, so he’s happy to try new stuff and old stuff presented differently, but he bores pretty quickly.  He’s also very light and we’re trying to fatten him up.  So we are constantly looking for ways to spark a love of food: fun farmers market trips; engaging him in cooking; celebrations – big and small- at our meals.

The other day I learned that Molly Katzen, author of one of my favourite cookbooks, the  Moosewood Cookbook, has a line of children’s cookbooks.  She’s so unfussy, with a great sense of humour, someone who brings all the senses and a pretty aesthetic to cooking and I immediately thought what better author than she for cookbooks for kids.

So we got Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes the other day and had a blast trying out a few recipes.  The recipes are simple, tasty, and easy to execute.  There’s a précis page for adults and then each recipe is laid out for kids in  hand-drawn pictograms in a quasi comic strip grid.  This book is for presechoolers – 3 to 6 year olds- but my 25 month old got a lot out of it. I can’t recommend this highly enough: it’s brilliant and cute and educational in so so many ways.  Everything from sequencing and measuring, to reading the pictures left to right; we even talked about nutrition as he prepped these.   And did I mention we’re now one step closer to the kid making us food!

We started with quesadillas, the first recipe in the book.  Here’s a peak at the first part of the recipe.  So easy a 2 year old could follow it!

Peek inside Pretend Soup by Molly Katzen

Look our book's already stained - a mark of a great cookbook!

This book is one of three in her kids’ line. Salad People is her latest,  also geared at preschoolers:

Molly Katzen's latest cookbook Salad Peoplerecipe for broccoli cheese quiche from Salad People

Images from Salad People

Honest Pretzels is for children 8 and up.

A cookbook for kids 8 and up, Honest Pretzels by Molly KatzenWhat a wonderful gift one these would make to those budding chefs on your list.  It’s a fun way to introduce cooking to kids.  It will make them feel capable, confident, responsible.  With younger kids, this is a great bonding activity; and with older kids you can sit back and reap the rewards of meals.  Need I say more?


Posted in Food | Tagged , ,