Habitots Blog

Adventures in France: Our why

My eldest asked the other day, ‘can we go to that place where they have the trenches when we’re in France?’ I said, ‘yes, of course, that’s where your great uncle is buried’. 

Spencer’s taken more of an interest in history over the past year, along side his Dad’s interest and amazing knowledge. What seems like a pretty obvious thing, dawned on me, and I was reminded again of why we’re making this leap to France. 

You see, we’ve been talking and planning this trip for some time and the past 6 months has involved quite a stressful time of unravelling my business lease, moving locations and directing my customers into a new direction. It’s taken its toll on me physically and emotionally. I still wake early with my brain somewhat wired to worry and find angst in the smallest of things. The worry turns to questioning the decision, are we doing the right thing, look what we’re leaving behind, will our kids settle and actually learn French and not hate us for dropping them off on the first day in a strange country, strange language, strange people?

But in between the doubt and anxiety, the positive reasons find their way to shine through. My mind often floats to a place where I see Rob and I sitting having a coffee while Charlie plays in a square. I see us walking around local markets, buying produce and looking for inspiration for dinner that night. I see the boys making new friends at the soccer club and watching local rugby. The beautiful images of what can be in France will slowly turn to what they are in France and my heart jumps, chest tightens as the excitement of what will be heightens and draws near.

At the end of the day, this adventure has always been about our family and that’s still what it very much is. Our kids, our marriage, our now and our future. That’s our ‘why’ and I’m sure it will continue to change ever so slightly, but ultimately I hope it will remain the same.

Follow along on Instagram @suzanneacteson and our blog here on @habitots. The French Adventure with me, 3 garcon & an Englishman continues as the weeks to departure draw near.

A la prochaine,
Suzanne

April 17, 2017

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Benefits of music in child development



Singing and music play such an important role in our culture. You'll find music around you in all aspects of your life: theater, television, movies, holidays, celebrations are full of music! At home, we listen to music all the time but little did we know how beneficial it was for our kids. 

From birth, as parents, we use music to calm and soothe babies and know that we'd like our kids to be involved in music, but some of us don't know how. As Parents can build on these natural instincts by learning how music can impact our childs' development, improve social skills, and benefit kids of all ages.

Music and the Brain: The Benefits of Music

There are many studies that look at the benefits of music on our kids brains and one such study in 2016 at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute,  found that musical experiences in childhood can actually accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills. Also, according to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, learning to play an instrument can improve mathematical learning and even increase entrance exam scores. 

But academic benefits are not the upside of music education and listening to music in general. Music has a positive impact on all all areas of child development and helps kids for skills relating to school readiness: intellectual, social and emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. It helps the body and the mind work together. Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words. Dancing to music helps children build motor skills while allowing them to practice self-expression. For children and adults, music helps strengthen memory skills.
Infants and Music. Infants recognise the melody of a song long before they understand the words. They often try to mimic sounds and start moving to the music as soon as they are physically able. Quiet, background music can be soothing for infants, especially at sleep time. Babies from 6 months will start to become familiar with repeated music and surroundings and can find a class setting to be very enjoyable. Mums also like this time as babies are a bit more predictable and interact beautifully in a music class. 

Toddlers and Music. Toddlers love to dance and move to music. The key to toddler music is the repetition of songs, which encourages the use of words and memorisation. Silly songs make them laugh. Try singing a familiar song and inserting a silly word in the place of the correct word, like “Mary had a little spider” instead of lamb. Let them reproduce rhythms by clapping or tapping objects. Similarly, the familiarity of a music program or class each week is very comforting for toddlers and they love an active music class that involved more than simply sitting and singing! 

Easter of new traditions

It's Easter weekend and we've also had 2 weeks of school holidays here in Melbourne. The store closed 2 weeks ago and I'm still waking up in the night thinking about parties, orders I've forgot to send, bills I've forgotten. When we have some down time, I'm not sure really what to do with myself...I've grabbed my laptop many time and put it on the counter to do something only to tell myself, it can be done later. But the website, the classes, Facebook, Instagram, Google still says we're open....

My Dad always talked about this after he retired and I can only imagine the anxiety after 40 years of the same work! 

So I've tucked myself into some Easter fun with the kids and was thinking back to Easter in Canada, and vividly remember the hot cross buns after church, which was often an outside dawn service which I always thought was exciting. Now that Hot Cross Buns are available from January 1st here, they're less an Easter tradition but the consumption of them certainly increases as the day draws near. 

Easter egg painting or dying was always a tradition, and they were hidden in the garden and Dad would eat the coloured eggs for what felt like days. Our Easter egg hunt has turned to chocolate ones but baking something Easter related has also become a nice tradition in our family. The kids made egg shaped cookies with our nanny Johanna, Rob made his Fish Pie on Good Friday and I embarked on a batch of Welsh cakes - Grandma D's recipe. We have an egg shaped cutter so they're not the traditional round shape but so easy to make, not too sweet and perfect with a cuppa. Thought I'd share our new-found Easter tradition with you here: 

Grandma D's Welsh Cakes

500g self-raising flour + a bit extra for rolling out
75g of sugar + a bit extra to serve
250g of cold butter
pinch of salt
handful of currants
1 large egg

Mix the flour, sugar and use your hand to work the butter into the dry mixture, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then add the currants, egg and sometimes a little bit of milk if it's too dry. 

Roll it out to about 1cm thick, use a shape (round is traditional, we used an egg shape) to cut them out. These cookies are pan cooked - so I put the stove on 7 (we have an induction) and you do have to watch that they don't burn. They take about 4 minutes a side. Dust with a bit of extra sugar and they're ready to eat! 

April 12, 2017

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8 signs you're doing a great job raising your kids

This article is from Babyology, and can be read in full here

We love that the first sign listed in this article, is letting kids get messy! The articles goes on to say:

"Mud, dirt, paint or food: if your children are covered in it, then well done! Soggy shoes will dry out and mud or paint will wash off, but what won’t disappear are the great things that happen when kids get messy. Every time you let your children explore the backyard, picking up and looking at things they find on the ground, their immune systems are getting stronger. Scientific studies have even found that getting dirty cheers you up. Also, messy experiences are always sensory experiences – that’s why kids inevitably end up eating sand at the beach and squelching their feet in mud. Because it feels good!

The list of 'good parenting attributes' includes: 

1. You let them get messy
2. You read their favourite book over and over again
3. You're ok with them being bored
4. You say YES to creative play (we do too!)
5. You let them dress up in crazy outfits
6. You give them skills to use in the real world
7. You don't mind getting down and dirty
8. You show them how to take risks

Yeah for getting messy and being creative, all virtues we focus on at Habitots and value so much as a business and as educators. Book your Messy Play class here. 

Adventures in France: Slowing the treadmill

Many of you know that we've been planning a big family adventure for quite a while, and we're now 9 weeks before our departure...I get butterflies in my stomach thinking about it. 

There is a lot of logistical organising to do and getting the first lot of passports nearly undid us...but we're still very much in organisation mode for the trip. Flights are booked, house rented for first month (more about this later), still need to hire a van (will have lots of luggage to take from Paris to the south, before we buy a car), health cards that Rob and the boys can get from the UK (me, can't remember what I do), packing and storing the house just to name a few. It can feel insurmountable but we've been ticking things off the list for some time so it feels good to get things done and inch closer to our departure. 

One of the biggest challenges we had as a couple, was unravelling Habitots and coming out of our much-love space in Albert Park. This was also a Herculean task for me physically and emotionally, and I found talking about it everyday with customers both therapeutic and mentally exhausting. Most of the time, after my customers got past their sadness for our store closing, they applauded me for 'just doing it' and reassured me it would be a trip of a lifetime. 


Interestingly, many of the grandmothers and older carers (ie. not old at all but older than me!) were the ones who congratulated me the most and spent time describing the trips they'd been on or moves and travels their families had taken. Their wisdom and years abroad with little ones, reassured me I was going to be alright. Their stories of lost luggage and kids made me laugh and reminded me to expect bumps in our journey, and to add them to our stories & funny memories we are sure to amass. 

I didn't have to explain why we're going to many, as they could almost figure that one out on their own, but I know I tapped into the curiosity of many that surrounds making such a big change and how we're doing it. 

Rob and I both run our own businesses, which is very rewarding and gives us more time as a family than most. What is also gives us sleepless nights, stress between the 2 of us that doesn't feel nice, and a responsibility that is love-hate. In the past 3 years, I've gone from one busy job running an advertising agency, to a busier one that I loved 1000-fold, but came with a type of stress I found really hard to manage.

It's funny how things happen (and I do really believe that things happen for a reason) but in the first week of opening Habitots, I found out I was pregnant with baby #3. We were elated and I didn't think too much of the difficulty of having a new baby and a new business, I just got on with it. In hindsight though, I wonder how I did it and how my business kept standing! Despite this, the gift was a wonderful little boy named Charlie who came into the world ready to 'get on with it', be loved and carried around by everyone.  When we didn't think it was possible to love another child, he taught us how. He is the easiest baby ever, happy-go-lucky, get's on with it, loves and laughs like there's no tomorrow. 

As many people probably do with their last babies, I tried to savour the moments. As fast as life was taking me, I tried to slow it down. Life is fast though and in the many hours spent flicking through old photos on my phone, I realise how many moments I'd forgotten and felt like I wasn't totally 'there' for. We all love to flick through our photos, as it takes us back in time, we smile at the little faces, the birthdays, the trips, the funny memories. However, as much as I was trying to savour the present moments, the treadmill was too moving way too fast, and as a couple we decided it was time to try to jump off. 

So we are slowing the treadmill to take some time out to spend with our kids and each other. Many years of talking about living in France is coming to reality, where our kids will go into French school and learn a language in the best possible way. Where we'll try to slow things down and explore the French countryside. Where we'll shop for local produce and cook to our hearts content. Where we can soak up the local festivals and French culture and meet new friends. Where we can drive to the coast for a surf, to the mountains for a ski or to San Sebastian in Spain for lunch.  

This is our dream but soon to be our reality. I hope you enjoy following along on our journey and maybe find some inspiration for an adventure you've been thinking about, a leap you've been wanting to take or a dream you've wanted to follow. 

A bientot,
Suzanne x

Simple and easy ways to style a party affordably

We love a fun, colourful party and we know it doesn't have to cost the earth! We suggest picking either a theme that your child will love or a colour scheme that will fit the tone of the party you want. 

From there, it's about pulling some party accessories together that revolve around your key decorating elements. Big balloons like our Poppies for Grace balloons make a statement and fill a room with colour as soon as your guests walk in. 

If your child is in love with a character like Peppa the Pig, you don't have to spend big $$ on huge amounts of licensed tableware & accessories. Instead, get a few things that will make an impact like a poster or stuffed Peppa that can go on the wall or table & then a tablecloth that is cost effective but has a big impact. After that, combine colours like pink, green and white to compliment the theme. Get an offcut of synthetic grass to run along the table and you'll look like a stylist! 

For the bigger themed parties, it's all about layering up things that hang, float and can add pops of fun. Helium balloons always make a room look nice and full and are cost effective to buy and have filled. The discount shops have honeycomb balls, bunting and other great paper accessories to make a gorgeous display. 

The most important thing is about your kids having fun so don't stress too much about the decor and think more about the entertainment or activity. Stay tuned for some great party activities coming soon. 

Mission: Hiding Veggies for a kid who eats none!

I've blogged before about our middle son who eats very little and only eats 1 vegetable which is a carrot. I've tried everything, have seen nutritionists, occupational therapists, read loads online yet haven't made much progress in the past 5 years (he's 6!). My other 2 eat nearly everything so it drives me a bit crazy but as I'm carving a bit more time out for things I'd like to do, I found 2 days this weekend for making and baking. 



I started with one of his favourite meals which is pizza so thought I'd chuck out the store-bought pizza sauce and make one filled with veggies. With ham & cheese on top, he doesn't know the difference and I feel ever so slightly better. Actually, I don't suffer too much from guilty-did-I-make-you-like-this-syndrome but know that if he eats better his behaviour would also be more steady and less Jeckle and Hyde. So here's the recipe I used for my super hidden veggie pizza & pasta sauce: 

2 cans of diced tomoatoes
1/2 can red kidney beans
1 celery stick chopped
1 carrot chopped
3 pieces of brocolli (don't overdo this or it'll turn your sauce green!)
1/2 a red pepper
1/4 of a sweet potatoe
1 clove of garlic


Cook everything in a pan for about 30 minutes until all of the veggies are soft. Put through a blender or use a hand blender. Voila! Pizza & pasta sauce that I put into ziplock bags and froze in portions for 1 pizza or bowl of pasta at a time (nb 6 yr old won't eat pasta but the 1 yr old will...and ate it out of the bowl when we finished!). 




3 Easy Activity to Bond with your kids at home


The story of Habitots began with a vision to create a beautiful kids brand that engaged with families in unique ways. We set out to find products you couldn't find everywhere and didn't cost the earth. Each week we're proud to welcome many little people into our space for specially developed classes where imaginations are set free to explore and create.

In this day and age, we have an increasingly difficult job as parents and need to juggle so many things that our own parents never had to. Technology has crept into our lives in so many useful ways, but you may still struggle with the balance of seductive screen time. It can sometimes be hard to drag your kids from them without an all-out battle and potential tantrum.

We see parents each day at Habitots, setting aside time to participate in quality activities with their kids and we love to see how their 'Messy Play' time becomes a ritual that both parents & kids love each week. That’s why we were excited to contribute to Bupa Life Insurance’s recent article, '12 Fun Activities to Enjoy with Your Kids'.

Some of the simplest activities with kids can help forge beautiful bonds and special memories they will always remember. Try these three at home!

1. Fort making: I remember making forts as a child and loving the sense of adventure I felt. As an added bonus kids often feel a sense of closeness to whoever they make it with.

2.  Cardboard box adventures: Another simple, cost effective activity that kids adore. Let your kids lead the way to making a boat, rocket ship or house. They’ll love that you’re along for the ride and get swept into the imagination of their creation.

3. Read them a ‘book in your head’: My Dad always told us stories at bedtime that he made up on the fly, and guess what, my kids love just the same thing. So next time at bedtime, make up silly names, settings and adventures and watch as they are totally captivated by the stories and ask for more each night.

So set aside an hour and actively engage with your kids to see what special bonds you can create. Put the phone down, get lost in the fun and watch as their own self-esteem grows and they develop through play. You really only need your imagination and some products from home to bring these activities to life. ​

February 06, 2017

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Pop-Up Shop at Habitots

As our final days of trading approach, we've found that we're not quite ready to let things completely slow down yet! However, as we've discontinued some lines and haven't restocked all of our product since Christmas, we do have some space to spare in our lovely shop. So, we're offering an amazing opportunity to join us for your own Pop-Up Shop at Habitots! Bring in your brand to sell amongst our current merchandise and enjoy a retail environment for a few weeks. If you've only ever sold online, if you're interested in how your brand would do in a physical shop, or if you'd just like to try out the market for your products in Albert Park now is the time! A fabulous, low-risk and low-commitment chance to join us for our final few weeks before we close on March 31.

If you're interested, please contact us for details at suzanne@habitots.com.au 

December 19, 2016

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Gifts under $20

Whether you're looking for a gift or something small to tuck in a stocking or Santa sack, we've got you covered! With a variety of toys, art supplies, dining pieces & other lovely items to choose from you're sure to find what something special for all the special little ones in your life!  Below is a highlight of some of our favourites, but make sure to browse through our online store to see the full range we carry. Everything we sell in our shop is also offered online, and if you're local to Melbourne you can order online and pickup from us! We're holding extended shopping hours all week to make it even easier to get Christmas shopping done before the weekend hits - come see us until 8pm Mon - Thurs this week!

Product details, clockwise from top... 

  1. Done by Deer - Bibs, 2 pack $19.95
  2. O.B. Designs - Betsy Bunny Dingaring Teether (other styles also available) $19.95
  3. Butterfly Mask - $5
  4. Done by Deer - Compartment Plate, grey (also available in raspberry) $16.95
  5. Stackable Markers, 12 pack - $12
  6. Wooden Pull-Back Helicopter - $12
  7. Lovelies Piper Pig (also bunny & fox available) $19.50
  8. Delight Decor - Light Up Apple, pink $15.96
  9. Unicorn Greetings $12
  10. Petit Collage - 123 Count with Me board book $19.99
  11. Orbit - Beach Soccer Ball $19.95
  12. Seedling - My Little Dino World $9.50
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