Slow toys – traditional toys that add meaning to children’s lives

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure

In the fast-paced society we live in, slow toys are an antidote to the instant. They inspire our children
to slow down, to appreciate the moment, to make sense of their world and to connect with stories that tell of human ingenuity.

Handmade Romantique French doll

Beautiful handmade Romantique French doll by L’Oiseau Bateau

Slow toys have been around for a long time. The first slow toy was probably two carved sticks and a round stone crafted carefully by a doting cave granddad. It was most likely treasured by the cave kids, and possibly handed down – considered a family heirloom because it reminded them of happy memories of the kids playing … of their granddad’s ingenuity … and of their heritage. But in the age of fast consumerism and digital entertainment are we forgetting the value of traditional and slow toys?

Why slow toys?

I came up with the concept of slow toys (without realising it had already done by Frenchman Thierry Bourret … I was too slow) because I absolutely love the values that handmade and traditional toys promote. The idea for me was seeded when I received my first batch of traditional wooden toy sailing boats from a small family of artisan boatmakers in Brittany, France. The company began in 1946 when late grandfather Francis Tirot began making the boats in his spare time when paid holidays were first introduced to the country. Now it’s run by grandson Nicolas Tirot and it’s one of the last manufacturers of seaworthy sailing boats made by hand using only French products. Sadly, this pedigree is becoming rare across the globe as traditional craftspeople are pushed out of the market by mass producers. 


Bateaux Tirot Mousse blue

Crafted by toy boat makers Bateaux Tirot, the skills used to make this lovely boat have been handed down for three generations.

 Slow toys bring balance

Slow toys in their simplest form help children to slow down a little, to use their imagination and to play. Countless research articles document the value of physical or active play. It helps with physical, emotional, cognitive and intellectual development. When children play with slow toys, they naturally draw on the external world around them as part of the story. Their imagination is stimulated, they practice, mimic and play out what they have observed or learnt from family and friends. This role playing helps children to make sense and connect with the world around them, creating stories and memories as they go, and constructing knowledge to build upon.

Digital games – for all their wonderful attributes – are internalised. They rely on artificial worlds for their entertainment. The work of conjuring the imagination is done for the child so at times, all that is left is the thrill of the game. While digital games help with creative problem solving skills, kinesthetic senses such as touch become spare parts, communication with the outside world is vapid, a void is created between what is real and what is simply pixels. As for fast toys, paid for one minute, chucked the next, again they have their place. They entertain, they can be knocked around, they stimulate play and role playing as do slow toys but their value has an early use-by date. 


Le Tambour French mobile at Spirited Mama

Handmade Le Tambour French mobile by L’Oiseau Bateau.

Slow toys have a face

Slow toys go one step further in their connective qualities. Like slow food, where there is knowledge of a meal’s origin, its purity and a respect for the creative process of making it, slow toys can help children and adults to appreciate toys that are crafted by someone – a person, not a machine. Slow toys have a face. They support artisans who draw on traditional values and mastery skills and, if the toy’s origin or story is shared with them, children have an opportunity to appreciate and learn about traditions that are quickly disappearing as the demand for mass production increases. Slow toys support local economies and celebrate mastery of skill and passion.

Princess Kimiko French music box

Hand-painted French music box … Princess Kimiko connects children to the beauty of different world cultures.

Slow toys breed contentment 

Slow toys draw on nostalgia and on a sense that there are constants in the world. As our society continues to  move at a faster pace with a greater focus on homogeneity (sameness) and the quick and disposable, slow toys give children a moment to stop and breathe, to contemplate, and to consider that individuality and creativity are important traits to develop in themselves. Slow toys are loved for their quality and enchantment, their art and imagination. They inspire children to dream, they bring a sense of familiarity and contentment to their lives and they gently nudge all of us to value the time and skill dedicated to producing beautiful things.   


 Rosebud French mobile ... hand painted to inspire children to dream.

Rosebud French mobile … hand painted to inspire children to dream.


Finally, slow toys last. They can be handed down for generations. Like rituals in our lives such as Christmas or other family traditions, slow toys can be shared among family members to remind them of what’s important to them. To stimulate fond memories, conversation, family histories and a warm sense of connection. Slow toys form part of children’s narratives, their memories, and remind them of the magic of childhood they can pass down to their own children.

Do you see the value of slow toys? What slow toys do your kids play with?


Autumn pear and rhubarb crumble

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Health & Happiness

To me Autumn is all golden and brown and pear crumbly.

Autumn tastes

Where orange and tanned leaves glisten strong like polished leather before fading to the chill of the evening’s descent.

Autumn beauty

Autumn is a time for friends and gathering, for cuddling into old comfortable woollens and feeling the rush of a crisp breeze against the warmth of a still strong sun.

Autumn champagne

It’s a time for rambling, and swings, anticipation of lovely stews and cooking feasts.

Autumn on a swing

And it’s a time for pear and rhubarb crumble.

Autumn crumble

No wonder it’s a favourite time of year.

Pear and rhubarb crumble

4 pears – any variety  

1 bunch rhubarb

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup whole meal flour

1 vanilla essence

2T water

1/2 and a  bit of brown sugar

1 handful of oats (optional)

140grams unsalted  butter

How to make rhubarb and pear crumble

Wash then slice the rhubarb, carefully removing the bottom parts and any part that is too green. Peel and core the pears and cut up into chunky pieces. Throw into a cast iron pot with the cinnamon stick and about 2 tablespoons of water. Mix together the flour, oats, sugar and vanilla essence. Add in the butter in pieces and begin rubbing with your fingertips until the mixture is combined and crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture across the fruit and press together some of the crumble into little balls for a more crunchy effect. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes at 180 degrees C. Make sure you don’t put a lid on it. The crumble is ready when the fruit is soft and resting in a syrupy consistency. Serve with either fresh runny cream, double cream or ice cream.

Matching treasures: Autumn and Rusty Romantiques

 Autumn Romantiques Doll        Rusty Romantique

Sharing with essentiallyjess x

What’s on … kids at the art gallery

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Love of Learning

Little girl wearing beautiful art smockGet the kids in touch with their creative side by visiting an art gallery where they can explore, make, craft and play under the guiding hand of you, teachers and, of course, the masters.

Playing at the art gallery

The state art galleries across Australia are veritable playgrounds for kids. Most major galleries host children’s programs during the school holidays which are both educationally rewarding but also fun as they draw out interesting features on particular art forms or artists. The sessions (try to book in advance) may involve the children going on a small discovery tour around the gallery before being lead to a special craft room to paint their impression of what the artist has produced, or make craft based on a theme – this is great for the kids and it can give you some time to see a collection or take time out for a coffee at the cafe … divine!

Kids art classes at the art galleries

My daughter’s first organised art lesson was at the NSW Art Gallery. The session was based on the painting of the The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon by Edward John Poynter. An ambitious painting for a group of children all aged under five, however the theme was patterns, and the clever teachers asked them to identify patterns and shapes on the stairs, on the columns and the ceilings. Once they’d explored the painting enough for the kids to get the general drift, they were taken to a little room all set up to go including art smocks and craft equipment. There the children designed jewellery boxes fit for the Queen of Sheba using patterns on paper and plastic gems with the help of artists and assistants. It was such a good activity that we still have the jewellery box! It houses our little craft gems now and is a wonderful memory of a lovely rich afternoon of activity. 

Sketching at the art gallery with an art pad and charcoal


If the programs are full or you’d rather do something with your children then take a small sketch pad and some charcoal and help them draw a painting they like. I do this often while we’re on holidays because it gives my little one something to do while I can enjoy the art without the “I’m bored” whispers filling my head. Find a seat and choose a fairly simple object perhaps by Cezanne, Margaret Olley or Margaret Preston – all prolific artists who created lovely still life images. Study the chosen painting a little and then encourage your child to draw its shape or outline. You’ll find adults and children peering on watching what your little artist is creating while your child engages in the moment. 

Fun at the art galleryPlaying ‘I Spy’ at the art gallery

If your child can’t sit for long try playing a more active game. Have a scout around at some of the images when you enter each new gallery section. Find objects in the paintings and ask your child to them try and discover them. Once you have talk about the objects and what they’re being used for. Then similarly, ask your child to do the same and you hunt them out. It’s a bit like an art version of ‘I Spy’. Ask them to also pick out their favourite painting and talk about why they like it – use this for the next activity at home.

More art games for home

Once you leave the gallery, don’t let the action stop. On the way home, take some images that you and your child / kids like. In fact if your little one is old enough to hold the phone/camera get them to take a few shots too. Buy some simple craft objects – gems, stars, pipe cleaners, paper flowers and other assortments and ask your child to ‘go wild’ – create something they remember from their day. You can prompt them with the pictures if you like or ask them to recall what picture they loved most at the gallery.

National art galleries with kids programs

Art Gallery of New South Wales 

Art Gallery of South Australia

Art Gallery of Western Australia

Queensland Art Gallery

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Matching treasures – our beautiful French art smocks and French art set


     Spirited Mama - pretty art smock with small flowers            French retro colouring box         Mots sur le sable child's art smock

Linking to the lovely withsomegrace


Feeling good about child care

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Health & Happiness


Leaving your little one at child care can make any parent feel anxious, but there are simple ways to make it easier on you both.

I was wracked with guilt for years for putting my daughter into child care so I could work. I always felt I should have been around more and yet I also knew my little girl was really happy there. She developed amazing friends, learnt new skills and games, and, in turn, I was supported. Most of all my daughter had beautiful carers/educators who continued with her each year until she left to move onto big school. All was good.

Having reviewed Secure Transitions: Supporting Children to Feel Secure, Confident and included, I realise now the child care path was the right one for me – the carers knew what they were doing far beyond what I knew and were experts in helping deal with the most emotionally charged parts of the day – when I was having to leave my darling in the harried rush of the morning and reconnecting with her at the day’s end.

If you’re struggling with your child moving into child care consider the points included in the Secure Transitions booklet. It may help you understand a little more about how to help your child adjust to a new and healthy experience without too much anguish, and relieve you of feeling guilty (the way I did).

Helping your child adjust to child care

spirited-mama---little-coquThe Secure Transition authors liken the moment when you drop your child off to child care to when two little row boats come up to each other and the child has to step from your boat into the boat of the carer. It is a moment of negotiation. It can be stressful for you and your child but when you and the carer work together to maker the hand-over explicit, your child feels safe as they step from one boat to another. The connection is made. ‘Now I can step out confidently to play because I know I can always come back to my carer who is responsible for me’, the book exemplifies.

Before your child arrives at child care

Talking with your child about which staff member they will see when they arrive at child care can generate a sense of familiarity and predictability their day. When you get to the centre bring your child to their carer to demonstrate you are confident in saying goodbye.

In turn, when an educator or carer has a secure relationship with your child – they will know your child by name, greet them when they arrive, reassure them of their day and make them feel safe. This provides your child with solid ground to move into the rest of their day.

Spirited Mama - Floor cushionSaying goodbye to your child for the day

When it comes to saying goodbye make this a two-way conversation between you and the carer:

Here’s how Secure Transitions authors pitch it:

Mother to her child Sara: “I will be thinking about you today. Joan is here to look after you and keep you safe for me”.

Mother to carer: “Joan will you look after Sara today?’

Carer to Mother and Sara: “Yes Sara, I’m pleased I get to keep you safe and play with you until mummy comes back. You can always come back to me when you need me”.

Saying to a carer that they’ll keep your child safe may seem strange, but children understand its meaning, and it creates predictability for your child.

“What is important is how the message, ‘We can keep you safe’, is being conveyed, rather than the particular words used,” the authors state.

“Saying this out loud creates very clear expectations and tells your child that he or she is in the mind of two big people who care for [them]”. Similarly, with babies a tone of voice that conveys care, conviction and firmness of purpose gives the feeling that you and the carer have everything under control and your infant can relax.

Collecting your child at the end of the day

Backpacks-and-running-freeChildren have their own style of reconnecting at the end of the day. When you see your child, have your cuddle or greeting ready for them, the authors state. When they are ready to talk you can ask them about what they enjoyed rather than ask them whether they have been good or what they have made or achieved. Your child will feel less pressure of any kind of expectations. The authors say this helps them to organise their feelings to get back with you.

Listening to your child’s story frees you up to join in with them and enjoy them and also connect easily with the childcare staff to find out what happened during their day. It’s a way of supporting your little one to step back into your row boat and help gently set up for another lovely day on the lake.


The ideas described in Secure Transition: Supporting children to feel secure, confident and included come from the Attachment Matters project run by Robyn Dolby, Eilish Hughes and Belinda Friezer. The project examined how the relationships between educators and children support children’s learning and social competence with their peers. You can buy the booklet at Early Childhood Australia or email [email protected]

When bloggers become friends

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Health & Happiness

When bloggers become friendsWhen bloggers become friends …

Fonts and pixels transform into muck-about-children, smiling husbands and warm hugs of mamas. Coffees and fast conversation replace keyboards and screens, laughter replaces emoticons.

This is how I met Zanni from My Little Sunshine House. We quickly retold our life vignettes, and then talked about our dreams and aspirations. She met my lovely poppet with her big eyes and chattiness; I met her fluffy cute moppets and her polite and gentle partner.

That’s the lovely thing about meeting fellow bloggers. We know a bit about them already, and then we get to experience them in 3D and a bigger world emerges.

Sweet ways for children to learn letters and numbers

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Love of Learning

There are so many ways to help your child become familiar with letters and numbers – here are some sweet ones.

J is for Jelly crystal letters

Draw a letter on a piece of paper and then ask your child trace it in the jelly crystals. It’s helps them become familiar with the shape of letters and to recognise them too. They can then lick their finger after their letter as a little treat … before you know it they will have written War and Peace in jelly crystals (hehe).

jelly crystal writing

Children learning new languages

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Love of Learning

spirited mama - alliance francais teacher Chritelle HartIntroducing children to new languages stimulates their minds, helps problem solving skills, broadens their outlook … and it can be a lot of fun too!

Surrounded by a group of lively young children, language teacher Christelle Hart reads out from a book words and actions in French. The children are so engaged they walk up and touch the book. They laugh, show oodles of enthusiasm one minute and the next they are in quiet contemplation. It’s a beautiful thing to behold because they are not only learning a new language and parts of a country’s culture, they’re totally in the moment.

Christelle, who has been conducting French workshops for children in Sydney for about 10 years says learning a new language from an early age broadens their experience and stimulates their brains.

“It encourages them to explore different things and develops their creativity,” she says.

OMG! I’m a SAHM!

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, On Health & Happiness

spirited mama madame-monet-and-child.jpg!BlogOMG I’m a SAHM.

It’s my fourth Friday off in a row and I’m absolutely loving it. I can awake at 7.55, crawl into my trackies, throw down a coffee, get the poppet some muesli, do school drop off and be back in bed within 15 minutes. Hehe

Hmm what will I do today?

Well I could feel guilty about the growing pile of washing or I could go for a run – no brainer … neither. I’ll amble to a cafe for another coffee, read some blogs, amble home along the waterfront and take a relaxing bath.

At 11.00 I’ll go to the beautician and luxuriate, visit a friend, lunch with another, do some shoe shopping, then … OMG home time already?

The sweetest things

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, Uncategorized

Markets are as much about the people as the stuff for me but this market – EQ designer markets – had the sweetest things – what do you think?

This is Rochelle from Summer Blossom. Her stall was so pretty – gorgeous flower garlands and hair accessories that made me want to run through fields of daisies. Rochelle is wearing Beach Girl Floral Crown – she looks absolutely stunning. Behind her are the Sweet Spring Flower Crowns, some of which are going to go on this year’s Santa’s list for my poppet, and me.

 Spirited Mama - Summer blossom

The tea party

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure

On the weekend a gracious friend of mine hosted a tea party at her home and invited her friends over to see for themselves the beautiful treasures I have begun selling.

It was an incredibly beautiful day. The Spring fairies were on our side so not only did we have sunshine but the most glorious show of flowers as a backdrop.

Spirited Mama - tea parties

My darling friend made scones with jam and cream and served pomegranate tea. The kids had cupcakes and ran off to play without the parents.

After tea, the mums (and one dad) were able to see and feel for themselves the gorgeous whimsical nature of the treasures and the vivid playful colours and themes. They also bought lovely gifts for their children – mobiles, pouffes, aprons, pyjama bags and French dolls. It was such a successful afternoon for all that I have decided to launch Spirited Mama Inspired Tea Parties.

spirited mama tea party 2

Each Spirited Mama hostess receives a gift of up to $100 from the collection and 15 per cent of all sales which can also be redeemed through the collection. If you love the idea see here for more details ♥

Would you like to host a Spirited Mama inspired tea party? Do you think it’s a good idea? 

Linking into lovely Jess @ IBOT x

Spirited Mama

French Heart Tea Parties

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure, Spirited Mamas, Uncategorized

Spirited Mama - tea parties

Would you like to host a French Heart tea party?

We are seeking lovely spaces to present our gorgeous collection of beautiful French gifts, toys, children’s decor and soon to be home and pet decor (can’t wait!).

Our range is enchanting, colourful, and captures the essence of childhood magic and whimsy, designed to inspire the imaginations of little hearts and big hearts too. Our tea parties make special occasion giving easy – baby showers, birthdays, Christenings, Christmas and just because. Guests can see and feel the beautiful gifts in the comfort of a familiar space, and it gives friends the chance to get together over a relaxing cup of tea, or some bubbles.

Each tea party host receives a gift to the value of $100 from the collection and 15% per cent of sales, which can be redeemed on the collection.

French Heart Tea Party for you?

Hosting a French Heart Tea Party is simple.
The tea party is hosted in a Sydney-based space where the gifts can be comfortably shown off.
The host puts on the tea party and invites 10 or more friends to join her.
There needs to be a minimum of $500 in sales for the host to receive the French Heart gift.

Online  Tea Party

If you are based in another Australian state other than NSW or you are based overseas you can still enjoy the benefits of a French HeartTea Party by inviting your friends over to your place or to your lovely online blog site where you can host the French Heart Store link. A code will be provided so that all sales can be attributed to your tea party.

If you would like to host a French Heart Tea Party online or in your home please send an email to [email protected] or call on 0400 007 484. 


Beautiful gifts to inspire

Written by kim cotton on . Posted in all, On Attitude & Adventure

My mission is to be a creator of inspiration and joy through the beautiful gifts that I trade.

What’s it like to drift back into your childhood memory to dream the pure magic of make-believe – the Harlequin fairy, the cheeky elf, the pixie in the fairy dell, the whale rider, the unicorn … every little boy wants to be a pilot, every little girl wants to travel in a rose petal … we all want to ride a flying carpet.


Spirited Mama is a trader of exquisite treasures, beautiful keepsake gifts sourced from the heart of France. The treasures have been designed simply to inspire the imaginations of little people … and big people too … because inside each one of us there is the child seeking adventure in rainbow worlds of beauty, colour and enchanted far-away freedom. We hold on to that dream when we pass it down to our children.

Moonboy toy

Drawing on traditional fairytale themes, fables and archetypal characters, the treasures capture the pure essence of make-believe that inspires a child to dream happy dreams – whimsical mobiles such as Moonboy fishing for a star and Rosebud who truly does ride in her rose petal bringing gentle delight wherever she floats.


There are meticulously embroidered aprons, backpacks and satchels that tell stories in minute detail of unicorns, dragons, princesses and teacup dwelling elves. Each item can be personalised to make it a truly individual gift. (Importantly, they’re practical – fully machine washable and built to last.)

Spirited Mama little dragon backpack

The pouffes, pyjama bags, treasure stows and toy boxes draw on brightly colourful animal themes using tactile fabrics that are soft to touch and lovely to cuddle. They brighten children’s rooms and they delight hearts.

Each item is exquisitely crafted and made to artisan perfection in keeping with the French tradition of quality.

Beautiful gifts to inspire.

 spirited mama button


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