We love Wishbone Bikes here at Entropy, so it was wonderful to see Wishbone’s Hi-Gloss Red Bike featured in Cosmopolitan Pregnancy‘s recent issue. The Wishbone bike is unique as it evolves with each stage of a child’s development. It starts at age 12 months as a trike, converts to a running (balance) bike as the child grows, and by four to five years of age the frame can be ‘flipped’ to make it one of the largest running/balance bikes on the market. And being slick red it goes twice as fast (of course!).
The American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) recently revealed the winners of the 2013 Best Toys for Kids awards winners, and the Elves are pleased to say some of our beauties were recognised. More than 550 independent and neighbourhood toy retailers voted to select 21 winners across 13 categories.
Early Play – Green Toys Seaplane, $34.95
Early Play – Janod Wooden Pullalong Tattoo Xylophone, $69.95
Game Play, Three to Seven Years – Smart Toys Bunny Peek A Boo, $34.95
Game Play, Three to Seven Years – ThinkFun Zingo! Sight Words, $34.95
Classic Play, Zero to Seven Years – Manhattan Toy’s Skwish Classic Baby Clutch, $29.95
Katy Metcalfe-Gibson and Jane Chambers are the faces behind vintage-flavoured children’s stationery brand KatyJane Designs. Here we talk to Katy about how the Australian mums bring beautiful creations to life, their personal favourites and the joy of letter writing.
How old is KatyJane? We officially launched KatyJane Designs in 2009; however we had been working on setting up the business about a year before that – can’t believe where the time has gone!
How did you meet and what led you to turn your friendship into a business? We met at a playgroup in Nedlands, Perth. We had both recently moved to WA; me from the UK and Jane from the east coast of Australia. We both had young children at the time and the idea of starting up our own business seemed like a great idea – I think we went on the woman’s intuition that we would work well together! At the time we saw a gap in the party stationery market and that was our starting point for KatyJane.
Are you both designers? No, Jane is a graphic designer and I loved her work from the outset. My background is more business and copywriting. However, we try to collaborate across the whole business, which works really well.
What’s KatyJane’s philosophy in a nutshell? Bringing beautiful stationery to life: We create unique designer stationery for children and the young at heart. Delightful paper goods and accessories brought to life through stylish, fun, bold and colourful designs, which evoke happiness and celebration. Modern style coupled with a ‘vintage twist’ makes our products stand out from the crowd.
Where do you source your inspiration for the gorgeous designs? Our children and their different ages and stages have been the basis of our inspiration. They introduce ideas to us (without evening knowing it) and take us back to our own childhood. Visually, we are drawn to beautiful designs and objects: we love bright and bold colours, vintage style and simplicity – the idea that less is more. We try to combine these elements in a way that creates our own individual KatyJane style.
Tell us about your favourite creation. For me, it has to be our latest product – My Letter Pads (two designs below). We’ve wanted to produce these for so long, they’ve taken us about a year to get right, and to finally have them printed and sitting in our range of products is so exciting! I love the nostalgia of the aerogramme style concept and encouraging the handwritten word in a time of technology – it’s great to see children writing more.
Have the letter pads proven popular so far? Children love receiving and sending post and this hasn’t changed since we were children. We thought it was important to reintroduce this to children, particularly at a time when our own children where learning to write. We also wanted to provide something that’s beautifully designed and appeals to both children (girls and boys) and grownups. My Letter Pads are designed to be a tactile and fun to ‘make your own’ letter – just write it, fold it, stick it and send it! It’s a letter and envelope all in one and all you need is a stamp!
Did either of you have pen pals growing up? Yes I did. I was born in Australia but brought up in London, so I had a French pen pal and also family in Australia I would write to. I just loved receiving the letters in the post – what child doesn’t?! Jane would write to her grandparents and remembers writing to her best friend when she moved away in primary school. She even remembers posting letters to her sister in the next room – they even gave the hallway a street name and a house number for each of their rooms! The beauty of our new letter pads is the fact there are 20 sheets, so children (and parents) don’t need to be precious about every page – let your child fill it with pictures if that’s what they love to do. It’s about the notion of giving and receiving. Jane’s six-year-old writes letters to their lovely 70-year-old neighbour across the road. She posts them on her scooter. We’re not sure that they can always be read, but she always gets a reply. It’s lovely to watch!
How is KatyJane different from other stationery ranges? Our designs are fun and bold in colour and, as such, we’ve learned along the years that our brand really appeals to children, parents and grandparents, which is just lovely!
What do you love the most about what you do? Probably the freedom of being our own boss – we get to work on the products and items we love the most and work towards creating and developing new ideas too – that’s the exciting part!
What’s on the cards for the rest of the year? An overhaul of our website to help run our business more smoothly. We’re also working on a new range of cards that will be targeted more to ‘adults’ and older children, plus we’ve got a few other new ideas up our sleeves, so watch this space!
Check-out Entropy’s complete Katy Jane range.
The Entropy Elves had a good chat to speech pathologist Lyn Goodwin recently. Lyn is from BusyBug Kits and puts together packs of toys that are designed to aid in children’s speech development. Many of her toys of choice come from Entropy.
If and when should a parent be concerned about their child’s speech?
Most parents are really good at noticing there is a problem! As a rule, the following are red flags for concern:
• Your 12-month-old baby gives no eye contact, does not turn to his name, and doesn’t babble.
• Your two-year-old toddler is not saying more than 50 words and hasn’t mastered some two-word phrases.
What three key things should you do with your child every day to boost speech skills?
Play, read and talk! Everyone is busy these days and sometimes kids miss out on playtime with an adult. These playtimes are where children learn the meanings of words, so they’re so important to make time for. Also, reading books everyday has been shown to have fantastic positive effects on children’s language skills, literacy and readiness for school.
How did you come up with the idea of making kits of toys?
We both have a great passion for working with young children and there is so much research now on brain development in zero to three year olds. Also, having our own kids helped too! As speech pathologists we love finding new toys and thinking of ways to use them to help speech development. Parents often ask, “Where did you buy these toys?” or, “What sorts of toys can help my child?” At the same time, many parents today work long hours while raising their children which can leave them with little relaxation and play time. So we came up with the idea of streamlining this process for parents by choosing lots of good quality toys with a booklet on how to use them to optimise their child’s speech and development. We now have a range of kits for babies and toddlers and they each come with an eBook, which shows parents how to stimulate speech development step-by-step.
What are your top Entropy toys for babies and why?
Musical instruments: Haba’s big sound music workshop
Babies love to shake things and hear noises. Listening skills are crucial for speech to develop. You can make lots of different noises for baby to enjoy and your baby can practise finding where the noise is coming from.
Wooden blocks: Melissa & Doug’s wooden ABC blocks
Babies like building little towers with blocks. A quality set of wooden building blocks will last a long time and your baby will use them in different ways as he or she grows. Use these blocks to repeat some easy words like ‘up’ or ‘crash’, while slightly older children can count the blocks up or make them into bridges.
Stacking cups: Green Toys’ stacker
Stacking cups are a traditional toy for young babies. They are great for helping baby to ‘hide’ things under cups or build them on top of each other. You can use words like ‘gone’ when something is hidden or ‘where?’ to find it.
Pushalong toys: Kid O’s go car
Baby will have lots of great fun pushing the toy back and forth! If baby is sitting in front of you, then you can call out ‘ready, set …..’, and help your baby to say ‘go!’ This also helps baby to learn to look at you when you call.
Puppet books: Merrigold’s fairy tale series finger puppets
Puppets are a wonderful interactive toy and a great way to build a connection with your baby. They are also a great way to sing your nursery rhymes! This cloth bag has a handle and zipper that contains lots of fairy tale friends for stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Goldilocks and The Three Little Pigs.
What are your top Entropy toys for toddlers and why?
Set of Farm Animals: Goki’s wooden farm animal set
A farm set with different animals is a great way to help toddlers practise different noises. Baa! Moo! Oink! Toddlers also develop some play skills by walking the animals around and feeding them.
Chunky simple puzzles: Melissa & Doug’s jumbo farm knob puzzle
Puzzles with a few large pieces or knobs/handles are great for little fingers. Toddlers learn to use words as they put the puzzle piece in (‘pig’) or as they tip out the puzzle ‘out’. This toy develops fine motor skills too.
Play food: Fun Factory’s fruit cutting box and, for a treat, Santoys’ ice cream set with scoop
Great for playing tea parties or feeding teddy; there are many cut-and-play versions which are great fun for toddlers. You can use words like ‘teddy eat’ or ‘cut the apple’. Ice cream is great for smaller customers, where you can just use play sounds like ‘Mmm’, or ‘uh oh’.
Pushalong vehicles: Green Toys’ fire truck
Great for both boys and girls, large vehicles like an ambulance or bus are wonderful toys for toddlers to put passengers in and push around. Not only does this activity develop play skills, but there are many words that can be learnt: ‘push’, ‘stop’, ‘sit down’, and ‘drive.’
What should parents do if they are worried about their child’s speech?
Ask for a referral to a speech pathologist. You can do this via your child health nurse or GP. Most therapists will also take direct referrals from parents. The Speech Pathologists Association (www.speechpathologyaustralia.org.au) has a search engine for finding a local provider.
Goldfish Gifts is known for its beautiful wooden mobiles that are produced by a close knit community in Bali. With no two exactly the same, owner Elisa Doro explains what goes into producing these mini works of art.
Can you sum-up Goldfish Gifts in a nutshell? We’re all about originality, colour and fun. We don’t conform to fashion or trends and our products are designed to last… Late last year I had a young man in his 20s come into our store with his baby son. He had come in to purchase one of our mobiles, the flying crazy dragon, and he told me that his Dad had bought him one and he now wanted one for his own son. That’s a whole generation! I was so chuffed (and felt a bit ancient too!).
How many Balinese people are working for you now? Lots! There are between 20 and 30. I have been working closely with my producers for over 20 years and together we have learnt, laughed and even cried, but always been positive about the Goldfish product.
Do you all work together to grow the product range? Yes — I go to Bali and give them sketches, colours and sizes and they make prototypes until we get it just right. The process usually takes up to three weeks, but it’s the best part of the job I think. The people I work with are brilliant and what they do is magic!
As well as mobiles you also produce play tents. What makes them different? They are totally handmade in a cottage industry situation where people are working at home amongst the animals, the family and all those beautiful Balinese ceremonies. The fabrics are all individually chosen by me and Gusti, my right hand man, and many designs are produced and printed in my favourite colours so we have something special.
Do parents love the fact the mobiles are non-toxic, handmade and ethically produced? They do indeed. And the fact that each piece is unique! They are made with a smile and with the intention of making you and your children smile too.
Are you working on any new and exciting this year? Always! I am also working in Madagascar with small family groups on some gorgeous designs and looking forward to showing them in August… I hope! The problem there is the lack of communication and
infrastructure: Often it takes us a whole day just to get to the village, walk there, and then somehow communicate what we need, but magically it seems to work.
What’s something that may surprise us about Goldfish Gifts? Each mobile goes through at least 12 pairs of hands in the production process.
Do you have a personal favourite? Probably the Ozi mobile because it was purchased by the last Governor General to give to Princess Mary of Denmark’s first baby. Suppliers to
royalty! My Balinese suppliers were so impressed and proud.
Where in NSW are you based? We are in the beautiful Kangaroo Valley on the top of a hill in the rainforest, overlooking the valley. It’s inspiring and peaceful!
Is it rewarding to produce a great product that also helps small communities? The workers really are like a big family. Over the years we have helped to send a few of the workers’ children to high school and always give them a bonus payment at the end of an order. We feel very happy, and proud of these wonderful people and their handwork. We have recently been able to employ another 10 women. Previously these women had no opportunity for work because the village was so far removed from tourists and business people, but now they are all happily sewing. It’s so great to visit and hear them all call out, “Hello Elisa! You have more job??”
For more from Goldfish Gifts click here.