Monthly Archives: September 2014

Whimsical, magical fun

It’s not every day that you come across gorgeous, quirky toys and decorative pieces that are simply unique and lovable – and that both children and adults alike will enjoy. That’s why we knew we had to make the Byron Bay nic-nac brand available to our toy lovers! The Elves caught up with director and designer Kylie Mowbray-Allen, to find out more about her whimsical and super fun range.

nicnacHow did the nic-nac range come about? It all started with the nic-nac nappy wrap, a nappy-bag-change-mat-all-in-one, great for dad’s to take out and about.  Then the ideas grew… and grew.  The most fun part for me is designing products, working with our pattern makers, designing fabrics, heading into production, and seeing what works and what doesn’t!  Not all my ideas (in fact not even 25% of them!) make it out into the world, kylie cloverbut it’s loads of fun in the process.

What are some of your personal favourites? The felt fairy caves and dragon dens.  They have evolved from starting off as a cat house!  My daughter is always trying to get me to design animal costumes (she’s 11 and loves to paint our dog’s nails and put tutu’s on them) and she helped me design a cat cave… the cat never wanted to go in it though!!! So then we started playing with the design and it became a fairy cave and dragon den.  We love them very much!

What do you think children and adults love the most about nic-nac? That the brand is all about natural, tactile, imaginative, and practical.  A lot of our products are old-school and we’ve played with the pattern, re-launched it, and given it a modern twist.  The water marbles are not invented by us, but we worked with a product that we loved and added new dimensions to them.  We design a lot from scratch, from dreams and from our kids’ ideas. Our products make us happy and we hope they do that for children and grown-ups too!

Felt Garland Rainbow Stars 4nic-nac prides itself on being fair-trade and ethical; do you think people are becoming more conscious about the choices they make when purchasing certain products? Definitely. TV shows and documentaries over the past few years have helped highlight the plight of children and minorities in certain countries, who are working in appalling conditions for almost no (sometimes none) remuneration. As a country, as citizens of the world, we need to think about where are our products being made, in what conditions, using what dyes and chemicals, and by whom. Fair and ethical trade ensures children are not being exploited, that conditions are decent, and a fair wage being paid for a fair day’s work.   We also manufacture in Australia.  We have a cutter about 20 mins from us, in the Byron hinterland, whose cutting room is in a rainforest. Our sewers used to all be based in the Byron Bay area, but now only one is here in Bangalow, and the rest are in Coffs Harbour, Gold Coast, Lismore and Melbourne.

Teepees are a major comnicnac_teepeeponent of the nic-nac range, what do you think makes them so special? They are so versatile!  They’re a hut, they’re a cafe, they’re a kitchen, they’re a hideout, they’re a cubby, they’re a magical space, and they’re an imaginative play place.  All the children in our street have one, and watching them over the years has been wonderful.  They set up reservations in the park, one teepee is the bathroom, one is the play room, they move between them and make covered walk ways with blankets and sheets.  Sometimes they put them out on the road, and with giant chalk, they draw streets and swimming pools and hop scotch to connect all the teepees. It’s that they’re timeless and ageless, built to last, and highly versatile that makes them so special.  Oh, and because we’ve kept them natural, yet have developed endless decorating options (garlands and buntings and mats and rugs) for them, so you can change the look of your teepee, according to your mood, stage and style. That makes them extra special too.

How did the felt-products idea occur? When our daughter was pre-school age we went to Steiner playgroup, and each week the kids would play, and the parents would handicraft.  My favourite time was felting.  We made some incredible products, and I loved working with the natural fibres (also, I’m originally from NZ, so love wool – baaaah!) so it was only natural that at some stage I would find a felt manufacturer who I connected with, and together we could work on magical products, with amazing colours.

Felt Dragon Grey

What has been the most rewarding part of working with Nepalese artisans to bring these hand-made goodies to life? Our felt artisans were found when a friend was trekking through Nepal.  Over time we’ve built such a creative relationship, that I can draw the pictures of what I want to create, and they interpret my drawings into felt.  It’s a quirky way of doing it, sometimes it works and sometimes it’s hilarious.  We have a mutual love for each other, they love that the work we’re giving them enables them to stay in their villages doing what they love, I love that they’re making my imagined ideas and drawings into reality!

Flower Garland Pink

We absolutely love the felt garlands (especially the flowers one) and we think they would look beautiful at Entropy HQ! Where do you have yours? Any other quirky uses we can give them? The pink flowers are in our guest room, four garlands – all draped around the window frame and giant antique mirror.  They look divine and are often admired.  They also look beautiful hanging from the super-size teepee.  We like to pop the flowers out, they look like dancing ladies.

What are some new and exciting products you’re working on at the moment? We have so many new products in various stages of production and design, which may or may not ever make it out into the world, but one of them which we’re super close to launching is a dragon door decal with felt mat and stones, and a fairy version too.  Toy tidy sacks, play mat, cot quilt, Christmas decorations and stockings, toadstool fairy homes and more… watch this space!

What’s something people would be surprised to know about nic-nac? That we employ people with physical disabilities and amazing brains… one-parent families and other challenging scenarios.  We find ways of making our work environment work for them.  Whether that means adapting their work space, or having them work remotely from home.  Seven years ago my husband broke his neck playing rugby, and is now a quadriplegic.  Amongst all the many things I have learnt since his accident, and what has really astonished me, is how many people with severely challenged bodies who would LOVE to work and have so much to offer the world, but work places are not often willing to adapt to suit “different” needs, or willing to see how easy it can be to adapt for them.  We’re not just about fair trade; we’re also about being fair employers.  Creating an environment that is fun and inspiring to work in.  Adapting to people’s needs, whether it’s needing to work only during school hours, being aware of their different challenges, whatever it is, we aim to keep our busy, pumping, thriving work environment, fair, ethical, challenging, inspiring and fun.Water Marbles 3

Anything else you’d like to add? I really love what I do.  I have an amazing family that I support, and in return they support and inspire me.  I get very excited when we receive a note from someone saying they love one of our products, or a friend rings to say they saw one of our products in a shop in a remote town.  Our products are all very personal to us, each one is our baby!   It’s a great feeling to love what you do.

Check out the entire nic-nac range.

Pintoy: Wonderful wooden treasures

Wooden toys are truly special… Despite all the new, high-tech toys that appear in the market each year (mostly made of plastic and other non-sustainable materials), wooden toys seem to remain popular and current nonetheless; both for parents and children!

This week we’re featuring a brand that provides a wide range of educational toys and children’s games. Pintoy products are made in Thailand, using rubberwood from latex plantations. When trees no longer produce enough latex, they are cut for replanting and the wood is recovered as a by-product. Studies show rubber plantations are efficient in removing carbon-dioxide from the air, making rubberwood an environmentally friendly product.

So, why else do we like Pintoy toys? Glad you asked…

Educational & developmental benefits: Wooden toys will aid in the development of fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, encourage creative and imaginative play and develop problem-solving skills, just to name a few. The texture of wood is so inviting, it will stimulate children’s tactile senses. We can’t forget how colourful those different shapes are – this can aid in learning about colours, shapes and how to count.

Four Friends Train Pull-Along Pull-Along Train, was $49.95 now $39.95

Pick-Up Trike Ride-On 2Ride On Pick-Up Trike, was $149 now $119

Sorting BasketShape & Colour Sorter, was $39.95 now $29.95

More involved play: Pintoy toys are highly interactive, even with the absence of flashing lights, buttons to press and sounds. In turn, this makes children more active – they will need to push the toy, pull it along, manually handling its features. This also encourages them to be more creative in their play-time.

Hammer & Rolling BallsHammer & Ball Track, was $49.95 now $39.95

Happy Pop-UpHappy Push Pop-Up Toy, was $24.95 now $19.95

Walk & Play 2Walk & Play Walker, was $149 now $119

Sustainable & less toxic: Wooden toys don’t require any glue, batteries, and other chemically-charged materials. They are less toxic thanks to the no-plastic aspect, and the paint used by Pintoy is also non-toxic and water based.

Car TransporterCar Transporter, was $89.95 now $69.95

50 Wooden BlocksWooden Blocks Set, was $39.95 now $29.95

Aeroplane Ride-OnRide-On Aeroplane, was $159 now $119

Durable: Wooden toys are sturdy and very hard wearing. Rubberwood is not a formed wood (such as medium-density fibreboard), it’s stable and it doesn’t shrink or warp out of shape overtime. This means children can be as rough as they want, but their toys won’t budge.

City Fire StationFire Station, was $110 now $79.95

Fire Engine w Fire MAnFire Engine was $59.95 now $44.95

Firefighters Set of 3Firefighters Set, was $39.95 now $29.95

Lovable: Pintoy wooden toys are so inviting, fun and suitable for a range of ages. They will be treasured forever and undoubtedly can be passed from generation to generation.

Geo Shape Matching BoardShape Matching Board, was $29.95 now $19.95

Rolling SlopeTrix Track, was $89.95 now $69.95

Car ParkCar Park, was $129 now $99.95

These and many other reasons will always make wooden toys a smart and safe choice.

Entropy cover girl

The Entropy Elves are so proud to see our Chief Poobah on the cover of Townsville’s Success Business Magazine! A compelling story about Deb’s career transitioning from elite sport to retail, written by our very own Elf Carly.

You can read this inspiring story here.

 

Success Mag cover

Six valuable toys for vocabulary building

According to speech pathologist Jenna Mottin, many parents are surprised to know that, by two years of age, children should be able to say at least 50 words – but preferably 100 or more – and combine two words. It seems like a lot of words for a little person!

Vocabulary was the subject of an informative morning tea at Entropy Elf HQ recently, where Jenna from TalkNQ explained that toys were more than a bit of fun and showed parents what toys and games they could use to broaden their children’s vocabulary.

TalkNQ’s top six vocabulary-building toys:

Puzzles

These are great for expanding vocabulary, not just in one field but lots of different categories. Children might know the word ‘car’, but do they know ‘fire engine’, ‘bus’, and ‘train’? Think of what would be useful for your child – you can teach them about shapes, animals, etc.

Melissa & Doug Peg Puzzle Transp

Melissa & Doug Vehicles Peg Puzzle, $24.95

Melissa & Doug Peg Puzzle

Melissa & Doug Shapes Peg Puzzle, $14.95

Fun Factory PuzzleFun Factory Body, Shapes & Colours Puzzle, $14.95

Musical instruments

Develop basic concepts such as fast, slow, loud and quiet. Other concepts to be introduced: bang, hit and tap.

 Janod Musical KitJanod Music Set, $79.95Dobbin & Drum - Drum SolidDobbin & Drum – Drum Solid Colour, $39.95

Plan Toys drum setPlan Toys Musical Band Set, $119

Sand & water play

These toys encourage learning basic concepts: wet, dry, splash, slide, and pour. If at the beach, get children thinking about textures – how does the sand feel? Teach them words like rough, soft, etc.

 Haba Sand & Water Play SieveSand & Water Play Funnel & Sieve, $19.95

Haba Sand ChefSand & Water Play Bakery Set, $39.95

Haba Sand & Water Play SetSand & Water Play Bucket Scooter Set, $39.95

Click clack tracks

Ideal for teaching them ‘ready, set, go’ and turn taking, remember to emphasise who’s turn it is – my turn, your turn.

  Wonderworld Trix Track Trix Track Marble Run Throw & Roll, $59.95

Haba Conveyer WheelHaba Track Conveyor Wheel, $239Wonderworld Trix Track 2Marble Run Spin & Swirl Trix Track, $79.95

Free play toys

Teach children words like in and out, go and stop, spin, spinning, slow and fast; plus they’re also way too fun!

 Bilibo Free Play Toy

Bilibo Free Play Toy, $44.95

Stacker

Stack & Nest Cups, $19.95

Dolls Buggy Pram

Doll’s Buggy Pram, $89.95

Building blocks

Classic blocks can be used to teach kids words like up/down, crash, high, higher, low, tall, big, little and wobble.

Wonderland Stacks  Stacking Town, $24.95

Janod Kubix Building Blocks

Kubix Building Blocks, $34.95

Haba Technics Building Blocks

Building Blocks Starter Set, $109

So next time you’re playing with your child, think about what words you can use to make play time that little bit more beneficial.

Fun facts about vocabulary:

  • The size of a child’s vocabulary in kindy predicts their ability to learn to read.
  • Vocabulary growth is very closely linked to overall achievement at school.
  • It’s important adults interact through play to model and use words in naturally occurring settings to help expand a child’s vocabulary.

We look forward to holding some further TalkNQ sessions in the future. Watch this space! Find out more at www.talknq.com.