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Have we lost freedom?

Play is the cornerstone of childhood and imagination. We all know it’s essential – but what about this term “creative play”?

Creative play is our business here at Tinyfolk, but we often get asked just exactly what it means. We think it’s the most valuable form of play, and here’s why.

Creative play is any form of play that sparks imagination and creative thinking. Many people associate it with arts and crafts, and while that’s a really vaild form of creative play, the most important aspect of creative play is the self initiated direction, the building of social and problem solving skills and the different pathways of thinking it inspires in your little one.












Imagine for a minute two different objects. One is a mass produced, moulded plastic toy, with buttons, lights and sounds. Your child will approach it and think “What is it?” Soon it beeps and flashes, directing your child to press a button or pull a lever. It plays a song when your child does something ‘right’. It says things like ‘great!’ and ‘wow’ in a high pitched voice. Brightly coloured things pop up and down. When all the options have been exhausted, the play repeats.

The other object is pretty plain, lets say its a smooth plank of wood or a series of blocks. The first thing it encourages your child to do is to ask – what is it? How can I make it into something? Not surprisingly, the plank of wood or blocks say nothing back! So the child is encouraged to think a bit more, and as the cogs turn decisions are being made and before you know it – it’s a skateboard! It’s a road! It’s part of an obstacle course! It’s a bed for my doll, it’s a house for my friends…and so on.

The latter form of play is creative play, also known as imaginative play, or ‘open-ended’ play. The child is making the decisions and directing the path of the activity, and as they do, they are developing in many different ways. Socially – because they form an original relationship with the object and with others during the play, working out whats possible and getting input from each other. Cognitively – as free decisions and analysis spark new ways of thinking which further develops your child’s brain. Creatively – as they imagine scenarios and conjure up stories, characters and dialogue. Open ended play means the opportunity for play presented by the object never really run out – the opposite of what happens with the first object.

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Tinyfolk Shadow Puppets and Playhouses are designed to inspire self-directed creative play

Piaget says that “Play is the work of childhood”, and if we think of our own adult work and personal lives, this rings so true. We brainstorm, we problem solve, we interact with others in order to find solutions, we explore different ways of approaching issues – effectively, we play. We play with ideas and concepts. Ingenuity, resilience, problem solving and creative thinking – play is where it all begins.

Sometimes kids need guidance and a little push to jump off into creative play – but for the most part – you should leave them to it, especially is there is more than one child playing. Jumping in only when they ask for help, or perhaps suggesting a new angle when they tire of one direction. Responding positively now and again to their stories or art with interest or laughter. Most importantly, being silly and free with them when they need you to. If they see you playing freely, they will embrace it too. If you express yourself creatively, they will too.







Colour blocking with chalk is a beautiful way to go on a creative journey

For very young babies and young toddlers who do not yet possess all the language or social skills to jump wholeheartedly into made-up worlds, they are plenty of ways they can creatively play – with sensory and fine motor experiences and toys. The rule here is to keep it simple, with low-fi toys that have minimal fuss in their design and colour – toys that ask the child to solve the problem or see the opportunity, not toys that tell them what to do.











Grimm’s Wooden Baby beads are perfect for creative, sensory play for babies and toddlers.

Creative play can be imaginative role play, play with arts and crafts, sensory play or story building. But however you approach it, make it fun and free and flexible.

You can see Tinyfolk’s range of creative products here - a jumping off point for the best kinds of fun.




Ah, here we are. Happy New Year folks! Welcome to 2014. Yeehaw!

If you are anything like this family you are probably still somewhat in 2013, perhaps still clearing away the ephemera of Christmas – the occasional bauble still rolling around ready to be stepped on, the Christmas tree refusing to settle nicely into the green waste bin – the new Christmas toys that don’t have a ‘place’ yet…I could spend all January just dealing with it and getting over the festive burst.

However it is a new month, and a new year – and many of us will be in a sort of  holiday mode for another few weeks, waiting for school to start and the routine of daily life to really kick in. You might be looking for things to do instead of swimming lessons, ballet, sports and other activities – look no further! If you live in Sydney there are so many exciting and wondrous things to do with your kids this month, that will open their eyes to new things, new ways of seeing the world, different ways of thinking – all through engagement with art, design, performance and creative play.

So let’s get started.

Everyone has heard of the annual Sydney Festival, but did you know how accessible it is for young families? Starting up on Thursday January 9 (thats 3 days away for people whose brains are struggling to compute – like mine) the festival is a fiesta of theatre, events, dance, art, installation and music.

My favourite picks for the Festival are:

The Piper, at the Carriageworks in Redfern, by the innovative group My Darling Patricia. A theatrical experience for both children and adults alike, this show, a retelling of the Pied Piper, is inspired by childrens’ stories from the famous Ted Hughes. Whats even cooler is that you can be part of the actual onstage experience, special ticket purchases will allow you and your kids to wear wireless headphones onstage, viewing and participating in the theatrical experience. Now that is unique. 8-19 Jan, $35 / $20. Suitable for 5+.













If you missed Florentijn Hofman’s giant Rubber Duck making it’s grand entrance into Darling Harbour last year – don’t pass it by this year, it’ll be splashing around in Parramatta. I’ve seen my own kids’ eyes just widen in delight at this one – and it brought a big smile to my face. This event is free and definitely worth it. Jan 10-19.









Boxwars looks fun, and you know how we love cardboard. Located in the Festival Village, Hyde Park, this hands-on workshop just requires you to rock up with your imagination and craft desires and get busy making your ownn hat from reclaimed cardboard. Free and suitable for all ages, Jan 12-17 (closed Mondays)








I’m pretty bummed Tom Thum is for 12+ – this guy is a genuis. A must-see if your kids are in this age group. Called a ‘beatboxing virtuoso’ and armed only with a microphone and his mouth – he creates a world of sound you wouldn’t believe if you didn’t see it for yourself. Pure talent comes in all forms people – and it’s great to open your kids’ eyes to this kind of performance. Festival Village, 21-26 Jan, $42 / $38.








In Hyde Park North you will come across Sacrilege, a life size inflatable version of Stonehenge. It’s fun, educational, jumping castle heaven – so nice to rethink the tired old market castles into something really wondrous – kick off your shoes and have a bounce around in Stonehenge, right in the city! Free and suitable for all ages, it’s up from 9-26 January.









Lastly but not leastly there is Squaring the Wheel – this is imaginative play brilliance. A pile of junk, old household items, is re-imagined and replayed by circus performer, magician and puppeteer Jens Altheimer. Anything from a frying pan to a broom gets a new story, opening up your child’s imagination and showing them how you can think outside the square. They may never look at your mundane utensils in the same way again, After each show is a little workshop where Jens will show you how all his inventions work. Bonus! This plays in Festival Village, 21 -25 Jan, for 5+.









There is more of course, for all ages – take a look at the Sydney Festival website for more info, maps & ticket purchases, or call the festival on 1300 856 876.

Moving down to the harbour to our beautiful Opera House you should absolutely not miss Architects of Air’s Exxopolis in the forecourt, from January 3-27. 53 metres long and 9 metres high, Exxopolis is a giant inflatable ‘city’ of morphing form and light, walk through and have a multi-sensory experience like no other. We saw this last Saturday, Tix are $15 online, $18 at the door or $49 for a group of four.








Also at the house, but inside this time, is this month’s Creative Play installation, which Tinyfolk has had the pleasure of designing before. This time its a LEGO installation in 3D in the Western Foyer – gazillions of Lego pieces have been ordered from Denmark so artists and children (4+) can work alongside each other creating a gigantic mural around a funky sculpture – you know you want to! Its free to boot, from Jan 3 – 25.

Sydney Opera House Creative Play, Comedy








We are keen to see the retrospective Yoko Ono exhibition at the MCA – War Is Over, If You Want It. You can go to a special baby friendly tour of this exhibition – check out the links to Art Baby – a way to see the gallery with like minded parents, prams in tow and children smiled upon. Ono is legendary of course and has been practising art, love and peace for 5 decades. Definitely worth a look with your family, and you can check in with their Contemporary Kids workshop Alphabet Soup while you’re there. Admission is free for under 12′s, families are $49.50.








Getting out of the city but still in the urban wilderness you can experience Koskela – the amazing design warehouse which hosts creative workshops for  kids and adults – the Comic Storytelling and Zine Making workshop with Leigh Rigozzi looks awesome, for 10-16 year olds. Rigozzi has been drawing comics for 10 years and should provide a very cool and creative experience for your kids. You can munch on the deliciousness that Kitchen by Mike provide , and ogle amazing Australian design while you’re there.











That should keep you busy – all worth the effort – it;s agreat month for kids in Sydney.

All pics from Sydney Festival. Sydney Opera House and Koskela websites.

Hi Tinyfolk Readers

We are on Instagram as @tiny_creative

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Hi there folks!

We are thrilled to launch our initiative “Let’s PlayHouse” to help children in emergency care.



On any given night there are over 100,000 people without safe and suitable accommodation in Australia. Of these, 22% are women with young children. The average age of a child fleeing domestic and family violence with their mother is just 2.5yrs old.

The needs of young children accessing refuges and safe-houses are great – but so often, items outside of basic living essentials cannot be considered due to very tight budgets and lack of funding. For this reason children in emergency care have little access to play experiences, which are so essential in early childhood development.

The Let’s PlayHouse project has been initiated by Tinyfolk in partnership with not-for-profit agencies StreetSmart Australia and Domestic Violence New South Wales (DV NSW). The aim of the initiative is to provide every women’s safe-house and refuge in Australia with access to quality play experiences through the supply of a Tinyfolk Playhouse.



Tinyfolk Playhouses are a safe, comforting and quality play option for young children. The open-ended design inspires imaginative, creative play, fostering confidence, resilience and social skills in children. The flat-pack design and ease of assembly offer the ability for refuges to construct and pack away the Playhouse as necessary, in response to the differing ages of children in care. Providing this simple yet effective resource will greatly benefit a huge number of children who sadly find themselves in emergency care due to domestic and family violence. Tinyfolk & DV NSW strongly support the use of play as therapy for children who have experienced trauma.

Let’s PlayHouse has secured funding to roll out this program in NSW, and will continue to raise funds to extend to all states in Australia. Tinyfolk customers can be involved too – over the Christmas period $5 from the purchase of every flat-pack product will go directly towards the Let’s PlayHouse project.

About DV NSW:

Domestic Violence NSW Inc. is a state-wide representative body for associated specialist domestic and family violence services within NSW. DVNSW Member refuges provide support, advice and accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence & in need of emergency care, through a network of refuges and specialist domestic violence services.

About StreetSmart Australia:

StreetSmart takes action against homelessness, raising funds and awareness for small, ‘hard to reach’ grassroots services and projects. These projects provide critical services and emergency aid as well as promoting social inclusion, empowerment and sustainable change for people who are homeless or at risk. StreetSmart helps out by raising funds, delivering financial grants and raising community awareness of the issues of homelessness.

For more information:

Media / general enquiries contact us at hello {at} High and low resolution images or more information about Streetsmart and DV NSW available on request.


**If this post has generated and issues or concerns for you regarding domestic or family violence, please call the 24 hour free DV hotline on

1800 656 463

Here’s what queen of the kids Justine Clarke had to say about our Picture Playhouse:

“Given Gen’s background and body of work in theatre set design it’s no wonder that she has made a product that’s not only  really practical and easy to use, but directly taps into a child’s imaginative mind. You can open it up and get on with playing straight away”

Thanks Justine – Love your work!




As you know I spent a little time in New York recently – and just happened to be there at the same time as the amazing trade show – Playtime!

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This trade show has some toy products but predominantly showcases fantastic fashion brands for children – and while that isn’t strictly Tinyfolk’s game – I just had to go along and see what all the fuss was about.

Here’s a little collection of my favourite stands:

I got a bit dizzy looking at the gorgeous sequinned bears from NYC based Freddy Dico. Very rock star! Buying a black or gold sequinned Freddy Dico bear is called an ‘adoption’ – and inside your very own bear is a natural Ametrine Crystal heart. Plans for a silver bear are on the cards.






























The shoes in the combined stand of Maa and Manuela de Juan were absolutely beautiful in their quality and aesthetic. This Spanish collection has been making high end children’s shoes since 1970, and counts Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie and Monica Belluci as committed clients.

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The adorable Hazel Village toys, bursting with personality and accompanied by the most divine little outfits. Hazel Village are a series of woodland friends was created by Jane Van Cleef in Brooklyn in 2010. Hazel Village manufactures the beauties in India under ethical, organic  and environmental standards, with each face being hand stitched with care. All the animals are the same size, which means you can swap and share their sweet tiny clothes amongst each other.
































Frank and Lu caught my eye not just as the best stand design at the fair, but the very cool, utilitarian clothes for girls and boys. Definite street smarts. Theres no frills and spills here – just quality, play proof spunky clothing with a confident streak.






























Speaking of street smarts – Mini and Maximus had graffiti cool in spades in their bright showcase of baby & toddler clothing.































I really loved the work of Sydney born designer Karina Kallio and her label Kallio. Karina sources pre loved men’s shirts from around the Brooklyn area, and repurposes them into really beautiful children’s clothes. I had a great chat with Karina – nice to see an Australian girl making great things in New York City!

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I was really happy to stumble across the lovely folk at Noe and Zoe Berlin - showcasing some really sweet and bright geometric prints in arange of cuts. I loved their handmade fabric crowns and doll size linen. Really beautiful stuff with a bit of whimsy and eccentric pattern thrown in. Zoe and Zoe showcased their first collection in 2011 and have been going strong ever since.

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There was a lot more to see at Playtime, but these were the standouts for me. I might add, that every person manning these stands was friendly, welcoming and informative – happy for me to chat with them about my own works, and photograph their wares. I didn’t find this at every stand – some companies were extremely precious about what could and couldn’t be shown to the GP – this sometimes happens at trade shows. I understand all too well the need to retain a certain privacy about designs – however – I think the people who show generosity, openness and a certain casualness about the design of their collections, are the ones who have it in the bag.

Just sayin x



You hear a lot about New York being a hard place to raise children – the tiny abodes, the noise, the heavy traffic etc etc. Sure, it’s a big city – but it’s a big, bombastic, beautiful city! And, in my opinion, as good a place to raise tiny ones as any. Sure, it lacks a bit of breathing space – but it makes up for it in other ways. The play and creative opportunities for kids are really endless, and the teeming life and multiculturalism mean that life brings up all sorts of challenges – big questions for those little minds to ponder. And it’s sometimes good to think about big stuff, when you’re little.

Granted, I did travel there without my tiny folks, but I got to step back and see a lot of things through their eyes.

Like these inner-city parks, so familiar in our popular culture – little lush oases in amongst the tall buildings. So clean and nicely kept. And a bit of yesterday’s hopscotch – true Americana.
























































A visit to the Children’s Museum of the Arts was an eye-opener – this is a wonderful, lively and well designed space that is basically a big, fun, art factory in Soho. Running through he center of the building is a sort of exhibition space, which on this day was inhabited by two practising artists – under the “Works in Progress” series, which I’ll get to in a bit, and running of this space all types of rooms housing art making, play making and all around good kiddo times. I had a great chat with the Director, Barbara Hunt McLanahan, who praised the work of her artist educators making up the bulk of staff interacting with kids, but highlighted the importance of inviting artists into the space who were deeply engaged with their practice, letting them devise a project and having the children engage in a real, working art experience with a maker.

One such artist in the “Works in Progress” series was Meghann Snow, a former ballet dancer and figure skater who has turned her moves to art – in this case, art with children. Inspired by the idea of ‘muscle memory’ and in particular the relationship between art and children with special needs, Meghann has created an interactive dance drawing workshop.

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The idea is the ‘dancer’ is fitted with bubble wrap and masking tape shoes and asked to paint the floor with their movement. Presented with a large canvas on the floor and the opportunity to stomp around paint and not get in trouble, the children I saw go through the experience were fascinated and delighted with the patterns their feet were making. I even had a turn! It was fun and I got a custom shoe fitting from the gorgeous gal herself.





























The other artist showing work in the space was Lisa Ludwig whose installation was called “The Art Neighbourhood”. This was a really interesting and ever evolving work. The ‘neighbourhood’ is a large scale model made entirely of recycled materials, representing a microcosm of an urban environment complete with houses, cinemas, art gallery and more. The little model people inhabiting it were made and donated by children visiting the museum and interacting with the installation – on the day I visited there were 2 boys participating in the making of a stop frame animation piece where their ‘people’ were the heroes. It was a very cool, magical little work.























































 Apart from visiting great places like this with your kids, inspiration can just hit walking around town. The iconic bright yellow adorning taxis, buses and traffic lights makes for a happy sight. Public art is everywhere (commissioned or not). And who doesn’t love an impromptu dance party in Union Square?

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Time was short but I managed to go to a couple of kid shops reccomended to me by Mari from Small for Big. ABC Carpet + Home is a must for the design curious no matter what age, but their kids’ section was a winner, overflowing with beautiful treasures.

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If you’re in the market for a children’s gift (or just some ogling), Yoya in Soho is pretty damn gorgeous. The contemporary mix of beautifully curated fashion, toys, books and furniture pleased me no end.































Thats just about covers it – what fun it was!

I also came across a hip and exciting little product that I’m hoping to bring to our sunny shores pretty soon – stay tuned for that.

Up next on the blog is my wrap up of the fabulous Playtime New York!


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And Yoya in Soho did not disappoint, with it’s modern collection of exquisitely designed, fun and original fashion, toys and furniture for the little folks. A definite must if you are gift shopping or just ogling.





Pinterest coming up with the goods this week:




































1. Now you can get the amazing work of Alexander Girard on a plate!

2. Love this blue frame Playhouse – so clever

3. A gorgeous room with an important message!

4. Bright felt DIY crowns

5. Adore these playtents by Such Great Heights

6. Teeny weeny baby shoe – so very sweet

Wednesdays are a two kid day for me, so we are always on the lookout for places to go play in Sydney. The many experiments of going to museums and galleries have come with mixed results. The ideal of immersing your kids in a refined, peaceful, contemplative art experience is often at total odds with their desires to touch, feel, interact and go crazy – naturally.

Dance_03 copySo I was keen on trying out ArtPlay at the Museum of Contemporary Art, which includes a year long installation entitled “Dance” by Japanese artist Hiromi Tango. Originally designed as an interactive art installation for children with special needs, the MCA Kids’ and Families department has opened it up to all kiddos ages 0-5, which suits my two little folks.

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 The installation itself , housed in a small and cosy room, is a riot of colour and texture – soft woven, wrapped and torn textiles snake everywhere, revealing tiny details and hidey holes, small bells to tinkle, places to crawl through and so, so much to touch. Babies and toddlers can softly roll and tumble about (without a nervous guard tut-tutting), and the older ones can play hide and seek around the tree-like forms.



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 Alongside the “Dance” installation is the ArtPlay workshop space, with various collections of sweet multifunctional toys that encourage self directed play. It was a chilled and relaxed environment where all sorts of creating and making happening at the children’s own pace.

ArtPlay is on at the MCA every Wednesday during school terms, from 10am – 12pm. Go try it, it’s free, great fun and totally low stress. Win!

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 Also at the MCA : On the last Sunday of every month there is a Family Fun Day, and don’t miss the upcoming Giant Inflatable Basket on the front Lawn, Saturday August 17

Lovely quote from Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862). American author, poet & philosopher


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