I hope all of us have fond memories of our childhoods. Running around care-free with our best buds creating a foundation for our lives. Creative play helps stimulate our minds and paves the way for happiness and a life full of learning, understanding and curiosity. I'm a strong believer that kids don't need loads and loads of toys to entertain them. The simplest toys seem to be the best. I know for my little one, she's happy with a pencil and some building blocks and she can create a whole world for herself.
When buying toys for your little one, it's important to understand the basis of it and where it comes from. With so many cheap, hazardous toys out their it's good to educate ourselves with whats best for our children. And I know just the lady to help us do this! I am completely inspired by Kerrie Vacalis owner of Smitten for the Wee Generation. I've been a fan of Smitten for sometime now and in awe of the amazing selection of goodies for your little ones. Every product is selected by Kerrie herself. She understands the importance of well made toys that spark creativity in our children. I had the chance to have a lovely chat with Kerrie read on to find out more about Kerrie and her amazing shop, Smitten for the Wee Generation!!!!
1 . Tell me about yourself. What is your background?
My name is Kerrie. I desperately wanted to be Wonder Woman as a child. Instead, I became a commercial litigator. I practiced law for roughly five years before the birth of my first child. He was this incredibly cute magnetic little thing, and I was hooked. I was a Mom. I am now a mother of two (or three, if you count Smitten).
2. How did Smitten for the Wee Generation get started, what sparked the idea for the shop?
While I was pregnant with my first child, I became one of a growing number of parents who was more concerned than ever about the products they were putting in front of their child. The country was in the midst of what seemed to be rolling recalls from various toy manufacturers due to poor manufacturing practices, and I stumbled upon a story concerning the potential impact of various environmental toxins on children. Until that time, I had never given much thought to the matter. I researched a little and what I found was concerning to say the least, and instilled in me the desire to seek out safe, quality products for my kids.
I also soon realized that my definition of childhood did not include include a sea of disposable products or a steady stream of ever-changing activity. Childhood was a time of pure magic for me, and I wanted the same for my children. We didn’t necessarily have a lot of money when I was growing up, but we sure had a lot of fun. The toys we had lasted, could be played with in numerous ways, and encouraged us to think creatively and explore our surroundings. I wanted the same type of products for my children.
I wanted them to be surrounded by products that would enlighten the mind and allow their imaginations to flourish. I wanted them to play with a toy because they truly enjoy it, not because it has been marketed to them. Moreover, in this world of instant gratification, I felt it was imperative that they discover from an early age that it takes more than a push of a button to accomplish something. We lived in a large metropolitan area, but finding products that were well-made and to this standard proved difficult.
So, I began searching, compiling lists of brands that fit the bill, and buying these things for my kids. Soon, other parents started to ask where the products came from, where they could get them, and why they weren’t readily available. I thought to myself, how great would it be to have one store stocked full of all this fun, and Smitten for the Wee Generation was born.
3. What sets Smitten for the Wee Generation apart from other shops?
All of our products are chosen with a very clear mission in mind: to encourage interaction and creative, open-ended thinking and play. I realize life is often hectic, fast-paced, and over-stretched, and that it is easy for the magic of childhood to get lost in the hustle and bustle of our ever-quickening world. People often speed by so quickly and fill their days so full that they miss the poignant moments all around them. However, underneath it all, each one of us has a desire to connect with those that matter the most to us; namely the children in our lives.
It is my ardent hope that the products offered at Smitten encourage parents and grandparents to re-connect with the magic of their childhood and, in turn, share their experiences and that feeling with the children in their lives. If a simple game, or toy, or nostalgic nightlight from our shop allows people to quiet the chaos of modern day living for a bit and relax into a space where the wonders of childhood can flourish again, where kids can be kids, where people can interact, and where you can revel in the pleasure of simply spending time together, then we’ve succeeded.
Big aspirations for a little shop, I know . . . but maybe I can be Wonder Woman after all.
4. How do you go about picking products for your shop? There are so many amazing things out there it must be hard to choose!
There certainly are many great things out there to choose from! Some products get sent to us as potentials for our collection. Most I scout out myself. I strive to find new, emerging designers from around the world who share my love of childhood at its simplest. When picking things for the shop, I am guided by many of the same instincts I have when looking for things for my own kids, and only feature products that I would have in my own home.
I seek out and feature emerging designers from around the world that inspire creativity and encourage interaction and open-ended play. I look for designers that use natural materials, produce items in small batches, and finish their products by hand. They also must be environmentally and/or socially responsible in their production. Ultimately, my goal is to offer high-quality products suitable for a range of budgets that provide children the opportunity to imagine, to create, and to discover the world around them.
5. Is there a brand you are ohhing and ahhing over at the moment?
I really love the creative toys and art kits from Mon Petit Art.
I never get enough of the wooden toys from Fanny & Alexander or all the crochet pieces that Anne-Claire Petit makes. Both lines have incredible character and quality.
I always can spend a fair amount of time admiring Jess Brown’s incredible rag dolls as well.
6. With Christmas season now beginning, what are your top must-haves for Christmas?
I’ve been eyeing the Chain Metal Watch by Larsson & Jennings for a while now. It may be a good thing for Santa to bring! :)
I also always find myself gravitating to No. 6 boots at this time of year. Last winter, I lived in a pair of shearling black aviator boots that I got from them because they were super warm and cozy, but still looked good enough that I could wear them on date night.
I spied these decorative sisal trees at Anthropologie. I love the colors and the fact that they remind me of something you’d find in a Dr. Seuss book.
7. What was your favourite childhood toy? Do you still have it?
I had a doll that I named Teenon that was IT for me. I carried it everywhere, treated it as if it was living, and still slightly recall my horror when I realized my dad had actually been eating the grapes I left on Teenon’s plate for her lunch everyday.
My sister found a picture of one of the dolls and sent it to me not long ago. It was the scariest looking thing to me now, but I really loved that doll. I think my mom still has it packed away.
8. If you could collaborate with anyone in the world who would this be? Why?
My sister. She’s insanely creative and is always fun to work with.
9. Do you have a favourite café, museum, shop you go to for inspiration? What or who is inspiring you right now?
When I need some inspiration, I do one of two things: head to the patios of some local eateries to rejuvenate myself, or go bury my head in the magazine section of our local book store. Some of my favorite patios for inspiration are Hillside Farmacy, the Blue Dahlia, or Clark’s - it all depends on the time of day and the meal being served. Any of them seem to do the trick!
Right now, I love to explore Kara Rosenlund’s work and get lost on her blog.
10. On a day off where do you and your little ones like to hang out?
Our backyard. There’s a little room to roam and plenty of space for us all to play, soak up the sun, and get our hands dirty.
11. What’s the best advice someone has given you?
Work hard and be kind.
12. What advice can you give to us?
Just keep swimming! The work you are faced with may seem insurmountable at times, but if you keep at it you will be amazed at what you can do.
13. Any advice can get to working mothers or a mother that would like to start her own business?
Be patient and give yourself the time you need to let your ideas grow and take form. Don’t give up on yourself and your dream just because it’s taking it a while to come to fruition. Everyone has their own path and it takes them their own time to get there. Allow yourself the time you need for your idea to become a reality. Don’t underestimate yourself and the amount you can get done in those rare, few quiet moments.
14. Favourite song/artist at the moment that makes you happy to hear?
American Authors have been played a lot lately around here.
I also have to say: I love that Billy Idol is popping up again. I forgot how fun some of his music was.