Saturday, October 1, 2016

5 best places to buy kids arts & crafts supplies in the Hague (that aren't HEMA)

Hey fellow Hague mamas and papas. Y'all been enjoying this incredible Dutch Indian summer? Good! Me too. It's been nice just being able to throw the kiddos outside, unleash them into one of Den Haag's lush parks or onto the beach with a bunch of sand toys, hasn't it?

Well enjoy these last fleeting moments because it's all about to end. Soon.

And for those of us who've been here long enough, we know what's coming.
The long dark mornings, the long drizzly weekends, the long bewitching hours leading up to bedtime.

You know what this means: it means it's time to get that arts & crafts supply closet FULLY stocked and FAST.

If you're anything like me, you've probably been hitting up that same old Hema kids craft aisle, picking up the same old foam stickers and tekenbloks (drawing pads) for years. Heck my kids won't even color in their coloring books anymore.

It was time to branch out.

And though this city is still seriously lacking a Michael's (i.e. the epicenter of all crafty goodness in this world) the choices out there may surprise you.

Here are my top 5 favorite spots to stock up on arts & crafts supplies (and keep those kids quiet) in The Hague:

This little gem of a store on Spuistraat has a delightful arts & crafts section, full of refreshing and cute scandinavian designs They have everything you need from affordable and reasonably good quality pens, markers, paints, beads to nice storage options for your supplies.

I never leave this store without a couple of their drawing blocks which come in several useful sizes. They have the standard A4 size but also my favorite medium and mini ones (with NO LINES, I'm talking to you HEMA!) which are perfect for slipping into your bag for restaurants or outings. I also just got 2 giant paintbrushes for around 1.50€ each, so if the kids wreck them, no regrets.

They have lots of fun DIY ideas for days when you're not feeling inspired, like this one for painting leftover summer pebbles or this one for upcoming Halloween festivities.

You'll want to check out their party section too!

Flying Tiger is one of those places that I initially brushed off as just another "made in China" knick-knack store. But subsequent visits have started to change my mind. They have a cute little selection of arts & crafts and a colorful range of hobby items. You're not getting fine arts caliber materials here, but hey, you get what you pay for. Their selection changes regularly too, so check back for new fun products.

Pipoos is an actual, proper DIY/Arts & Crafts shop. They often have seasonal crafting ideas and around Christmas time you can find fun ornaments to decorate and holiday activities. They have an extensive selection of beads, jewelry-making materials as well as yarn and thread if you have older kids into needlework.

Oddly enough, they also have baking decorations and ingredients, usually with a focus on upcoming holidays.

I particularly like going there for their wide array of Edding pens, which exist for anything from decorating windows, textiles and porcelain. On my list of things to try soon is this textile marker set...hand-drawn pillows for Grandpa and Grandma this year anyone?!


Ah glorious Artifac. Now we start getting into some more hard-core fine art stores.

Artifac is, in my humble opinion, the best art shop in the Hague. Beyond supplies for crafting with kids, I love going in here for pens, paper, paint brushes, you name it. This is a fine arts store so the selection is more catered towards artists or art students. However, there are some very reasonable finds for children as well. And if you're tired of

I am obsessed with Posca markers which are water-based paint pens, so non-toxic, fun for kids and can be used on a wide-variety of surfaces (paper, porcelain, clay, plastic etc...) Random factoid: they are also fabulous for drawing or decorating balloons.

Artifac also carries this line of Gouache Tempera paints from Germany, which I personally love. For a while we were using the Djeco watercolor sets, (courtesy of birthday parties every year) but let's be real, all of the colors turned a muddled brown after a few mixes and uses.

I now prefer to have a mini palate like this one, which also avoids sibling disputes about who's hogging the pink, green etc...each child can mix their own colors without it ending in paint splattering everywhere.

They also have blank postcard blocks similar to this one, which I think is really sweet for the kids to draw or paint on and send to friends and family.

Dille & Kamille appears to be more of a kitchen & garden store from the outside, but if you make it to the back, it actually has quite a lovely arts/crafts/DIY section. Their selection is similar to the rest of their shop- simple, natural, rustic and wooden. Their little chalkboards are darling and you can never go wrong with the Lyra colored pencils.

I'm a big fan of all of their twines and clips too, as you can really come up with any kinds of creative projects you want, or use them to hang your kids masterpieces around the house.

Their garden section also has a lot of fun ideas, especially in Holland where flower shops and nurseries are so plentiful. Why not paint or decorate these very affordable mini pots with some winter herbs or use this sweet flower press kit for the last summer flowers or in the springtime.

That rounds up my favorite places for creative supplies in the Hague.
And now you have no excuse - go and get crafting with those kiddos!

Happy October, friends.

p.s. If you have access to a car, Ikea also has some great, cheap Kid's Art Supplies like these fluo Mala Paints and the never-ending paper roll.

p.p.s Goedman is another fine arts shop that I didn't put on my list but think is worth a mention. I left it off as it is quite small and high-end. Still, worth having a look if you're interested in superior-quality arts supplies for older children.

p.p.s. I adore De Maan is Rond for any kind of beading and threading supply.  They have several kinds of letter beads because what kid doesn't like making a keychain, bracelet or necklace with their name on it?!

p.p.p.s Am I missing out on any hidden artsy gems? If so, please do share in the comments.

p.p.p.s Can you tell I love arts & crafts?! xxoo

Friday, May 27, 2016

Best places to buy English books in The Hague

Photo: NRC

As a life-long bookworm, one of the hardest parts about moving to Holland for me was not having access to all of the English books that I wanted to read. Should I have learned Dutch, yes yes, I should have. Would I have the same pleasure reading books in Dutch as I would in English, probably not. Nothing beats reading in your native language, even when you can read reasonably well in a foreign language, at least in my opinion. For me, it's also a way of feeling at home, at least in my reading world, after spending the entire day with foreign words swirling around me.

After several instances of spending an absurd amount on books from the local bookstore's limited English selection, I quickly decided that the best and most economical solution for me was the Kindle. The prices are very reasonable and it only takes one tap for nearly any English book of your choice to download to your device via Whispernet. No shipping fees, no delivery delays, no bent book covers. I had to adapt to the e-book but so far it has been a very worthwhile investment.

But what about the kids? Over the past few years, the literary landscape has changed a lot in our household. My eldest learned how to read and my second is in the process of learning. At ages 7.5 yrs and 6 yrs, their reading levels advance at the blink of an eye and I feel that having appropriate reading materials around is the best way to encourage their love of reading.

The public library in the Hague, particularly the Central Bibliotheek, has a darling kids corner with a respectable selection of English children's books. All children up to the age of 18 can get a library card for free. But with 3 small kids, I'll admit that I don't always have the time to trek into city center nor to trek back to bring those books back on time. I also think that with multiple children, it's probably a worthwhile investment to build a small, well-curated home library for subsequent kiddos to enjoy.

So where are some of the best places to find English books in the Hague?

Despite wanting to support the local shops, there no doubt that online book shopping provides the best selection at the most competitive prices, at least for foreign books. Here are my go-to spots for when I need to stock up on good reads:

Book Depository
The Book Depository is by far my favorite place to shop for English books, particularly when I know exactly what I want, which I often do. I buy almost all of my children's books here. Most of the time, the prices are unbeatable and the website offers free shipping worldwide. The books ship from the U.K. so generally the delivery time is within a week to the Netherlands. The only downside is that in order to provide free shipping, the books are usually sent in batches (probably based on availability) and delivery times are not always very precise even after receiving notification that your order has dispatched. Therefore you do have to keep track of titles as they arrive on bigger orders to make sure that they have all arrived. But hey- affordable English books, good selection, free shipping. Can't beat it!

Essentially the same concept as the Book Depository and also offering free worldwide shipping. I found that the selection was not as good as some of its competitors and that the prices were not always the lowest. Nevertheless, worth a browse and still a great option for accessing English books. and
I say Amazon Europe because oddly enough you can source English books on various Amazon websites. I used to order uniquely on the Amazon Uk site with the assumption that the had the most English books. But with fluctuating exchange rates and shipping costs (it used to be free delivery to NL but is no longer), it's no longer my top choice. Still, it's a good fall-back option if certain titles are not available on Book Depository, delivery is usually very fast and reliable (around 3-5 days in my experience to Holland) and Amazon customer service is always good. I've equally heard good things about ordered English books on, prices are always in Euros so no stress about the exchange rates.
This is a Dutch website that sells pretty much everything. Oddly enough, they have a very decent English book section (search: "Engels Boeken") which seem quite reasonably priced. The prices can randomly fluctuate and course hard-cover books can be pricy (between 15€-20€) but you can certainly get award-winning and best-selling English novels for less than 10€. If you check regularly, they also have bargains and sales. Which, considering they offer free shipping from 20€ and up is not a bad deal. will also deliver to a local pick-up point, which is convenient if you don't feel like hanging around waiting for your delivery all day.

For those who prefer browsing and rifling through paperbacks, here are a few options. I occasionally cave and buy books at a premium price, just for the fun of perusing the book shelves.

ABC Den Haag (American Book Center)
Lange Poten 23
2511 CM The Hague
Tel: +31 (0)70 364 2742

Paagman- Statenkwartier
Frederik Hendriklaan 217
2582 CB The Hague
Tel: 070 338 38 38

Paagman - City Center
Lange Poten 41
2511 CM The Hague
Tel: 070 338 38 38

Van Hoogstraten
Noordeinde 98
2514 GM The Hague
Tel: 070 365 2845

Van Stockum
Spui 40
2511 BS Den Haag
Tel:070 302 8110

For second-hand books, the market seems pretty minimal here - either people don't read much, perhaps have e-readers or maybe they just hang onto their books. But if you're not picky about what you read, people have suggested trolling the Kringloop (which apparently sometimes has English books) and both Paagman (city center) and the ABC have used book sections.

You can also sign up for the ASH Buy/Sell (American School of the Hague) Yahoo group (based on the moderator's discretion) and there are several expat Facebook groups which regularly have English book listings such as Den Haag Mamas (for kids books) and Expats in The Hague.

Happy Reading to any fellow book worms out there!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Where to buy cute kids shoes in the Hague

Bensimon tennis shoes from France. {Photo credit here }

It's that time of year again when I struggle to find cute yet durable and (somewhat) affordable spring shoes for my kids here in Den Haag. I don't know if it's just me, but I find that good quality kids shoes cost a bomb and yet I don't feel like I can scrimp in this one area. Clothes: yes, shoes: no.

The thing about shoes for me is that you have to see them...all the time, every day. I'm a visual person, so I just can't bear to see my kids in shoes with offensive rhinestones, lights that flash or a color that clashes all the time with their coat. (I have 3 girls, so believe me, they do beg me for sparkles) If you're not bothered by this kind of stuff, more power to you. And you can head straight to Van Haren, get some kids shoes at a very reasonable price and buy something for yourself instead.

But I always try (my best) to find neutral, classic and high quality soles for my kiddos. As in, quite a lot of time. Like, probably too much time. Meaning I have researched kids shoes quite a bit, tried different brands over the years, and ultimately decided that it's really worth it for me to get good shoes for my kids.

The problem is that the Hague is just not the fashion capital of children's footwear (or of anything for that matter, but that's another issue). So when I have to bite the bullet and buy shoes, and can't make a trip to France, or Spain or anywhere else in Europe that actually has cute affordable children's shoes, these are the places where I usually start out:

Note that the title of this post is not "where to buy cheap and affordable kids shoes" in The Hague. {they do exist, you just won't find them here}

Nico Nico
Frederikstraat 45
2514 LA, Den Haag
070 360 42 08

Nico Nico is just a tad bit pricy. As in, you can spend over 100€ on a pair of kids sandals in there. But they carry timeless quality brands like French Pom D'api and Italian Zecchino D'Oro, which will really last. If you can catch the sales, there are good deals to be had. And I have actually seen Dutch people buy things in there, so it must be worth it.

Multiple Choice
Passage 23
2511AB Den Haag
Tel. 070 3563249

Multiple choice has a selection of more neutral classic shoes. I don't have as much experience in this shop, but they seem to have pretty good quality shoes and prices are certainly not cheap but not shocking either.

Albert Nolten kids
Frederik Hendriklaan 278
Tel. 070 355 2883

Nolten is a Dutch shoe store chain and they have a decent selection. Still a lot of flash for my taste and an understandably Dutch style. But they have good basics such as the classic Bergstein rainboots, which of course are a must here in Holland. There are several locations so check out which one is closest to you.

One First Step
Frederik Hendriklaan 113
Den Haag, 2511 BE
070 350 7090

One First Step just opened up on the Fred after having been hidden away in the Belgisch park area for a few years .There are a lot of nice French brands, but the style can be very flashy and much too girly for girls for my taste. And also ridiculously pricy. But if you're in the mood to splurge, they the lovely Pom D'Api sandals and also the excellent French slipper-sock brand Collegien. They are also the only store known to me which carries the famed Collegien girls tights (100% Egyptian blend and all that jazz).

Spuistraat 52
2511 BE Den Haag
070 427 4061

I don't really shop here much myself but I feel like I should mention that there is a nice Clarks shop downtown. They have a good reputation and I have trustworthy friends that are always very pleased with Clarks footwear for their kids, particularly boys shoes. The style is also nice, classic and suitable for school.


Moving onto the online shopping options. Though I like shopping locally, due to the limited options
here in The Hague, I buy a lot of shoes online now that I know the brands I like and how they fit my kids. There is a small amount of hassle if a particular brand doesn't fit and you have to send the parcel back. However, most online shoe shops offer free shipping and returns. And if you can shop during sales, which I often do, you can get pretty good deals on the good brands.

I've had nothing but good experiences with Zalando. They have a lot of Dutch stuff that isn't to my particular taste, but if you browse around they also carry excellent brands such as Danish Bisgaard, French Aigle (the classic French wellies) and also Spanish Campers. Free shipping and returns on Zalando and you have something like 30 days to change your mind.

Sarenza is part of a French online shoe retailer. They also carry Bisgaard shoes, Campers, UK Start Rite, French Kickers and also one of my favorite spring time shoes from France, Bensimons. Bensimons are a bit of the French equivalent to Converse. Except that they are much cuter and less clown-like. Pretty durable for little canvas shoes or for gym class. Sarenza also offers free shipping and returns but is slightly more of a pain than Zalando in that they use the DPD parcel service so you must return your packages to one of the parcel points only.

Piccolino is a flagship Dutch shoe store, offers a lovely selection of shoes in a wide ranges of prices. Of course, you get what you pay for, so if you opt for some of the cheaper options (which can be quite cute), they just may not last that long. But hey, if you've only got one kid and can chuck them after one season, why not?!

Hippe Schoentjes
Online shoe shop located in Belgium but that carry very high quality brands and offer excellent service to the Netherlands. Definitely worth checking out during sale season or also they regularly offer those "Korting Code"s (coupon codes) when you sign up for the newsletter.

That's my roundup of the nice children's footwear shops in the Hague or that offer convenient delivery here. I know that there are much cheaper options and totally get that not everyone can afford to buy the best quality kids shoes. My kids also muck around in the mud, climb trees etc. so I also don't buy shoes that are meant only for prancing around at home. Still, I think it's important for the little ones to be well-soled as they are literally "hitting the ground running" the entire day!

Any other good kids shoe spots in and around Den Haag that I'm missing out there?
If there are, please do share! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where to buy organic in the Hague (Den Haag)

If you've recently moved to the Hague, Netherlands and are desperately missing your local fresh food markets, I feel your pain. I have occasional involuntary twitchings for Whole Foods and Trader Joe's back home. When are you first arrive, you will likely be under the impression that there is only one grocery store in the whole of Netherlands: Albert Heijn. And you wouldn't be too far from the truth.

The Albert Heijn grocery chain is more or less THE supermarket institution here and generally speaking you can't walk more than a block without seeing that ubiquitous cyan blue AH sign. You know the one...

That said, I've found that there is a huge improvement to the availability of healthy and organic foods here in the Hague even from 5 years ago when we first arrived. The selection of organic goods has increased in existing stores and a number of new organic shops and markets have also been popping up.

Here are a few of my favorite spots to shop organic or "biologische" as they say here in the NLs.

- Boerenmarkt Den Haag
Every Wednesday there is an organic market in the Hague city center with a lovely selection of local organic produce, breads, cheeses, grains and meats. I love that they sell nuts and grains in bulk which is still rare in this pre-packaged era. From 9h to 18h.

Hofplaats, Den Haag

Estafette (formerly known as Gaia)
One of my main stops for organic shopping in the Statenkwartier neighborhood. Great selection of fresh fruits and veggies. Same goes for grains and dried fruits/nuts.

Aert van de Goesstraat 35-37
2582 AJ Den Haag
Tel: 070-3542827

- Eko Plaza
There are a number of Eko Plazas in the Hague all listed on their website. The biggest is probably the one in Centrum on the Grote Marktstraat which has a huge selection.

Grote Marktstraat 177
2511 BJ Den Haag 
Tel: 070 3281378
Not the cheapest health food store in town but a cute little place in the Statenkwartier. Fun to browse but easy to wrack up a big bill with very few items.

Frederik Hendriklaan 256
2582BM Den Haag
Tel: 070-3060532

This is a "high-end" speciality grocery store which reminds me the most of Whole Foods. As it's name suggests, it has a much more local market feel to it, complete with little samplers that you can nibble on throughout the store. Not everything is organic so beware, but a nice and varied selection nonetheless. Only PIN cards are accepted. There are currently two Marqt locations in Den Haag: one in Statenkwartier and the other in city center.

You can find the two shop locations here.

Albert Heijn Biologische
The Albert Heijn organic selection is perfectly respectable and seems to be increasing every day.You can find one of the million Albert Heijns closest to you right here.

All in all, I would say that there is more than enough selection to lead a healthy, organic life here in Holland…and probably for a fraction of the price of elsewhere!

Where do you all do your healthy shopping?

Monday, January 9, 2012

No, Miffy is not Japanese.

If you have kids, you'll probably recognize this cute rabbit character made popular through a well--known children's book series from the 50's. Her "English name" is Miffy, but according to casual conversation, it seems like a lot of people think that this little rabbit is from Japan. Perhaps it's the simplistic yet very cutesy illustration style similar to the likes of Hello Kitty, one of the icons of Japanese cute culture. And maybe a bit of Japan's talent for importing and then re-exporting cute character merchandise.

Whatever the reason, I wanted to clear up this popular fallacy and bring credit back to where credit is due. Miffy's real name is not Miffy at all, but "Nijntje"[ˈnɛɪ̯ncə]- just don't ask me to try and say that name out loud. Nijntje is the creation of Dutch artist and illustrator Dick Bruna. Having lived in the Netherlands for nearly 4 years, I've found that the Dutch don't have a whole lot of claims to fame. So here's another one to add to the list! You can still visit the "Dick Bruna's house", permanently on display at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, Holland to see a selection of original Miffy items.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dutch Design of the Day: STEK kids furniture

I first came across Dutch kids furniture brand Stek on one of my favorite Mommy blogs Babyccino kids.
Dutch design is similar to that of the Dutch personality: simple, stoic and robust. All of their pieces look like they could withstand nearly any form of child abuse.

Chairs start at 99€ so they're not cheap, but they will probably last a lifetime. Available through the Stek webshop.

Best toy stores in the Hague (Den Haag)

{Taska INI MINI Kids shop}

Raise your hand if you feel like you're constantly buying toys for kids birthday parties, new baby or a plethora of other special occasions that require constant trips to the toy store. I know that I do. Between my 7 yr old, 6 yr old and 2 yr old, I sometimes feel like I have a toy store in my own house. This being the case, I really enjoy nice, durable items of good quality, especially if I'm going to be tripping over them all of the time.

When arriving in the Hague, I kept despairing that there were "no good toy stores here". It's not true! There are quite a few lovely, high-quality stores right here in Den Haag where you can get toys and objects that make lovely gifts and that won't make your house look full of junk "made in China".

Here are my favorite places to stop for kids toys in the Hague:

1. Matrushka
Anna Paulownaplein 11
2518 BK Den Haag

A lovely little toy shop with mainly wooden and sustainably made items on the Anna Paulowna circle. During the winter they also carry 100% wool items from excellent quality Danish brand Joha to keep the minis nice and warm.

2. De Kikkerkoning
Aert Van der Goesstraat 48
2582 AL, Den Haag

This is really my "go-to" place for kids gifts of all ages. There is usually something for everyone, lots of nice European brands of good quality and best of all, they're just nice people in there.

3. Kaatje aan de Rein
Frederik Hendriklaan 63
2582 BT Den Haag

A great shop for gifts in general, but with a super little kids corner. They have a fantastic Christmas shop over the holidays and lots of little trinkets, games and fun things for the smalls.

4. De Maan is Rond
Franklinstraat 95 (hoek Weimarstraat)
Den Haag

I'm not sure if I love this shop more for myself or for the kids. But it's a treasure trove of beads, baubles, DIY kits, vintage-style toys and everything you need to make a great jewellery party.

5. Spelenderwijs
Stevinstraat 118
2587ER Den Haag
Tucked away on a quiet street in Scheveningen, it truly feels like you are entering Ali Baba's cave when you step inside this store. It has an impressive and fun selection of all kinds of toys for kids of all ages - mostly from reputable brands and lots of wooden items. The only problem is the elderly woman who owns the store is seriously unpleasant to deal with and it's turned me off on more than one occasion. But if you can grin and bear the bad vibes in a good shop, it's worth a visit!

6. Inimini Taska
Prins Hendrickstraat 98 + 104
2518HW Den Haag

The original Tas-Ka store has always been one of my favorite places since arriving in the Hague. The selection never seems to vary much, but the store has a simple, clean refreshing feel to it with a nice blend of Dutch and scandinavian minimalist items. Last summer they came out with Tas-Ka "INI MINI" which is their kids lifestyle annex and is very much along the same lines as their flagship store. It's just nice to see a different and original selection of kids stuff, such as fun quirky stuffed animals from Donna Wilson, wooden toys from HAY and sleeping bags from French textile brand LAB.

7. Achtung Baby
Prins Henrikstraat 97
2518HM, Den haag

This is actually a consignment shop for kids clothing but it seems to have branched out in recent times to also selling kids toys and objects. The focus is on vintage, homemade, handmade and refurbished, which I like. In this day in age, it's all too easy to just throw things out and buy again. I like the idea of a shop that reuses and recycles - good principles to live by even for kid's toys!

8. Monsterjes
Prins Willemstraat 26a,
Den Haag

Another winner in the Scheveningen area, this is a good one to stop by after a trips to the International Health Center as it's a stone's throw away. I particularly like their selection of little party favors and the lady running is shop is also particularly nice. Always a plus in Holland!

9. Rood met Witte Stippen
Beeklaan 303
2562AH Den Haag

The toy shop that looks like it's housed in an old book store and with its red & white bakfiets often stationed outside. Not the trendiest spot with the newest selection of toys, but they have some oldies and goodies.

10. Pro Special Winkel
Herengracht 38
Den Haag

A good one if you're in the city center and HEMA just isn't cutting it. Mostly wooden toys and with a nice online selection too.

These are my favorite shops when I'm looking for something that's special, original and overall high-quality. For the rest of the times, there's always good old Bart Smit or Intertoys for the classic LEGO or Playmobil gifts. And I'll have to save my long, long list of online toy shops for a separate post.

Where do you like to buy toys for your kids in the Netherlands?