Your guide to parenting in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts

By Nancy king

Hollyfarm5On a recent, bitterly cold weekend morning, breakfast was done and that blobby, what-are-we-going-to-do-now feeling descended on our house. In a rare moment of inspiration, I dug out the Bauernhof farm that I'd ordered from Calafant. Having read about this line of cardboard toys, designed in Germany, that you color and assemble, I knew that they'd be perfect for when it's too cold to go out, too cold to play ball, and you sit in the house, doing nothing at all...

The toys range from small airplanes, dinosaurs, and spaceships (great for party activities and favors) to the Calacastle, big enough for wee ones to hide out and dream in (complete with secret compartments in the towers). I chose the medium-size farm, which comes with a stable and connecting fences–all we needed to supply were the animals and our imagination. Oh, and color! (The kit comes with a dozen markers, although you can use your own art supplies including paint, glitter, stickers, etc.)

We cleared the dining room table and for the next hour–at least–we were happily lost in bringing our cozy farm to vibrant life. My daughter designated one section the "fantasy barn"–purple windows? Why not!–and the other parts "reality", where you could almost smell the thatched roof.
Admittedly, I'm craft-challenged, but this project was right up my alley. I loved coloring in the structures and adding distinctive elements like a cat sleeping against the barn wall or a bird perched on the roof. And I even assembled the fencing in a way that my builder husband deemed "structurally sound". But most of all, there was something so soothing, so pleasing, so lovely in its simplicity, of coloring in our individual pieces and then joining them together to make Holly Farm (the name of our street).

When the last window frame had been filled in and Holly Farm was assembled, my daughter added the last bit of magic: she populated it with her collection of Schleich animals who looked right at home grazing near the stable and in the enclosed field. Okay, so maybe the polar bear looked out of place, but when a farm has a roof that's bright green, I say bring on the bears...and lions...and tigers.

Details: Calafant toys. Prices range from $6.99 to $124.99. Available on www.creativetoys.com, Amazon.com, and many retail outlets.

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