Whether your baby is in a bilingual household or not, it can be coaxed and coddled into familiarity with the sound of French.
However, while shopping, recall the familiar shopping creed: “If you see it, buy it!”
One day a reader asked me where to find a stuffed animal that speaks or sings in French for their new little baby.
At a store, I found the “ours des doux reves” (pleasant dreams bear). It was the ideal bear for babies over 18 months.
The dream bear talked for five minutes and told different bedtime stories by pinching its ear, or its hands, or the feet or the stomach.
But alas, no more…. Between December and May, all had been sold.
Another possibility to find it was on eBay France, but after 29 pages and 1,444 dolls and stuffed animals, not one could be found.
When in this position, despair not! As clothing styles change, so do these entertaining toys.
Look for “Les P’tinours” — a package of two bears! The boy and girl bears are “interactive musical stuffed toys with infrared sensors” (he is wearing a blue and white checkered outfit and she is wearing a red and white checkered dress).
The sensors are on their sides and when the bears are placed side by side up to a meter away (3 ¼ ft)* from each other they sing in French and sway to the rhythm of the music.
Ma Petite Soeur Camille
By manipulating the doll’s hands you can play a song. The pacifier lights up when you put in the doll’s mouth and it sets off playing melodies. Her hands control different melodies.
Pressing on the stomach sets off different musical rhythms.
Flower and Octopus
“Une chanson douce” (a soft song) is the voice of a well-known French singer, Henri Salvador. He sings and recites poetry in a very soft, comforting voice. Lifting the different flaps that surround the little doll and pressing the figures will activate a story. The batteries are included.
Octave la pieuvre (the octopus pictured) is a lighted, musical piano. You can also change the melodies from piano to violin, to organ or to flute — Toys R Us and JouéClub.
J’apprends avec Babar
Babar acts as the perfect professor to lead the games of colors and forms.
Babar is as soft and cuddly as a traditional stuffed animal.
The interactive Babar initiates the child in the discovery of right from left, forms and colors with the help of a remote control. Babar moves, asks questions, congratulates the child after every correct answer.
Books and CDs – Gallimard Jeunesse
If your child is not interested in cuddly objects , l’Epée de Bois sells books with the contents on a CD. Inside the book’s cover is a CD and they are for various ages.
Gallimard Jeunesse describes their products this way using the senses:
“With your ears, the voice’s music tells the story; you smell the glue; when the paper is smooth it is soft to the touch, when the paper is grainy, it tickles. Your eyes are enchanted by the images.
The first physical contacts you have with your first books, is something you remember for the rest of your life.”
To hear a sampling of the book/CDs for the 0 – 7 year olds, visit the Gallimard Jeunesse :
To view an example of one of the books, follow these instructions:
On the left sidebar, click on “Faites Chantier le Juke Box”
When the new window opens, click on which age group, which you see at the top of the window
Choose either “musique” (music) or “livres lus” (books) and choose from the list
Learning toys at l’Épée de Bois
For quality wood products/toys, visit this as well as ceramics, engravings, chestnuts, pottery, wool garments (and the Corsican history of wool), etc. (Note: Corsica is a French island off the southeastern French coast and west of the Italian coast in the Mediterranean.)
Dagobert learning games come in age-respective versions 3-5 and 6-9 years. English rules are included.
l’Epée de Bois carries washable learning toys – alphabet, numbers, and story books by Latitude with a little animal character that follows a story. The little animal follows a different theme: getting ready for bed,
For soft, fabric, and washable learning toys.
Their activity books include a small animal character that the child can move from page to page with the story. A favorite with shoppers and children is “Avant d’Aller Dormir”. The story is to help the little bear prepare for bed.
HABA produces inventive playthings for inquisitive minds” and has an English section on their website: . I did not find anything on their site that speaks in foreign tongues, but I thought it might be interesting anyway.
Word of caution
One sales person brought to my attention the quality of Moulin Roty products (wood and stuffed animals). If you want wood, their products are shaky, not sturdy, break easily and will not ship well. She suggested that their stuffed animals are better, but was discontinuing the whole line.
For soft and cuddly toys, VTech and Leap Frog:
JouéClub – Village de Paris (in a fabulous passage gallery setting)
To find Camille and “Une Chanson Douce” and the bilingual farm by Chicco
3/5 boulevard des Italiens (2nd arrondissement), 01 53 45 41 41
Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Metro: Richelieu Drouot (lines 8 and 9); Bus (20, 48 67, 74, 85)
l’Épée de Bois – For book/CDs and interactive toys
12, rue l’Épée de Bois (5th) Metro: Monge or Censier Daubenton (I really liked this store!) They speak English.
Additional toy stores (non-inclusive list)
Jouets Bass, 8 rue de l’Abbé de l’Épée 75005, Metro Luxembourg
Si Tu Veux, 68 la Galerie Vivienne 75002 near the Bibliotèque Nationale de France
La Boite à Doudou 24 passage Jouffroy 7009 Metro Grands Boulevards or Richelieu Drouot and Musée Grevin.
Pain d’Epice, 29 passage Jouffroy 75009
l’Ours du Marais, 18 rue Pavée 75004, Metro Saint-Paul
Tumbleweed, 19, rue de Turenne, Paris , Metro: Bastille and Saint-Paul
Open Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Au Nain Bleu, 5 Boulevard Malesherbes, 75008 Paris
Telephone: 01 42 65 20 00
Jeanne et Jérémy , (a beautiful shop to visit and be amazed), 4 rue Frédéric Sauton 75005
Metro: Maubert Mutualité/St. Michel
Open Tuesday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Other Toy Stores
You can find toy stores all over Paris. As I look at them, I will add them to the list.
L’Epée de Bois
12 rue de l’épée de bois (5th arrondissement)
Telephone: 01 43 31 50 18
Near the metro Censier-Daubenton, the toy store on the little street, up the little steps, is a little treasure full of books, learning toys, fun things at a child’s eye level. It’s not the type of store that you walk in and do a quick eye sweep to check out the contents.
JouéClub – Village de Paris
3/5 boulevard des Italiens (2nd arrondissement)
Telephone: 01 53 45 41 41
Metro: Richelieu/Drouot — just in front of the station)
Open Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
La Grande Récré
One of my readers ran into a problem with credit cards. Here is the scoop:
At the the Place d’Italie location, the customer service counter does not take CB (short for Carte Bleu). All of the other counters take Visa and Mastercard.
Refer to your credit card as “Carte Bleu” (a generic term) not plastic.
Place d’Italie – Centre commercial Italie 2 30 av Italie (13th arrondissement) 01 53 62 15 12 (in the south)
120 r Alésia (14th arrondissement) 01 45 43 22 22 (in the south)
32 av Corentin Cariou (19th arrondissement) 01 46 07 00 37 (in the north)
126 r La Boétie (8th arrondissement) 01 42 25 42 42 (in the center)
16 r Linois 75015 PARIS 01 45 79 44 88 (in the south)
53 r Passy 75016 PARIS 01 42 30 52 02
27 bd Poissonnière 75002 PARIS 01 40 26 12 20
143 av Daumesnil 75012 PARIS 01 43 45 95 50
7 bd Barbès 75018 PARIS 01 42 64 90 19
The invention of the umbrella
In 1710 Jan Marius commercialized the folding umbrella which became quite popular with the Parisians.
By 1768 umbrellas were equated with social status, (e.g., if you had to use an umbrella while walking, society would know that you could not afford a carriage and footman). Perhaps in an effort to erase this class distinction, the Police Commissioner posted rules for its use and created a rental business in 1769.
The green taffeta umbrellas were numbered and equipped with a little lantern that illuminated the bearer.
By 1848, 400 umbrella manufactures existed in the capital.
The story of Les Grands Boulevard — in front of JouéClub
The history of the Grands Boulevards dates back to 1670.
Louis XIV replaced fortifications with tree-lined boulevards. During the reign of Louis XV houses and mansions with large gardens increased along the fashionable arteries that were now dotted with theatres and cafés.
Between the Restoration (Louis XVIII 1814-1824) and the July Monarchy (Louis Philippe 1840-1848), the main points of interest for the elegant, the fashionable and the dandies, etc. was Boulevard de Gand (des Italiens) and Boulevard du Temple (also known as Blvd. of Crime).
This nickname was due to the bloody melodramas played out in the numerous theatres (ed: real or theatrical, I am not sure).
After 1900 the Champs Elysées replaced this area as the center of Paris luxury and pleasure.