{ All About Playing } interview with Agnes Hsu



Definition of play: engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose; engage in (a game or activity) for enjoyment; amuse oneself by engaging in imaginative pretence;

Since I make toys – and I’m a mother of a little one – I begin to grow more and more curious about playing. How children these days play, how parents interact and play with them, how can we play in a fun way with them, how playing can help children’s development…

For this interview I have the pleasure to introduce you to Agnes and her family.

Please tell us a bit about you and your family.
Hello and thank you so much for having me! My name is Agnes Hsu and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my 5 year old daughter Alia, 3 year old son Kian, and husband Tim. My husband and I met in college at Berkeley and settled here afterwards, although we both hail from Southern California. I love being creative and anything that inspires me. My first business was (and still is) a bake shop – Teacake Bake Shop. I’m also a family photographer at Pink Buttercream Photography and most recently, started a creative site for kids – hello, Wonderful. My daughter is like a mini-me. She loves arts and crafts and baking in the kitchen. She already claims she wants to be an “artist” when she grows up :) My little boy loves to run free and is into his trains and cars. He loves anything that moves and is boisterous and crazy! My husband works in in the tech field in online marketing.


Best playground.
We are lucky to have several beautiful parks in our area surrounded by nature and trees. Our favorite playground is Roberts Park in Oakland, where they feature a huge play structure, alongside a green field and nature hiking paths.


In a free day what is your family favorite activity?
We love a lazy Sunday where we make homemade eggs, bacon and waffles after the kids go to soccer. Afterwards, a nap (for some of us) and a creative activity like painting or baking up something yummy in the kitchen. An ideal day would end on a short hike or riding bikes and then out to a family dinner, trying out any one of the many good restaurants in the bay area.


How do you play with your kids? With what kind of toys?
I love any type of building and construction toys because they stimulate my kids’ minds and are gender neutral which means it’s something they both enjoy doing together. They also span several age groups and lead to endless creativity and imagination. Some of our favorite building toys are LEGO, Joinks, Magna Tiles,Tegu Blocks, and the wooden Marble Run by Hape which comes as block sets you can build with.

What is your favorite toy? And from your children’s?
My favorite toy (if it could be called a toy) are books. I’ve loved to read from the time I first learned and was often found with a book stuck to my nose growing up. My kids love any construction toys as mentioned above, but they each have their current favorites. My boy would always pick his trains and tracks as his ultimate #1 toys. He can be found for hours re-arranging the track and trains on his table. My daughter is currently starting to get into games which she learned from school. She loves Mancala which is a strategy counting game using marble beads and is into learning new card games like Crazy Eight and Go Fish.

When you were a child what did you play and with what toys? What was your favorite one?
I loved to play with dolls and dress them up. I don’t remember quite the brand of my dolls, but I remember having clothes for them and playing pretend family a lot. I had a huge collection of stuffed animals and would insist on piling them all up with me in bed!

What kind of crafts/DIY projects do you like to do with your kids?
My daughter loves anything related to painting and drawing so we’ll do lots of that together. She also likes anything involving yarn and beads. I also like to make toys for them like this skate balance board that was a huge hit. Or do something fun with cardboard boxes like this dollhouse on wheels or dinosaur costume. We also like making jewelry like these glitter hair clips and clay beads.


Your children prefer playing or watching tv? What they see in television influences how they play?
My son is more into watching TV but that’s only because he can’t get enough of his favorite Thomas the Train shows. My daughter isn’t really into TV that much. She’d rather be off making something in the kitchen or doing some crafting. I limit their screen time. They are not allowed to watch TV or have any iPad use on the weekdays and no more than 1-2 hours on the weekends.

What is your children’s favorite book? And yours (from their collection)?
I love all of Herve Tullet’s interactive art books like Press Here and Mix It Up. My kids giggle each time we read them and they are so creative! We also love reading Oliver Jeffers for his whimsical illustrations – our favorites Lost and Found, The Days the Crayons Quit, and The Incredible Book Eating Boy. My son loves his Thomas the Train books and any train book as a matter of fact, classics like The Little Engine that Could and Steam Train, Dream Train. My daughter’s all time favorite book is The Dot by Peter Reynolds which is about a young girl name Vashti who is encouraged by her art teacher to “make a dot” and see where it takes her. It’s not just about creativity but exploring our potential for self-discovery. It’s probably my favorite as well. We also love the colorful illustrations of Lois Ehlert – our favorites are Planting a Rainbow and Growing Vegetable Soup. We love anything by Eric Carle as well.


Please ask your kids “If you could choose to be a storybook character what would you be”? Why?
My son answers he’d want to be a train of course! Any train would do. My daughter chooses Vashit from The Dot.

Do you know how does your children play at school?
My daughter is in kindergarten and so has a more structured play time that adheres to school schedules, but during aftercare, she loves doing crafts and learning new skills like finger knitting and board/card games. My son is at preschool and loves story time and is often found surrounded by books when I pick him up. He really likes to count so he is always practicing his numbers. Letters, not so much yet. He also loves to play outdoor on the playground.

Your kids prefer playing indoors or outdoors?
Both of them like a good balance of indoor and outdoor play. They enjoy a soccer league with their friends each Sunday morning and will never turn down the chance to go to the playground, regardless of the weather. My daughter now knows how to ride a bike so we take them out (with my son on a balance bike) whenever the weather is nice. However, they do enjoy staying indoors and could stay in their playroom at times for couple of straight hours, happily building something with LEGO, building a fort, reading, etc.


Does your kids like to create their own activities / games / characters?
My daughter is super creative but I think that is because she is older. She can be left alone in a room and use whatever is around her to amuse herself and make something – paper, scissors, glue, paint, markers, beads, toilet paper tube, etc. My son loves playing “family” believe it or not and we pretend he’s the baby and do the whole pretend family thing. I think he enjoys being the youngest :)

Sounds and music are important in your child playing?
The kids both seem to enjoy instruments and music. We are always playing a variety of music in the playroom and they love their play instruments. We have a keyboard piano, play trumpet, accordion, drums, tambourine, banjo, ukelele, shakers, flute – you name it, we probably have it! Even coconut calves from Peru! They love to take an instrument and make my husband and I grab one so we can play “musical band.”


Such a fun family – thank you so much Agnes for sharing about your wonderful family! 
Agnes is a lovely, busy lady, with her family and professional projects – take a look at her Photography site Pink Buttercream, Teacake Bake Shop and also the hello, Wonderful blog.


I would really like to know how your kids play? What’s their favorite toy, the one they cuddle at night?
Please leave a comment below.