Kara Larson’s Grasshopper boutique on Alberta street in Portland is a veritable one-stop shopping wonderland of toys, books, games, art supplies, decor, clothing and shoes for savvy kids. And for moms looking for a treat for themselves, Kara also owns Tumbleweed Boutique, right next door to Grasshopper.Larson recently sat down with Red Tricycle to discuss which toys will engage and delight children with all different types of personalities. Additionally, as the creator of Wild Carrots, a line of childrens’ clothing locally handmade from limited-edition fabrics and designs, Kara shares her expert opinions on wardrobe essentials and what to keep in mind when shopping for children’s clothes.

Red Tricycle: As the designer of Wild Carrots clothing, we’d love to get your expert advice on what to look for when buying clothing for kids.

Kara Larson: Comfort would top that list… if it’s not comfy, a child won’t want to wear it. Practical, functional, long lasting… Wild Carrots fits generously, so it grows with the child, and of course, cute is always a must. I love cozy tees for layering in the seasons. It’s a good way to make clothes last longer. The summer dress can now be worn in the winter with a layer.  I also love lots of patterns… and stripes, of course.

RT: Where shouldn’t we scrimp in our children’s wardrobes?

KL: Good-fitting shoes are really important. A child’s shoe size generally grows about one size from 9 months to a year. It’s worth the investment when you think about all of the things our feet do for us.

ADVERTISEMENT

RT: Tell us what you think are the best toys and must-haves for kids.

KL: For a curious, teething infant: The Dano teether, made in the USA, has 3 rings for texture and dexterity and can be chilled. For a girly-girl toddler: Girls love play kitchens & play food… and for some reason they all love the broom and mops. Or the sweet little Blabla dolls. For tomboy girl toddlers I love the Bilibo from Kid O, it’s an open- ended toy with endless possibilities. It can be a helmet, a spinner, a scoop, a cradle- a sled…For rough and tumble toddler boys, it’s got to be the Stomp Rockets. For toddler boys with a gentle approach to playing, I am loving the new puzzles from Crocodile Creek, I also love the Plan Toys treehouse or farm. Bookworms:  We have so many great books right now. At the top of my list: FlotsomSpot It, The Secret Lives of Princesses, Kitten for a Day, Curious Garden and Shadow Shadow. For kids who love to build: Swiss-made magnetic building panels and race car sets from Geomag. I also love the creativity of building train tracks. Plan Toys has one that combines a road system that is pretty fun. Kids who love nature like the solar print kits, garden tools, mini microscope, great outdoor adventure books, (Down, Down, Down….)

RT: What are some good picks to keep kids happy indoors on rainy days?

KL: My favorite new toy is the Spooner. It’s fun for balance and coordination, for the active kid. But I am also loving the Habitadule. They are super cool colorful cardboard pieces that you can make forts with. For aspiring artists, I love watercolor crayons. They are fun and they make great gifts.  I am obsessed with the paper cutting collages, beautiful papers from France that you cut and put into the pictures to create works of art. Also, any Taro Gomi coloring book. My son has one and it’s a great thing to take traveling or to a restaurant. I have my own too, it keeps me young.

Grasshopper is located at 1816 NE Alberta Street, Portland. 503-335-3131.

—Beth Shea