Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT) announced that a team of neuroscientists at Cardiff University and Barbie have released the latest findings from a multi-year study exploring the short and long-term developmental impacts of doll play. In the study’s third year, researchers have found that doll play could benefit children with varying social communication styles, including those who display neurodivergent traits commonly associated with autism.

To obtain these new findings, the research team, led by neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Gerson from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology’s Centre for Human Developmental Science, replicated earlier brain-related discoveries from the previous two years and expanded the study’s scope by incorporating a more diverse range of participants*, including children ages 4–8 who display both high and low levels of traits commonly associated with autism.

Collaborating with Dr. Catherine Jones, Director of the Wales Autism Research Centre at Cardiff University, this data further backs the conclusions drawn in the first year, demonstrating that playing with dolls either alone or in a group, can support social processing among children. The results from the third year reinforce this finding across children with and without high levels of autistic traits, albeit through their different approaches to play.

“Our study shows that doll play can encourage social processing in children, regardless of their neurodevelopmental profile. The findings show that all children, even those who display neurodivergent traits commonly associated with autism, may use doll play as a tool for practicing social scenarios and developing social skills, such as empathy,” said lead researcher and neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Gerson.  

The team of neuroscientists used state-of-the-art functional, near-infrared spectroscopy equipment to explore brain activation while children played with dolls and on tablets, both by themselves and with another person, replicating conditions from Year 1.

While observing children, researchers saw increased brain activity in the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) region when playing with dolls, for both play with a social partner and during solo doll play, but less so during solo tablet play. The pSTS region is heavily involved in and active during social and emotional processing. The findings showed that doll play activates brain regions associated with social information processing such as empathy, indicating that doll play may enable children to rehearse, use and perform these skills even when playing independently. Interestingly, this effect in the brain was similar between children displaying fewer and greater traits commonly associated with autism.

The study’s results suggest that doll play could support social processing, regardless of a child’s neurodevelopmental profile, but through different pathways. For children displaying fewer autistic traits, talking about others’ mental states related to pSTS activity (i.e., language about others’ thoughts and emotions when playing alone with dolls). In contrast, for those displaying more autistic traits, talking with others during doll play was related to pSTS activity, even when playing by themselves (i.e., general social engagement with researchers/experimenters rather than a specific type of talking about mental states).

The Year 3 findings from Cardiff University indicate that children, regardless of their neurodevelopmental profile, can play with and potentially benefit from play with dolls in terms of their social development. Other research has shown that social processing and empathy skills are important determinants in children’s future emotional, academic, and social success.

Dr. Catherine Jones said: “The study reinforces how it is important that that we acknowledge and value neurodiversity. This means recognising and valuing the diverse ways in which children’s brains work and approaching social development in a way that is inclusive and accommodating for all children, regardless of their neurodivergence. By embracing all ways that children choose to play, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for their development.”

Since the landmark publication of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, the effects of play have been thought to be positive for kids’ social skills and creativity, but this has never been scientifically evidenced at the brain level. This multi-year long-term study commissioned by Barbie is the first time that key Piaget theories on play have been scientifically evidenced via brain imaging and the first to use neuroimaging evidence with natural doll play, meaning there was no prescribed storyline to show how the brain is activated during doll play.

“We are proud to know that when children, regardless of their neurodevelopmental profile, play with Barbie, their playtime may benefit their development,” said Michael Swaisland, Head EMEA of Insight and Analytics, Mattel. “As Barbie continues to inspire the limitless potential in every child, we are delighted to know, through neuroscience, that playing with Barbie may encourage the development of social skills such as empathy in children, including those who display neurodivergent traits commonly associated with autism. We look forward to uncovering even more benefits of doll play through our long-term partnership with Cardiff University as we look to shine a light on the benefits the play pattern has towards development, that parents might not have been aware of.”

The results of this third year of research, titled Embracing Neurodiversity in Doll Play: Investigating Neural and Language Correlates of Doll Play in a Neurodiverse Sample, were peer-reviewed and published in the European Journal of Neuroscience in September 2023 by Dr. Sarah Gerson and colleagues at Cardiff University’s Centre for Human Developmental Science, UK, as well as colleagues at King’s College London.

Parents and caregivers can visit to learn more about the research and access resources.

* The study was commissioned by Barbie and was conducted with 57 children (27 boys and 22 girls) aged 4 to 8 years with varying levels of autistic traits. Traits were measured using the Autism Spectrum Quotient-Children’s Version (AQ-Child, Aueyung, et al., 2008)  

Our day of 2023 started with a hike!

The little one is a trooper who just marches up and down hills like she’s done it all her life whilst the oldest needs ‘some’ encouragement.

We walked 1.2km and the kids had to carry their own water and snacks.

2020 to 2022 was not a (few) good year (s) for my weight – and yes I am lumping them all together, because quite frankly, they sucked. I managed to gain 20kgs. I do not fit into any of my beloved jeans and have a double chin. I hate it enough to start getting back to myself this year.

Last year we moved into our dream home – which needed a lot of TLC. Our home renovation took 11 months in total; 4 months for the big projects a contractor helped us with (before we could move in) and an additional 7 months for projects we took on ourselves. Now we have a beautiful home that reflects our family in a neighbourhood we love.

It can be hard to stay within your budget when it comes to home renovation projects because the costs of materials and labour are constantly on the rise. But, with just a little bit of research and preparation, you too can stay within your home renovation budget – just like us!

Our home renovation project

Our home renovation included projects that we needed to complete before moving in and some that could be done while we lived in the house. Our renovations included:

  • Retiling the main house as it had cheap laminated yellow floors – and finding an uneven concrete floor that first needed to be fixed
  • Repainting both the inside and outside of the house, including the roof and ceilings
  • Replacing old-fashioned light fixtures
  • ●       Some electrical rewiring and discovering that there was underfloor heating in the main bedroom (and trying to figure out where it switches off)
  • Waterproofing the roof
  • Reinforcing the floor of my upstairs office and installing beautiful laminates and wallpaper
  • Upgrading the alarm system
  • Fixing the electric fence
  • Replacing the gate motor and tracks as well as adding additional parts to keep my cats away from the road
  • Pouring a floor in one of the cottage’s kitchens and installing a new kitchen unit as we found rot caused by an incomplete building project that left exposed dirt under the kitchen unit
  • Installing a filter in the Jojo tank and adding a pump after removing the tree that was growing inside
  • Replacing all locks on doors and security gates
  • Having trees felled that were either too tall, dead or too messy
  • Planting grass, fruit trees and landscaping

Set your home renovation budget

When planning a home renovation, it is important to set a budget and stick to it. There are many ways to save money on a renovation, but it is important to be realistic about what you can afford.

One way to save money is to do some of the work yourself. This can be a great way to get exactly what you want, but it is important to know your limitations (even after watching hours of online tutorials) and when to hire a contractor.

Another way to save money is to shop around for the best deals on materials and labour. Get multiple quotes for any work that will be done and compare prices before making a final decision.

Identify your home renovation projects (and urgency of each)

  1. What do you hope to achieve with your home renovation? Is it simply to update the look of your home, or do you have more specific goals in mind, such as increasing its resale value? Be clear about what you want to accomplish so that you can make informed decisions throughout the renovation process.
  1. Develop a budget for your project. Keep in mind that unexpected costs always pop up, so it’s important to leave yourself some wiggle room in your budget.
  1. Not all home renovation projects are equally important. Some may be more urgent than others, so it’s important to prioritise accordingly. For example, if your roof is leaking, that would take precedence over adding a new coat of paint to your living room walls.
  1. Once you’ve prioritised your projects, it’s time to start getting quotes from contractors. Make sure to get multiple quotes and compare them before making a final decision.
  1. Once you’ve selected a contractor and finalised your budget, it’s time to start making a plan for your renovation project. This will help ensure that everything stays on track and that you stay within budget.

PS. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with contractors to get the best possible price.

Get quotes and references from contractors

Get quotes and references from each contractor. This will help you ensure that you’re getting a fair price for the work being done, and also give you a chance to check out the contractor’s previous work.

If possible, try to get quotes from at least three different contractors. This will give you a good idea of the going rate for the work you need done, and also help you find the best value for your money.

When requesting quotes, be sure to be as specific as possible about the work you need done. The more information you can provide, the more accurate the quote will be.

Project manage your home renovation project

Things can quickly get out of hand if you’re not monitoring costs, timelines and deliverables.

Renovations can take longer than you think, so it’s important to create a timeline that allows for delays. Build in some flexibility so that you’re not caught off guard if things take longer than expected.

Keep track of every detail during the renovation process so that you can stay on top of progress and budget


There’s no doubt that renovating your home can be a costly undertaking. But by following these tips, you can stay within your budget and get the renovated home you’ve been dreaming of.

About Kandua is South Africa’s #1 online marketplace for home services. They feature over 30 000 verified pros with 100+ skills who are willing to help with any job – from emergency repairs to large-scale renovations. Kandua was started with the mission to shorten the distance between having a skill and making a living from it, helping small businesses and independent professionals make more connections with people who need their expertise on projects. Every Kandua pro has verified reviews from previous customers, showing that they’re worthy of your trust in them. Simply answer a few questions on their website about your project and up to 5 pros will be in touch with a quote within minutes.


Phew, I have to vent! When we had our youngest daughter’s party we only invited 5 kids. Most of the parents arrived within 15 minutes of the start time – except one. She arrived an hour late…

Not only did she arrive an hour late, she neglected to RSVP for her 2-year-old and a nanny!

When something like that happens once, you kind of understand, because with kids anything can happen.

Then, not even a month later we happen to all be invited to another party. The party had a scheduled start and end time on the invite. This woman once again arrived late. She arrived 15 minutes before the end of the party, brought the nanny and 2-year-old again. She didn’t waste time to get her kids on the slip-n-slide while the rest of us were busy packing up.

Ok, so that is twice…

Then we all got invited to a third party (all in a span of 5 weeks) and she arrives the last half an hour at a venue where you have to be out of that party area based on your booking – and that’s not even the worst part. She sent the nanny off to take the kids to the activity area and she grabbed a takeaway box and packed it to the brim. When the nanny got back, she instructed the nanny to pack a second takeaway box. Then she sat down and directly ate from the platter while there were plates right next to it. She even dipped a finger snack she had already bitten into, in the sauce!

I was mortified!

I will never invite her daughter to another party because of her mother’s tardiness and bad manners. You better believe that I am judging her because she doesn’t have the excuse of she has to do everything herself, or that she had a work emergency, or that she can’t afford to buy takeaways based on the cars they drive and a full-time nanny that goes everywhere and her not working… her behavior is just not OK.

Kids Party Etiquette for Parents

  • If your child has an older/younger sibling, ask the parents if it is OK to bring the child with when you RSVP as they have to cater for an extra child and pack a party pack. Never bring an additional guest unannounced
  • Take a gift on the day. Most parents don’t expect you to spend hundreds on a gift, they just want to spoil their kid with a party where all their closest friends are
  • When you walk into the venue, greet the hosting parents and thank them for inviting you
  • Find the birthday boy/girl and wish them a happy birthday and let your child hand over the birthday gift
  • Arrive within a few minutes of the starting time and be mindful of the end time as shown on the invite as the venue may only have been booked for a specific timeslot
  • If there is an open “bar” for drinks, be mindful of not going wild and ordering just because it is free
  • Never pack a takeaway unless the hosts explicitly offers you a takeaway
  • Don’t eat directly from a communal platter, pack some snacks into the provided plates or a napkin draped in your hand
  • Never dip a handheld snack into a communal dipping sauce – especially if there is a tea spoon to let you scoop some out onto your plate
  • If there are toothpicks or forks or thongs to use with the food, please do use it!
  • When you are ready to leave, thank the parents for a great party and compliment them on the choice of venue, the cake or something
  • Offer to help clean up

When your kid gets invited to a party, you (as a parent) are one of the background characters. Your job is to get them to the party on time with a gift in hand, take them to the bathroom, chat to the other parents so the hosts have time to take photos with their kid and make sure you are ready to leave at the designated time.

Scroll to the bottom to win tickets…

Montecasino, the multi-award winning entertainment destination in Fourways Johannesburg, have teamed up with Kickstart Productions, the popular Durban based Theatre Company to present a fun filled family pantomime for the festive season, Sinbad The Sailor at the Teatro, Montecasino from 19 November to 23 December 2022.

It is a riotous romp over the Seven Seas, in the company of the famous sailor, Sinbad, and his madcap crew and family! With gloriously colourful sets and costumes that evoke the exotic mystery and magic of the Arabian Nights, and exciting music and dance, inspired by Bollywood, this is a unique, unforgettable pantomime experience for the entire family.

Kickstart Theatre Company is famous for their holiday pantomimes and this year is no different. The 16 strong cast features some of the cream of South Africa’s talent. Sinbad features newcomer Micah Stojakovic in the title role, Schoeman Smit as Dame Donna Kebab, Murray Todd as Long John Slither and Samantha Peo as Morgiana the Magnificent.

The delightful heroine of the piece is Princess Marina (Kiruna-Lind Devar) and the magical larger-than-life Genie of the Seven Seas is played by Yamikani Phiri with Lelo Ramasimong as the no-nonsense Ameena; Sandi Dlangalala as the deliciously vague Silly Billy Souvlaki; and Mthokozisi Zulu as the trusty pirate side-kick, Mustapha Kitkat. The ensemble is made up of  Marang Khwene, Kutloano Rankoe, Hannah Rudnicki, Kyra Teague, Joshua Groenveld, Thokozani Jiyane, Lwazi Pinyana and Sabelo Radebe.

Written and directed by Steven Stead; designed by Greg King, with choreography by Evashnee Pillay, lighting by Denis Hutchinson,

Sinbad the Sailor is perfect year-end holiday entertainment for the entire family.

The Durban critics raved:

Sinbad The Sailor is a rollicking, delicious romp which has the audience in stitches or gasping in amazement.” – Caroline Smart

Gloriously over the top fun…. Sinbad is Panto-tastic!”Estelle Sinkins, The Witness

For a whale of a time… Dive in” – Billy Suter


Do you want to go see the show this Saturday (19 November 2022). I have 2 sets of 2 tickets to give away. Let me know on this blog post who you will take to see the Sinbad the Sailor at Montecasino. Winner announced 10am on 18 November 2022 by random draw. T&Cs apply.

My kids are 4 and 6 this year – and they’ve seen their very first professional ballet already! I am so proud of myself that I am continuing the traditions my mom and I started since I moved to Joburg more than 2 decades ago.

We went to see Joburg Ballet’s Cinderella and we sat in the front row! My kids were so excited and posed for many selfies in front of the stage while we waited for the performance to start…

I did spend a bundle on snacks (lesson learnt). I bought 2 mini Pringles, 4 (skinny) Cokes, 1 big Astro and 1 big Smartie pack for a cool R245.

Lexa was mesmerised by the graceful dancers gliding across the stage. Kitty was ‘wow-ing’ and clapping hands. They appreciated the story and the art… The step sisters definitely stole the show with their manly features and movements stood in stark contras to the petite Cinderella.

The second half little miss Kitty wanted to go home. She was crawling over my lap, trying to find a spot to sleep, whispering “pssspsspss home’ in my ear. The minute the lights came on and the curtain fell for the last time she was out of that theatre before 95%. We got into the elevator to take us down to level 10 (the lowest) parking area and drove out without having to wait in a queue.

Should website owners be held accountable for what is listed by third party resellers when it comes to counterfeit products?

The simple answer is yes. When you provide a platform without the necessary safeguards to filter and block sellers of counterfeit goods, and the goods are sold via your website and you take a percentage of the sale… you should be liable. This will force website owners to put more checks in place to protects buyers.

How this all started for me

I have been lusting after 2 specific luxury bags in a specific print for months and decided to start looking at where I could purchase it in the secondhand market – because buying it new, is not going to happen.

… and before that, I watched hours of YouTube videos on how to spot a counterfeit, which bags have the most issues after a period of time, how to get it professionally authenticated and rather importantly, where I could take it to have professionally cleaned near me.

I felt prepared to weed out the counterfeits and to ask for the right pictures to get a proper authentication.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the oodles of fake bags being sold openly on Social Media and preloved goods websites. While I understand that to a degree sites like these rely on shoppers to spot and report counterfeit goods, not enough is being done to curb this very illegal practice. Action is also not taken fast enough after an item was reported.

While I really want this specific luxury bag and have a small budget, I am not willing to settle for a fake luxury bag. (And no judgement if you do have a fake luxury bag either, I get it.) I do have a problem with sellers trying to pass off knockoffs as the real deal.

A listing caught my eye, but I felt that niggling feeling of “it just can’t be real” – and I was right.

The listing description referred to an Instagram account of Brand Habit in Ballito
She claimed that it did have some sort of certificate and it was an authentic item bought from brand habit

I then asked her for more images to authenticate the bag and she sent me pictures of a completely different bag.

Finally she admitted to the item being fake or replica

I reported a listing to Yaga around 20 hours ago as I am writing this post, and the item is still active. I reported 3 further products in the last 13 hours, and they are also still active.

I also checked the Brand Habit Instagram page and they listed everything from Goyard to Louis Vuitton for max R3,000.

Not all counterfeit products are equal

Some fakes you’ll spot right away whilst others are far harder to identify. Some sellers will claim they bought it secondhand but lost dust bags and certificates of authentication. They’ll try convince you that you are mad for not jumping on the opportunity of owning a luxury bag at a bargain price… 

My advice

My advice is to insist on pictures of the item with a list of shots and angles – especially when buying on a preloved website. Then submit those picture to an online authentication service for peace of mind.

Don’t buy because you think it is authentic because of higher price than you could get it from a hawker or china mall (there, I said it).

If however your budget can be stretched, consider buying from one of the reputable preloved websites that pre-authenticate and supply the certificate.


Want to know more about spotting fake designer things?

Have you ever wanted to stay in a castle in South Africa? Well, we booked a night at the Castle in Clarens – and it was a surprising quaint stay on top of a hill with a view.

We decided to split our drive from KZN in 2 parts and booked a night at the Castle in Clarens. It was a wonderful experience in this tiny 2 bedroom castle. The castle was beautifully decorated with paintings, ornately painted in gold with small details at the bottom of the stairs.

We stayed for one night in the middle of the week and spent R1400 for the 4 of us (self catering).

When we first turned off the main road we had to drive around a 3 – 4 km dirt road to the entrance of Castle in Clarens. The castle gates were hard to miss. Once through the gates the castle revealed itself. The kids spotted the turrets and Rapunzel’s hair first.

The kids excitedly jump from the car and ran towards the garden gate of the castle as dad flung it open. They could barely wait for dad to unlock the front door. The first floor is a living room with a fireplace and it is decorated like in a fairytale castle with big chairs and a framed view of the valley and Clarens in the distance. Little knickknacks and paintings everywhere and then the stairs that wrap around the wall…

The first bedroom is just off the living room on the ground floor. It is Romeo and Juliet themed with a huge mural and beautiful stained-glass windows plus its own bathroom.

The views from the Castle in Clarens were spectacular. The views stretched over working farms and into Clarens from its hilltop perch

On the first floor is the kitchen. On this floor you can also enjoy the views from Angels Landing, the patio in the sky with sunset views. The kitchen has everything you may need including a fridge, microwave and a coffee machine.

When he flung open the door to Angels Landing the kids could not believe the views. One the one side you had rolling hills towards the town of Clarens, cattle in the distance , people walking from work to home. The little bench has the best views during sunset… On the other side there is another hilltop with a little garden at the back and the word Rapunzel in plants.

Walking up the last flight of stairs you finally get to the main bedroom with a big fourposter bed, really tall windows and a pebble bath. The kids were in the bath faster than you could say Castle in Clarens.

We felt like royalty when we found the 2 crowns upstairs in the main bedroom – which the kids promptly placed on their little blonde heads..

It was just such a great place to stay and the kids really loved being princesses for a day. I most definitely would love to take them back one day.