One of the biggest challenges facing all parents during the Coronavirus outbreak will be how to keep their children entertained while they are off school. With no date set for a return to classrooms, teachers are preparing remote learning and online lessons to cover academic work from home, but this just isn’t possible for PE and sport.
We all know that no exercise is not a good thing for any child and can lead to boredom, frustration and bad behaviour, not to mention the negative effect on their physical and mental health and well being. Almost all kids need to be active in some way every day.
But never fear as fitness national treasure Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, is here to help out. As of next week he will be holding free live PE lessons at 9am Monday to Friday on his YouTube channel for children of all ages.
Social media sensation Joe has a loyal following of over 3 million on Instagram alone and is responsible for changing the lives of thousands of people for the better with his amazing exercise and nutrition plans.
Now the dad-0f-two plans to help children all over the UK stay active and healthy while off school during the Coronavirus outbreak. No equipment is needed for the kid-friendly workouts and if you can’t join in live then you’ll find them online to watch at a time that suits. Plus there are already loads of workouts on his YouTube site already. All can be done in your living room so even if the weather is rubbish you can still get moving.
“Parents are going to be under pressure next week and for 30 minutes a day I can take over and inspire and energise the kids to get active, bounce around and have fun. You can even join in with the kids,” says the fitness guru.
During this crazy, difficult time when so many parents are juggling the demands of working from home and looking after their kids, a fun half our session with Joe that enables youngsters to use up some energy is something all mums and dads will be incredibly grateful for.
Joe you are an absolute star and we will certainly be joining you with our kiddos!
Every day the Coronavirus seems to throw something different at us. We have all been told to maintain social distancing and many families are now self-isolating. And now schools across the country are closing with no set date for reopening.
Easter holidays we know will not be the fun, active break most of us had planned as travel plans are cancelled. Full on lock down similar to that going on in Italy and Spain may be only a few days away and no one yet knows if children will return to school as planned at the end of the the planned Easter holidays.
These are surreal and worrying times when so much seems uncertain. However, the one thing us parents can be sure of is that when our children are no longer in school, but are unable to take part in normal activities, we will have to come up with other ways to entertain them, very possibly without leaving our own houses or gardens.
Here are some ideas of how to structure and plan the days ahead that will helpfully help to create a sense of normality and calm for all family members.
Stick to a routine
As yet we have no way of knowing how long our children will be a home when and if schools are closed. But sticking to some kind of routine will help both parents and kids. The normality of this will help to keep kids calm, especially older children who will be aware of the severity of the situation around them.
Consider getting up at roughly the usual time, get dressed, eat breakfast and start your day as if you were going to school. Ask the kids to help you draw up a timetable for the day that includes variety of activities. While you don’t have to stick to a rigid regime, planning out the day will make it run more smoothly for you and the kids.
We all know that bored, frustrated kids can play up and misbehave making this difficult time even trickier. With a plan to keep them engaged in a range of activities we can hopefully reduced that happening.
Break up the day by creating a timetable
In your new daily schedule, block out a set amount of time for each activity. This will depend on your child’s age, but for example you could plan for an hour of schoolwork followed by a 15-minute snack and then an hour of art and craft. Then reading and some time in the garden before lunch. You don’t have to follow it to the exact minute, but at least everyone will an idea of what the day is going to look like.
Consider what your children enjoy doing. That could be anything from baking and painting to building lego or playing board games. Have a dig through cupboards and you’ll know doubt find a range of games and toys that are both fun and educational. Trivial pursuit, scrabble and monopoly are great options.
Definitely have a few 15- to 30-minute blocks of dedicated child-led play. The more a child plays, the more they learn to play and keep themselves amused.
Ask your school for advice
Schools up and down the county are preparing to for children to take part in remote learning. From internet-based lessons to worksheet packs. These will provide a very useful structure, particularly if any lock down period extends beyond the planned Easter holidays.
While school is still open make sure that you have what you need to access all that is available such as login details and the necessary books. Speak to your teacher or email them. Ask if you can keep in touch with teachers during isolation and any period of lock down. This will be especially beneficial for older children who may be studying for exams.
Set up a suitable place to work from. That could be a desk or a kitchen table. Create a little classroom and make that fun for your kids by asking them how they would like it to set up. Are there things they have at school that they could also have at home? Maybe they could set their pencil cases and books our they way they would on their classroom desk? These little actions will encourage children to get on board with the new way of learning in this new environment.
Keep kids active
If at all possible, make sure your children are still getting exercise. Despite the limitations there are still things you can do. If the weather forces, you to stay inside then consider trying out a kid’s online exercise class. Think star jumps, squats and running on the spot. Sure-fire ways to let off some steam. You’ll find lots of videos on youtube.com if you need some inspiration.
If you have a garden, even a small one, encourage the kids to get out and play in the fresh air. Ideally let them do things like play football, cricket, ride their bikes or jump on their trampoline – whatever helps them burn of some energy – but remember old fashioned games like skipping and hopscotch don’t need much space. Or how about a little toy obstacle course? Easy to set up and fun to do.
If you do have a garden, then let children explore it. What bugs can they find? How about doing some digging or looking for and identifying different types of plants.
As the weather gets warmer and drier the garden is going to be a very valuable resource.
Screen time can be a good thing
If your children love playing on the PlayStation or iPad, then factor in some time for that during the day. Make screen time predictable: have a set time in the schedule so children know when to expect screen time and what they have to do to earn it such as tidying their bedroom or an hour of reading or schoolwork.
When that scheduled time is over switch the screens off. Don’t leave TV on as background noise and therefore constant distraction from other things. Possibly turn on some music instead.
Remember that screens can be your friend. If parents are working from home while also looking after their children, then frankly letting kids have some time on gadgets can buy you valuable l time to make work calls. No parent wants their kids to be on screens too much but sometimes we all have to compromise a bit to keep juggling everything which is absolutely fine.
Use screens as learning tools too. See our list below of some great websites that are both fun and educational for kids of all ages.
News about Coronavirus and how to wash hands is everywhere but many parents are wondering how to discuss it with their children. The Parent Practice has this advice to help us communicate without causing anxiety.
A hot topic in our classes this week was, not surprisingly, Coronavirus. You would have had to be extremely isolated indeed not to have been aware of the general panic setting in as the Covid-19 virus which originated in China at the end of last year has spread around the world. As panic stockpiling of toilet paper and other basics indicates, even the adults are becoming very anxious so it’s no wonder if our children are worried about what they’re hearing.
The first thing we can do to help is to be aware of what they ARE hearing. Never assume that your children aren’t listening to your adult conversations even if they seem to be preoccupied and not bothered. If you’ve been talking about it within earshot of your children or they’ve heard radio or TV reports about it or it’s being discussed at school then you need to address it with them in a way that they can process.
The spread of this virus is something that is still unfolding and we don’t know what the scale of it will be. It will probably have some effect on the lives of ordinary families even if they do not contract the disease themselves.
As usual in the internet era there is misinformation swirling about so do make sure you get your facts from a trusted source such as government websites. At the time of writing there have been over 100,000 cases worldwide with 460 confirmed cases in the UK and 8 deaths. While this is a serious public health emergency it is worth putting it into perspective by comparing the number of cases of influenza each year (about 600 deaths a year – Oxford Vaccine Group) and the number of deaths on the road (1,794 in 2018) which we are very used to. Researchers estimate that about 1% of cases of Covid-19 result in death and those who are elderly or who have immune system issues or underlying health problems are more at risk. Very few children have died from the virus. The risk of contracting the disease is higher if you have recently travelled to China, Italy, Iran or South Korea although the number of countries at risk is increasing.
Ask the children what they know about it already and give information according to their age. The questions they ask will help you to make what you say relevant for them.
Listen to your children’s concerns.
Obviously one of our main concerns is not to make our children needlessly worried. They need to know that the adults can and will keep them safe. But it will not help any anxiety they are experiencing to dismiss their concerns. Don’t tell them not to worry.
When –if your child brings it up do respond to them there and then if at all possible. If your child has brought it up at an inconvenient moment such as when you’re dropping them off at school or at bedtime (very common, in my experience) then bear in mind that if you put off the discussion they may be carrying around their concerns so will not be able to focus at school or get to sleep. If it’s just not possible then assure them that you will talk about it as soon as you can. If they don’t raise the subject it might still be a good idea for you to introduce the subject calmly so that you can set the tone before they hear rumours elsewhere which worry them. Choose a time when things are calm and you will be uninterrupted.
How –stay calm. We know that anxiety is very contagious so it’s important that you get your own feelings in check before having a conversation with the children. This is particularly important if you know your child is of an anxious disposition. If you’re aware that you seem stressed acknowledge that and let them know that you are handling your feelings by getting proper information and by using your usual stress-busters such as going for a walk, listening to music, taking a bath or meditating. Give your children hugs and accept hugs from them too.
What to say –acknowledge their fears and don’t make false promises. If your child is worried that people they care about might die acknowledge that some people might die from the disease but that it is rare, less likely when people are healthy and that there are things people can do to protect themselves. Explain that most people who experience symptoms will get better on their own. “I can see this is really bothering you. Of course you don’t want anyone to get sick. I’m glad you care. Mummy and Daddy and Gran and Grandpa are all fit and healthy so we should be ok. Papa and Nana are old but they are generally well and they are keeping themselves at home mainly so there is less chance of picking up the virus. If any of us do get sick the doctors and nurses will take good care of us.”
Much anxiety comes about from feeling we can’t influence events so it will help to empower children as much as possible and let them know how you as a family plan to deal with things in the event that someone gets sick or if you need to be quarantined or if their school closes. Let them know that the government has put in place plans for dealing with the situation. What they can do is follow basic hygiene procedures. Revisit proper handwashing and how to catch a sneeze or wipe a runny nose properly in a tissue and throw it away. Remind them about coughing into their elbow rather than their hands.
Dispel racist views.
Although the virus originated in China this does not mean that Chinese people are at fault. Challenge any racist views you hear and encourage your children to be compassionate and respectful. Depending on their age you may want to make them aware that there are racist views circulating and let them know that in your family you don’t subscribe to these and that they are based on misinformation.
About The Parent Practice
Established in 2004, The Parent Practice draws on the latest thinking in psychology, neuroscience and psychotherapy. The team is trained in parenting and facilitation skills and has vast experience in parenting training. They work with parents and carers, schools and nurseries, corporate and business clients.
“Everyone at The Parent Practice is a parent and encounters the everyday challenges that all parents face. Our own family lives have been enriched and transformed with the parenting skills we teach, so our aim is to pass on our skills to help parents bring up children to be happy and the best they can be.”
Hands up who totally takes full advantage of Mother’s Day? Well as much as we can, with kids still attached to our legs. It’s a day, just one, so let’s make it truly all about us this year! And let’s start with a great selection of gifts – because frankly we deserve them! Dads feel free to take notes. Move over kids… this is our day!
Every mama needs a Mary Poppins bag. Whether it holds the shopping or the one hundred and fifty million items you need for a day out, it has to look good, but most importantly be practical and easy to use. Mylo and Benny have created just that. From wool to linen, the choice is yours.
The ultimate classic wardrobe item. Fabulous feel, amazing materials and everlasting style. When you’re a mum on the run, a simple yet stylish jumper can lift your outfit and your mood in an instance. And this is it!
Shirts are a mum’s best friend. Not only are they breastfeeding friendly but even post that, they make a pair of jeans look so much smarter! And with the flannel collection that has just launched, we cannot think of anything nicer than a soft and stylish addition to our wardrobes.
Dominique is the only London florist you need to know about! Her arrangements are bursting with creativity and love. Mother’s Day captured in a bouquet! Isn’t that what us mamas are? Creative (think of the amount of play doh and kinetic sand creations you make!) and full of love (we couldn’t face each day without love, right?) And tonnes of it!
Y.O.U is a sustainable fashion brand with a range of amazing underwear for women (and men). For every pair of underwear they sell, they donate two to the charity Smalls for All. Smalls works in Africa and the UK to provide underwear to vulnerable women and girls. What is so nice about this brand is that they totally support body positivity and confidence, only using ‘real’ models and not airbrushing any images.
For the mama who just doesn’t get enough good snacks down her, a subscription to Nutmad is just the thing she needs. Soaked in water and then dehydrated, these activated nuts are crunchier, more nutritious and easier digestible than normal nuts.
Halla Ragi cut out portraits
There’s got to be something nostalgic about a true Mother’s Day gift and Halla’s cut out black portraits are just the thing. All you need to send her is a couple of portrait photos of your loved one and she does the rest. They are the ultimate keepsake. Email her for more details: Hallaragi@hotmail.com
Made by a dad, for mums and kids: natural skincare with no nasties. An absolute winner for both looking pretty on our bathroom shelves and for our dry and wintery dry skin. Yes please!
And last but definitely not least a very special book
Chloe is 7 years old. She has written a wonderful storybook to raise money for her very good friend Alfie who was diagnosed with SMA (spinal muscular atrophy) at 18 months old. This superstar girl is selling her book via her mother’s Instagram page @kittydimbleby for a small donation of £3. Our hearts have melted, and we are in awe of her. We know this would be the perfect Mother’s Day present for any mother in the world.
Thanks to Erica Loi @thestarwhisperer for putting this selection together
Our latest round-up of super-cool things for kiddos
Top interiors retailer Amara has launched a new section of their website dedicated to decorating children’s rooms. With a vast selection of toys, ben linen, furniture, gifts it’s a one-stop-shop for creating the a fabulous kids’ playroom or bedroom.
Aspiring adventurers will love creating their very own outdoor dens with kits from The Den Kit Co., and children will love Snurk’s fun bed linen that’s bursting with ballerinas, mermaids and astronauts.
Amara have been around since 2005, evolving from a small boutique to a huge interiors platform that stocks over 250 leading brands. Check it out for some serious style inspo.
Spotify have just launched a new app designed specifically for younger music fans. Spotify Kids is exclusive to Spotify Premium Family subscribers and intended for kids aged three and older.
The app is packed with singalongs, soundtracks and stories that children can explore, on their own or with their family. All of the content is handpicked by Spotify’s experienced editors who are focused on ensuring that the content available is appropriate for kids and there are no adverts allowed.
The app is designed to protect kids’ privacy and give parents peace of mind with parental controls. Parents can select the “Audio for Younger Kids” or “Audio for Older Kids” experience based on what’s best for their children.
Artists are selected especially for their resonance with UK youngsters and include CBeebies, Little Mix, Rastamouse, George Ezra, Hey Duggee, McFly, Adele, Craig David, Calvin Harris, Spice Girls, Take That and Busted.
Kids can listen to audio they love with their own account, hear playlists made just for kids and play their favourite tracks offline starting with iOS devices.
Sustainability has never been more fashionable and Frugi, the leading organic children’s wear company in the UK, has created a collection made entirely from recycled plastic.
In a selection of various colours and fun styles for toddlers and kids, Frugi’s outerwear is made from 100% recycled polyester and a waterproof rating of 3000 HH. The range is Flurocarbon free and is made without any harmful chemicals or dyes.
Plastic bottles are shredded and processed into flakes which are then cleaned and transformed into chips that are melted and whizzed around in a spinneret to make strings of yarn. This is then woven into fabric -it takes 36 bottles to make one jacket! Hats off to Frugi for turning waste into such lovely clothing.
If like most parents you would love to tear your kids away from screens more often without them complaining then check out this amazing new book. 101 Things For Kids To Do Screen-Free, £11.99, by bestselling author Dawn Isaac is packed with creative and fun ideas that will provide hours of entertainment.
From creating a mini golf course to mastering hands-free eating, from squirt gun painting to microwave mug cakes, every single activity is fun, easy and 100 per cent screen free. With exciting makes including no-sew sock creatures and stress balls, and wacky games such as outdoor noughts and crosses and thumb wrestling tournaments, Dawn’s engaging and entertaining ideas are sure to provide hours of fun.
So put away your tablets and mobile phones, switch off the TV and leave the computer alone – it’s time to get screen free!
With Shrove Tuesday upon us it’s time to get your eggs, flour, milk and whisk at the ready to make the best pancakes for your kids. We’ve rounded up some of the best recipes and ideas to help you make yours delicious.
There’s no better place to start than with our very own Jo Pratt. Here’s her recipe for American style pancakes
Makes: 12-14 American style pancakes, or 8-10 crepes
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:4 minutes
125g/4½oz/1 cup self-raising flour (either plain or self-raising can be used for crêpes) 250ml/9fl oz/1 cup milk (just under for American-style, just over for crêpes) 1 egg a pinch of salt butter or sunflower oil, for frying
Suggestions to serve
try some of these options: • clear honey, golden syrup, maple syrup or jam • chocolate spread or caramel sauce • fresh fruit, such as berries or bananas • grated lemon or orange zest and sugar • yogurt • ice cream … for breakfast? Some of you will!
1. Put the flour, milk, egg and salt in a blender or food processor and mix together well. Alternatively, use a bowl and whisk until smooth. The consistency should be that of double cream for crêpes, so add a little extra milk if you need to. (Cook straight away or chill for up to 24 hours until needed – loosen with extra milk if necessary.) 2. Heat a pancake or frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a small piece of butter or a trickle of oil until it melts all over the base of the pan. Add a spoonful of the batter, rolling the pan to spread it over the base of the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes on each side until golden. Keep the pancakes warm while you cook the remaining pancakes. 3. Serve with your chosen topping and enjoy.
1. Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt in a bowl using a balloon whisk until mixed. Slowly pour in the milk until you get a smooth, thick batter. 2. Heat a little of the oil in a over a medium-low heat, and add 2 tbsp batter into the pan at a time to make small, round pancakes. You will need to do this in batches of two-three at a time. 3. Cook for 3-4 mins until the edges are set, and bubbles are appearing on the surface. Flip the pancakes over and cook for another 2-3 mins until golden on both sides and cooked through. Keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining pancakes. 4. Serve stacked with lots of toppings of your choice, or serve with bowls of toppings for everyone to help themselves. bbcgoodfood.com
No cook options
There are obviously a world of lazy easy options if you’re up against it.
Waitrose have stocked these packets of vegan joy from Squeaky Bean at £2.50 a packet.
It can seem like a day out in London during the school holidays has to cost a fortune. But thankfully there are plenty of completely free ways to entertain kids that can be found all over the Capital. Here are our top five free places to visit.
The Museum of London
The River Thames has always been a defining factor in the history of London. Running right through the Capital, we can now discover how humans and animals have adapted to live alongside this iconic river and its waterways at the Museum of London who are hosting amazing interactive storytelling sessions.
These will look at the past, as well as what we might have to change in the future as the Thames adapts to our modern needs. For more info check out Museum of London.
The LookOut Centre
Get back to nature in the city centre by spending the day at The LookOut Centre in Hyde Park, discovering the amazing array of birds who live nearby.
Learn how to make a bird feeder (and take one home with you), follow a trail to learn more about the feathered residents, and don a pair binoculars to take part in some bird watching.
Such a great way for children to learn about the Capital’s wildlife. Check out royalparks.org.uk to find out more.
The Science Museum
The Science Museum is the most visited science and technology museum in Europe – and we are lucky enough to have it on our doorstep. Plus it’s completely free. There are over 15,000 objects on display and nteractive galleries that bring to life first scientific principles and contemporary science debates.
If you’d like your kids to see that there was life before gadgets then take them to the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. This fantastic place houses the UK’s national collection of childhood objects, ranging in date from the 1600s to the present day. As well as toys, dolls and games, the museum has a wealth of objects relating to aspects of childhood including home, childcare, play, learning and clothing. Rare, hand-crafted objects sit alongside well-loved toys from the 20th century, allowing an insight into how different children might have lived, thought and felt, through the objects they were surrounded by throughout their childhood. In addition, the museum runs temporary exhibitions and displays, activities, events and workshops. Check out vam.ac.uk to see what’s on.
Mudchute City Farm
If you’d like to experience a trip to the countryside without heading outside of London then head to Mudchute City Farm. Set in 32 acres of rolling hills in the heart of East London, the Mudchute is a community charity, with a working farm, stables, a children’s nursery and a wide range of education activities.
Kids can meet a range of animals in the petting zoo and residents include sheep, cows, pigs, horses and geese. There is a cafe on site or if the weather is nice, bring a pic nic. Plan your visit at mudchute.org.
Hundred Pieces is an amazingly stylish French kids’ brand that we love. Effortlessly fun and easy to wear, their collection is full of clothes that are high quality, but not ridiculously expensive.
Their latest collaboration with another fabulous and eco-friendly brand, Veja, has created the dream trainers for youngsters. This V10 style is made from leather, Amazon wild rubber and 100% organic cotton. Bright and funky, yet super practical, these are the sneakers every kiddo will want this Spring.
It’s great to get children to try all different foods from a young age. And the latest eBook from @My.Little.Food.Critic helps to do just that.
The much-loved baby and toddler-friendly recipe platform created by London mum Shikha Gill, has launched ‘Authentic Indian Family Food’ the first Indian recipe eBook featuring dishes suitable from six months and up.
The recipes focus on traditional Indian cooking simplified to create delicious meals for all the family to enjoy. Shikha provides invaluable guidance on how to introduce spice during weaning, plus tips on incorporating new textures and flavours to help build the foundations for a healthy balanced diet for babies, toddlers and the whole family. Over 120K people follow her on insta to get her great advice.
‘Authentic Indian Food’ was inspired by Shikha’s experiences of learning to cook with her Mother and Grandmother, many of the meals are those she grew up cooking with some modern tweaks. The recipes are traditional North Indian dishes from the Panjab, where cooking is rich, decadent and big on flavour. Shikha’s dishes and tips aim to tantalise taste buds both young and old, with new foods and eating experiences to help ensure meal times are nourishing and enjoyable for all the family.
Imagine how great it would be if you could find an enthusiastic, educated young adult who could pick up your kids from school, help them with their homework and get their supper on the table before you get home from work?
Well that’s exactly what Student Nannies are offering parents across London. By matching university students who are keen to take on part-time nannying work that fits around their studies with local parents looking for flexible childcare, this clever company are creating the perfect partnership.
Most importantly children are being looked after by fun, engaged young people. Kids will love playing and doing their homework with student nannies who are musicians, mathematicians, actors, artists, linguists… and even the odd rocket scientist!
It’s entirely possible to match your nanny to your child’s interests, finding someone who can really inspire and encourage them. Or indeed if you feel your youngster could do with a little extra help with their English or maths homework, you can opt for a nanny who is studying these subjects. While they are definitely not a replacement for a tutor, a student nanny can offer a helping hand with homework and make it a more understandable, enjoyable process for your child.
The Smart Option
Student Nannies refer to themselves as ‘London’s cleverest childcare platform’ due to the high calibre of those on their books. They are also one of its fastest growing – around 500 new nannies have signed up in the past few months from top universities like UCL, LSE, King’s and Imperial. The talent and skills they can bring to their new part time jobs is quite frankly superb.
To get started you simply sign up to the Student Nannies website and create your online profile, outlining what your requirements are – school pick up, babysitting, school holiday cover. Including the ages of your children, their interests and any tasks your nanny would be ask to do such as prepare dinner for the kids or iron school uniforms.
You can browse nanny’s profiles too and make a match by getting in touch and arranging to chat or meet up. Subscription is £12.50 per month and is paid directly through the website. This allows you to access hundreds of students. It may be that you find a couple of nannies you like, and they work for you on different days when they are available. There are so many flexible childcare options and that’s the joy of the platform.
Generally, student nannies earn between £10 and £12 per hour and will put pay expectation on their profiles. All payment comes through the platform and no cash changes hands.
Peace of Mind
Of course, the team at Student Nannies do plenty of checks to ensure both the safety of families and students. These are a combination of hi-tech meets the human touch. All potential nannies are ID checked using Yoti (a leading digital ID verification platform), while all parties are background checked with Comply Advantage (real-time checks on global Watch Lists, Politically Exposed Persons and Adverse Media).
Candidates are interviewed before their profile goes live and some don’t make the cut. The team ask a series of questions to check for fluent spoken English, babysitting experience, the ability to think on their feet and a kind, calm manner – all the things parents will be looking for.
All nannies are over 18 and sign up with a verified university/college email address. Most are women but there are some male nannies too.
On their website the team have a comprehensive F&Q section that will help parents navigate the whole process, from how to interview and hire a potential nanny to tax and online security queries.
This fantastic childcare concept is the brainchild of London mum Tracey Blake.
“As a working mother of two, I experienced the childcare crisis first-hand when I couldn’t find any after-school help for my two children on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Childminders wanted to finish at 6pm but I didn’t get home till 7.30/8pm; professional nannies wanted a full day, not 4 hours. I was stuck and getting increasingly desperate,” recalls Tracey.
‘Then I heard two students talking in my train station waiting room and I said, “Do you live locally and are either of you interested in some babysitting work?” One of them, Louise, said yes, we swapped numbers and after a chat at our house we hired her. Louise was an art foundation student and did amazing craft projects with the children so there was always something for me to admire when I got home. It was such a good fit for us that when Louise left I wanted to find another student but as a 40-year old woman I couldn’t reach into that network. So Student Nannies was born!”
It’s that time of year again when we turn our attention to all things skiing. Now you might have already been on the slopes this season (you lucky things!), but whether you have yet to go on your family ski holiday in 2020, or are planning a trip for next year already, it’s always great to get some top tips to make skiing with the kiddos even more fun – and straight forward.
So here are some amazing brands and companies we have discovered that we know all ski-loving parents will find useful.
Anyone who has ever been skiing with kids will tell you how important it is to have the right kit. Children who are warm, dry and comfortable are much more willing to learn to ski. So avoid early morning tantrums on the lifts by getting your little ones everything they need before you leave.
There are so many places to buy skiwear, but if you are looking for a one-stop-shop they get down to Snow and Rock where you’ll find literally everything – from salopettes and boots to gloves and helmets. There are a number of stores in and around London and all stock brands such as North Face, Roxy, Spyder and and Quicksilver. Definitely worth a look if you need to stock up.
If you’re dressing younger children for the slopes, then you must check out the super-cute ski-suit range from Dino Ski. This season they have introduced three new characters, including a unicorn, tiger and panda, all of which have been designed by children’s illustrator Jane Foster.
Each has aqua seal zips, is helmet friendly and has removable hoods and an anti-stain coating, ensuring children are kept warm and dry. All are made fromrecycled plastic bottles and products are shipped by sea to reduce the brand’s carbon footprint. Not only are Dino Ski’s suits adorable, they are also very distinctive – making it easier to keep track of your kiddos in the snow.
For thermals we head to Uniqlo because it’s hard to beat their HEATTECH range for mega-thin and comfortable base layers at very reasonable prices. Or for super-fine 100% merino wool tees and leggings go to Love My Smalls who have a great selection of colours and styles for both boys and girls aged from infant upwards.
Another favourite skiwear brand is Polarn O. Pyret. This Swedish company have warm clothing for for kids of all ages, from cosy thermal base layers to durable outwear including ski jackets and salopettes and The outerwear collection is windproof to keep out icy blasts, has a water resistance of at least 10,000mm and has Primalost Insulation to keep youngsters’ snug.
Plus, they have also just launched POP repairs, a free service available to all customers that have purchased any outerwear, regardless of when they bought it. It doesn’t matter if the garment has been worn by two or 10 kids, Polarn are offering a free repair service to fix zips and replace broken poppers to ensure their clothing is sustainable.
Find the perfect instructor
While ski school can be great, there is no doubt that one-to-one lessons with a private instructor will improve your child’s skiing much faster.
Particularly good for complete beginners, but also super for intermediate skiers who want to improve their technique, a lesson with an instructor is a great experience for kids of all ages.
Generally you can opt for sessions from one to four hours at a time and have solo lessons or in small groups if you’re on holiday with other families. Private lessons are considerably more flexible than ski school. Yes they are more expensive, but you really do get what you pay for when learning to ski is concerned.
But it’s not always easy to track down a great instructor who is based in the right resort, speaks great English and is available when you need them. Some ski schools find their one-to-one lessons get booked up a year in advance!
So we were thrilled to hear about SkiBro. This innovative new platform enables parents to find the perfect instructor, mountain guide, ski school or adventure and book instantly. Each provider has a comprehensive profile including profile video & customer reviews, so you know exactly who or what you are booking and can be 100% confident that they’re the best possible match for you or your kids.
With instant booking it’s sorted in a few clicks. With SkiBro, long-winded email chains, awkward phone calls, transfer day mayhem and closed booking offices are a thing of the past!
Get some pre-holiday practice
Unless you hit the slopes as a family three or four times a season, it can be quite a long time between one ski holiday and the next. And, therefore, all too easy for little ones to forget lots of the skills and technique that they have learnt.
So it might be a good idea for kids to brush up before they head back to the mountains again and an indoor ski slope is the best place to do it.
In London head to Chel-ski, London’s largest indoor ski centre offering the very best hi-tech slopes in a fun, safe and controlled environment where you can learn to ski or snowboard as well as advance existing skills as the speed and angle of the slopes are adjusted to match your ability.
Or for some actually white fluffy stuff, jump in the car and drive up the M1 to The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead which offers a range of great lessons for kids and teenagers on large slopes covered in faux snow.
If you’ve every been on a chair lift in a blizzard with a small child wailing because they are frozen, you’ll appreciate the value of handwarmers. If you haven’t lucky you and please don’t allow yourself to get into such a situation!
These amazing little pads from The Heat Company are 100% natural and so easy to use – simply open the packaging for instant heat within minutes that will last for hours. Pop them inside gloves to warm up tiny frozen fingers. They also do heated foot warmers too. The golden rule of taking children to the slopes is that cosy kids are much happier skiers!
If your kiddos seem to have the constant sniffles or more tired than usual it might be time to think about adding some vitamin supplements to their diet. Winter bugs and cold weather can take their toll on little ones, making them letharigic and run down.
From boosting their immune and digestive systems to increasing concentration levels and encouraging better sleep, there are countless studies to to suggest children benefit from taking vitamins. While these supplements are definitely not a substitute for a healthy diet, they can offer a top up of certain keys vitamins that children need through out the year – most especially in winter.
Here are some child-friendly brands that are packed with goodness and will appeal to even the fussiest eaters.
Knowing how notoriously fussy they can be, High Nature have developed a kids’ range with taste and texture in mind. It includes a vitamin D spray, a chewable multi-vitamin, a fruity omega-3 fish oil jelly and more.
We love their multivitamins that are filled with 19 essential vitamins and minerals. They’re ideal for young children and come in three playful shapes and flavours; mango robots, lime aliens and raspberry teddies. Free from artificial sweeteners and preservatives, just one chewable tablet a day provides children with the nutrients and vitamins needed to support their diet.
When it comes to ‘brain food’, Omega 3 is the original super food. For your little ones to benefit from an Omega 3 supplement, it must have enough DHA (crucial for brain and eye development) and EPA, the two most important Omegas which you’ll find plenty of in Super Hero – one drop (1ml) has 500mg DHA and 130mg EPA.
With no fishy aftertaste and a handy syringe to give them the perfect dose, Super Hero comes in its natural triglyceride form which also makes it easier for the body to absorb. It can be taken from 6 months and 1ml is perfect for most age groups. Add it to smoothies or simply pop a drop straight into your child’s mouth.
Ideal for encouraging pre-schoolers to take their daily dose along with Peppa, this multi-vits provide a comprehensive range of vitamins, specially formulated to help safeguard the nutritional intake of children aged 3-7.
These soft jellies provide 10mcg vitamin D, as recommended by the UK Department of Health. Vitamin D is needed for normal growth and development of bone in children and is included in the preferred form vitamin D3 (as vegan Cholecalciferol) which is naturally produced by the skin when exposed to direct sunlight.
And – most importantly if you are under seven – they come in a delicious natural strawberry flavour
This liquid contains 14 Vitamins & Minerals including Zinc and Iodine which contribute to the normal growth and cognitive function in children.Kidz Daily Multi-Vitamin & Minerals liquid is sugar free and contains no artificial flavours or colours.
It can be taken on its own or added to a smoothie. The natural banana flavour is a hit with kids and it’s suitable for vegetarians.
It’s a well known fact that it’s almost impossible to get a sufficient dose Vitamin D during the winter months as only exposure to sunshine can supply enough naturally. However it’s super-simple to add it this vital vit to our diets.
These drops Easy to use dropper bottle, pleasant orange flavour. Vitamin D contributes to the maintenance of the immune system and supports normal bones, teeth and muscles.
If decorating your children’s bedrooms is on your to-do list for 2020 then you simply have to check out Cuckooland, our new favourite one-stop-shop for all things interiors. This super-cool web-based company’s raison d’être is to be ‘unique, unusual, quirky and original’, sourcing items from all over the world to give their customers something really different to what they will find on the high street. There are hundreds of stylish brands to choose from. You’ll find all the furniture you could need for a kid’s bedroom or playroom – from bunks and desks to wardrobes and chests. The range of accessories is equally extensive. If you need a rug, lamp or bedspread they have it covered, along with wallpaper and fabric too. Themed children’s bedrooms like Astronauts, Fairies, Firemen, Surfers, Princesses, Footballers are all featured with complete room sets for inspiration.
And the sky is the limit (if your budget is too) in the shape of some pretty outstanding designs. How about a bed in the form of a VW camper?
This amazing powder blue design is modelled on the iconic VW split screen camper van and is kitted out with a bed, a desk, a sofa, a mini fridge and a TV, plus there is plenty of storage. Now what youngster wouldn’t want to wake up in one of these?!
It will set you back a whopping £33,140, but thankfully there are other much cheaper novelty beds to choose from, including a London bus bunk bed and a tree house high sleeper.
The toy selection is great too so keep that in mind when you’re on the hunt for interesting presents. Whether you are kitting out a nursery or a teenager room, there is something to suit for all ages.
Cuckooland are also committed to working with suppliers who take an ethical approach during their manufacturing processes and, for example, one of their rug makers use a percentage of their profits to support schooling for children in India.
So, if you fancy creating dream rooms for your kids, or just need a few items for a quick and inexpensive update, then definitely have a look at the Cuckooland website. They are a pretty cool company.
Ask anyone their number one New Year’s resolution and it will almost definitely be to improve their diet. After all the cocktails, canapés and puddings we enjoyed over the festive season, most of us are now desperate to eat more healthily by cooking from scratch with more wholesome ingredients.
But it’s not just us grow-ups who need to press reset on our eating habits in January. From chocolate Santas to mince pies, our children have also not been consuming the healthiest selection of food for the past month. Anyone else noticed their kiddos are expecting a couple of Quality Street with breakfast?!
Children can be pretty reluctant to make the switch to healthier options, however. While adults know a plate of kale will do them good, youngsters are less keen to ditch all the sugar that they enjoyed over the Christmas holidays. But this process can be made much more enjoyable if we encourage them to participate in the preparation of delicious nutritious meals. By getting kids to chop the vegetables, measure out the ingredients and add herbs to the pot, parents can teach the valuable lesson that cooking fresh food from scratch is both important and also fun.
So, here are five of our favourite kids’ cookbooks to spark their interest in all things culinary.
If your kids are fans of Julia Donaldson’s classic tales, then they will love the opportunity to make actual ‘Gruffalo crumble’. This clever cookbook is dedicated to replicating all the flora and fauna found in the deep dark wood.
From ‘mouse toast’ to a show-stopping chocolate cake depicting the Gruffalo’s warty, toothy face, this is a collection of recipes that are inventive and ideal for younger children.
This beautiful kitchen-garden cookbook, produced in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, contains step-by-step guides to show children how easy it is to grow the likes of peas, beans, potatoes, carrots in the garden, in patio containers or in window boxes. Then transform the home-grown goodies into delicious meals by following easy, step-by-step recipes.
So much more than just a cookbook, this inspiring manual teaches kids how plants grow, from seeds to seedlings, watering and weeding, to harvesting and composting. It is also packed with information on minibeasts and garden creatures. The perfect way to encourage a love of wholesome cooking and an appreciation of how food gets to the table.
Good Housekeeping has created the perfect cookbook for kids of all ages who are eager to step into the kitchen. It features more than 100 delicious, fail-safe recipes, accompanied by colourful photographs and basic kitchen and cooking how-tos that kids will find easy to follow.
This book isn’t trying to follow any faddy diet trends, but instead is packed with classic wholesome grub that kids actually enjoy. From lasagne to salads and smoothies, together you can make their favourites from scratch.
When you do want to give them a treat, this is the book to turn to. The former Great British Bake Off’s winner Nadiya Hussain has created it using all her baking know-how and combining that with storytelling and lovely illustration.
It features 15 original stories that are paired with brand-new recipes from yummy butter-bean patties and the tale of Jack and the Bean-Patty Stalk, to Ruby-Red and the Three Bears and her Very-Berry muffins. Nadiya manages to understand exactly what will hold a child’s interest as well as the food they love to eat.
Try out recipes from around the world with this collection from across the globe. It is divided into continent sections Not only will this book teach children about food in different regions, it is also full of information about geography, history and other cultures too, such as culinary habits and favourite dishes. From curries and stir fries to snacks and drinks, it’s a feast for the senses that kids will love bringing to life.
Christmas can feel like a bit of frenzy of consumerism can’t it? All the Black Friday madness and emails constantly popping up in our inboxes tell us about all the ‘must have’ presents we simply have to buy.
If, like us, you’d like to give gifts are that are more meaningful and in some way give something back to the world, then here are a selection of ways you can still buy Christmas presents your children will love, but also support excellent causes and encourage your youngsters to understand the importance of supporting charities at Christmas and throughout the year.
Shop directly from charity’s websites
All children love toys, but did you know that if you buy them directly from a charity website you’ll also be donating at least some of the purchase price to a good cause?
Charities such as Unicef, Marie Curie and The Dogs Trust all sell brand new presents for children. From puzzles and books to wooden train sets and dolls, you can choose from a great selection that you’d find on the highstreet – the difference being a percentage of your payment will go directly to a good cause.
Oxfam now have a section on their website where you’ll find second hand toys, games and books in great condition, just as you would find them in one of their actual shops. You’ll discover some real one-off, unusual items for all the family. And of course Oxfam are selling their usual selection of ethical, fair trade gifts and products, the proceeds of which go directly to help those those who made them.
Shop from stores that donate to charity
Scamp and Dude are a brand that we love for their stylish clothing and amazing prints, but the thing we admire the most is that it’s a company with a conscience. If you by their cosmetic ‘swag’ bags then 100 per cent of the profits go to a range of charities.
To get your own £28 ‘Swag Bag with Purpose’ visit scampanddude.com or take a trip to the Scamp & Dude shop in Highgate village in London.
Pickle London have the most fantastic range of fun, bright clothing, as well as bags and stationary. This year £5 from every @picklelondon HAPPY Logo Sweatshirt , and £2.50 from every Happy logo tee will be donated to UK Mental Health Charity MIND. Check them out for lovely presents that also help and extremely good cause.
Adopt and animal
By sponsoring an animal you help to protect endangers species and the habitat they live in. There are so many charities that offer this gift, including the WWF , where you can choose from the likes of lions, elephants, polar bears and turtles.
For as little as £3 per month (you can opt to give a larger donation) your little one will receive a fact pack full of information about the animal they are adopting and why their help is so important; regular updates about what life is like for their animal including any developments in research; and of course a lovely little cuddle toy version of the animal they (or you) have chosen.
This is a wonderful way of connecting children with the natural world and encouraging them to care about animals they might otherwise not know much about in a very tangible and relatable way. Plus they will know that they are really making a difference to endangered species.
Give gifts to others
While we are definitely not suggesting you don’t buy your children toys for Christmas, giving them the chance to select a charity gift themselves is an excellent way to help older kids realise the importance of charity and giving. You could ask your children which cause they would like to support and why, encouraging them to think about those less fortunate who won’t be receiving gifts under the this year.
There are countless charities, such as World Vision and Save the Children which enable you to give gifts to people in developing countries, such as food for a family for a month or an mini library for a school.
Closer to home charities such as Refuge and Shelter offer the opportunity to give much needed aid to families in the UK.
The big presents are often the easiest to buy because our kiddos make it very clear exactly what they want in their (lengthy) letters to Santa. But it’s the great little stocking filler that can be trickier to track down. Here are 10 that we think most kids would love to find on Christmas morning.
Black Friday deals or not, here at City Kids we love supporting the small businesses that create and sell amazing toys, clothes and products for children. The kind of stores where you find that beautiful handmade teddy or unusual little outfit.
These shops and businesses are run by people who love curating a truly interesting and inspiring selection of brands – often from around the world. So, here are ten independent stores that we think you’ll love and where you’re sure to discover the most perfect presents for little ones.
Neon Marl creates hand printed pieces for both adults and kids at their UK studio. Shiny metallic or bright neon t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies are what they’re famous for, plus you can personalise for that special touch. Sizes start from babies with vests up to adults so if you’re feeling the need for a matchy matchy day, you’ll have plenty of choice.
Cottage Toys and Interiors is online boutique online store run by mum of two Jessica, mother of two. We love the stylish selection of high-quality toys and accessories for children and babies. Think gorgeous wooden play dolls houses and train sets alongside adorable baby goodies. There is also room décor, nursery furniture and lighting.
ALL by MAMA is a fantastic marketplace selling gifts that are made by mothers. They offer a platform to small business from all over the UK. It all began just a few years ago as a place for talented Mamas with families to sell their products, with 40 sellers joining the launch.
Now it is a community of 350, featuring over 4,000 products – everything from personalised jewellery to teapots. The baby and children’s sections are a great source of present inspiration where you’ll find toys, books clothing and crafts. The type of website where you can get all your Christmas shopping sorted with just a few clicks.
Award winning creative children’s store Olive Loves Alfie was founded in London in 2006 by mum Ashlyn Gibson and has grown to be a go-to for those looking for sustainable, ethical and beautifully designed products. As well as opening a London store in Stoke Newington, Ashlyn has designed her own range of ethical children’s wear and stocks brands such as Mini Rodini and Veja. Pop into the shop or check out the lovely selection of books, toys and clothing online.
KidPix was launched in May 2018 by two friends Katya and Sian who met while studying together at the University of Oxford. Today the platform connects customers and independent designers and allows for a range style preferences, sizes (ages 0-14 years) and budgets.
The pair have a great eye and mix brands such as Lola and Blake and their bright prints with the more traditional looks of Beatrice and Bea – meaning there is something to suite all tastes. Plus, they offer a personal shopping service if you want some extra help choosing.
Discerning parents already know about the plastic free appeal of Cotton Twist’s craft kits. What started as a campaign to reinvent the tat in party bags has now become an emporium of tasteful, creative crafting for kids. From personalised keepsake boxes to craft kits with eco warrior credentials, you’re bound to find something to keep the kids amused, and perhaps a little educated, this Christmas.
Each of the hats made by Little Hotdog Watson are unique, produced ethically, and most importantly, can be chucked into the washing machine! For your peace of mind they’re also lined to be super warm, have reflective detailing for those dark days, and are water resistant. Different colour ways, patterns and styles are all available from this hat expert!
If you’re trying your best to go green this Christmas then look no further than this amazing site. Founded by Mims’ mission to be more mindful and conscious in shopping for her daughter, the site now offers products from a range of ethically driven small businesses.
We’ve been lucky to work with Jo Pratt since the very early days of City Kids Magazine. Here we have an exclusive, yet to be published recipe, straight from the test kitchen.
BAKED PEA AND PANEER SAMOSAS
I’m a huge fan of making family friendly recipes from simple to source ingredients, often using ones that are already sitting in my fridge or cupboard. These crunchy baked filo pastry parcels are a perfect example. Strips of pastry are filled with a mildly spiced vegetable and cheese filling. I have used paneer, a classic Indian cheese, but cottage cheese, feta or even halloumi would work equally as well.
It’s not just the cheese you can be flexible with, as you can increase the spice by swapping the korma paste for a hotter spice such as tikka masala or rogan josh. Once cooked, the samosas can be served hot or cold, as a snack, starter, lunch with mango chutney and raita, or as an accompaniment to a curry feast.
sunflower or rapeseed oil 1 onion, finely chopped 1 medium carrot, grated 2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated 1 tsp fresh grated ginger 1 tbsp korma paste 1 tsp tomato puree 200g paneer cheese, finely diced 2 tbsp desiccated coconut 175g frozen peas, defrosted 4 sheets filo pastry sea salt 1-2 tsp nigella seeds and or sesame seeds
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion is beautifully soft.
Stir in the korma paste, tomato puree, paneer, coconut, peas, 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring frequently until the filling has all cooked together nicely. Check for seasoning and add more salt if you feel it needs it.
Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
Cut each piece of the filo pastry into 4 strips. Working on 4 strips at a time, brush each one lightly with oil. To prevent the remaining pastry from drying out, keep covered with a damp towel.
Spoon a heaped tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom corner of each lightly oiled pastry strip. Fold over diagonally to create a triangle over the filling. Continue to fold/roll the pastry around the filling, keeping the triangle shape, securing in the filling.
For more of Jo’s brilliant recipes, or to buy The Flexible Vegetarian head to jo-pratt.com
Oh how we love a Christmas Jumper here at City Kids. From Fair Isle to sparkly, there is a great selection of festive knits for kids this season.
And there are so many opportunites to wear them, but none better than Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day on Friday 13 December. Sign up your work, school or friends and get a free fundraising pack. Then donate £2 (or £1 if you’re at school) and that money will help children all around the world. Raising money for a fantastic cause and getting to wear a super-fun festive outfit – what’s not to love?
So here’s our top 10 picks from the high street to keep your kiddos look cool this yule.
Taking the kids to see Father Christmas is a real Christmas highlight. There are still tickets available to meet Santa and we’ve rounded up the best grottos and places to meet the big man himself.
Santa Land in Hyde Park
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a Christmas extravaganza. In the heart of the Capital, you’ll find fairground rides, the largest open-air ice rink in the UK, a Christmas market and exciting new attractions such as the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel. And of course, there is Santa Land where you can meet the man of the moment.
The grotto will be open from 10am to 6pm and is free. Santa will have a gift for all children who’ve been good but be aware that you can’t book a visit to the grotto as it’s run on a first-come first-served basis, so make sure to factor in some potential waiting time. There is certainly plenty to make your visit a great day out.
Father Christmas once again returns to his secret London headquarters at the Royal Albert Hall. In this theatrical walk-around event, children will encounter a range of magical North Pole characters in various spaces of the Hall on their way to meet Father Christmas himself.
During this fun and festive experience, they’ll discover the stories and characters of Christmas’ past through engaging puppetry and live music and will even gain some secret elf knowledge with the chance to make and bring home their very own stuffed toy.
The experience in this iconic London landmark will last roughly one hour and is most suitable for children aged three and up, but all are welcome. Those of all ages will love this special event.
For the quintessential festive outing into London to see the Christmas lights and meet Santa, head to the Christmas Festival in Leicester Square and it’s amazing grotto.
The man himself hosts an audience with small groups of children and parents (up to 20 people at a time), reading a Christmas story, before meeting them all individually and handing over a little gift to take home. The ideal place to pop into if you are in city centre for the day.
A Victorian Grotto at Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands
For a taste of Christmas past head along to the Museum of London to see Sant as he was over 100 years ago.
Part of the museum is transformed into a Victorian walk, with Santa waiting at the end. He’s once again taking up residence at both museums, to a soundtrack of Victorian carols and against a backdrop of festive decorations. A gift is included in ticket price and children will love this nostalgic step back in time.
Santa’s Victorian Grotto at Museum of London, £10 per child, 29 November-23 December 2019.
If you’re prepared to venture just outside London to find Santa and his elves, your journey will definitely be reward with a truly fantastic festive day out. Lapland UK in Whitmoor forest just outside Ascot takes little ones of an exciting journey to meet Father Christmas.
Along the way they will come across Mrs Claus, make toys in the workshop and decorate cookies as the elves guide them through the snowy forest.
This 4-hour immersive experience has been beautifully designed with fantastic attention to detail. It truly does feel like you’ve been transported to the north pole – complete with fake snow. There is a chance to meet husky and reindeer as well as try out ice skating and even send your letter to Santa at the special polar post office.
With a restaurant and shop onsite, Lapland UK is a truly lovely place to spend the day and, while it might be on the expensive side, you’ll definitely feel like it’s worth it for such a magical experience.
laplanduk.co.uk, prices start from £59pp and vary depending on the time and date of your visit. From 16th November to 24th December.
We still have a quite a few weeks to get all our Christmas shopping done (thankfully!), but considerably less time to to get the advent calendars sorted. Whether you prefer old-school paper ones, chocolate treats or toy filled boxes, or even those you fill yourself, advent calendars are loved by all kids. Here are some of our favourites.
Our latest round-up of super-cool things for kiddos
Kids love scooters don’t they? Whether it’s the journey to school or a trip to the park, they just love whizzing around of them. And now the clever people at Micro Scooters have made them even more fun but adding a personalisation option. Now you can pop your little ones’ name on the base of the scooter along with a range of patterns and colours. This is available on all their models, including the Cruiser, the Sprite and the Speed. Prices start from £129.95. We think it’s a genius idea because it makes it so much easier to spot your own at the school gates!
London’s most sought-after children’s entertainers, Sharky and George are now to be found at the fabulous Beaverbrook hotel. The team are organising the Adventure Club at the five-star property which is just off the M25 at Leatherhead in leafy Surrey.
As well as fun activities such as missions, pranks, adventures and projects in and around the Estate grounds, youngsters can also enjoy the amazing play area and fantastic tree house. And at Beaverbrook they think of everything so if the weather takes a turn for the worst, there are lots of indoor activities available too, including board games, an air hockey table, arts and crafts and movies.
This amazing hotel is equally fantastic for adults – think stunning rooms, dreamy spa and delicious food. So, if you are looking for the perfect place for a weekend away that is within easy reach of London and will tick the boxes for all the family, look no further than Beaverbrook.
Winter can be a tricky time to get kiddos out and about as the temperature falls but here at City Kids, we are always keen to avoid screens whenever possible and get youngsters out in the fresh air. So we love the idea of Treasure Trails which allow children (with the help of mum and dad) to follow a self-guided Treasure Trail through their local streets in the villages, towns and cities around the UK., cracking clues along the route to unlock incredible stories from the past and solve a mystery at the end.
The trail will on average be a couple of miles, but kids probably won’t even notice how far they’ve travelled as they’ll be so caught up in the fun of the adventure.
Visit treasuretrails.co.uk to find out more and to download one of more than 1,200 Trails across the UK.
Halloween is just two weeks away so it’s time to start thinking about all things spooky. Here at City Kids we love dressing ourselves and our kids in fun costumes and also decorating our homes for the occasion – just carving a pumpkin isn’t enough for us!
So here are some of our favourite places to pick up ghoulish goodies and devilish decorations.
If you’d rather do cutesy than full on scary then this is place to find adorable costumes. Think little cat ear head bands and witches’ capes.
But where Meri Meri really come in to their own is table decorations. Create the most fantastic Halloween spread with their paper plates, cups and napkins covered in sparkly bats and sculls. We also love their cookie cutter and cake topper sets. They even have skeleton crackers! Ideal for a party for younger children who might not like anything too scary or gory.
This online store is a one-stop-shop for all your party needs and at Halloween they offer everything to decorate your home. From hanging bat decorations, balloons and window stickers to full-on scene creating backdrops, Party Delights have it all.
Take your Halloween bash to the next level with fake gravestones and creepy props. They also have an amazing range of tableware and costumes galore for kids and adults.
Any excuse for a balloon garland we say. Opt for green, black, orange and purple to create a suitably spooking one that will look great over a front door or indoors as the backdrop to your Halloween party.
Tether and Float supply everything you need, including the plump and the glue dots to stick your balloons together. As well as that they have the likes of their ‘witches’ potion’ foil balloon bouquet and many more great Halloween decorations.
If you’d like to give your Halloween celebrations a ‘Day of the Dead’ theme, then check out Party Packs. They have everything you’ll need to add that spooky Mexican touch with tableware, balloons and decorations featuring the classic skull and flowers design as well as bright co-ordinating items.
Opt for one of their actual party packs that will include a set of everything you’ll need for your table including plates, cups and napkins.
It’s a scary, emotional word. That’s the theme of this year’s #worldmentalheathday. As every parent knows all too well, looking after their children’s young minds is every bit as important as caring for their physical wellbeing.
According to YoungMinds, the UK’s leading children’s mental health charity, roughly three children in every school class have a diagnosable mental health condition and the number of children and young people who have arrived at A&E with a psychiatric condition has more than doubled since 2010.
Today many charities, supported by celebrities, athletes, politicians and even Royalty are urging us all to become more aware of how to help those struggling with mental health issues.
The Mental Health Foundation have also issued a ‘WAIT’ checklist to help us spot the signs of someone who is at risk of committing suicide: W – watch out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour. e.g. social withdrawal, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outburst, talking about death or suicide. A – ask are you having suicidal thoughts?” Asking about suicide does not encourage it, nor does it lead a person to start thinking about it; in fact it may help prevent it, and can start a potentially life-saving conversation. I – it will pass – assure your loved one that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with time. T – talk to others – encourage your loved one to seek help from a GP or health professional.
If you think you, or someone you know, is developing a mental health problem, seek help. Speak to your GP, tell someone you trust or contact any of the organisations below for help.
Here at City Kids we are huge fans of Boden. We love their great clothes – especially for our kiddos – but we also love it when help raise awareness for causes we support and strongly believe in.
Today Boden have launched three charity slogan t-shirts in celebration of World Mental Health Day 2019 for women, men and little ones.
Back in May, some Mini Boden fans got in touch to suggest empowering T-shirt slogans that they felt tapped into what it means to be a child today. Inspired by their words and enthusiasm, Boden decided to team up charity partner, The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, and launch a competition challenging Mini Boden customers to submit their very best empowering slogans for children to support Mental Health Awareness Week.
The winning design was been selected by The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust and Mini Boden, and the in-house print and design teams have produce a very special t-shirt that has launched globally alongside two womenswear and menswear t-shirts. All designs are complete with slogans highlighting the importance of talking, listening and being kind to each other, in celebration of World Mental Health Day, today 10th October.
From each sale, Boden will donate £5 to The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, who are dedicated to equipping young people with the life-saving knowledge they need to look after their mental and emotional wellbeing. Additionally, the factory where each T-shirt has been made will make its own charitable donation.
The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust were extremely grateful for Boden’s support and said: “The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust greatly values the support given by Boden since 2018. The partnership has been hugely productive and enabled us to develop even further in the mental health field. We are indeed proud and grateful to have been in partnership with Boden.”
Well done Boden. We will be buying your lovely T-shirts and are sure many others will be doing the same.
Looking for some super-fun days out this Halloween? We have some hair-raising ideas that your kids will love.
Scary Stories on the London Eye
The Coca-Cola London Eye is taking Halloween to scary new heights with the ultimate series of Spooky Storytime events this October, with delicious treats being supplied by Hotel Chocolat.
The attraction will host a brand new30-minute experience in one of their world-famous capsules. Designed with both kids and adults in mind, an eccentric storyteller will lead guests through four ghostly legends based around London and its history, with the trick being that one of them isn’t real. It’s then up to the guests to decide which story they believe to be true!
All guests will leave the experience with an exclusive goodie bag filled with Halloween Hotel Chocolat treats. The Spooky Storytime experience is available to book on the 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th and 31st October. With one capsule every hour from 2pm each day.
The London Eye Halloween Spooky Storytime, from £35 for an adult and child, £17.50pp for any additional people, all adults must be accompanied by a child, price includes: Spooky Storytime experience; Hotel Chocolat Halloween goodie bag; one 30-minute rotation and Fast Track entry.
Just in time for half term Roast Restaurant in Borough Market will be turning their much-loved classic afternoon tea into a spooky Halloween-inspired version. For just £25 per person, guests can indulge in an array of Halloween-themed sweet treats including spiced pumpkin cake and a decadent chocolate witch’s hat, alongside classic savoury delights such as smoked salmon and crème fraîche and roast beef, watercress and mustard finger sandwiches.
The scones have also had a spooky Halloween makeover, infused with charcoal in honour of the season. Complementing the experience is a selection of 13 teas and infusions, from apple and cranberry to Japanese sencha and organic camomile flowers. Available daily from midday – 6pm, in the light and airy restaurant, overlooking the historic market To book and for more information please visit www.roast-restaurant.com/whats-on.
Boogie Monsters Disco
Join Boogie Monsters, the UK’s award- winning LIVE rock and pop band for children, as they bring their fun and interactive daytime gigs to you with a Halloween twist.
Let the Boogie Monsters guys and ghouls entertain you and your little monsters at their ‘toadally eerie-sistible’ Haunted Halloween family gig in Woolwich.
Come and enjoy a spooky musical ‘monster mash’ up of Halloween themed chart hits, rocked up action songs and funky nursery rhymes, played by their brilliant professional musicians, with electric guitars, keyboard and drums, and brought to life with colourful props, bubbles, dance moves and more!
Fancy dress is optional, but kids are encouraged to wear a Halloween costume if they want to. Doors open at 3.30pm and the performance will begin at 3.45pm and last for 60 minutes. Get your inflatable guitars and flashing wands ready to rock!
For a great day trip head to Chessington World of Adventures. With hair-raising fun for all the family, untangle the web of lies with the launch of brand-new attraction, Spyders, plus the award-winning Creepy Caves Unearthed – Chessington’s scariest attraction.
This year also sees the return of Trick or Treat Wood and the Haunted Howl’o’ween Live Show, as well as rides in the dark. There’s also a series of spooky animal shows and a daily fancy dress competition all included in your ticket, which start from just £29.50 per person, if booked online at chessington.com five days in advance, with children under the age of three getting in for FREE.
Brick or Treat at Legoland
This autumn, the spooktacular Brick or Treat returns to the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort. New for 2019, Lord Vampyre’s Brick or Treat takes place from 17 October to 2 November, complete with six nights of dazzling LEGO® themed fireworks shows.
This Brick or Treat, LEGOLAND’s newest resident monster; the fang-tastic Lord Vampyre, is throwing the ultimate Halloween party. Little ones are invited to get stuck into a host of spooky LEGO activities throughout the Brick or Treat season, including October half term. There will be plenty of fun for the whole family with LEGOLAND’s awesome rides, shows and attractions to enjoy and the chance to join Lord Vampyre and his monster friends at the topsy-turvy new Haunted House Monster Party ride.
On 19/20 and 25/26 October and 1/2 November, the skies will light up with a truly spectacular 3D fireworks display, celebrating Lord Vampyre’s favourite day of the year – Halloween! Plus with 3D glasses, families will see the fireworks explode into thousands of tiny LEGO bricks* Families can visit legoland.co.uk for more information.
Sweet Treats at Fortnums
For the ultimate sweet Halloween treat head to Fortnums. The Parlour is the perfect destination to indulge and try the Halloween Sundae if you dare…made with Bickfield Farm mint chocolate chip ice cream, spooky spirulina, raspberry sauce, Chantilly and charcoal powder, each finished with Fortnum’s very own Halloween sugar decorations.
With over 19 flavours of ice creams and sorbets, kids (and adults!) alike can customise their creations with hundreds of topping options, from sauces to sprinkles, it’s sure to solve any resting Witch faces.
Little witches and wizards will love this wand crafting class at Gunnersbury Park Museum. Create your own ‘Harry Potter’ style wand using a range of wood carving tools. Under the guidance of a talented woodcarver, you’ll be able to carve your own magical wand to take home. This workshop is designed for a child and their accompanying adult to learn wood crafting skills and make a wand together.
Please note that both children and adults will need to purchase tickets for the workshop as they will be learning and working together to create the wood craft. Suitable for children aged 8+
Hever Castle’s Bed and Breakfast scores 96% and maintains its 5* Gold status after Visit England assessment
Hever Castle’s luxury Bed and Breakfast has maintained its 5* Gold status and a Breakfast award.
The accommodation was assessed by Visit England and received a 96% quality score. To gain a 5* rating businesses have to score between 85% and 100% and are marked on bedrooms, bathrooms, cleanliness, hospitality and breakfast.
The Gold award is given to accommodation which offers the `best of the best’ including exceptional quality and going the extra mile for their customers and the Breakfast Awards recognises breakfasts which exceed guest expectations.
Visit England said that: “Hever Castle Bed & Breakfast presented extremely well on this year’s day assessment, comfortably retaining its Five Star Guest Accommodation rating.”
Hever Castle’s four bedroom holiday cottage, Medley Cottage also maintained its 5* Gold rating, scoring 92%.
House Manager Roland Smith said: “We are delighted that the hard work and high standards of cleanliness and customer service has been recognised by Visit England. It is testament to our dedicated members of staff that we have retained this accolade. We look forward to welcoming more guests to our luxury accommodation throughout 2019 and 2020.”
The bed and breakfast is housed in the ‘Tudor Village’ – an Edwardian extension to the Castle which consists of the ‘Astor Wing’ and recently refurbished ‘Anne Boleyn Wing’ – with 28 bedrooms in total.
The extension was added to the Castle by William Waldorf Astor to accommodate staff and guests was previously only available for weddings and corporate events.
In 2012 underfloor heating, flat screen TVs and wifi were added as part of a refurbishment to open the accommodation up to the general public. The doors opened in March 2012.
All bedrooms are en-suite and individually styled, with some offering four poster beds, roll top baths or walk in showers.
Guests to the luxury bed and breakfast, which recently received the TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence for the fourth year running, have exclusive access to some of the 125 acre award winning gardens when they are closed to the general public.
Half term is just around the corner so here are some super-fun things do with your kids across London. From spooky feasts to cultural activities and exciting days out, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Big the Musical
All of parents can remember the classic 80’s movie Bigwhere a young boy makes a wish to be to be older and wakes up as a grown up played by Tom Hanks. And those who loved the film, will be thrilled to hear that Big the Musicalis now at London’s Dominion Theatre and stars Jay McGuiness and Kimberly Walsh. Relive a childhood memory and take your own kids along to see it this half term.
Young witches and wizards will love Cutter and Squidges Potion Room, a truly unique experience.
Leave the busy streets of London behind as you descend downstairs into the potion class. Get cloaked up, and then take your seat at the school-style desks and await your Potions Master who will have you whisking up all manner of concoctions in no time.
During the immersive 2-hour experience, you will be treated to a delicious sweet and savoury Afternoon Tea inspired by classic British flavours. Combined with the drinkable and edible potions you will be creating, the Cutter and Squidge team will ensure that you are bubbling to the brim by the time your class ends!
The class is suitable for children from age 8 upwards and they cater for many dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan, and wheat-free, and the vegetarian menu is halal-friendly.
Prices start from £49.50 for adults, £39.50 for kids.
Families can join the hunt for the nation’s favourite hard-to-find character at London Transport Museum this October half-term. With a ‘Play Trail’ map in hand, visitors will weave among the Museum’s collection of historic buses and trains as they try to track down Wally in his iconic red and white striped jumper, taking part in family activities at different locations along the way.
The fun will include puzzle solving, singing and stories, sneak peeks inside special vehicles not usually open to the public, and family games for all ages. There’s also the opportunity to explore the Museum and its three newest galleries – Untangling the Tracks, Future Engineers and Digging Deeper and play on real buses and trains and the All Aboard play zone.
Kids go free and adult tickets allow unlimited daytime entry to London Transport Museum for a whole year, so families can come back as often as they like to explore, learn and play. For further information visit www.ltmuseum.co.uk or call (0)343 222 5000.
Ice skating at the Natural History Museum
This year for the very first time, the Natural History Museum Ice Rink will be open during the October half-term break, providing the perfect outdoor activity which is fun for all the family. Combine whizzing around the ice with a trip inside the museum for a truly amazing day out. Skating starts from Saturday 19 October 2019, throughout the winter period until Sunday 12 January 2020.
Book tickets for the Natural History Museum Ice Rink via www.nhmskating.com or call 0844 847 1576. For group bookings including schools call 0844 847 1575.
There are days out and then there is Kidtropolis. This mega family event at London’s Excel is aimed at children aged 12 and under and is packed full of live shows, well-known children’s characters from film and TV and a host of amazing activities.
Kids will love seeing their favourite YouTubers, character mascots and TV superstars. In the huge space you’ll find a gaming area, fairground rides, ice skating. and giant inflatables to play on, plus science shows and plenty of kiddie-friendly places to eat.
From 19th to 21st October, advanced purchased tickets are £12 for both adults and children.
Kids love a good giggle. Take them to the the Comedy Club 4 Kids for a hilarious afternoon.
Since 2005 the club has been getting the best stand-ups and sketch acts from the international circuit to do their thing for an audience of children (aged 6+) and their families.
Expect to do lots of heckling as well as laughing at this interactive show. At venues across London on various dates during half term. For more info visit comedyclub4kids.co.uk
Brick Wonders at the Horniman Museum
Lego fans will love a trip to the Horniman Museum’s Brick Wonders to see historical highlights from around the world made entirely from Lego bricks.
From an ancient Egyptian pyramid and Old London Bridge to a coral reef and the international space station, kids will travel through history and explore more than 50 models made using half a million Lego pieces, recreating the likes of Niagra Falls, the Great Wall of China, and even space travel.
Kids (and grown-ups) can build their own brick wonders in interactive play areas, which include a graffiti wall and big bricks for little hands. Plus the exhibition includes a mini-cinema showing short Lego animations. If Lego is your thing, Brick Wonders is unmissable. Until 27th October
World record-breaking beatboxer SK Shlomo leads kids on a beatbox adventure, teaching them how to make music using just their mouths and a microphone. Join this sonic superhero and become one of his sidekicks in a world of funny sounds, brilliant noises and cool music. Great fun for all ages. There are two shows on Wednesday 23rd October and tickets are £11.
Making spooky cookies is one of the most fun Halloween activities. If you think your little ones would like to have a go then head to a Gail’s Bakery as they are hosting Halloween biscuit decorating workshops throughout half-term. Designed for children under ten, classes will guide them through the process of decorating spooky-shaped gingerbread biscuits with icing.
Classes are free of charge and the workshops run in Gail’s bakeries across London. Various locations across London; from 29th October
This half term set sail on a musical adventure across the high seas with our Ports of Call activities. Enjoy music and dance performances inspired by Cutty Sark’s voyages and take part in some music-inspired arts and crafts.
There will be African drumming, Bollywood dancing and steel band performances. Visitors can join in and have a go, learning new skills and having fun. 21-26 October
New research shows most parents like to eat healthy meals as a family, but only 40% manage it. Charlotte Stirling-Reed gives us her top tips to make mealtimes easier.
Feeding kids isn’t always is easy is it? For so many reasons it can be a minefield. Finding healthy meals that children actually want to eat is often very tricky. Getting your toddler to swallow a piece of broccoli must surely be one of life’s simplest but greatest pleasures!
Add to the struggle of getting youngsters to eat well with the constant juggle of our busy lives and you have a recipe for a challenge. It’s hard to managed a family’s schedule and still try find time to prepare and cook nutritious suppers for all the family to enjoy together.
Of course, in an ideal world every family would love to sit down around the table to eat a homemade meal, but for many that’s a logistical impossibility as parents try to balance out their working lives and with kids’ – often equally hectic – school timetables. It can feel like you need a family spreadsheet just to get everyone together for dinner.
Indeed a recent survey of 2,000 parents of children under 14 by Scandinavian nursery brand, Stokke, found that while 86% of parents believe it’s important to eat dinner as a family, just two in five (41%) say they eat together every night. Stokke are behind the iconic Tripp Trapp highchair that has sold more than 10 million worldwide since its launch in 1972. Central to to principle of the design is that children should join their parents at the table.
So how can we make it a bit easier to eat together as a family?
Charlotte Stirling-Reed BSc, MSc, RNutr., a specialist in baby and children nutrition for Stokke, has given us her top 10 expert tips on how to enjoy a healthy and happy mealtime.
Eat together, whenever possible
Make the most of family time around the table and try to sit together to eat whenever possible. Even if it’s just you and your baby or child – you being a part of their mealtime can make such a difference to their experience and even how much they enjoy it.
Get kids involved
I love the idea of bringing baby into the mealtime and right up to the table as early as possible. Get them involved in food by surrounding them by everyone else tucking into a delicious meal. Children learn the skills of eating, social skills and even WHAT foods they enjoy by first copying others. For older children, get them involved in prepping, shopping or even choosing what’s on the table at dinner times.
Eat similar foods, regularly
Rather than serving separate meals for everyone in the family, try and have one option that everyone tucks into. Even if you’re offering similar options such as gluten free pasta, dairy free cheese etc, it’s good for your little ones to see you eating similar foods (including all those veggies) to encourage them to eat a wide variety themselves.
Establish a routine
Having a routine around when meals are served can help get little ones ready for food, especially for infants, who tend to like set routines. Establishing a “pre eating” routine can also help to get children involved and get them excited about mealtimes too. It might be clearing away toys, laying the table, playing some music or starting with a little game, which helps to set the tone for the rest of the meal & get everyone talking and excited for what’s to come.
Try and make it distraction free
Distractions such as toys, TV or phones can take away from the concept of food and meals being important. They also distract from what can be a really vital social occasion for a family too. However, if we want little ones to grow up to love their food, we need to show them that the delicious, varied foods you put in front of them each day are worth their attention and time. So, try clearing away, switching off distractions and just focusing on you, them and that delicious bowl of food!
Take the pressure off and leave out the rules
That said, making mealtimes too pressured and setting mealtime rules such as clearing the plate, eating veggies first, sitting down until everyone has finished, can end up making mealtimes pressured and less enjoyable for kiddies. Stick to rules that you think are 100% necessary and avoid too much pressure for children to “eat up” a specific part, or all of their meal. It’s good to keep mealtimes light and enjoyable to help children WANT to be a part of them.
Give kids some choice
Offering choices between A and B can give your little ones some autonomy when it comes to food choices. It’s a form of covert parenting that allows you to still have the ultimate control of what’s offered, but it gives them some independence and allows them to feel like you’re also valuing their opinions too. This can also help with fussy eaters. An example might be “do you want that with potato or pasta today?” “Do you want peas or carrots on the side?”
Try sharing platters
I love the Mediterranean style of sharing platters for mealtimes too, offering an array of foods, and allowing everyone to help themselves to whatever parts of the meal they want. This might not always work, but if you allow them to have their independence whilst also role modelling and showing how you, yourself, have a wide variety on your own plate, they are likely to pick up some tips and eating habit just from watching you!
Vary what’s on offer
One of the biggest reasons I see for children going off food is boredom. It’s SO easy to get somewhat stuck offering the same foods each week, but by offering a really wide variety, not only are you exposing your children to a variety of tastes and flavours and nutrients, you’re also preventing them getting fed up with the same meals over and over again. I am totally aware this one is easier said than done, but try making some bulk meals at the weekend and then tapping into them where possible during the week. Menu plans can really work for some families too.
Make it fun
Just try to relax, stay calm and make those mealtimes enjoyable for everyone. Once you step back, take away some of the rules and start enjoying the social time with your little ones, it’ll become so much easier to make the occasion fun and enjoyable for everyone else too. Try using colourful napkins, tablecloths or even a beautiful bowl of fruits and veggies to keep it vibrant or play some calming music in the background to set the scene. What works will differ from family to family, so have a play with some ideas that make you and yours happy, and see what works!
Is Rugby World Cup fever is sweeping through your house? It certainly is ours! Watching such amazing high-level sport is so inspiring for children as they see their heroes tackle opponents and score tries. It’s a fantastic sport that both boys and girls can enjoy watching and playing.
If your kiddos already play rugby then you’ll know that the school season starts soon, indeed many clubs are already training. And if your new to the game and your children would like to give it a go, then there has never been a better time to find out more.
Very little ones can join in with the fun sessions at the likes of Rugby Tots or Try Time Kids Rugby or Muddy Knees Kids Rugby. All offer the chance to take part in non-contact training and games (often a bit like tag) that help to learn the key skills involved in the sport. Boys and girls as young as just two years old can join in.
If your children are a bit older check out the findrugbynow.com website to located clubs near you or contact englandrugby.com for more information. Rugby is a sport that you can take up at pretty much any age and complete beginners will find that they can join in very quickly.
There are clubs and groups all over the Capital that would love to welcome new young players who might just become the World Cup stars of the future.
For rugby kit head to Decathlon. From tops and shorts and boots to head and mouth guards, they have everting you need play the game including rugby balls of all sizes so you can choose one suitable for little hands to pass.
We interview the founders of Bloom and Blossom about creating a dream business, working with family and building a brand
Three words to describe yourselves.
Julia: Committed, honest and a giggle.
Christina: Determined, loyal and fun.
What’s it like working with a relative?
Julia: It really is great, and we know we are lucky. At first our family thought it could be too close to home, but we really are each other’s biggest supporters. We give each other the sanity check we know is essential in business. We support each other emotionally and physically. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and, as we build Bloom and Blossom, we are enjoying seeing ourselves develop as business women and as parents, this ensures our brand is continues to grow authentically.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced while being in business?
Christina: Business is challenging, that is the truth, but we have learnt to embrace that. Managing manufacturing, NPD, retailers and customers makes it the rollercoaster ride that it is but we are happy with that and know it will continue. We take time to look back and evaluate decisions, the right ones and the wrong ones, to ensure we learn along the way. We are brave, we take leaps, and we aren’t scared to try new things, and with that we also take on the challenges of business, but that is half the fun, it is a little bit bonkers, but we wouldn’t change a thing.
Who does what in the business?
Julia: We are lucky to have built an incredible team of talented, dedicated and passionate people. For many years it was just us two, so we have literally done every job within the running of our business from financial accounts to product development to social media and packing up orders. We are not afraid or too grand to turn our hand to any task, and this is the attitude we look for in all our employees.
Now we have a strong team means we can focus our time on fulfilling our sustainability promise, developing new products, discovering new innovations, understanding our customers’ needs and building an authentic business focused on helping families thrive.
How did the initial collaboration with Roald Dahl come about?
Christina: All our product development comes from a place of authenticity, flowing from the products we need and want as parents. We developed incredible pregnancy products when we were pregnant and incredible baby products when our children were babies. So, it was almost a given we would bring out products for older children as ours grew up. As parents we know the importance of routine in promoting quality sleep and reading plays an integral part in that. Reading should be part of every child’s day and particularly their switch off process at bedtime. Who better than to partner with the world’s number one author Roald Dahl. Two British brands in partnership promoting the importance of sleep.
How do you decide on fragrances for the different lines you have?
Christina: Our fragrances sit at the heart of our formulations and play a powerful role in the efficacy of our products. Fragrance is key in evoking mood and wellbeing – we start with how we want our customers to feel when they use our products then blend in the ingredients to achieve this.
What has it been like to support Beauty Banks?
Julia: Having seen Jo Jones and Sali Hughes set up Beauty Banks and having watched the incredible impact it has had to people living on the poverty line – it was a no brainer. Being clean is a human right and whatever we can do to help get toiletries in to the hands of families, we will do. Our ‘one for one’ initiative was kicked off alongside the launch of our hand washes, and this is just the beginning.
Last book you read?
Julia: Sara Cox’s Till the Cows Come Home: A Lancashire Childhood. I am from Lancashire, I adore Sara Cox’s writing, her humour and outlook on life.
Christina:I AM, I AM, I AMby Maggie O’Farrell. A brilliant biography of one of my all-time favourite authors and her many brushes with life and death.
What’s your top tip for date night in London?
A top tip for date nights in London is to try something new. We are so lucky to live and work on the doorstep of one of the best cities in the world and there is always something wonderful and new to explore. Some favourites include Palomar (amazing middle Eastern food) and Kyseri (Turkish) but also enjoying the London parks, grabbing a picnic, taking in the views and enjoying walks around the city, when the weather permits.
Where’s your favourite place to go in London with the children?
Julia: The Southbank. Walking along there with the children is incredible, taking in the views, the atmosphere and the entertainers.
Christina: Kew Gardens. It’s got everything. The new children’s playground is insane. Just make sure you book in advance!
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you.
Christina: I bought my first house on a property TV show.
Julia: I have a Blue Peter badge.
What would you take to a desert island?
Julia: Suncream and Spotify.
Christina: Complete library of Sex And The City and a lifetime supply of mango sorbet.
Christina: Cooking is not my forte, but I do a mean Indian takeaway…
Julia: I love cooking, particularly cooking for friends and family. A favourite of mine is crab linguine – super simple, but so tasty. And then throw in some Ottolenghi inspired salads…I could go on and on, don’t get me started on puddings!
Your proudest moment?
Christina: my daughter recently won a coveted award at school for kindness. I really couldn’t ask for more. Very proud mother!
What’s next on the list of things to do?
Christina: is world domination too much? We have big, exciting plans ahead. Watch this space…!
Pottery Barn Kids UK have just launched their new autumn collection. Renowned for its furniture and accessories for children’s bedrooms and play rooms, this American company has taken the UK by storm. From desks, beds and storage to lighting, rugs and cushions, Pottery Barn is a one-stop-shop for all your kiddie decorating.
We can’t get enough of the beautiful bedding and stunning quilts. They have designs that cater for little ones who still want dinosaurs and princesses in their rooms, right through to more sophisticated, preppy looks for teens. The quality is top notch and every product is extensively tested to make sure it is perfect.
Or if you have a really tiny one check out Pottery Barn Baby. Think dream nursery and you’ll have an idea of what the brand has in store for their youngest customers.
Pottery Barn have plans to expand in the UK and open more stores, but for now you can find a selection of their range in John Lewis or online at potterybarnkids.co.uk.
The Little Writing Company
The kids are now all back in the classroom and homework is starting to appear in school bags most evening. While some will be gliding through their work easily, others may need a little bit of assistance.
If you’d like to help your little one with their learning, then check out the Little Writing Company. Launched by teacher Jo Britland in 2017, the company produces beautiful stationery and literacy workbooks for children. All are carefully designed by teachers to help parents improve their child’s handwriting as well as their overall learning.
They are perfect for primary school aged children but by no means exclusively for this age group. Lots of older and younger children use them too. Plus they have lots of free worksheets and tips on their blog . Well worth a visit if you’d like to find some really helpful and inspiring advice.
We particularly like the story writing activity notebooks that encourage children to be imaginative and really stretch their use of the English language through writing.
Here at City Kids we are huge fans of Scamp and Dude. We love their super cool kidswear and fun prints. So, we were thrilled to see the launch of Superga x Scamp & Dude, a range of trainers featuring their iconic Leopard and Lightning Bolt print.
The collection includes the 2750 Cotu Classic trainer, both lace up and with Velcro. 100% cotton, they come in neon coral with Scamp & Dude branding on the heel and an embroidered ‘Superpower Button’. Prices start from £33 for the littlest feet. The perfect trainers for Autumn.
Today is the launch of MORI’s The Gruffalo collection for babies and toddlers. The London based clothing brand has also devised a secret Gruffalo crumble recipe in celebration of the book’s 20th anniversary year.
Mori’s signature organic cotton and bamboo fabrics, which are the base for their sleep and daywear ranges, is now adorned by illustrative details from the celebrated children’s story. Expect to see favourite characters, scenes and quotes from The Gruffalo across the range. Featuring four exclusive prints, the day and sleep collection ranges from newborn up to 4 years with prices from £18 for a T-Shirt to £69.50 for the Clever Sleeping Bag.
Akin Onal, MORI’s Founder says:
“We were thrilled when Magic Light Pictures reached out to us about collaborating for the character’s 20th anniversary. The Gruffalo is such a memorable part of family story time, making this the perfect partnership for MORI. As a brand dedicated to helping to improve a family’s sleep, we believe that story time is an essential part of a child’s bedtime routine as it helps to strengthen bonds between families. That’s why we’re so delighted to be a part of creating this experience.”
Written by renowned children’s author Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, The Gruffalo has won countless awards and sold over 13.5 million copies, delighting readers – young and old alike – for two decades.
Stella Afnaim, MORI’s Head of Product says:
“As a grandmother, reading bedtime stories to my grandchildren is the highlight of my day. Being Head of Product at MORI, I appreciate how important soft yet functional clothing is for little ones, especially at bedtime. Our sleepwear is created with love and I can’t wait to read The Gruffalo with my three grandchildren sitting on my lap in their Gruffalo PJs.”
The Gruffalo collection is available now at babymori.com and in selected retailers nationwide.
Here’s our pick of our favourite cool things for kids this week
The Magic of Marvel
Marvel Universe Live tour 2019 will arrive at the O2 from 26th September until 6thOctober. This all new show unites Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange in a race against time to recover the Wand of Watoomb. A must for all Marvel fans who want to see their favourite characters performing some amazing stunts in true action hero style. Visit marveluniverselive.com to book.
Footwear brand GEOX have developed a new capsule collection as part of their partnership with one of the world’s leading conservation organisations WWF.
This unique collection of footwear for both babies and children, which includes graphics inspired by endangered animal spices, such as the giant panda and the polar bear. For every pair of shoes purchased, 2€ or equivalent in local currency will be donated to the WWF to support their efforts in safeguarding the natural world.
Geox is one of our go-to brands for kid’s shoes – especially their super cosy leather high-tops in winter – so we are thrilled to see that the company has substance as well as style.
The benefits of reading at every stage of a child’s development are well documented and of course there is the simple joy of getting lost in a good story. In their new book How to Raise a Reader Pamela Paul and Maria Russo, editors of The New York Times Book Reviewhave created an indispensable guide to welcoming children—from babies to teens—to a lifelong love of reading. It will undoubtedly help all parents to encourage their kids to pick up a book.
All parents are constantly on the lookout for healthy eating options that their kids will actually enjoy. We suggest you check out the Great British Porridge Company for a great breakfast choice. All 100% natural, with no added sugar, their instant porridges are made with wholegrain oats and with no artificial colours or preservatives, making them full of protein, calcium for growing bones. Also, worth noting they are vegan, dairy and gluten-free
Ideally for filling kids up and give them the energy to get through the morning at school without the need to reach for unhealthy snacks. There are three flavours to choose from: Red Berry & Pumpkin Seed, Blueberry & Banana and Strawberry & Peanut Butter. Add some more fruit or a spoonful of honey to make them a little sweeter. Find them in Sainsbury’s, Wholefoods Market, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and selected retailers nationwide, RRP £3.99 for 385g bag. For more info visit www.thegreatbritishporridgeco.co.uk
To celebrate national Read a Book Day, we have a bundle of six amazing books to give away. We have story books, an anthology, award-winning books, beautiful illustrations and books by the famous. Entry details are below!
Franklin and Luna Go To The Moon by Jen Campbell (hardback)
Be More Bernard by Simon Philip & Kate Hindley
How to Find Egyptian Treasure by Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves
Story Time by Georgie Adams (hardback)
Lightning Girl Super Power Showdown by Alesha Dixon
Mr Dog and a Hedge Called Hog by Ben Fogle
To enter, head to our Instagram page, follow us, like the post and tell us which is your favourite book in the bundle.
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Even though we’re seeking out the last drops of summer it’s time to start looking at the autumn wardrobe and N21’s pop-up at Harrods will do nicely.
We’ve been blown away by the images from this collection and you will be too. The fashion brand, created and directed by Alessandro Dell’ Acqua is now available at Harrods. Signature tie-dye that Alessandro featured in his SS19 women’s collection is present here, as well as maxi logo sweatshirts and oversized bows.
Not only are there super stylish pieces for girls and boys, there are also some Mini Me items to double up with your sons or daughters.
For boys, expect prints capturing a fanciful image of the ‘American Dream’, using a strong, graphic statement on sweatshirts, cotton shirts and tracksuits. A stars & stripes theme characterises the check jackets with soft sheepskin detailing, as well as the tartan plaid shirts with logo embroidered, while a 1950s feel is featured in the maxi checkboard knits.
The collection for girls includes chic, modern pieces with fun at the heart of it. Rock’n’roll vibes are clear thanks to red & black leopard prints on maxi hoodies, retro sport tracksuits and bombers. Pop accents can be found on the black-on-pink star prints that add a graphic touch to piping-embellished shirts, smart pleated skirts which are paired with sweet ruche-trimmed stripe blouses and poplin polo dresses with stylish, yet simple yokes.
The range is suitable for girls and boys aged 4-14.
Head to Harrods for the N21 pop up which will remain open until early October.
The City Kids weekly round-up of super-cool things for your little ones to enjoy
If your children have grown out of nursery rhymes and the likes of ‘Baby Shark’, but you’d rather they didn’t listen to grown-up pop music just yet, then My Moozik could be the ideal thing for them to boogie along to.
This new musical venture for kids is designed to bridge the gap between kiddie tunes and inappropriate lyrics. Written by musician Newton Faulkner, My Moozik has just released the debut single ‘Breaktime’, and the album first ‘My Day’ will be available at the end of October.
The CD album comes packaged with a beautifully illustrated, hardback, lyric book. All songs can be streamed and downloaded via all the usual platforms and all songs will be available for the whole family to enjoy on the My Moozik YouTube channel.
As well as offering families an album that won’t make parents want to tear their hair out, the it has also been designed to support kids and their development. The songs explore key themes such as kindness, making friends, why we learn, why we have to eat our greens and everything in-between.
Catchy tunes and nice words to sing along to make My Moozik, perfect for kids of all ages.
Vild House of Little mix great Scandi-inspired design with stylish, quirky prints to create really unusual clothing for kids. The patterned pieces can be combined with their neural basics to make amazing outfits.
The new ‘Dog Family’AW19 collection is made up of prints featuring happy hound families including the curious pug, the brave beagle, the proud dachshund and adorable stray dogs. There is a long-sleeved t-shirt, a collared bodysuit and bomber jersey jacket. Super-cute and a little bit different.
So we are just over half way through the school holidays. Roughly three weeks left to fill with endless fun and activities. I mean it’s so easy isn’t it?!
Well if like us (all) parents you are frankly a bit frazzled and running out of ideas you might just like to hear about KiwiCo.
This amazing company make creative, innovative and educational hands on arts and science projects that are delivered to your door. Their ‘crates’ are age appropriate with a selection of activities for babies right up to age 16 plus. Projects include making models and instruments and encourage problem solving, experimenting and exploration.
Each crate is tested for over 1000 hours by the KiwiCo Team of experts, artists and scientists and engineers before they are delivered to you. Sign up for a one-off crate or take out a monthly subscription that you can cancel any time. Perfect for summer holiday entertainment or to bring out on any rainy day.
After a sneak preview in July, the long awaited, and cloaked in secrecy, Mini Boden collaboration with Harry Potter has gone live.
And what a collection! As you might expect from the appliqué and embroidery experts, the Harry Potter collection includes bespoke prints, one-off styles and embroidery inspired by Harry Potter and the Wizarding World. It’s incredibly clever, super stylish and uses incredible fabrics.
The 81-piece range has been designed entirely in-house by the highly skilled Mini Boden design teams in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and is only available from Mini Boden.
Far from the many collaborations you may have seen before between famous franchises and designers, Boden have kept this classy and high-end.
We love the use of spells on the Charms Class Striped Dress as well as this stand-out Headwig Appliqué T-shirt. Other stand-outs are the Harry Potter Hippogriff Tulle Skirt and the Harry Potter Hippogriff Bomber Jacket. You’ll also be treated to items with colour-change sequins, fluttering appliqué and 3D detailing on tops, capes, trousers and dresses.
The collection starts from £16 for a printed ‘Broom Facts T-shirt’ and the majority of styles will be available up to 12 years, with seventeen styles extending to age 16 years.
To get your hands on any of the pieces, head to boden.co.uk today!
So we are officially having a heatwave with record breaking temperatures expected over the next few days. But whether you are enjoying sunny days here or abroad on holiday, it’s extremely important to stay safe in the sun as when the mercury rises so does the risk of skin damage from its rays.
We all know the dangers of sun burn and the importance of sunscreen, but choosing the best one to suit your child’s sensitive skin can be a bit confusing. What exactly are all these chemicals and which ones are the most effective? And once you’ve chosen your cream or spray how much of it do you need to use and how often?
We asked Dr Jennifer Crawley the expert dermatologist for Childs Farm, one of the UK’s leading baby and child toiletries brand, to give us the lowdown on how to keep kids (and adults) safe in the sun.
What are the most common mistakes when applying sun cream
“It’s important to use sun cream not just during the summer months, but all year round to avoid long term sun damage and the risk of developing skin cancer. Getting sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. That’s why it’s so important to be applying sun cream all year round, not just when it’s hot as UVA and UVB rays can still be damaging on cooler days. We all need a re-education when it comes to sun protection and we need to get out of the mindset that suncream is just for holidays abroad or during heatwaves at home.”
How much to apply and and how often?
“One of the main problems we find is that parents don’t apply an adequate amount of suncream on their children. We recommend at least two teaspoons for the head and neck area and two tablespoons for the body. But you can’t apply too much, so use it liberally.”
Top tips for staying safe in the sun
On hot days and when you’re abroad keep little ones in the shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its hottest
Cover any exposed skin with suncream even on cloudy days
Use a high factor SPF 30+ sun cream, with broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Reapply suncream numerous times throughout the day, especially after swimming
Pay particular attention to often forgotten areas such as the shoulders, back of the neck and behind the ears when applying sun cream
Where possible, cover up childrens’ skin with a hat, loose fitting clothing and sunglasses
Always keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight
For those who have particularly sensitive or eczema-prone skin, make sure you are using a product that has been clinically tested as suitable for this skin type / use a product that is dermatologist and paediatrician approved
Here are some great sunscreens for your little ones
Childs Farm new formulation 50+spf sun cream for very high protection, is water resistant and protects young and sensitive skin from UVA and UVB rays, whilst keeping skin moisturised and hydrated. So you can relax while your children enjoy the sun safely.
Suitable for babies and upwards. Dermatologist and paediatrician approved as suitable for sensitive skin and safe for people who may be prone to eczema, it’s unfragranced 125ml is registered with The Vegan Society. One of their best products is the roll on sun cream which makes it easy for kids to apply it themselves.
The ideal thing to pop in their bag if they are off to a tennis or cricket camp this summer and might need a top up when you aren’t there to help.
If you ever sit next to a French family on the beach you are pretty much guaranteed to see them slathering La Roche-Posay all over the kids. This brand has cult status in France and is increasingly popular with us Brits too – you can even buy it in Boots.
For kids we love La Roch-Posay AntheliosDermo-Kids Multi-Positional Spray SPF 50, which doesn’t leave little ones looking like they’ve been dipped in white paint or leave those annoying yellow stains on pale clothing. It’s super easy to rub in, is absorbed almost instantly and is water resistant. We still pop another layer on after a pool or sea session, but it certainly doesn’t wash off easily.
The Factor 50 face mist is great too and particularly useful when you just want to do a quick top up. Simply spray over their faces (eyes closed obviously) and there is no need to rub in. Perfect for when you are in a rush to get back in the pool – which kids always seem to be!
Commonly used in lots of sunscreens, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are the UV filters that protect our skin, but research shows they have the opposite effect on the environment.
Once you’ve slathered on your sun lotion, just a 20 minute dip will result in 25% of the ingredients being released into the sea and even tiny amounts of these chemicals can have a detrimental effect on marine life, damaging the DNA of coral and causing dramatic hormonal changes and deformities in fish.
But the good news is there are marine-friendly alternatives. Green People chooses to use Titanium dioxide, which acts as a reflective barrier predominantly to UVB radiation, and Isoamyl P-methoxycinnamate, which is derived from Cinnamic acid found in the leaves of the cinnamon tree, providing natural protection against UVB radiation. For protection against UVA radiation, they use Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate. Although synthetically produced, this ingredient has an excellent safety profile, biodegrades readily and has no adverse effects on the environment. This blend of filters guarantees broad-range protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, whilst being environmentally safe. For kids opt for the Organic Children Sun Lotion SPF 30.
Definitely something worth considering when choosing your sunscreen.
Bioderma’s Photoderm range offers maximum protection for children’s delicate skin. According to the brand the exclusive combination of UVA/UVB dermatological filters and the Cellular Bioprotection™ patent provides children optimal protection against the harmful effects of UV rays as well as internal biological protection.
We like the Factor 50 mouse which is super easy to apply and it smells really good too.
This range is a great option if your kids are playing sport or jumping in an out of water as it’s extremely sweat and water resistant. We’ve heard it said that you can apply in just once a day but personally we would reapply regularly just to be on the safe side.
Ultrasun Extreme SPF 50+ is fast-absorbing, non-greasy, non-sticky with UVA and UVB (SPF50+) protection, plus vitamin E and pro vitamin B5. It’s ideal for extreme sun conditions and extremely sensitive skin, especially children’s’.
With her new fitness app, JENNIS, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill aims to share the expert advice and support she was so grateful for during her pregnancies
When did you start thinking about creating the app?
The original idea came when I was pregnant with Reggie. I found it overwhelming trying to find the right information about fitness in pregnancy and post-natally. Luckily, I had an incredible physio to help me navigate this and I am so grateful for that, so I wanted to find a way to share the information with women everywhere.
What can it do?
There are three options within the app: workouts for pregnancy, post pregnancy (Jennis Pregnancy) or people who have busy lives and want a quick effective workout (Jennis Fitness). The workouts are all very easy to follow and are tailored to different levels of fitness. The pregnancy workouts allow the woman to choose what activity they do based on how they are feeling and are tailored to suit each trimester of their pregnancy.
What kind of advice and support does the app have?
As well as the work outs, we have created something called ‘Your Pregnancy Questions Answered’. There are videos of me with physio Ali Rose chatting about some of the big things I discovered when pregnant and answering some common pregnancy exercise questions too.
On our website we will also host lots of informative pregnancy content, alongside our own content we have partnered with experts in their field – there will be lots of advice and support for mums to be – and Dads too!
How did you feel when you were pregnant?
I loved being pregnant but like every other woman I had no idea what to expect. Our bodies go through so much change and I was super lucky to have an amazing team around me to explain what was happening and why. That was incredibly reassuring and that is why I have created Jennis, to share these insights and training programmes.
Did you feel any pressure to get your body back, particularly as you’re Jessica Ennis, World and Olympic Champion?
After the birth of my first child I was still a competing athlete and I really wanted to get back – I was always asking Ali if I could start doing some ab work, she was very careful and taught me ways to check if my abs were knitting back ok. I am so glad I listened to her advice and that of my coach as I came back all the stronger for it. A gradual strengthening of your core muscles and building back strength sensibly is definitely advisable.
How do you fit fitness into your daily routine with the children?
I just try and grab 20-minute windows when I can, either when the kids are at school or after they have gone to bed. If they are around, I will still try but sometimes they might get cut short if the kids want to ‘get involved’ but even 5 minutes is better than nothing.
We’re told that through the app we’ll see the real Jessica Ennis-Hill. What’s she like?
Ha! I’d like to think… energetic, cheerful and honest. I am very down to earth and love a bit of a laugh.
Did you find becoming a parent tough?
I don’t think any parent is prepared for sleep deprivation! Having a baby is the most joyful thing you could ever imagine – but the lack of sleep is really tough. I am absolutely loving being a mum – it is a new challenge every day but the joy my two bring to our lives is immeasurable.
What advice would you give to new parents?
To accept help from family and friends and that there will be days when you have a newborn that you get nothing done and that is absolutely fine!
How well do Reggie (4) and Olivia get on (1)?
Brilliantly, I am so lucky!
What’s your favourite thing to do as a family?
I think holidays are the best time as we are all together 24/7 – otherwise a lovely walk with our dog Myla on a weekend.
We all spend a lot of time in playgrounds with the kiddies so we have narrowed down our Top 5 in London
TUMBLING BAY PLAYGROUND Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park This huge playground built on the landscape of the Olympic Park encourages your children to experiment in a natural environment. With tree houses, rock pools, sandpits and rope bridges your child will not only be entertained they will be inspired to. queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk
CHILDREN’S GARDEN Kew Gardens The new interactive Children’s Garden suitable for ages 2 to 12 years old is now open. There is an earth, air, water and sun garden with lots of fun things such as a bamboo tunnel, a worm-hole tube slide, trampolines, a stream and splash pool and much more. kew.org
PADDINGTON RECREATION GROUND Paddington An excellent large playground that caters for both the big and little kids.. With an adventure castle, a mini street, a percussion garden, a shipwreck climbing frame, a train station and a zip wire you will struggle to get them to leave this one. westminster.gov.uk
RAF MUSEUM Hendon An outdoor playground with mini models of iconic aircraft such as the famous Spitfire and powerful Sea-King helicopter, there is even a mini version of the historic Grahame-White building. With slides, nets, poles and ladders this play area is a wonderful place to fuel the little ones imaginations rafmuseum.org.uk
BATTERSEA PARK ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND Battersea There’s heaps of fun to be had in this playground where kids can ride a tractor, hop in a car, ride a life size helicopter, get creative drawing their own animals on the chalk boards or be a fireman in the fire engine. The playground invites them to test their skills as they build, swing, balance and ride while the parents can have a sit down on the picnic tables surrounding it. batterseaparkzoo.co.uk
The sun is out and summer holidays are just around the corner. If you are hitting the beach or spending your days by a pool with your little ones, then some new toys and inflatables are always a good idea. Who doesn’t love floating around in giant blow up flamingo?!
And no one does beach fun better than Australian brand Sunny Life. Their website is a one stop shop with everything you could need for hours of play time on holiday.
There is a great selection of inflatables – from large lie-on ice cream cones and lobsters to classic rubber rings in donut and rainbow designs. For little ones they have smaller unicorn and whale rings too. And you can buy a handy pump so no more huffing and puffing for hours on end. What a relief!
Games include bat and ball, inflatable ring toss that can be played in the water and a floating volley ball set. Older children will love the plastic cricket set and for tinies there is an adorable little sand play kit, the brand’s take on the classic bucket and spade.
You’ll also find beach towels, chairs, pillows and umbrellas. For the perfect pic nic there are blankets and cooler bags. They have your entire time at the beach covered.
The selection is vast and everything Sunny Life sells is bright, colourful and eye-catching. We will definitely be packing a selection of their toys to take with us on hols this year.
And at the end of the day when the kids are in bed we will happily float around the pool in that giant flamingo – maybe with a little cocktail in the mega handy cup holder attached to it! Fun for all the family!
Boden will launch a Harry Potter inspired collection for Mini Boden next month. City Kids has a sneak peek at what’s in store
As you might expect from Boden, this range is classy and isn’t simply a case of lifting the Gryffindor crest or repurposing a series of cloaks for fancy dress. Designed entirely in-house by the Mini Boden design team you can expect bespoke prints, unique embroidery, colour change sequins, fluttering appliqué and 3D detailing on tops, capes, trousers and dresses.
There will be 81 pieces running from newborn to age 16 so that all children can wear the magic. Keep your eyes peeled for ‘House Bretons’, rugby shirts and a ‘Hegwig Cardigan’. A second collection will launch on 7th October 2019.
Mini Boden has invited customers to follow the magic by registering their interest online to be the first to know when the collection drops on Monday 5th August 2019. We hope their I.T. department is ready!
Looking for a great end of term present for your little one’s teacher? We have some great ideas for original gifts they are bound to love
It’s coming to the end of the school year which means sports day, prize giving and summer parties. It’s also time to remember those who make it all possible – the amazing teachers. Thank goodness for these wonderful humans who teach and care for our children. Their creativity, commitment, patience and enthusiasm are what makes learning fun for our little ones. They work tirelessly all year and we’re sure we are not the only mums who often think how to do they keep a class of 20 kids under control all day when we struggle with two or three?!
So, it’s time to say a little (or big) thank you to teachers. Parents often club together (thanks class reps everywhere for organising this) to buy a more expensive gift for their teacher, which means a donation of a few pounds per family can accumulate into a sum big enough to purchase something really special. While a homemade card is the only thing teachers ever say they want, a pressie is a nice way to show your appreciation.
A box of chocolates? A bottle of wine? Of course, these are lovely gifts but if you are looking for something a little more special then here are a few places you can pick up a present for you’re the person who has looked after and inspired your child all year.
Make it personal
Everyone loves a personalised gift. A mug or a notebook with their name on it shows you’ve put in a bit of time and thought. These things are particularly useful for teachers – it’s so handy to spot your own cup straight away in the staff room.
A message from their pupils – ‘thanks for being a great teacher Mrs Smith from the class of 2019’ – is a lovely keepsake to remind a special teacher of how important they are to the children. You could even opt for a little piece of jewellery. Something they will treasure forever.
There are lots of places to pick up personalised presents. Our favourites are Not on the High Street, Prezzy Box and All By Mama. Check them out and you’ll find a great range of gifts and something for every teacher will like.
A gift that’s great for everyone
How about letting your teacher choose their own gift? The One4all Gift Card can be spent in over 55,000 stores ranging from clothing to food. Stores include Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Curry’s, John Lewis, WH Smith and Topshop. It’s the ideal voucher to give because your teacher is bound to find something they love -that could be a little treat or something practical they really need. The card can be bought online from One4all.com or from any local Post Office and what’s more, it suits every budget as you can put anything from £10-£400, so you can group together with parents or purchase your own.
A break from the classroom
Teachers work so hard all year and it would be really nice to give them an opportunity to kick back and relax. So how about travel vouchers that they can put towards a nice break? For example, Cool Stays have portfolio of hand-picked places to stay around the world, with vouchers available from £20-£500. There are villas and hotels as well as more unusual properties such as lighthouses, buses and boats. Many are family friendly and there is accommodation to suit all budgets. Or if you’d really like to spoil your teacher get him or her a Mr and Mrs Smith voucher. They can be used towards booking any of their amazing 1,000 boutique hotels and houses around the world and are available for any amount from £50 upwards. The company have lots of fantastic hotels in the UK, so a night away is entirely possible if a group of parents buy a voucher together. A special treat that anyone would love to receive.
Editor-in-Chief, Victoria Evans, takes the family glamping and reviews one of Hampshire’s gorgeous glamping sites.
Let’s get this clear. We’re not camping experts, we’re pretty amateur, but we have been glamping before so we have some points of reference.
Previously a Feather Down farm stay, owners Tamara and Richard have struck out alone to bring you their take on the glamping experience at their 200-acre farm in Hampshire. Gambledown Farm sits within a slice of heavenly countryside on the outskirts of the New Forest, comprising the main farmhouse, barn conversion, cottages and four African-style safari tents. Tent underplays the situation somewhat. Here you have accommodation built on a raised platform, complete with running water and gas supply: yes, a flushing loo and hot showers shall be yours!
Inside you’ll find wooden flooring, a kitchen with gas hob, a wood burning stove, sofa and dining table as well as two bedrooms (one double, one bunk) and a cubby hole room reached from a fixed ladder which also sleeps two. At times it’s hard to remember that you’re in a tent: it’s very clean, comfortable and the ceilings are high. Plus, there rechargeable lanterns and lights dotted in and around the rooms.
Out on the veranda you can survey your kingdom which houses a herd of shorthorn cattle, two horses, chickens (you can collect eggs whenever you want), two Gloucestershire Old Spots as well as beautifully protected hedgerows, maintained expertly by Richard. In fact, Richard will happily take guests on a tour of the farm, explaining how it works, what lifestock and crops he grows and also what farming is like in today’s world.
On Tuesdays and Saturdays, Richard and Tamara host Pizza Night where you can create your own pizza and have it cooked in the wood-fired pizza oven. And when you run out of supplies like milk, charcoal or wine, you can head to the well-stocked honesty shop in the barn.
When we stayed, we weren’t fortunate with the weather – it hit two degrees overnight. However, the fire and the duvets kept us going until a hot cuppa and cooked breakfast in the morning.
Nearby Romsey hosts a Farmer’s Market every weekend, plus a large Waitrose if you want to stock up on other necessities.
Highlights for the children were definitely collecting eggs from the chickens. In fact, our son gave names to all of them and is campaigning for us to get some chickens at home. The secret rope swing down the lane was also fun. But perhaps what we and the children probably enjoyed most was the sense of freedom they were able to have, running off to enjoy the countryside, with us knowing that they could play in the copse or fields without us hovering nearby.
Tamara and Richard were fabulous hosts – nothing was too much trouble and they were incredibly knowledgeable about the area and the land that’s been in the family for years.
We have forged some happy memories at Gambledown Farm and definitely hope to be back.
Whether it’s cushions, glasses or a new sofa, Maison Du Monde has long been the go-to store for stylish interiors fans. So it’s no surprise that their latest kids’ collection is absolutely gorgeous.
In 2016 the French brand added a children’s range, but the latest offering is the most extensive they have designed to date.
Now for the first time you’ll find styles that cater for babies through to teens with the 2019 junior ‘universe’ collection. This includes everything from furniture and lighting, bedlinen and curtains to cushions and amazing accessories that complete the look of each room perfectly.
For the nursery we love the clever modular cot and changing table combo that is both practical and chic. The lovely neutral and pastel colours are perfect for a little one’s room.
Moving on to older children you’ll find brighter colours and innovative designs. Themes include ‘Marine’, ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Dreams’. Little girls will love the ‘mermaid’ room set and for boys there’s ‘dinos’.
They have teens sussed too with super cool monochrome mixed with metal and pale wood to give a sophisticated New York loft look.
But our favourite part of the collection is the outdoor range. Now you can create the most fantastic kid’s space in your garden with mini deckchairs, tepees and tables in bright, fun colours. There is also plastic tableware for the grooviest pic nic ever.
And the final great thing about Maison Du Monde? It doesn’t’ cost the earth. Their products are all well-made and functional, but not ridiculously expensive, making it even easier to introduce your youngsters to amazing interior design in their own rooms.
The school holidays are just around the corner which means we will all have kids to keep entertained 24/7. But don’t let the thought of endless ‘what are we doing now mummy’ questions send you into a panic. We’ve got your back and will be sharing lots of ways to keep you children boredom-free (and your sanity intact) this summer.
First up check out the fantastic My Busy Bots. Founded by two mums, this clever company create award-winning ‘busy bags’ containing fun, educational activities that will encourage learning through play. These bags engage your little ones and keep them having fun, learning and occupied – very important when you have weeks of school holidays to fill.
Colourful and fun, they are an excellent resource and can be used either at home or on the go – they’re perfect for keeping children happy and absorbed while you’re in a restaurant, airport or travelling.
Each includes an activity with all the relevant materials required and an information card. Suitable for children aged 18 months – 8 years old with an age indication on each bag.
We will definitely be pulling a few of these out of our hand luggage this summer.
All the mummy’s out there who enjoy designing and decorating their children’s bedrooms as much as any other room in the house will fall in love with Hibou Home instantly.
This amazing interiors brand has everything you need to create the dream bedroom or playroom for your little ones. We can’t get enough of the linen canopies that can either drape over a bed or in a corner with cushions inside to create a cosy little den. Their range of fabric and wallpaper feature the most beautiful designs and illustrations – all very tasteful with Scandi influences.
Hibou Home is a real one-stop-shop, packed with inspiration for a nursery or older children’s rooms, . Their experts are also happy to give you decorating advice so if you are planning a room revamp then definitely pay them a visit online.
When they aren’t running around barefoot on the beach this summer, our children will be wearing Cienta canvas pumps.
These classic children’s plimsols are stylish and practical in equal measure. Adorably cute, but also wonderfully practical, they come in a range of colours for boys and girls aged 12 months to 12 year.
A Spanish classic, these shoes are now worn all over the world and made from all-natural materials. We love that they go in the washing machine and even hold a little surprise – a natural fragrance is injected into rubber during production and the soles smell of berries! So cute.
We take a look at the best family holiday destinations, starting with Ibiza
Summer holidays seem to be the main topic of conversation at the moment don’t they? Where you are going, when, and for how long. Closely followed by the all-important ‘what’s it like for the kids’ ’cause let’s face it, if the kids aren’t well catered for then mum and dad aren’t going to be having that much fun either.
So, we have decided to put together some features about some of our favourite family holiday destinations. Even if you are booked up for this year, this may give you some ideas for next.
First up is Ibiza where our editor Morag Turner heads off to every summer with her husband and three sons.
What makes Ibiza so special?
This island off the coast of Spain has become one of the most popular family holiday destinations in the Med. And for good reason. The laidback vibe and child-friendly atmosphere makes it an ideal place to go to with kids of any age. Yes, it’s famous for its clubs and nightlife, but these days you’ll find just as many families chilling out on the beach as ravers heading for the party scene. Ibiza’s natural beauty combined with great hotels, restaurants and endless activities make it the perfect place to everyone from babies to teenagers.
Ibiza has 80 stunning beaches. From secluded coves to long sandy stretches, they are picture perfect. Simply rock up a and pop your towel on the sand or rent a sun lounger for the day for around €10 to €15.
A firm family favourite is Cala Vadella in the South West which sits on a charming little bay with a very gradual incline into the sea – ideal for younger children. There are a number of great places for lunch right on the beach such as the Maya Beach Club, or simply nip into the village supermarket to grab some sandwiches for the kids to eat on the lounger.
Just a few minutes around the corner is Cala d’Hort, a dreamy little beach with views of Es Vedra, a rock just off the shore that reaches out of the sea and is said to have mystical powers. The restaurant on the beach, El Carmen, does a cracking paella but book a table as soon as you arrive at the beach because it’s a favourite with locals too.
Head further up the west coast to discover Cala Bassa, an amazing long sandy beach that is also home to one of the island’s best beach clubs, CBbC
You’ll find cool shops, a restaurant and bar and sun beds with waiter service. Just a few steps further along the sand you can hire jet skis and arrange other water sports. Cala Bassa has something for everyone to enjoy. This is the kind of place where you arrive in the morning and leave after sunset already planning your next visit.
Talking of sunsets, another spot on the West coast that is famous for its glorious evening vistas is Sunset Ashram on Cala Conta. It’s one of the island’s most popular restaurants. During the day the beach is packed with locals who love the crystal clear water and snorkelling. Then by evening the restaurant takes on a cool, hippy vibe as the sun goes down with chill-out tunes and great cocktails. A very cool spot to hang out until the day draws in and the kids get tired.
If the hippy scene is your thing – and even if you don’t think it is, when you’re in Ibiza you’ll suddenly love embracing it – then head to the north of the island to Benirrás beach. Every Sunday evening this sheltered bay is home to musicians who come to ‘drum down the sunset’.
This iconic hippie ritual has become a real tourist attraction but yet still feels very upspoit and relaxed. Even if the music doesn’t appeal, the beach is a gorgeous place to while away the hours and don’t forget to pop into the Elements restaurant which has a fantastic menu and is super kid friendly.
Where to Stay
There are so many different accommodation options in Ibiza that are great for families, with something to suit every budget and taste. From traditional to minimalist, you’ll find it all on the White Isle.
For those want peace and privacy a villa is the ideal option. There are thousands of them scattered all over the area. Unlike France and Greece, not that many have gated pools, so you’ll have to do a bit of research to find one of those. Rental companies such as Unique Ibiza Villas and Ibiza Rural Villas are a great place to start. Or check out Air BnB where you’ll find a huge selection of villas and apartments.
If you would prefer a hotel or bed and breakfast, again there are lots to choose from. Thompsons, Thomas Cook and Jet2holidays all offer packages to family friendly resorts.
Fun for all the Family
If the beach isn’t enough to amuse your gang then there are tons of other activities to get up to.
Kids love a waterpark and there are a couple of good ones to choose from. Aguamar (next to Space nightclub), in Playa d’en Bossa, has plenty of parking, a range of different slides and pools (including paddling pools for smaller kids), picnic areas, a decent restaurant and a play park.
For kids and adults who can swim, Ocean Mania Waterpark in San Antonio is great fun, and is essentially an inflatable playground in the sea. The park is a bit like an assault course, and the inflatable circuit has rope swings, trampolines, balancing beams and slides.
For a really fun day out head to In S’Argamassa, between Santa Eulalia and Es Canar in the east of the island, where the Acrobosc Adventure Park has an exciting set-up in the pine trees involving ziplines, trampolines, slides, nets, ladders, climbing walls, tightropes and rope bridges. There are three circuits of graded difficulty to suit children from three years old up to teenagers – although adults can join in the fun too. Everyone is kitted out with harnesses and tuition is provided before letting them loose.
If you fancy trying out horse-riding, then Active Ibiza offer amazing sessions that cater for complete beginners right through to more experienced riders. The kids’ package has basic tuition provided in the paddock before a gentle trek on small horses, with a maximum of four children in the group. The route through the interior of the island leads through fields and farmland. A great thing to do if you fancy a break from the beach.
One of the nicest ways to see Ibiza is from the sea. Often you will find small dinghies available to hire along with paddle boards from the water sports companies found on most of the larger beaches. There are also lots of companies that offer boat trips, charters or let you to hire your own small boat for the day. Star Boats Ibiza have great little six person boats that you can hire without a licence just to stay close to shore and potter in an out of the coves. It costs €180 for the morning which isn’t cheap, but is a lot less expensive than chartering a larger boat and is such great fun.
However, if you do fancy hopping aboard a speedboat or yacht, get in touch with the likes of Charteralia or Smart Charter Ibiza who will sort you out with skipper and take you on a fantastic tour of the island and beyond.
Pop over to Formentera
Ibiza’s little sister island Formentera is definitely worth at least a day trip. It’s small, unspoilt and has stunning beaches with great restaurants. A really fun day out. There are lots of different ways to reach it by boat but for a simple, inexpensive day trip try Aqua Bus Ferry Boats who do regular trips back and forth from a few ports on Ibiza and as well as various excursions. When you are there head to Besso Beach Club for great people watching and wonderful food.
Visit the Old Town
No trip to the White Isle is complete without a trip to the beautiful Old town with its narrow cobbled streets lined with wonderful little restaurants and boutiques. Head there early evening if you are taking the kids and enjoy a lovely stroll around the marina and the old city walls before it gets busy later on.
Ibiza is shopping heaven and the markets are the best place to pick up some unusual holiday buys. Think floaty kaftans, beach bags and beaded bracelets as well as artisan homewares.
There are markets on most days all over the island but one of the best is Las Dalias hippy market in San Carlos. It’s home to around 200 stalls where you can find crafts from all over the globe, clothes and antiques. It’s open every Saturday and weekday evenings during the summer.
Another shopping experience that’s a real must-see is Sluiz in Santa Gertrudis, a picturesque little village in the centre of the island.
This store is an eclectic treasure trove of homeware and fashion that has become a real destination for those looking to take back something special from their holiday. Definitely check it out.
Check out these website for more general information on Ibiza as well as villa rentals.
To celebrate the launch of a new vegan menu for kids, wagamama unveils the top 30 vegan foods to try before you’re 12
To mark the launch of its brand-new vegan children’s menu, wagamama is inspiring little noodlers nationwide by revealing the top 30 plant-based foods to try before they’re 12. The carefully curated list aims to encourage kids to be more playful with their palettes with a selection of fun flavours, crisp and crunchy textures.
Working with Specialist Paediatric Dietitian Bahee Van de Bor, wagamama has devised a colourful combination of exciting foods and flavours to encourage children to go outside their cuisine comfort zone. The vegan list was carefully selected based on natural, unprocessed foods, with a focus on ingredients that are nutritionally beneficial for children on a plant-based diet.
The new children’s menu also includes the tofu challenge, where kids are encouraged to try a piece of tofu in vegetable broth for free at all restaurants across the UK.
wagamama top 30 things to try before you’re 12
1. Tofu – For protection against heart disease and also help reduce bone loss
2. Edamame– Useful snack for kids as an additional way to sneak in protein into children’s diets
3. Sesame seeds– Contribute iron and zinc but also a range of vitamins and minerals
4. Peanuts– Rich in antioxidants and a good source of zinc
5. Guava – High in Vitamin C which is an immune booster and protects from infection, such as the regular coughs and colds
6. Banana– The prebiotic fibre in bananas help the growth of friendly “good” bacteria in the gut to help maintain a healthy digestive system
7. Broccoli – At least 50% of calcium present in broccoli is absorbed by the body. A nutritious vegetable with multiple vitamins
8. Spinach – High in iron, which is important for transporting oxygen around the body
9. Sweet potato – Rich in beta-carotene, a vitamin important for immunity and vision
10. Red split lentils– Rich in iron and a great source of fibre
11. All beans: chickpeas, butter beans, haricot, adzuki– Excellent source of plant protein and carbohydrate with soluble fibre – supporting a healthy central nervous system and children’s learning capacity
12. Soba Noodles – High in fibre and also higher in protein compared to standard wheat based noodles
13. Beets – Nitrates in beets are thought to help promote cognitive function
14. Carrots – Rich in vitamin A, fat-soluble vitamin that children require for vision, immunity as well as normal growth and development
15. Amaranth – High protein grain that is complete with all essential amino acids and antioxidants
16. Oats – Contains beta-glucan fibre which helps prevent constipation
17. Blueberries – Overall beneficial for heart health, brain function, low in calories and anti-inflammatory properties
18. Mango – High vitamin A content making it a great food source for immunity, healthy hair and skin
19. Walnuts – Perfect ratio of the essential omega-3 fats to help the body make DHA that has an important role in brain development
20. Almonds– One of the best sources of vitamin E foods (23.9mg/100g) but is also rich in iron
21. Apple – Most of the fibre and antioxidants are on the skin, so encourage kids to eat with the skin left on
22. Passion fruit– Vitamin A is important for immunity, vision and healthy skin
23. Mushrooms– An affordable source of selenium with a “meaty” texture
24. Bell peppers– The vitamin C in bell peppers also helps the absorption of iron from plant foods
25. Artichoke– An excellent source of fibre that help feed the healthy bacteria in the gut
26. Kale– The calcium in kale is highly bioavailable with at least 50-60% is absorbed
27. Butternut squash – A nutritious food for kids that is high in both vitamin A and is a source of vitamin E and potassium
28. Aubergine– especially rich in anthocyanins, a type of pigment with antioxidant properties that’s responsible for their vibrant colour
29. Rapeseed oil– Rich in poly and mono fats, it is also a source of parent omega-3 fats which the body can convert to a small extent to DHA (DHA has a role in the normal development of the brain and eyes)
30. Calcium fortified plant drink– Children following a plant-based diet require a reliable source of calcium such as soy or oat-based calcium enriched drink
Here at City Kids we love Matt Coyne’s hilarious book Man vs Toddler. It hits all the rights notes and will have parents everywhere in nodding recognition of the highs and lows of family life.
So in honour of Father’s Day, we asked Matt to choose an extract from the book to give us readers some idea of what it’s like to be a dad.
Here’s a weird thing: when you’re a man on your own, some people assume that you can’t possibly be in charge of a baby or toddler. Twice now someone’s had a go at me for parking in parent/child spaces when I’ve actually got Charlie in the back seat. They see a man pull in and assume that I am just another childless dickhead taking advantage of the space.
I was in Asda car park just last month when, upon arrival, a woman knocked on my window before I could even turn the engine off.
‘Excuse me! You know these spaces are for people with children?’ she demanded.
I literally had to point my thumb in to the back of the car and say: ‘What’s that? A fucking cat?’
WHAT IS A DAD?
It is odd that in 2019 so many people struggle to comprehend the idea of dads being in sole charge of their own kids.
As a man who often has Charlie on my own I come across this attitude all the time. It’s usually not malicious, just ingrained. And so I might be asked things like: ‘Ooh, is it daddy and son day today?’ or ‘Ah, bless, are you giving mummy a break?’ These questions are normally asked with a patronising nod – as though I am being humoured – like I’m the local fuckwit taking his pet brick for a walk.
When Charlie was very little, I was even asked a couple of times if I was ‘being mummy for the day’. To which I was tempted to respond, ‘Yes, apologies for the damp circles on my Def Leppard T-shirt, I’m currently lactating.’
This last example I find one of the strangest. It speaks volumes that there are people, in this very century, who would describe a man parenting as ‘being mummy for the day’. As though dads are not really parents but temporarily assuming the role and just putting on a costume like Mrs Doubtfire.
One thing is certain, Lyns would never be asked the same questions: ‘Is it mummy and son day today?’ or ‘Aww, bless, are you giving daddy a break?’ It just wouldn’t happen. There is a sense that this is the correct order of things.
Another variation on these questions I’m asked is: “So, where’s mummy today?’ This seems like a pretty innocent enquiry. But again, I doubt Lyns would ever be asked the same thing, just because she is out with Charlie alone. In truth, the subtext to this is obvious: ‘Where’s the real parent today numbnuts?’
I remember that the first time I was asked this particular question was by a cashier in Home Bargains and it confused me completely. When she casually inquired Where’s mum today?’ I genuinely thought she must know my own mother and was actually asking about her. It’s no wonder she looked so confused when I answered that she was at home and that she’d just phoned me to say that her arthritis was acting up, the neighbours were still acting suspicious and she couldn’t find her teeth.
(It is only in hindsight that I understand her horror. Particularly, when from her point of view I went on to mention that we’d just celebrated my wife’s seventieth.)
Interestingly, Lyndsay is also asked questions that I would never hear if the positions were reversed. So if she is out alone and without Charlie she will often be asked: ‘Is dad/Matt babysitting today?’
Okay, I object to being called a ‘babysitter’ for a few reasons. Not least because I’m a forty-odd-year-old man and not a fifteen-year-old girl with braces, twirling her hair and covering her school books with pictures of Zayn from One Direction because he’s super dreamy (although, in fairness, he is super dreamy).
But my main problem with being called a babysitter is that it is to be considered something less than a parent. When I have Charlie I have exactly the same responsibilities that Lyndsay does. Important stuff like feeding him, watering him, changing him, making sure he doesn’t jump off a motorway bridge chasing a fucking bee, that sort of thing. And yet whereas Lyndsay is parenting, I can be described as ‘babysitting’.
And these are not my only objections. I also object because, and forgive me if I’m wrong, but one of the defining characteristics of a ‘babysitter’ is that they get paid. I do not get paid for looking after Charlie. Fair enough, I could write something touching here about how every moment with Charlie is priceless and I am paid in the glowing love of my child. But, yesterday I was’ paid’ by being shat on in Debenhams and by Charlie pouring his Ribena down the arse of my jeans as I was trying to retrieve a plastic stegosaurus from under the settee.
And this is the point: it’s hard this dad-babysitting lark, almost as hard as parenting. In fact, it is as hard as parenting because guess what? When I’m being shat on in Debenhams or lying on the floor having pissing Ribena poured down my arse-crack…it’s exactly the same fucking thing.
For me, a father is not a babysitter any more than a mother is. And there is a growing movement, that includes mums and dads, who agree that it is impossible to ‘babysit’ your own children. I’m not particularly militant about this sort of thing but they’ve got a point. Their slogan is ‘Dads don’t babysit, they parent’ and this is not just semantics. There is a problem with reducing a father to the role of babysitter and it’s not just that it might hurt a dad’s feelings (we can handle that shit, we’re men and into car engines and stuff…grr).
The real problem is that it suggests that a dad’s role is something lesser. That it is a novelty for a dad to look after his own kid. It is something outside the natural order. And those who suffer most from this attitude? Mums. It reinforces the idea that dads are a backup plan rather than 50/50 partners in parenting, the secondary alternative for when mums, like Lyns, want to go off and do something really selfish like be ill or work. Dads are the spare.
Well, Lyndsay isn’t selfish. I’m not the spare. And I don’t babysit.
In an ideal world we would all have the time to rustle up wonderful nutritious meals for our little ones from scratch. But we would also have a house that cleans itself and teleporter to help out with the school run.
But yet despite not always have the opportunity to cook the perfect meals for our kids, we certainly don’t want to compromise by opting for processed food that really isn’t that healthy.
It’s for this reason that the founders of Little Tummy decided to create exactly the kind of grub that mums want to feed their babies.
Developed by a paediatrician Dr Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, the food is cold pressured to ensure freshness, delivered direct to your door nationwide and is no more expensive than preparing it at home.
Unlike super-processed alternatives, which dominate the market, none of the meals they make are ever heat-treated. What does this mean for your little one? It allows the meals to retain essential vitamins, textures and flavours from the fresh ingredients.
Each weekly subscription box contains either seven, 14 or 21 Little Tummy meals depending how many of them you want your baby to have per day – maybe just one if you are also cooking from scratch. Boxes start from £25 for a one-off of seven meals or £20 if you subscribe. Expect pureed meals like kale and apple, sweet potato, mango and red lentil and apple and millet. All are suitable from six months and are perfect for introducing your baby to food and new tastes.
If you are heading off to a wedding, christening or special occasion with your kids this summer then you’re probably on the hunt for something suitable for them to wear. We have found just the place. Rocco clothing has literally everything you could need to dress your youngsters for a smart event.
For boys there is a great selection of suits, from page boy outfits and tuxedos to linen and three pieces. Girls are spoilt for choice too with beautiful silky and toile dress in a gorgeous selection of colours. Babies are also covered from just three months with adorable outfits, including those perfect for their own Christening.
With shoes and accessories available too, Roco is a one-stop-shop that is well worth committing to memory for when a special initiation lands on the mat.
So the weather has not exactly been great of late but we are staying optimistic (and praying!) that it will improve by the time the summer holidays arrive and we will be able to send the kids outside to play in the garden or take them off to the park for the day.
So we love the new outdoor toys and play sets from Muddy Puddles. For example their ‘Original Den Kit’, £40, provides everything you need to build a den and includes a green haversack bag containing a camouflage tarpaulin, a waterproof groundsheet, a wooden mallet, a mug, a tube of face paint, a rope, 8 tent pegs, a ten peg bag and instructions. Perfect for little adventurers who want to live the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ dream.
While the ‘About Bugs’ kit includes a cloth net for catching an all manner of creepy crawlies, which can then be transferred to the magnified collection jar for a closer look. Using the beautifully illustrated cards, containing facts about over 100 bugs common to the UK and Europe, your mini beasts can be identified. Educational and fun at the same time.
There are lots more outdoor fun toys too so have a look at their website and stock up for that long hot summer of play outside that we are all desperate for!
Boden win gold in ‘The People’s Champion Award’ for Chelsea in Bloom
The Kings Road shop front, designed by florist Willow Crossley, has been transformed into a beautiful coral reef for Chelsea in Bloom, a floral art show which sees participants transform the streets of Chelsea. The theme this year is Under the Sea. Floral sea urchins, barnacles and corals are growing out of Boden’s shop windows spreading on to the pavement below.
To coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show there will also be a series of events taking place at Boden the same week. There will be complimentary coffee, floral workshops, live singing and pianist, styling appointments and personalised plates to take away.
For further details on the competition and to vote, please see below:
Inspired by two young Mini Boden fans, the retailer has launched a competition to find slogans for new t-shirts supporting Mental Health issues.
When Willow and Rose recently made contact with Mini Boden, suggesting some empowering T-shirt slogans for kids, they probably thought there wouldn’t be much of a response. However, the popular retailer loved their words about what it means to be a child today, that they made the t-shirts a reality!
And to support UK Mental Health Awareness Week, Mini Boden has launched a compeitition to find more empowering slogans from their would-be Mini wordsmiths.
The winning entry will be printed onto Mini Boden tees, and launched during World Mental Health Awareness Week in October. A donation from the sale of each T-shirt will go to Boden’s charity partner, the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. This amazing charity equips young people with the knowledge they need to look after their mental and emotional wellbeing. It focuses on helping young people recognise the importance of talking to and caring for one another.
For further details on the competition and the link to the competition form, please see below:
Our weekly guide rounding up some of the best cool things for your little ones.
The Cutest Clips
How amazing are these hair clips from Mille Deux? This gorgeous Danish brand was born in 2014 when the founder decided she wanted to create beautiful hair accessories for her little girl.
They make everything from classic grosgrain bows in every colour under the sun to novelty clips – think ballerinas, pencils and even lobsters for summer. We love the Liberty print ones too. Boys aren’t left out either – they get satin and velvet bow ties. In fact, Mille Deux make such pretty things that we want them for ourselves. Hair clips are bang on trend after all!
Pyjamarama with the Book Trust
Every child should have a bedtime story. Reading with children at any time of day is so important for their development, but there is something particularly special about that last story of the day before they fall asleep and hopefully dream about all the adventures they’ve just listened to.
That’s why we love the work that the Book Trust do. They are the UK’s largest children’s reading charity and each year reach 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support.
Friday 7th June is their annual ‘Pyjamarama’, when children of all ages go to school or nursery in their PJs and donate a £1 to the Trust. Kids are encouraged to makes extra time for reading that day too. It’s great fun for a great cause.
You can download a fundraising pack from their website booktrust.org.uk or approach your school and ask if they fancy joining in.
The day is being supported by the likes of Cyberjammies who will donate £1 for every pair of their lovely PJs sold online. The offer runs from 13th May to 17th June so if you are looking for some really nice new sleepwear for you kiddies then take a look and you’ll also be supporting a great charity.
Polo Fun Time
A day at the polo is always super. The sport and the atmosphere are both great. So why not take your little ones along too? London’s top kids’ entertainers Sharky and George are back for their 10th year at Chesterton’s Polo in the Park at the Hurlingham Club in Putney ensuring your kids have a ton of fun.
Taking place on each of the three days, their “Little Hooves Club” will feature every child’s favourite activities such as a bouncy castle, fantastic face painting, a soft play zone, a giant inflatable assault course, a brilliant arts and craft area for children to get more creative and the return of ‘the pink panther slide’.
On Finals Day (Sunday 9 June) is where family is firmly put first with a kiddie pitch invasion in the morning before the action kicks off. It’s set to be a grand finale of fun for children of all ages with activities including a space hopper steeplechase and a tug of war.
Summer Style For Less
We like to keep you posted on any fab bargains we come across. Right now Polarn O Pyret are running a great summer discount event with 25% off all their summer clothes until Sunday 19th May. Think T-shirts, shorts, dresses and swimwear in lovely summery colours and cool prints. Plus sun hats and sandals.
The Swedish brand’s huge range goes from 0 to 12 and is great for both girls and boys. If you need a new raincoat or want to be super organised and pick up some cosy kit for autumn, then there is 30% of selected outerwear too. Our kids wear Polarn O Pyret’s clothes, so we can personally recommend them. Great quality as well as being super stylish.
With it being Museum Week and all, we wanted to share with you our top family friendly museums to visit in London. The best bit…they are all FREE!
National Army Museum
This museum, located in Chelsea, had a major refurb in 2017 and wow did they do an incredible job in upping their family appeal. The museum explores British Military history from the English Civil War up to modern day and with the continuous interactives throughout, there is really, never a dull moment for the little ones. The subject matter is a little raw but they do a great job at addressing it well to children. From marching in a drill, climbing under tanks, dressing up, playing the drums, to sorting your rations, the galleries do a wonderful job of engaging the kiddies. They provide activity backpacks for different age ranges that are an excellent addition when exploring the galleries and there is also the super Play Base area, an immersive experience for ages 8 and under, which includes a soft play assault course, climbing aboard an army truck and preparing food in the cookhouse. Top Tip If you want to make it a totally free day, take a picnic. Battersea Park is just a 12 minute walk away.
National Maritime Museum
Ah Greenwich, what a wonderful place to visit and it is home to this brilliant free museum to boot. Be sure to get in full on sailor mode as you explore fascinating stories of explorations at sea. The museum is full to the brim with family friendly exhibits and information, from the Great Map with boats the kids can sit on, a boat simulator and a chance to come face to face with the greats, Cook, Nelson and Columbus. There is literally something for everyone. The AHOY Children’s Gallery for 0-7’s is a little haven for the smalls (just be aware it is only free weekdays, there is a very small fee on weekends and bank holidays) and the All Hands Children Gallery aimed at ages 6 – 12 is great fun too even for slightly younger children. Top Tip They are always running really good family friendly events so totally recommend checking online before you go so you don’t miss out on any.
The Horniman Museum can be found in Forest Hill and includes displays of anthropology, natural history, musical. It houses the private collection of Frederick Horniman, a Victorian tea trader who filled up his whole house with fascinating objects such as stuffed animals, Egyptian mummies and musical instruments. The totally eclectic mix of exhibits is its major appeal and with a wide range of galleries there is always something new to explore. We love the hands-on space in the Music Gallery where the children can make as much noise as they like with various instruments and the World Gallery, that celebrates life all over the world. Then there are the gardens which are just beautiful on a sunny day. There is a little Animal Walk for the kids and plenty of space for picnics. On top of that there are regular activities on weekends, such as Hands on Base, where children can touch and explore objects and Art Makers, where you can explore art techniques as a family. Top Tip Don’t miss the Walrus! It’s also worth noting there is an aquarium and they always have family friendly exhibits running. The current exhibition is Brick Wonders, which is perfect for any little Lego lovers out there, unfortunately both this and the aquarium require a small fee.
Museum of Childhood
Ahhh so much nostalgia in one place, this East London museum does a fantastic job in appealing to not only children, but adults too. From My Little Pony, to Care Bears you will be in reminiscing heaven in this museum that houses the largest collection of childhood objects in the UK ranging from the 1600’s to the present day. With plenty for the little ones to get their hands on, you can happily run around for a couple of hours lapping it all in alongside your child. It is the perfect balance of not being too big that it is over powering or too small that you get bored quickly. Interactives include a sensory area, building blocks, rocking horses and a sandpit. They run daily activities such as storytelling and arts and crafts and family friendly events in the holidays. They are also in the process of having a major redevelopment with an aim to becoming a world-leading museum of design and creativity for children and families. Watch this space! Top Tip Make sure you grab one of their free family backpacks and trails from the helpdesk.
Museum of London Docklands
Canary Wharf is not only home to some of the tallest buildings in London but also to this fantastic little gem of a museum, which explores the history of London’s River Thames. For some reason this museum always seems a little quieter than most and that alone makes it more enjoyable as a family. The Mudlark’s Gallery, an interactive space for children up to 8 is fantastic. In this gallery children can load a tea clipper, tie nautical knots and weigh cargo whilst learning museum facts in a fun and engaging environment. Babies and toddlers are also well catered for with their soft play area and with recent interactives added to the galleries such as fancy dress, drawing and building a bridge, it has become an even bigger family friendly attraction. To top it all off their regular family events are amazing from family raves, pirate takeovers and a beautiful Santa’s Grotto at Christmas. Top Tip Don’t miss Sailor Town, a recreation of the old docks from the 19thcentury. You are instantly transported back in time as you wander through the atmospheric streets.
And last but by no means least, we are huge fans of Tate Britain, well both Tate’s actually but this one for us is more accessible. This art museum is the home of British art from 1500 to the present day and is a great space for those little legs to run around in. We love the easels in the 1840 display, where anyone can pick up a pencil and paper and draw to their hearts content. They also do a brilliant ‘Explore the Gallery’ session for under 5’s on the first Saturday of every month, such a fun and creative way for children to explore the gallery. Top Tip The ‘Explore the Gallery’ sessions get booked up super quick so be ready to book as soon as the tickets go up or alternatively do what we do and sneak in on the day, they generally let you in…at your own risk though of course.
Here’s this week’s City Kids Edit, a round-up of things to do, see, wear, buy and enjoy.
Visiting: Alex and Alexa
Last week I popped into the Alex and Alexa A/W press day. If you don’t know Alexa and Alexa yet, it’s a one-stop-shop for amazing kids’ fashion, home wear and toys. One of our favourite places to shop of little ones.
I loved seeing all their super cool brands – I’m drawn to kids’ ski wear like a month to a flame even though it’s spring – the children’s Perfect Moment Sports range is so colourful and fun. Definitely one to keep in mind for winter. I also spotted some fab tops and shorts from the likes of Stella McCartney and Veja trainers that are ideal for summer.
Later this month Alex and Alexa will exclusively launch the new kids’ collection from celebrity mum Kimberly Walsh. Great casual kit for both boys and girls. We predict it will fly off the shelves.
Giving: A Nobel Macmillan Baby Book
So we all have Royal baby fever don’t we?! There is just something so lovely about a new baby isn’t there? My darling little nephew was born four months ago so I’m very lucky to be able to get cuddles on a regular basis. Such a treat now my boys are that bit older.
One of the gifts I bought my sister was a beautiful personalised leather baby book from Noble Macmillan, so she can record all the milestones from first smiles to first steps. It’s such a joy watching this little chap grow and change every day and I know she will love looking back on a record of it all when he is older.
If you know someone having a baby then this is a great gift.
Exploring: London’s museums with a great little book
On Sunday I took my boys to visit the Tower of London. It was fantastic day out. They loved exploring the grounds and listening to the amazing the Beefeater telling tales of all the gruesome goings on and beheadings at the Tower. It was such an adventure for them.
All kids love a good day out a museum or gallery if it’s kept exciting and fun – not stuffy and dull. That’s why I love the idea of the new ‘Take Me To The Museum’ book from Agnes and Aubrey, £8.95 It’s a beautifully illustrated book that acts as a guide and journal as every time you take your little one to visit a new museum you start a new chapter where they are encouraged to explore, ask questions and record their thoughts by writing or drawing what they have seen and learnt. From the exhibits to the building and even the café, the book really helps children to open their eyes to their surroundings. And it’s the perfect size to pop in a backpack.
I have lots of exciting trips and adventures around London planned for my boys over the summer holidays and will be sure to take this clever little book with us each time we visit somewhere new.
Shopping: Wiggy Kit
If you are looking for a beautiful, elegant summer dress, then check out this brand. The new collection has just arrived and it features all the lovely prints, flowing linen and stylish silk that Wiggy Kit is known for.
When we were in the Bahamas at Easter they were shooting the new collection on the beach next to our hotel and I spotted a few pieces I plan to add to my summer wardrobe.
Have a look at their website and you’re bound to fall in love with the brand too. Now we just need some sunshine so we can actually wear some nice summery clothes!
Baby Sussex has arrived! Huge congratulations to Meghan and Harry on the birth of their baby boy. Right now they will be in the lovely new parent bubble, gazing at their little son, completely amazed that they have created a perfect little person. It’s a blissful, even if slightly surreal time, and one to be treasured.
So far, no pics of the new prince. Good for them, for opting to keep the birth and those special early days private and personal for as long as possible. This precious time should be afforded to all new parents, even if they are one of the most famous couples in the world.
Because even though she’s a princess, Meghan’s experience of birth and new motherhood won’t be that different from any other woman’s – she will undoubtedly get cracked nipples and the baby blues just like the rest of us.
The early days spent adjusting to enormity of becoming a mum can be both wonderful and difficult in equal measure. Here are some of the ways we think new mothers – even royal ones – can make it easier for themselves.
Make sure you have mates who are on (exactly) the same page
Mum mates, with babies pretty much the same age, will keep you sane in the early days and beyond. This is why you do antenatal classes, be they NHS, NCT, The Happy Birth club or some other private group. It’s not so you can chat hypothetically about the birth beforehand, it’s so you can talk about what really happened afterwards. As well as everything else that new motherhood brings with it – the good and the bad.
You need women around you who can sympathise when you cry about being up all night feeding a screaming baby or that your stiches haven’t healed and you can’t sit down properly. Discussing your birth and life in the immediate aftermath with other women who are in the same boat creates the strongest bonds of friendship you can imagine. You are there for each other in a way that no one else is. Even your oldest, dearest friends who possibly have their own kids already won’t quite get it if they aren’t living through it.
Mention how many mls of formula your baby took at 3.26am and most people will glaze over pretty quickly – other new mums will understand the importance. Bring up piles/cracked nipples/night sweats and they won’t wince and head for the nearest exit.
Take a social media break
We know the Sussex’s are fans of Instagram – their new account has six million followers already. But for her own sanity we would urge Meghan and all new mums to take a complete break from social media.
It’s quite hard to scroll through pics of other women looking super slim and fabulous when your tummy feels like jelly and your boobs are leaking. Yes, you will get back to feeling and looking (pretty much) like your old self at some point in the future but with your hormones raging and feeling exhausted and sore, it can be hard to remember that. Seeing carefully curated images of others looking gorgeous is just not a great idea – even if you are a stunning princess/actress.
But almost more importantly, social media is just a total waste of time when you have a beautiful new baby to gaze at. Post pics of your newborn if you want to but certainly don’t feel any pressure to do so. We live in a crazy time where everyone is expected to announce life events online, but the world won’t stop turning if you step off for a while and just focus on being with your little one and taking care of yourself. You have nothing to prove so you don’t need to get dressed, put make up on and take ‘hashtag newmummy’ pics unless you actually want to.
Good on Meghan for not partaking in any of that so far. She is keeping her baby away from the media until she feels ready to introduce him to the world and we think it would be a good idea for all new mums to follow her lead and give themselves a break from the pressures of social media.
Let people take care of you too
Meghan is bound to have plenty of people to take care of her after the birth of her baby. There will be Harry and her mum Gloria as well as a team of staff to cook and clean, leaving her to focus on looking after her little son and, importantly, recover from the birth.
Very few new mums have a live-in cook or housekeeper, but it’s still vital to take it as easy as possible in the early days. Midwives recommend that ideally you spend the first two weeks in bed but for lots of women, especially those with other children, that’s not always an option.
All, however, should rest as much as possible and accept help from anyone who wants to give it. If a friend offers to drop off a meal or a walk the dog then accept the gesture. If no one offers then ask for help – most people will be all too willing. The phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is so true but is often forgotten as we try to juggle everything ourselves.
Ignore the pressure to ‘get back to normal’
While Meghan is unlikely to be loading the dishwasher or nipping to the shops, the pressure will be on to ‘get back to normal’ in other ways. People will comment on when she will resume Royal duties and on her figure – on how quickly she ‘springs back into shape’.
All of this presumes that she will somehow ‘get back’ to what she was before. She won’t and neither should she want to. Becoming a mum changes you physically and mentally in so many ways. Of course, you are still you, but an altered version who may well look, feel and think differently, if not forever then at least in the short term.
We really hope that Meghan is kind to herself as she adjusts to these changes in the way that all women should be. The whole world will be watching her, and while (thankfully) most women don’t face that level of scrutiny, there seems to be a constant pressure these days to bounce back to your old self. Get back to work; to the gym; to your social life.
Our advice to Meghan and to all new mums would be to ignore all this external pressure as much as you can. Take things at your own pace: listen to your body and your baby while you adjust to the most life changing event you’re ever likely to experience.
If you know someone who has just had a baby or a mum-to-be here are some truly useful (and lovely) gift ideas.
A gift box
Don’t Buy Her Flowers helps you put together boxes of goodies that mums actually want. For example, The Growing a Baby Package (from £21.40) with herbal teas, cooling foot cream and midwife Clemmie Hooper’s best-selling book How to Grow a Baby. Or the Recovery Package (from £48.50) with lots of lovely soothing products for tired bodies. You can select the items you want to make a bespoke box. We love the fact that you can add vouchers from ready meals company Cook, a godsend for any new mum who needs to eat healthy nutritious meals but doesn’t have time to make them.
This is one of the most useful things any new mum can have. We love the ones from Aden and Anais. These lovely soft material squares are multipurpose. You can use them to swaddle a newborn or tuck it under your baby’s chin when bottle feeding to catch any spills then pop it over your shoulder when winding to protect your clothes from any little dribbles.
In the summer, you can drape a muslin over the front of the pram to keep the sun out of your little one’s eyes or use it as a light weight blanket if the weather turns chilly.
And when you’re done bung it in the wash at 50 degrees and the straight in the tumble dryer afterwards. Easy to use and easy to look after. This is a gift that keeps on giving.
A breast feeding pillow
Supporting your back is a must when breast feeding so this Bbhugme Nursing Pillow is a godsend. It ties easily around the waist to give optimum support for your neck and shoulders whilst providing additional comfort for your baby. And with adjustable firmness this pillow adapts to your needs as your baby grows and is available in eight different colours. £63.95 from Scandiborn.
During Maternal Mental Health Week, Rhiane Kirkby speaks to two mothers who are offering wellbeing support
As a journalist, I’ve always hated the fact that in the world of public relations every week of the year has something attributed to it. Bug busting week, National Toast Week and even National Lost Sock Week are just some of the ‘stories’ to have graced my inbox of late. ‘Stories’ that I’m expected to cover, but don’t!
Before you shout me down – I know there are many worthy causes who gain much needed publicity this way and Maternal Mental Health Week, in my mind, is one of them. Until recently, talking about mental health issues in motherhood was taboo and admitting you were having problems – something to be ashamed of. But not anymore. Things are beginning to change and the stigma is slowly being broken down. “We’re getting better at asking for help and showing support and solidarity, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” explains Happiness Coach, Olivia Horne.
Thankfully, two London mums are ready to get stuck right in. They’re both on a mission to help others who may, like them, suffer mental health challenges in parenthood. “I struggled with my emotional wellbeing through the early years of motherhood,” says Sara Campin “and again when juggling the dual burdens of work and home. I was far from the mum I wanted to be. I was constantly shouty and stressed out.” Sara learnt the art of self-care which, she says, has changed her life and made a huge difference to her children.
Sara wanted to give other mums instant access to the wellbeing tools she worked so hard to find and in March launched a not-for-profit app, Nourish. In her words it’s “a place where mums can access help, advice and lots of tlc. A growing library of practical wellbeing tools from leading experts in the field – including positive psychology, yoga, mantras, mindfulness, nutrition and much, much more.”
Anna Ceesay also wants to turn her negative experiences in parenthood into something positive. She recently launched Motherdom, a magazine which “showcases all the amazing work in the maternal mental health and wellbeing world and starts to build a village around women who might struggle to ask for help.” Anna continues, “I suffered from low mood and anxiety during my second pregnancy but I was terrified to tell anyone because I felt like a failure as a mum. It took me a few months, but I did eventually reach out. I was lucky to get professional help, but that’s not the case for everyone.”
Both Sara and Anna hope that by speaking openly about their experiences they can break down this stigma surrounding maternal mental health and help mums see that the picture perfect parenthood depicted on social media is as far from reality as you can get. They want to give all mums easy access to knowledge, self-care tools and support so they can get the help they need when they need it.
The Nourish app is currently available for iPhone (download here), with Android launching later this summer. thenourishapp.com @thenourishapp
Motherdom is available here (both in print and online): motherdom.co.ukas well as in selected WHSmith stores.
Here’s the first City Kids Edit, a weekly round-up of things to do, see, wear, buy and enjoy, brought to you by editors Victoria and Morag.
As we are mums who live in and around London, we thought you might like to know what we get up to in the capital with our own kids. From the restaurants where we hang out with them and the exhibitions and events we all visit, to the clothes, toys and books we buy. There will also be some mum stuff too – where we like to shop, holiday ideas and what we are planning for the weekend. We hope to give you some fun parenting tips and inspiration.
Raising kids isn’t easy even when you have a supportive partner to share parenthood with, so choosing to go it alone is a huge decision for any woman to take. In her new book Going Solo Genevieve Roberts tells the story of how aged 37 she chose to use a sperm donor to have her daughter Astrid after being told her fertility levels were dwindling. Now pregnant with her second child from a donor, Genevieve describes in moving detail what embarking on motherhood alone is really like – from the pregnancy and birth to raising her daughter and the way others react to her family set up. It’s a really powerful, uplifting read about one woman’s journey to become a mum and I would recommend it.
I had hoped the heatwave would last and I’d be in my sandals from now until September, but since the temperature has dropped I’m back in my trusty Veja trainers. I’ve been a fan for about three years and am on to my fourth pair. The brand is all about sustainability and all of their shoes are made from materials ethically sourced from producers in Brazil. I could lie and say this is the sole reason I buy them, but in truth it’s because I love the simple, chic design and the iconic V on the side. Plus they are super comfy. Perfect for wearing with jeans on the school run or my leather skinnies to a meeting.
Still on the subject of footwear, great children’s shoes (and clothes for that matter) shouldn’t cost the earth in my opinion. So I really like the brand new kids’ range from highstreet favourite Aldo for ages 4 to 14. From boots to sneakers and sandals, their designs are pretty cool. I particularly like the tan leather high tops for boys that I plan to buy now and put away for autumn.
My kids eat pretty healthily overall (despite the chocolate over load at Easter) but I do like to give them vitamins to supplement their diet.
I’ve been sent some Super Hero Omega 3 fish oil from Bare Biology and my boys are trying it out – so far so good. It’s for children and the daily dose of one 1ml drop contains 500mg DHA and 130mg EPA – great for everything from their brains to their bones.
Something for the kids and something for me. Firstly, this May half term (which is actually only a few weeks away!) I plan to take my boys to Beasts of London at the Museum of London which takes visitors though the history of the Capital through the eyes of animals who have played a role in shaping it – including foxes, pigeons and even elephants and lions. From Roman times to present day, the immersive digital installation tells some amazing stories that are narrated by the likes of Kate Moss, Brian Blessed and Stephen Mangan. My kids will be fascinated I’m sure.
Secondly, I really want to see the new adaptation of the classic play All About Eve at the Noel Coward theatre starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James. It has had rave reviews and I can’t wait to see it.
Our regular round-up of things that have caught our eye in the City Kids office this week.
Isn’t it nice when a fun activity can be vaguely educational too? For that reason, we really like these science kits from Thames and Cosmos. Yes, there probably will be mess – either cover the kitchen table in newspaper or even better convince your kids to embrace their inner scientist in the garden, but wherever they try out these experiments, you’ll be sure to see excited little faces.
From crystal growing to pre-historic discoveries and even a molecule bead making (which has a lot to do with the ever-popular slime we are told) these kits are a great way of introducing kids to the fun side of science.
Suitable for ages 8+, each fun kit is priced £8.99 and are available from 25th March at thamesandkosmos.co.uk and Amazon.
Shoes we love
Clarkshave teamed up with National Geographic for an exclusive collection of kids’ shoes inspired by some of the most amazing species of animals on the planet. The range captures the cool colours and patterns of some spectacular animals which have been photographed for the National Geographic Photo Ark.
These great shoes are printed canvas and made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and sold in boxes made from 90% recycled paper.
The collaboration is helping to highlight the #SaveTogether initiative which raises awareness of threatened species around the world, inspiring young minds to take notice of the value these animals add to our eco system and to help species at risk before it is too late.
Summer is coming which means lots of time out and about with kids in tow. It’s definitely a time when a scooter – aka a means to get them from A to B when they point blank refuse to walk another step – can come in extremely handy.
Carousel, Tesco’s own exclusive toy brand, has officially launched its new Tilt ‘n’ Turn Scooter aimed at children aged roughly three to five.
At just £30 it’s a bit of a bargain – half the price of the market leading alternative according to the peeps at Tesco – and is available in blue and purple.
Scooting can be a risky business but this one has an anti-slip deck a ‘Tilt ‘n’ Turn’ steering function to develop balance and coordination as well as three wheels for stability.
A handy thing to chuck in the boot of the car we say.
Without wanting to get too over excited about the prospect summer sunshine on its way, we love these new kids’ hats from headwear companyBufffor keeping little ones safe from harsh rays.
Lots of colours and designs to choose from plus styles that offer supreme 50+ UV protection by ensuring their eyes, hair, skin and neck are all fully shielded from the sun. Ideal for those long sunny days on the beach that we are all dreaming of.
City Kids speaks to Christine Armstrong, author of The Mother of All Jobs, to get her take on whether the workplace is changing for the better.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BalanceForBetter, celebrating the work of women, while calling for a more gender-balanced world. The gender pay gap is now a common talking point as stories reveal how men and women have been treated differently over the years.
Only recently, Google’s former UK head revealed she once had to hire a male executive on double her salary. The right to ask for flexible working, which is, incidentally, relevant to men and women, came into force almost two decades ago, but only a small proportion of the UK workforce actually takes the plunge. And still, women are made redundant while on maternity leave, or they return to work to find to find their role isn’t the same as it was.
How did we get to this stage, where many women feel overwhelmed while striving to have it all?
We took the 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. male breadwinner model – think The Tiger Who Came to Tea – that assumed Mummy was at home to care for Sophie and zoo visitors, and do the shopping, washing and cleaning. And then we added lots of things. We added costs, as house prices quadrupled in twenty years, to all the adults, who normally work to pay the bills. We also added ‘always on’ as a lot of people are connected to work from when they wake until when they sleep. Then we added more out-of-home time as we moved a bit further away from our families and lengthened our commutes. We left in the fact that women are still more responsible for childcare, generally, and the house, than men. The structures that care for our kids was left unchanged. Nursery care is extortionate, and schools still finish mid-afternoon, with kids getting three months of holiday a year.
Piss, I’ve just depressed myself.
What’s your message to the Sheryl Sandberg’s [Facebook COO & founder of Leanin.org] of the world?
It is great to be positive and encouraging, and to support other women. It is well-intentioned and designed to ensure more women get to the top so we can change things. But the unintended consequence is that families all over the world are feeling like failures. They tried leaning in, getting the best childcare they could afford and being better organised, but they still can’t make it work. I worry that, if we only hear from women at the very top of their professions, in terms of seniority and income, we miss out on hearing from millions of other families who can’t afford professional support (nannies, cleaners, housekeepers), can’t take control their own time and are finding it unbelievably tough going.
I want to say to those women and their partners: it’s not you and your family that can’t do this. The system wasn’t designed to work this way and if we keep saying everything is peachy, then we’ll never get around to changing it.
What is the biggest barrier to improving the work environment for women and parents?
There isn’t one barrier: you have to look at childcare hours, availability and costs, the lack of flexible options in most work, the mismatch between work and school days and our cultural expectations around what demonstrates ‘commitment’ at work. Too often that is judged on the total number of hours worked. And in a world which is always on, you’ll burn out if you work every hour of the day and try to care for a family. If I had to focus on just one area, I would look at the total number of hours people work. Not their contractual hours – which often look perfectly reasonable on paper – but the actual numbers of hours they are connected to work – and figure out how to manage that.
What advice would you have for someone wanting to talk to their boss about flexible working?
I cite Karen Mattison of Timewise here: describe the benefits that you bring before the hours that you work. For example, I will deliver X and Y and Z on time and on budget. I will be in the office for three days a week and work from home, being fully contactable, on Monday and Friday.
What more can be done to bridge the gender pay gap?
We need to change the way we work for both men and women so that everyone can work in a focused and highly productive way, but also turn off and do other things when they are not working. Too often we celebrate people who are seen to work many, many hours, even if many of those hours are not productive and their tired, stressful reactions to things may not deliver the best answers.
One thing I want to see more work on is how we use technology. Too often people say they cannot switch off their electronic devices because they may ‘block’ progress on a sale or a project. We need to use technology better so that things can move forward within a team without everyone always having to be engaged all the damned time.
Friends just moved to work in Denmark and are astonished to find everyone starts at 8 a.m. and leaves work at 3 or 4 p.m. to collect kids and have dinner with them. Yet the OECD says that Nordic countries are 10-20% better off in terms of GDP becausethey enable more mums to work. We see letting people leave work early as an indulgence when the irony is that we could work fewer hours and actually do better as a country, and within our own businesses and households.
Why aren’t men judged in the same way as women?
Many people are struggling to come to terms with the fact that the male breadwinner model many of us grew up with – when, if mums did work, they tended to work in lower paid/more local roles – doesn’t really work anymore if you want to live in the kind of place your parents could live in on one income. We don’t have the social support to enable parents to both work and care for their kids: for example, early years care is extortionate in this country and pushes many women out of work, then making them ineligible for the 30 free hours during term time when they could get it.
Our current leaders in business and politics have tended to live and thrive in the old model and don’t fully appreciate the pressures of the way we work now. Even women I interview in their 50s and 60s who have had good careers say that they had the advantage of being able to leave the office at 5 p.m. and then not be interrupted at home. They report how much more difficult it got after email, computer/laptops at home and BlackBerries came in.
I always say though that, having interviewed a lot of men, they are not the winners in this either. Many younger men know the way their dads worked won’t work for them and want to be more involved at home but find their work places unsupportive of them. Older men often resent having to be ‘the breadwinner’. If both genders are to work, both must also be able to care.
Do you think you’ve found the balance of work and parenting?
This stuff is like dieting. One day you eat cod and salad and feel like you’re on it and the next you accidentally wolf down a cheeseburger and chips, followed by a box of Lindt truffles. The truth is that we have three young kids and run two businesses… When my parents took our kids before Christmas for a week it was mind-blowing. We couldn’t believe how much time and energy we had.
Every day, our children rightly demand our time and attention, and giving it to them is always a compromise between their needs and everything else we want and need to do. That said, I feel very lucky to spend so much time around home and the girls’ school. I do drop-offs and pick-ups most days, I am fully embedded in the week’s schedule of clubs, playdates and homework – and that is very different to when I held a full-time corporate role. Aside a student babysitter who helps cover pick-ups and swimming classes once or twice a week, my husband and I share the childcare between us.
Do you think anything significant will change for women in the work place in the next 10 years?
If – big if – we keep talking loudly about the challenges of the current system (for men and women) and the research that shows we can be more productive in less time, then I am optimistic we can move to fewer working hours, but more productive ways of working. If we spout the same old rubbish about just working harder and women ‘choosing to have babies’ as part of their ‘lifestyle’, nothing will change.
Ladurée’s Easter treats are top notch. As well as these eggs they’ve collaborated with Morihide Yoshida who has created, amongst other things, a white chocolate and yuzu macaron and a pastry, all of which are available in Ladurée stores.
From Ruby Chocolate and Popping Prosecco to London Gin and Sea Salt Caramel – Prestat, chocolatier to Her Majesty The Queen, has a delicious range of beautifully packaged eggs to treat your loved ones to this Easter.
“As useless as a chocolate teapot”. Sold out online but you may be lucky to find in-store at Waitrose. Heston’s milk-chocolate teapot is filled with cocoa nib ‘tea leaves’ accompanied by crunchy ‘sugar cube’ truffle chocolates flavoured with his favourite teas.
When an egg just isn’t enough, go for a hamper. This one by Hotel Chocolate is filled with chocolates including Salted Macadamia, Raspberry Supermilk and Champagne, solid white chocolate City Bunnies, dip into egg soldiers with truffle eggs and praline toast. Well posh!
Easter is nearly here and it’s another excuse to have some fun with festive decorating. So if you after Easter egg hunt goodies, cute table decorations for an Easter themed party or clever Spring craft ideas, here are five of the best places to pick them up.
No one does party decorations like Meri Meri. We love their pretty, pastel bunny plates and napkins, flower cookie cutters and egg decorating kit. If you’re having an Easter get-together then this is your first port of call.
Making Easter special shouldn’t cost the earth and TK Maxx have a great range or affordable but also really nice decorations like this sweet, simple garland. Check out their lovely floral basket for collecting those all important cholocate eggs and also the lovely egg cups – perfect for real eggs on Easter morning.
Our favourite department store does Easter just as well as it does everything else. The card making set is great for kids that like crafts and the brilliant egg hunt kits make the search for chocolate goodies even more fun.
If you have some little bunnies or chicks who like dressing up then these adorable head dresses from Paperchase will do the trick nicely. They also have such a lovely selection of Easter cards and decorations so it’s well worth popping in.
Here at City Kids we’ll honestly be happy just to get breakfast in bed and a lie-in on Mother’s Day (and we all know about losing an hour this Sunday don’t we?)
But if you twisted our arm, we may go as far as to say we’d love to receive a pressie from any of these fab online stores. So whether you’re buying for your own mum, a new mum or would like to forward this on to your husband for a gentle nudge in the right direction, these are great places to find mum-focused gifts.
We love everything about All by Mama. It began back in 2014 when Gemma Whates decided to set up a website where mums could sell the things they make, allowing them work around their children. At launch it had 40 sellers and has since grown to a community of 350, featuring over 4,000 products – from specially blended teas to get you through pregnancy to personalised jewellery.
You’ll find every kind of gift and it’s the ideal place to pick up something for Mother’s Day. So many of their products are exactly the kind of thing most mums would love – from cool sweatshirts and accessories to notebooks, candles and beauty products. Don’t forget to check out the lovely choice of art prints in the interiors section.
What makes the website nice to shop from is knowing that every purchase is helping to support another parent’s business and livelihood. It’s well worth a look for Mother’s Day, but also keep it in mind for any other gifts you needs to source through the year.
This is where to go for the perfect present for a new mum or mum-to-be. The Mother Box range of gifts is designed to celebrate and support pregnant women and those with newborns.
You can either buy a ready-made box of goodies such as the ‘Heal and Restore’ that contains things like specialist teas, tinctures and candles or there is the option to create a personalised box.
Founders Alexis (a midwife) and Beccy (a doula) were inspired to create the Mother Box after years of being asked by women for their advice on caring for themselves in pregnancy, the best products to pack in their hospital bags and for tips on the best ways to heal and recover following birth.
Each Mother Box has been carefully created to include the tried and tested products and first-hand knowledge that they have personally gained after over a decade of supporting pregnant women and new mums.
Also include in each is an exclusive booklet written especially by Alexis & Beccy who are authors of best-selling book The Little Book Of Self Care For New Mums. It’s full of helpful tips and tricks learned first-hand during their years of supporting new mums and mums-to-be. If you’ve just had a baby this is something you would be genuinely grateful to receive.
Whatever your mum’s interests or likes, Parcel London have it covered. This clever gift box service aim to create the kind of package that’s a delight to open.
Choose from the online selection such as ‘The Pamper’ that’s packed with relaxing goodies or ‘But First Coffee’ for the caffeine coniseur. Personally we love the idea of designing your own bespoke box, choosing from the hundreds of items from independent companies like Nunna, an award winning stationery brand and L:A Bruket, a chic range of natural skincare, beauty, and grooming products. You can also send them pics to include some personal polaroids.
Parcel London is for people who have great taste, but not always the time to track down the ideal combination of gifts. These are thoughtful, curated presents that not only look beautiful, but are also great quality – just what mums deserve.
For the most stylish blooms in London head straight to Flowerbx. This online flower delivery service sources the freshest flowers direct from the growers and delivers them straight to the recipients front door.
Bunches are delivered in sleek monochrome boxes or fine brown paper. The company was founded in 2014 by Whitney Bromberg Hawkings who previously worked with fashion designer Tom Ford for 19 years. She’s brought all her fashion know-how to the world of floristry, creating bunches for supermodels and royalty.
Think beautiful, chic bunches of single flowers rather than fussy, traditional bouquets. You can send from 20 to 100 stems and opt for a hand tie or a vase included. And the choice is vast with every conceivable colour of rose, orchids, iris and lilies – not forgetting our favourite, ranunculus.
Prices start from around £60 for a twenty stem bunch of roses and the quality is fantastic. Plus they offer a same day delivery service so if you do end up leaving it till the last minute all is not lost!
The Lexus RX L is a great family choice, combining the space of an SUV with reliable hybrid technology
As a family we’ve flirted with the idea of getting an SUV, but the most recent flirtation has been with electric or hybrid cars. The Lexus ticked both of those boxes in an instant, so we jumped at the chance of a week-long test drive.
On delivery, the RX L looked long. And it is. Although it’s modelled on its RX sibling, it’s over a metre longer to accommodate a third row of seats.
Those rear seats fold flat of course to enlarge the boot area, which possibly isn’t as expansive as you might want if you’re looking at seven seaters like the Q7. The seats themselves are probably only suitable for kids, but you could bundle in a couple of adults if you’re the designated driver on a night out.
So, onto driving. As we had the car for a week, we completed some long (airport run) journeys as well as pootling around town. The first thing that strikes you, if you haven’t driven an electric car before, is the silence. It does take some getting used to, pulling out without hearing the engine rev. You can choose to run on electric all the time, but we stuck with the hybrid capabilities.
Lexus stats suggest the RX L can get up to a fuel economy of 47.9mpg and although we were rubbish at keeping track, after a week, only a quarter of the tank of petrol had been used up, and most of that was a motorway drive to and from Gatwick.
It’s a comfortable ride around town, despite its size. Visibility is great, and we found the interior controls easy to use. (We did have a bit of a fight with the sat nav, but I’d blame the user for that!) Our children, who often get car sick in SUVs, didn’t with the RX L which means a huge thumbs up from us!
And the other plus point, from a choosing electric point of view was the fact that the car self-charges. No need to panic and find a roadside charging point. Flirtation over. We may have found a long-term partner.
Play & Go is a Belgian-based company offering clever, colourful and inspiring products for your kids and home. We think their Storage Bags are a great idea.
Made from 100% cotton these hard-wearing bags allow you to literally scoop up toys and neatly tidy them away. Plus, they also double up as a playmat and come in a range of lovely prints and designs. The perfect addition to any little one’s bedroom or playroom. Find them at Kidly.co.uk
BabyBjörn has just launched a new collection specially developed for those very first days with a newborn baby. The Soft Selection features a new super-soft fabric specially created by BabyBjörn called 3D Jersey that gently hugs the newborn baby whilst at the same time providing the proper support.
For years the Swedish brand has been a firm favourite with parents who rave about their practical, stylish designs. These new additions have been created from the feedback from their customers who like the concept of really soft, snuggly fabric.
Consisting of the Baby Carrier Mini (from £79.99) and Bouncer Bliss (from £145), the Soft Selection comes in muted, warm colours and cuddly jersey and a soft, lightweight breathable mesh.
Perfect for those precious early months when little ones are really tiny.
For nine years Mint Velvet has been a go-to brand for great casual separates. Now it has turned its hand to childrens wear creating their first collection for girls aged three to ten, ‘Minty’.
Think pink jumpsuits, star print sweatshirts, denim and some super-cool prints. Underpinned with that same easy aesthetic as its main women’s wear collection, the fabrics are easy to care for and the pieces coordinate perfectly.
We love this super-stylish collection so much that we kind of wish some of it came in grow-up sizes too!
Aspace has been creating inspirational children’s rooms for over 20 years. Their furniture range is great – bright and fun but also practical and sturdy. We love the clever storage solutions they offer with cupboards and shelving built into beds. They have a few ranges to choose from so whether you want the modern Scandi style or prefer a more traditional look, there is something to suit everyone. The new catalogue is out now and if you sign up to their online newsletter Aspace are offering £20 off any orders over £150.
If you’re thinking of kitting out your kids’ bedroom, then definitely check out the website.
City Kids editor Morag Turner on London’s latest club for families and why these places are great for both kids and parents.
For over a decade private members clubs for families have been popping up all over London. The concept being that you can relax in a home-from-home environment with your little ones, enjoying classes, events and a sense of community with like-minded parents. Think Soho House for the under-fives and with a soft play area.
These are truly nice places to be. Yes, there will be plenty of toddlers running around screaming (this is not the world you inhabited pre-kids after all) but the décor will be stylish and you can have a decent coffee while your children have a ball.
Something I realised a long time ago is that it’s perfectly acceptable for mums to want to have just as nice a time as their kids. Yet all too often it seems to keep our little ones entertained we have to compromise – sitting in cold church halls, shaking a tambourine and getting a custard cream at the end of it. Not exactly what we’d imagined hanging out with our little darlings would be like.
This is where the world of private members clubs for families comes in, offering a nice balance between kiddie fun and happy mums. Something increasing numbers of parents are very happy to pay for.
So when I got an email asking me if I’d like to visit London’s newest one, I couldn’t wait to take a look. Cloud Twelve is located just off Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill. It differs from the similar clubs as, while it has fantastic facilities for little members, there is also a real focus on their parents too with a spa, salon, wellness centre and adults only restaurant.
Our visit to Cloud Twelve
It was a cold, wet February day when my four-year-old son and I visited, but as we walked through the door it felt like we stepped into summer. The amazing Family Zone on the ground floor is home to a beautifully designed and well laid out play area with a nature theme. A tree house to climb in with a slide down to a pirate ship ball pool and a giant ladybird to crawl inside for a sensory light experience. The stuff of pre-school dreams.
Off the main play area are smaller rooms filled with immaculate toys and books that are used for classes and a creche, as well as a craft room that most A-level arts students would be enthralled by. My little Picasso couldn’t wait to start painting and sticking.
We had lunch at the café in the Family Zone which offers varied and delicious vegan menu. I’m not vegan but try to cut out meat two or three days a week – if I was coming here regularly I’d mange it with ease. Fresh, healthy dishes that were also genuinely tasty. My little boy wolfed down his vegan mac and cheese.
Next it was time for me to pop upstairs for a treatment in the spa. I felt perfectly happy leaving my son with two of the ‘play buddies’ – fully qualified child carers who not only look after, but also seem to really engage the children. Of course he didn’t even notice I was gone, such was the excitement of hanging out with his new grown up buddy and such the selection of toys available.
The amazing spa
Even though Cloud Twelve inhabits an old building there is absolutely no sign of that whatsoever from within. The spa resembles one you would expect to find in a five-star resort in the Maldives albeit without the outside space. The treatment rooms are huge and luxuriously fitted out, complete with Dolomites quartz beds ‘to help promote a deeper state of relaxation’. The thermal area with its sauna, steam and salt room is positively dreamy.
They offer an extensive range of treatments and I opted for a full body massage, which was every bit as wonderful as the setting. Afterwards popped into the upstairs brassiere (which is adults only) for a cup of herbal tea. Next to this area is the salon for blow dries, manicures and pedicures.
What’s great about this entire adults’ area is that it’s open to anyone. While the Family Zone is members only, anyone can use the spa and salon. It struck me that this would the perfect place to pop into before a night out in central London – arrive harassed mum, leave feeling (and looking) a million dollars.
There is also a wellness clinic offering holistic treatments and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, osteopathy and colonic hydrotherapy. It too is open to the public. I didn’t sample any of these, but they club manager told me they have some London’s best practitioners available to book.
Cloud Twelve is a lovely family-friendly oasis in the heart of the Notting Hill. The price tag is steep with memberships starting from £2000 per year, but that’s no more than many other adults-only private members clubs all over the city.
We both loved our day there. Needless to say, my son didn’t want to leave (neither did I to be honest) and I would definitely pop back in again to use the spa.
Why Family Clubs are so good
My visit reminded me of the days when I was a member at Cupcake in Putney, a mum and baby club that I joined when my first son was a little baby nearly 11 years ago.
It offered a selection of baby classes (yoga, music, massage etc) along with fitness classes for mums and a creche where you could leave your little one while you worked off the baby weight. There was also a café to chill out in. An interior designer had clearly been involved, there were comfy chairs and great food on offer – like the places I chose to spend time in before I had a baby but with a family-friendly twist.
It was a great club though things have definitely moved on – I seem to remember us eating a lot of brownies that were definitely not vegan but that was well before the ‘clean eating’ revolution.
I made wonderful mum mates who became, and still are to this day, some of my closest friends. A decade and several kids later, and we still meet up regularly and holiday together.
With time we grew out of Cupcake as these places are great for a period in your life when you have very young children, but less so when they go to school and/or you return to work.
But I look back so fondly on the time I spent there, enjoying time with my baby and making friends. Never once did I feel bored or isolated as so many new mums do in the early days because I always had somewhere to pop into, even if it was just me and my son. A godsend when you are adjusting to life with a new baby.
More family clubs in London worth knowing about
The Putney club closed but another branch remains in Cupcake Parsons Green. Lots of mums sign up when still pregnant to enjoy the antenatal fitness classes. A full membership now costs from £139 per month with a one-off joining fee of £99 but they do offer different packages. I’ve never been to this branch, but if it’s anything like the original I’m sure it’s wonderful.
Others private members clubs for families have since opened all over London. As well as Cloud Twelve, there is Maggie and Rose who have branches in Kensington, Chiswick. You’ll find an amazing soft play area, fun kid’s classes and camps, as well as a great café.
Dreamt up by Maggie Bolger and Rose Astor, the idea was to provide a beautiful creative space for children in surroundings that appealed to grown-ups too. The principle clearly works as both London clubs have waiting lists and they are set to open a third in Islington this year. They have even ventured abroad with a club in Hong Kong and one opening in Singapore.
Purple Dragon who have two London clubs in Chelsea and Putney, cater for kids from six months old through to the tween years and are rumoured to have a number of celebrity offspring regulars. Young members have the options of beach club (indoor pool), massive soft play centre, music booth, kitchen (with cooking activities), music room, and art lab. And of course, there is a restaurant for the grow ups to chill out in while their kids are entertained. But these amazing activities and plush surroundings come a at a price. Membership fees are from £450 for 10 visits.
My days of mum and baby clubs are coming to an end now with all of my boys in school full time come September, but I really do think the concept is a good one. Yes, there are fees to pay but by becoming a member of one of these places you open up a world of fun activities to do with your little one all under one (very nicely decorated) roof. Whether you’d pop in every day or just use it on the weekends, these clubs provide a home-from-home environment where mums can connect with other like-minded women and form friendships, which I believe is an essential part of enjoying new motherhood. Joining Cupcake all those years ago was the best thing I have ever signed up to. For the fun, the friends and the wonderful memories of lovely times with my first little one that positively shaped my experience and view of motherhood.
We asked a parent and a child for their review of The Kid Who Would Be King
First, the adult view
Yes, another retelling of the well known Arthurian legend but with a twist. This time we see the legend transported to a school boy in contemporary UK. A UK shorn of the Hogwarts style nostalgia in an admirable attempt to be more representative of the reality of school in the UK. There are number of interesting subversions of the traditional tale and you can see Joe Cornish has made a genuine attempt to make this ancient legend a relevant and empowering story for today’s kids. Although, I would hazard that these attempts may have been reined in by the money people. I love Patrick Stewart but I never saw the point of his sporadic appearances. The young Merlin was excellently portrayed by Angus Imrie.
The film has a lot of heart, has some funny moments and the kids are likeable and relatable. However, it doesn’t quite achieve the level of adventure and excitement that could have made this a worthy contender to take the baton from Harry Potter and run with it. The CGI is extremely well done and Rebecca Ferguson is excellent if rather under-utilised as the big bad, Morgana. There is a surprising lack of variety in Morgana’s evil undead warriors who pursue the heroes throughout the adventure and the film doesn’t build satisfyingly to a crescendo. On the whole, a decent family movie that just fails to get firing on all cylinders.
Now a view from the target audience!
It was a good movie. I liked the storyline. The graphics and CGI were very good. The best character was probably the main character, Alex. I thought the idea of a modern-day King Arthur story would not be that great, but it turns out I was completely and utterly wrong! I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but the bad guard guys looked pretty cool. My favourite part of the movie is when they are (spoiler alert incoming) preparing all the barricades and (another spoiler alert incoming) training all the other school girls and boys.
I would rate it 4/5 stars. Report written by Lucas Evans.
Head to foxmovies.com to see the trailer, which is actually really good.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Angus Imrie, with Rebecca Ferguson and Patrick Stewart
NEW! Every week we’re going to bring you a round-up of some of the super cool things we’ve come across for little ones. From toys and games to travel and fashion, we will be sharing the things that have caught our eye in the City Kids office.
If your kids love nothing more than a colouring book and a set of felt tips then this fab tablecloth would make the perfect present. From alphabet art and garden prints to intergalactic designs and critters to colour, Blue Jigsaw’s new range of Doodle Tablecloths feature five unique and original designs suitable for all ages. Each design comes with a set of wash out pens. Simply colour in, wash and start again. The ideal rainy day activity for little artists. Prices start from £19.
Getting kids to to brush there teeth properly and for long enough can be a struggle. But this great little gadget makes the process more fun and encourages them to be better brushers.
Playbrush is an interactive electric toothbrush that connects via Bluetooth to game apps so children can play fun games with their toothbrush. Once it syncs to the app children use their own toothbrushing movements to paint masterpieces, make music or defeat monsters. This incentivises movement and encourages children to brush all around their mouth, increasing surface coverage. It also records and assesses how well they are doing. Definitely a cool thing for kids!
The Playbrush Smart Sonic costs £29.99 and includes, 1 Playbrush Smart Sonic, 1 brush head, 1 charging dock and 4 free games.
We just love the beautifully curated edits from Kid Pix, a new subscription box service for gorgeous childrenswear brands such as Patachou, Baby Mori and Dotty Dungarees. The idea is simple. Parents fill in a little online style quiz and from there the clever stylists at Kid Pix will create a bespoke box of six to eight items for boys and girls aged one to five and babies aged 0 to 12 months.
Your beautifully wrapped box will be delivered to your door step. Then it’s up to you what you keep or send back. Either sign up for a one-off or a quarterly subscription. We think this would make a great present idea for a new baby or a special little person.
Founded by a father of two, Dutch brand Nuna is inspired by real parenting adventures for families on the go. Well designed and made from lovely materials, celebrity fans include Miranda Kerr and Gwen Stefani.
The latest addition to the range is their first baby carrier, the CUDL, launching this month. Both stylish and practical carrier makes it easy for you to keep your new born close. Then switches to a backpack as they get bigger. Genuis. £150
The government’s Chief Medical Officer has published new screen time advice for parents and carers
We’ve all known for long time that social media is not good for children. But for the first time ever the government’s Chief Medical Officer has published new social media and screen time advice for parents, carers children and young people.
These include leaving phones outside the bedroom when it’s bedtime, screen-free mealtimes and having family conversations about social media.
“Time spent online can be of great benefit to children and young people, providing opportunities for learning and skills development, as well as allowing young people to find support and information. But we need to take a precautionary approach and our advice will support children to reap these benefits and protect them from harm.” Professor Dame Sally Davies Chief Medical Officer for England.
86% of 7 to 11s are online
According to a recent study by Internet Matters 43% of those aged between 10 and 13 now use social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and 86% of children aged 7 to 11 use some kind of online communication, often without their parents having any knowledge of them doing so.
And a recent survey by the BBC’s Newsround found that more than three-quarters of younger children at primary-leaving age were using at least one social media network. A terrifying statistic when you realise just how much children can be exposed to the minute they log on. 70 million photos are shared on Instagram every day, many of which will be entirely unsuitable for little eyes. Offensive and inappropriate material is only one click away.
Professor Dame Sally Davies’ view is that companies too have a responsibility to keep children safe online.
“Technology is an unavoidable aspect of modern life and technology companies have a duty of care. They must make more effort to keep their users safe from harm, particularly children and young people.”
So what is the advice?
Sleep matters. Getting enough, good quality sleep is very important. Leave phones outside the bedroom when it is bedtime.
Talking helps: Talk with your children about using devices and what they are watching. A change in behaviour can be a sign they are distressed – make sure they know they can always speak to you or another responsible adult if they feel uncomfortable with screen or social media use.
Safety when out and about. Advise children to put their screens away while crossing the road or doing an activity that needs their full attention!
Sharing sensibly. Parents and children should talk about sharing photos and information online and how photos and words are sometimes manipulated. Parents should never assume that their children are happy for their photos to be shared. For everyone – when in doubt, don’t upload!
Keep moving! Everyone should take a break after a couple of hours sitting or lying down using a screen #sitlessmovemore
Education matters. Make sure you and your children are aware of, and abide by their school’s policy on mobile phones/personal devices.
Use helpful phone features. Some devices and platforms have special features – try using these features to keep track of how much time you (and with their permission, your children) spend looking at a screen or on social media.
Family time together. Screen-free meal times are a good idea – you can enjoy face-to-face conversation, with adults giving their full attention to children.
The guidelines are not prescriptive. Just as every child is an individual, and every family is different, every family’s approach to technology must be equally unique. Instead, the Chief Medical Officer is encouraging every family to have a conversation about screen time and social media, and has developed a series of pointers for parents and carers based on research evidence on child and adolescent development.
The UK Safer Internet Centre has developed a platform where people can report harmful content online if they are not satisfied with the result of their report to social media providers. For illegal content, reports should be made to the police and online to the Internet Watch Foundation
We chat to the Saturday’s star about becoming an author, motherhood and her amazing career.
When anyone mentions Rochelle Humes most of us immediately think of the gorgeous pop star who rose to fame with girl group The Saturdays and who married fellow singer JLS star Marvin. Or maybe you think of Rochelle the TV presenter, who regularly hosts hit shows such as This Morning.
But ask Rochelle herself what her biggest role is and she will tell you that without question it is being a mum to her two little girls Alaia-Mai, five, and Valentia, nearly two.
And her latest project perfectly illustrates how important her children are to her. The Mega Magic Hair Swap, Rochelle’s new children’s’ book, is published this week and the inspiration behind it comes from her own daughters.
“One day Alaia-Mai told me that she didn’t like her curly hair because princesses always have straight hair. All the images she was seeing on TV or in books were of little girls with long, straight hair. She wanted to know why she didn’t look like Elsa or Rapunzel” explains Rochelle.
“I hated the thought that she wasn’t happy with the way she looked because to me she is beautiful, and I want her to love her amazing curly hair. I explained to her that people can have different hair or skin colour, or be a different shape or height, but that what makes us all beautiful is being ourselves,” says the 29 year-old.
The conversation got Rochelle thinking about how she could help her own children and others to feel confident and proud of their appearance. It was then that she came up with the idea for The Mega Magic Hair Swap.
Story of friendship
The main characters are Mai, who has curly hair, and her best friend Rose, who has very straight hair. Neither are happy and wish they could have hair like the other one. With a bit of magic, they switch and end up with the hair of their dreams. But before long they realise it isn’t all it is cracked up to be and that how their own hair is actually perfect for them.
While the book is aimed at little-ones, writing it also helped Rochelle to embrace her own curls. “Growing up I rarely saw anyone who looked like me on TV. I have really curly hair, but I always felt I had to straighten it to make it look nice. But recently I’ve learned to love my hair. I always want to be a good role model for my girls so it’s important for them to see me being happy with my looks and hopefully they will feel the same way about themselves,” she points out.
So determined was she to show other young women that they should love their natural waves that she has been promoting it to her 1.3 million Instagram followers with the hashtag #curlslikeus.
“The response has been amazing,” says Rochelle. “I think a lot of women feel exactly how I do. Whether it’s their hair or something else about their appreance, they just want to be themselves and not feel pressure to change.”
Once she had the idea for the book Rochelle says it all came together very quickly. “This is my first book and I have loved writing it and working with my publisher. At the moment I don’t have plans for any more, but never say never.”
It’s hard to imagine how Rochelle managed to add ‘author’ to her list of many achievements. After finding fame with The Saturdays and having 13 top-ten hits, she is now a familiar face on prime-time TV presenting shows such as ITV’s Sweat the Small Stuff, Ninja Warrior and the The Xtra Factor.
But while the world sees her glamourous career, Rochelle, just like every other mum, is constantly trying to get the right balance between work and family life.
“Marvin and I sit down every week and plan who is doing what for the next seven days. When one of us is really busy with work the other will try not to be. So, we are lucky that we can be somewhat flexible and one of us is always around to do school pick up, but it takes a lot of organisation,” she explains.
“My mum lives close by and helps us a lot which is amazing. But there are definitely some weeks when we are totally winging it because no two days are ever the same for us. But we get by and the kids are looked after and happy and that’s all that matters – even if we are totally exhausted by the end of the week!”
No matter what her schedule is, Rochelle fits it in around family life and her down to earth approach to motherhood is partly what has gained her so many loyal fans over the years. “I’m always there for my kids when they need me and that’s really important to me. Parenting is hard sometimes, especially as they get older and you realise you are really shaping a little human being. You just want to wrap them in cotton wool, but you can’t do that. All you can do is your best which what all mums are trying to do. We should try not to put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. No one ever is.”
Away from the spotlight
Despite living in the public eye, privacy is very important to Rochelle who loves her supportive social media following but prefers to keep her children away from the spotlight and never posts images of her their faces.
“Privacy is key to Marvin and I. Every parent is different and it’s totally up to them what they want to post, but I prefer not to. One day when they are much older the girls can decide if they want to post photos of themselves but right now they don’t even know what social media is.”
The launch of her new book today kicks off what looks to another great year for Rochelle. She is currently working with her high street favourite, New Look on The Rochelle Edit and continues to be an ambassador for John Frieda and HiGlow, her best-selling face and body line available in Superdrug. Plus, M&S recently announced Rochelle as one of their Food Ambassadors alongside Amanda Holden and Emma Willis.
One of the things she is most excited about is working with Marvin on their new music quiz show, Playlisters, due to air in 2019 on BBC1. “We love working together. It’s so nice because we don’t get to do it that often. The show is really fun and I can’t wait to get started on it.”
With such a positive, honest outlook and endless enthusiasm for both her work and her family, it’s clear to see that Rochelle is great role model for young women – regardless of whether her hair is curly or straight.
The Mega Magic Hair Swap, £6.99, is published on 7th February.
Favourite date night spot: Roca – such great food and atmosphere
Desert Island must have: Coconut oil – so useful
Must read book: The Secret – I’ve read it so many times
Night owl or earlier bird: Definitely an earlier bird
Best day out with kids: Regent’s Park Zoo – my girls love it there
If the recent snow has you dreaming of the slopes, then our last minute guide to the best children’s ski wear and trips away should help
Hands up if you’re on the countdown to a skiing holiday? Great – hitting the slopes is one of the best family getaways there is. But do you also have that sinking feeling that your kids have grown out of their salopettes? There’s a least one glove missing and who knows where the thermals are?
If that’s you (and frankly that is pretty much all mums the night before a flight to Geneva) then here are some great places to pick up cool skiing kit so you can arrive in resort relaxed – if that’s possible after a two-hour transfer at 7am.
We love the clever ‘bundles’ that Little Skier have put together which take all the hassle out of buying ski kit for the kids. You basically need a children’s ski wear bundle (jacket, salopettes, gloves, goggles, snow boots) and a base layer buddle (thermals and socks). They have loads of combinations, some of which include helmets too. All are colour co-ordinated from brands like Quicksilver, Schoffel and Trespass. Such a clever time-saving idea for busy mums.
And Little Skiers are offering City Kids readers a fantastic discount on their site. Use the code CityKids15 to get an amazing 15% off spends over £100. Valid until 1st April
One-stop-shop for all the family. They have 24 stores in England – six in London alone – so you can easily pop in if you’d rather try things on. Or order online at their website has a huge range. If it’s skis, boards or boots you are looking for then Snow and Rock can help. They have a team of specialists who can offer advice.
For the coolest après kit check out St Berts. Their retro sweatshirts are perfect for lounging around in the chalet after a long day on the slopes or could be worn as a second layer under a ski jacket.
For ski kit that suits most pockets, Decathlon really has it covered. With some savvy shopping, it’s possible to kit out a child in good quality clothing, plus goggles and gloves for around £100. Plus they can supply helmets, skis and poles if you want to go the whole hog.
It’s not too late to book
If reading this puts you in the mood to hit the slopes but you haven’t yet booked, fear not – you can still find a great skiing holiday for February half term and also Easter. Get in touch with these fantastic family ski companies who can arrange accommodation and transfers, as well as ski lessons and child care.
Powder Byrne have something for everyone – from ski lessons and childcare to guided walks and ice skating for non-skiers. Their resorts are some of the most fabulous in Europe including, Zermatt, St Moritz, Gstaad and Lech and you can stay in chalets or beautiful hotels complete with spas. Childcare is well thought out and provided in creches by qualified nannies. Their wonderful concierge service will make sure you every aspect of your holiday is planned to perfection.
Another great company that offer onsite childcare, Ski Famille’s chalets are in some of the best locations for families such as Les Gets and La PLagne. Their large chalets are ideal for three or four families who want to holiday together, or they are happy to add individual families to any chalet where there is space. If you don’t mind sharing a dinner table with new people, then this could be for you. Very sociable and fun.
No one does luxe like Scott Dunn. They have beautiful chalets and hotels in major skiing designations. In Val-d’Isère and Courchevel you’ll find their award-winning in-house kids clubs, the Explorers, which caters for little ones from four months old. And if travelling to Val with tinies you don’t even have to take a buggy as Scott Dunn have teamed up with Bugaboo to offer guests a complimentary pushchair for the duration of their stay. If budget is no concern, then these are the guys to book with for a truly top trip.
Esprit have been arranging family ski holidays in resorts all over Europe for over 35 years. Their wrap-around childcare programme means (if you want to) you can ski from the first lift in the morning to the last in the afternoon, knowing that your little ones are either having super-fun lessons or being taken care of in one of Esprit’s nurseries, many of which are onsite and attached to the chalet hotel guests stay in. Nannies are fully qualified and English speaking and in the evenings they offer a babysitting and baby listening service. One of the more affordable family skiing companies, Esprit are a great starting point if you’ve never taken your kids skiing before.
Discover more about Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park, Chiswick
Tom Kerridge’s awesome festival Pub in the Park arrives in Chiswick in September. General tickets are now on sale.
Pub in the Park is a party with a relaxed and intimate feel, supporting and celebrating local talent, as well as presenting some of the biggest names in food and music. Remember House Festival at Chiswick House, well this sounds similar.
At each venue, there’ll be Michelin-starred and award-winning pubs and restaurants serving tasting dishes showing their signature style. Every event will celebrate the very best food the country has to offer, combined with great live music, chef demonstrations, top quality shopping and other festival fun.
Tom Kerridge said “Last year’s Pub in the Park festivals were so much fun, I cannot wait to bring the excellence in food, world class chefs, ace music and awesome vibe to eight locations across the UK this year.”
Pub in the Park Chiswick will see Kerridge’s own pub The Hand & Flowers as headliner as well as a number of sensational support-acts in the pub arena including Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano, plus hand-picked charming locals that punters will know and love.
The Star Inn Bibendum Oyster Bar Jose Pizarro Rick Stein Barnes Berners Tavern The Pony & Trap The Hinds Head Café Murano
Music line up for Chiswick
Gabrielle Clean Bandit Stereo MCs Texas Soul II Soul Sound System Scouting for Girls Toploader Sophie Ellis-Bextor Natalie Williams and the Soul Family
UK Festival Dates and Venues
Pub in the Park will be taking place on the following dates at the venues below:
· Marlow, Higginson Park 17-19 May · Roundhay, Leeds, Roundhay Park 31 May – 2 June · Knutsford, The Lambing Shed 7-9 June · Bath, Royal, Victoria Park 21 – 23 June *subject to licence · Warwick, St. Nicholas Park, 5 – 7 July · Tunbridge Wells, Dunorlan Park 12-14 July · London, Chiswick, Chiswick House 6-8 Sep · St. Albans Verulamium Park 13-15 Sep
This weekend sees a family race day at Ascot with a Christmas feel
Head to Ascot racecourse on Saturday, as families are invited to celebrate the festive season, together with world-class horse racing and plenty of seasonal cheer, just three days before Christmas Day.
Featuring the most valuable racecard of Ascot’s Jumps season, the event promises to be exhilarating and enjoyable for all ages with fairground rides, a festive parade, clip clop pony rides, huskies and candle-lit carol singing.
Racing on the course
On the track, highlights are two £150,000 races; the ultra-competitive Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle and the Grade 1 JLT Long Walk Hurdle – one of the most prestigious long- distance hurdle races in Britain. Punters could be in with the chance to earn an extra Christmas bonus with the many high-class supporting races throughout the day.
Entertainment for all
Off the track, adults can watch the races whilst enjoying festive cocktails and Fine Dining across multiple food outlets. Little ones will be entertained with the The Elf Training Academy, a husky meet & greet, festive arts and crafts and face painting. Father Christmas and his fellow reindeer will be in attendance and Mrs Claus’ storytelling will return for a third year. The whole family can also enjoy free fairground rides and uplifting carol singing by candlelight in the Grandstand with the Ascot Brass Band.
Some of Hollywood’s most famous pets return to our screens in 2019
The Secret Life of Pets 2 will follow summer 2016’s blockbuster about the lives our pets lead after we leave for work or school each day.
Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri and his longtime collaborator Janet Healy will produce the sequel to the comedy that had the best opening ever for an original film, animated or otherwise.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 will see the return of writer Brian Lynch (Minions) and once again be directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me series, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax). Harrison Ford, Patton Oswalt, Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Lake Bell, Tiffany Haddish, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper create the voices of this family favourite.
You’ll have to wait until 27 May to see the film, but for a taster, see the trailer below!
Luxury childrenswear brand, Marie-Chantal, is opening a new flagship store on Motcombe Street, London.
The new Marie-Chantal store will be home to the brand’s iconic Angel Wing Collection, baby gifts, seasonal girls and boys collections, special occasionwear as well as a unique curation of jewellery and gift items. Perfect timing for Christmas!
Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece launched her first collection almost twenty years ago, focussing on her love for classic and timeless design. Her five children are her influence (a girl and four boys) and she uses her expert eye for fashion as a guide. The childrenswear range runs from birth up to 12 years old.
The new store has been designed by Fran Hickman who has recently created new retail spaces for Goop, Moda Operandi and Emilia Wickstead.
What to expect
True to Marie-Chantal’s roots, the boutique store will celebrate beautiful clothes for beautiful children. Clothing is age appropriate and allows boys and girls to dress like children, with a playful twist. The stylish cuts, playful embroidery and detailing is key to every signature design.
As any parent knows, back to school can be a very busy time – from buying new uniforms and shoes to picking out stationary. With so much to plan, it can be easy to overlook what’s going in the packed lunches. But making sure your child has a healthy, inviting and tooth-friendly diet is really important.
Steve Preddy, Clinical Director at Bupa Dental Care, has shared his top tips to help you create teeth-friendly healthy snacks for kids lunch boxes.
Cheese is a great ally for teeth. It is full of calcium and phosphates which are known for strengthening bones, especially in children. In addition, eating cheese causes salivation, which helps to decrease the acidity levels in the mouth, helping to prevent tooth decay and cavities. Remember to eat in moderation though, cheese may be easy on the teeth but it’s also high in fat.
Pack in the veggies
Crunchy fruit and vegetables, such as apples and carrots, are real helpers when it comes to scrubbing away plaque from the teeth. Carrots are also high in fibre and a great source of vitamin A. Make sure you include some and ask your kids to have them at the end of their meal! Fruit does contain natural sugar so it’s much better to eat during meal times, rather than snacking on it at other times of the day.
Find swaps for sugary drinks
Fruit juices – especially those made with acidic fruits like grapefruits, oranges, and lemons – are loaded with sugar and acid that can slowly remove tooth enamel. When they are concentrated down into juice, teeth are at risk of decay. When possible, give your kids still water, as it helps wash away food debris. Alternatively, watered down juices or weak cordials can help reduce the impact too.
Don’t feed their sweet tooth!
Limiting sweet treats is really important for children. Not only is this good for their overall health but it is also vital for good oral health. Each time you eat something sugary, the levels of acid in your mouth rise significantly. It then takes up to a full hour for the acidity levels to return to a normal state. If a child’s acidity levels are being constantly raised throughout the day from eating sweet treats, they are then at serious risk of tooth decay.
Avoid raisins and dried fruit
You might be forgiven for thinking raisins and dried fruit are a great healthy snack to stick in a lunchbox. While raisins may be rich in anti-oxidants, they’re also full of sugar and can be just as damaging to teeth as confectionary. When the fruit is dried, the concentrated sugar becomes tacky and sticks to teeth and gums, which can then cause tooth decay.
Beware of crisps
Crisps contain starch which can get trapped in teeth, leading to plaque build-up. If your kids love a crunch, it’s better sticking to the veggies.
Use whole-wheat bread instead of white
Consuming whole-grains actually lowers the risk of gum disease. The enzymes in white bread stick to teeth and then turns into sugar. Switching to wholemeal is a much healthier and tooth-friendly option… don’t worry, you can still cut the crusts off!
Kids love getting involved in the kitchen, why not make a batch of healthier snacks at the weekend to pop in their lunch boxes throughout the week. Mini savoury muffins are usually a big hit, high in protein and low in sugar. You can even get in one or two of their five a day with the right recipes.
Girl band member, actor, West End Star and now fashion designer. Victoria Evans met the multi-talented mother of two to celebrate the launch of Kimba Kids.
What’s the inspiration behind Kimba Kids?
Let me go back to the start. So my brother is the managing director of a company that make, design, manufacture, and distribute clothes so obviously I knew that I had a lead in to this and with Bobby, my oldest son I just found it really boring buying boys’ clothes. I really wanted a little boy, so it’s not like I’m one of these women who wanted a girl to dress up, it wasn’t that, I just felt they don’t suit him, there’s all this nautical stuff like everywhere, which is fine, but it’s a bit preppy-ish and felt like he’s a blonde, blue-eyed mixed-race little boy and felt like I actually want him to be able to express himself a bit more and wear things that are a bit more fun and colourful and that’s where it came from.
So I approached my brother and was like, “How do you feel about trying to launch a new brand with me so that we can use all your facilities to do so. And he was actually really up for it. As much as his job is so intense and full-on as he’s distributing to Next, ASOS, constantly meeting deadlines, I think this was more of a passion project for him. It’s been hard for him because there aren’t enough hours in the day but we’ve done it. It’s taken a while…we fully started it when Bobby was about 16 months and I was doing Elf at The Dominion over Christmas and because it was my first job back, I had a bit of time to actually think for myself again. There were times when I wasn’t on stage where I was able to start the design process and I would meet the designer between shows on the two show days.
So it has taken a long time to get it to this point – he’s nearly four now! I thought you just hand-picked designs from a rail and Adam was like no, we need to design them, we need to draw it and come up with every colour, fabric. One day we literally spent the entire day going through thicknesses, choosing colours, and I asked him, is this your life? And he was like, yeah, pretty much. We do have to do this every time. It’s interesting as I had absolutely no idea it would be so time consuming.
Perhaps there are other sides to the business you prefer?
Exactly, I prefer the design and can you send me a sample back? But it’s not that easy. I feel like we’ve found a good place now, where we both feel like we know what the brand is, I’m very sure of what I want it to be. He’ll sometimes throw something in like What about trying this? And I’m like no, it’s not me. I wouldn’t put my kids in it – it may be popular at the moment, but I just want to stay true to what I am and the design process will be easy. If I take it on a tangent that’s following something else, it’s always going to be hard to bring it back to what it’s supposed to be in the beginning.
Because of the fashion connection through your brother did you ever consider doing womenswear?
Well that’s something we’re talking about now because we can. There’s so many opportunities there because of the way I work with his company. Right now, the priority is getting Kimba Kids off the ground and hoping that we can make this work. We’ve already got our Spring/Summer in for sampling and that was really fun and exciting and doing it now that we’ve got to this point. So we’d need the time – this has become over the last 6 months like a full time job and it’s one of those that you can sort of do with the kids around but there are times when I’m like I just need to answer some emails when they’re not like screaming at me or something. There are certain things that you have to do so that they go to bed but you can do it around the kids which is why it’s brilliant. I have taken the kids into meetings before because it’s my brother but mine cause a lot more…there’s picnic mess all over the floor, or like rails and clothes boxes barricading the stairs so they can’t fall down. This is not ideal but if childcare lets you down which is what happened to me, we’ll just bring them. My brother was like, yes, it’ll be good to have their input. They’ll be interested for about 5 minutes and then he’ll be like where’s the guns or weapons I can play with?
So what are your favourite pieces?
For me, my favourite piece for the boys.. As we knew this was going into Autumn/Winter we wanted to do a slightly different tone so we’ve got an aubergine tone camo. And for the girls I love the twinset.
What are your hopes for the brand?
It’s really crazy at the moment because no one really knows what’s going to happen at this point. It has been a family passion project. It’s hard because we both care about it so much so obviously we really want it to do well. I’m realistic. I don’t know how this business works so obviously the fact that Next have endorsed it as big as they have gives us hope that it will work because I don’t think they’d take huge numbers of something that wouldn’t work.
Your brother presumably was able to advise?
He would know to a point, but they would know more because they sell kids wear every day and he does adult stuff. They were very excited about it. We went to them first as we felt that it was a fit for their stuff and I do still think it sits really well with all of their stuff. But they have gone above and beyond – they’ve had opinions on stuff that really helped us, little branding things, they wanted it to be branded because they said if people are buying into you, they want to know that it’s yours. You’ve got to offer something that isn’t already there, which we know. So we feel like together, we’ve got it to this point and now we want to see it on other children and know that people have actually chosen to buy it themselves. That’ll be so exciting – we’ll have to get everybody to send pictures into me.
How would you describe your parenting style?
Manic! I’m such a calm person. I genuinely think I’m one of the most chilled people. But my boys can drive me to places that I never thought were possible. And it frustrates me if I feel like I’ve lost it, that’s just not me. But sometimes at bedtime, the way that they taunt me, I’m like “you just want me to break so that you can laugh at me”, but I can’t cope! I try to be relaxed. I’m very loving, which I’m sure most mums are, but I feel like they do respond to that. I’m terrified of the day my boys don’t want to get in bed and cuddle me in the morning. Its my favourite time of the day. My brother who I’m doing this with still gives my mum a cuddle – it’s quite cute. I’m not going to lie, they’re really hard work at the ages that they are, they do not stop, they don’t sit still for five seconds. And I wonder which one I should protect. Bobby’s older and he’ll go and do something where he could hurt himself. If I’m at a park who do I protect because he’ll go and climb a climbing frame where he’s in full danger if he falls from it, but then Cole is tiny so I an’t leave his side so usually I’m like Stop! Grab Cole and try to help Bobby down the clmbing frame down. I feel like a lot of the time I look at myself in day to day situations and think what would anybody think if they could see me now, but is that just parenting of two young boys?
What advice would you pass on to a new mum?
Don’t put pressure on yourself. Every mum thinks they have to be the perfect parent and everthing should be as the books say it should be. You cannot ever read something and be that person because every child is so different. Even seeing what my two boys are like – Bobby was so chilled out I could have gone to a hygienist appointment and he would have just sat in his pushchair and just watched. Cole would have just screamed blue murder, it just wouldn’t happen so already they have the personaliies so you have to adapt to them. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect because I don’t hitnk any of us are. We all lose our [shit] every so often don’t we.
Three words to describe yourself
Relaxed – all good things of course – warm and tired. Always tired.
Last book you read
I don’t read, there’s no time in my life for reading but I did read Giovanna Fletcher’s baby book ages ago. Weirdly because it was so relevant to me I actually really enjoyed it. I was reading it and thinking I’m reading about my own life, but there’s some comfort in it, that’s why she’s so popular, because she’s so honest. All the breastfeeding stuff you know I had a really hard time of it as well. Nobody tells you, even my own sister never really talked about it very much. I didn’t get that at all. But she was like I think I was so terrified that was almost…I think that the more we talk about it the better. You think that they’re supposed to latch on and it’s all lovely. I’ve never felt pain like it. Obviously it is a nice thing, it’s a labour of love.
Tell us one thing nobody knows about you.
I used to make my own clothes and sell them to my friends. My mum used to make clothes all the time, the sewing machine was always going. In the 80s with four kids it was tough financially so she made a lot of our own stuff. So I started making wrap around skirts, palazzo pants and scrunchies and people started putting orders in on our estate. I used to put the scrunchies on a big tube and take them to school and sell them. I was a right Del Boy even then!
I’m not good at inventing my own things, but I am good at making something taste the way it’s supposed to taste. There’s a really nice Thai coconut sea bass recipe in one of the Leon books, which is really easy. You can prepare it earlier, put in the parcel and then they cook in 15 minutes and it looks like a really well thought out meal.
Who inspires you?
It’s a cheesy thing to say but my mum really does. I’ve got a new found respect for her since having children and trying to work with the kids. She had four and she was on her own because my parents split up when I was young. She always worked full time, she always did extra things after school like piano lessons for people to make extra money. I don’t know how she did all of that with the addition of financial worry and no partner to support her. So when I get stressed or think that life’s getting a bit tough I think, “ come on, think about what it was like for your mum, it was so much harder for her and she’s like happy now, we’re all happy and she’s getting the payback through us now I suppose. I think of her as a role model when I start to get a bit delusional as to what’s going on in life.
What’s next on your list of things to do?
I do do a lot of different things. I’ve been really lucky, I even got to do Strictly. There’s nothing really left that I desperately want to do. To be honest, if Kimba Kids works the way we hope it will it will be a much bigger focus for me over the next year because I’ll need to go full throttle if it works ans stuff. We’ve loads of ideas for interim things we can do around Christmas which all takes time and thought.
What are your memories of school?
I actually liked school from a social point of view. I was never sporty so I hated that side of things. I’d always find a way to get out of cross country. Generally I was lucky to be academic enough to get through without working too hard but I was never way up there. Because I was relatively clever but not expected to do amazingly well, I think you can enjoy school a bit more. You get grades that people are happy with, but you can also socialise without feeling too much pressure.
Memories of school dinners
We had really good school dinners. I always remember my middle school dinners were really good. They always did the best puddings, proper northern puddings like cornflake tart – a suet pastry base with jam and cornflake and treacle – and jam roly poly. Everyone who went to my school still talks about it.
What would you take to a desert island?
My kids, although it would be tempting not to! I can’t actually bare to be away from them for too long so they’d have to come, for help with the childcare. Music because I could keep them entertained and I can’t not be around music, so some sort of music system. And alcohol to get me through.
We are delighted to announce that we have extended the deadline for our City Kids School Food Awards #CityKidsSFA19. The response from schools and parents has been so overwhelmingly positive that we want to include as many entrants as possible.
The School Food Awards are a unique opportunity to win an award that recognises the great work of schools and their kitchen teams. All schools are operating on budgets, and some are very tight budgets, yet many catering teams manage to provide nutritious, hot lunches for the kids. We think this should be celebrated! But we also need to continue the discussion surrounding around free school meals and healthy eating.
With these awards we aim to recognise those schools who are providing catering excellence and thinking beyond meat and potatoes. The awards will become a well-regarded accolade amongst parents and educators alike. Winners will be handpicked by the City Kids editorial team and a host of well-known and passionate foodies, to be announced shortly.
The award categories are as follows:
School Dinner Hero (Primary/Secondary)
Best School Menu (Primary/Secondary)
Best Vegetarian Menu (Primary/Secondary)
School Dinner Hero (Prep/Secondary)
Best School Menu (Prep/Secondary)
Best Vegetarian Menu (Prep/Secondary)
What’s the one question that kids ask when they visit a school? “What’s the food like?” And what do parents ask on a daily basis when they collect their kids from school? “What did you have for lunch?” School food is top of the agenda for kids and parents and what better way to show your school’s catering brilliance than with these awards.
Apart from the obvious positive PR, there are plenty of benefits to nominating your school for a City Kids School Food Award. All shortlisted schools will be mentioned in print and online and will be featured in our Spring Education issue. Winners will feature in our Summer issue. You will also receive a digital logo for use across your marketing assets to include: Vote for Us!, Shortlisted, Winner, Runner-up. This will contribute to the multi-media brand exposure across our platforms and yours.
How to enter
For more information about the entry process, categories and judging please click on the link below. Make your application by completing the online form on this page or by email. If you have any questions please email email@example.com. Good luck!
If you thought you had it all worked out, but realise you’ve dropped a ball, here’s our guide to Summer holiday camps and clubs. Take note of some of the discounts we have available too!
THE LITTLE GYM
Themed activity camps that not only teach gymnastics but also work on confidence, self-esteem and creativity. Pirates, princesses, magic wizardry and superheroes for children aged 3-12yrs in Chiswick, Westfield, Wandsworth, Hampton Hill. Quote CKTLG19 to get a 15% discount on camps at Chiswick
London’s leading STEM learning provider. Richer Education camps are not just about education, but also fun! All levels of knowledge are welcome and activities are led by specialists in their field. 4-14 yrs in appropriate age groups running at Imperial College London and at Baden Powell House in South Kensington.
Innovative and creative tech camps covering Junior Python, all girls coding, video game design, Python and Java coding, Creative Digital Design, Unity 3D and more. 9-17yrs Imperial College, City of London School & South Hampstead.
These festival-themed summer workshops include music, making and having fun and include some FREE drop-ins. Highlights are a family gig with the Brass Funkeys, Cut-a-Shine’s family barn dance and animation workshops with an Aardman aficionado. 4-16yrs Running from Tuesday 30 July to Thursday 15 August in Brentford.
Multi-sports camp aiming to develop sporting talent as well as ‘Life Skills Through Sport’ such as resilience, teamwork, empowerment and responsibility. 5-13 yrs Richmond, Teddington, Hampton, Esher, Kingston
Every parent’s favourite pastime…But Slime Planet are at the rescue offering one hour workshops every day during the holidays. Poppin’ Candy and Glow Slime are highlights. 3 yrs+ (under 5s need supervision) Arch 494 Rathgar Rd, London, Sw9 7EP
Inspired by architecture, the summer programme is called Nature’s Architects and focusses on learning from nature’s builders such as birds and bees.Can be booked as a single session, weekly or whole course. 4-11 yrs (under 6 to be accompanied by an adult. Runs until 15 August.
Two disciplines, Skate park Skateboarding (in the morning) and Street Skateboarding (in the afternoon) running and running catering for beginners, intermediate and advanced skaters. 6-14 yrs Royal Oak & Camden
There were two things which gave me the idea and motivation to launch bubble. Firstly, I had kids of my own and quick realised that childcare is such a massive struggle – a daily struggle – for so many parents. Secondly, when I looked at how we and other parents were trying to find our childcare, much more often then not our decisions were being driven by recommendation and word of mouth. Trust is obviously the most important thing when it comes to who we let look after our kids and more so then anything else we want to know who are friends are using and who they really rate. We figured that is information that an app could bring to a parent’s fingertips, and we set off to build it with bubble.
How does it work?
bubble gives parents total control to find the perfect sitter for them and their kids. The app makes it easy to select when you need someone and quickly see the sitter’s around you who want to help you out. Every sitter passes an ID and Background check before being allowed onto the app and our USP is that the app will show you how you know the sitter via mutual friends. For example, you can see the other parents at your kids’ school and the sitters they know and use. You can also read the sitter’s reviews from other local parents, and even use the app to chat with those parents for more information. When you come across someone you like, you can use the app to book them as well as pay them cashlessly at the end which our customers really love. The app has a review system which helps ensure that the sitters giving the best service are the ones that get the most work.
Which areas of London are covered by the app?
We’ve got full coverage across London now and on average it takes just 43 seconds for a parent to receive an application from a sitter after posting their job. Parents are using bubble to book sitters in as little notice as 30 minutes. The thing they love most about the app is that ultimately they are always in control of the sitter they pick. And we see how parents use the app in many different ways, doing what they need to do to get comfortable with a sitter.
What’s been the biggest lesson learned running Bubble?
Doing a startup with three young kids at home (I’ve got three under 5) is especially difficult but at the same time I love how despite having never worked harder, I’ve also never spent more time with my kids. There’s a lot being written at the moment about helping parents work flexibly, and the importance of enabling us to better juggle work and family life. My experience has shown me how spending time with your family and being incredibly dedicated to your work are not mutually exclusive.
What’s your proudest moment?
There’s no doubt that starting a business is a rollercoaster, the only certainty you have is that things will go wrong. So celebrating the wins and having what can at times be gruelling days punctured with moments of pride is so important. Every time we get some glowing feedback from a customer we’ve helped is a huge boost to me and the team. We’ve got amazing feedback on our trustpilot page and seeing new comments come in from parents thanking bubble for helping them is honestly a huge source of pride for us. Childcare is a really sensitive subject and it’s not an easy product to ‘sell’ – particularly when you’re doing things in a novel way as we are. So great customer feedback is something we hugely value – it’s what drives us on to keep doing more.
What’s your top tip for date night in London?
I’ll be honest I’m pretty useless with this kind of thing! My wife and I are big foodies so when we go out, 99% of the time, good food is on the agenda. There are so many great places in London now we’re spoilt for choice. Caravan in Kings Cross is a favourite right now.
Where’s your favourite place to go in London with the children?
We’re typical North Londoners so we always like to take the kids to the Heath or Highgate Wood whenever the weather allows. When it doesn’t, the Wonderlab in the Science Museum is a great bet, though I always leave it pretty shattered.
Last book you read?
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s definitely not one to take in with the kids screaming around you but if you do ever get a quiet moment, it’s just brilliant.
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you.
My first job was commentating on European Football for UEFA – for a football anorak it was a dream. How I quite ended up running a babysitting app still bemuses me sometimes.
What would you take to a desert island?
My wife, kids and a bubble babysitter.
I love to cook and find it a huge stress reliever. Nowadays though most of my time in the kitchen is spent making Cheese Toasties so I’ll go with that.
Blogger, vlogger, social media queen, director, entrepreneur and now, published author (we’re out of breath!) Who is Vicki Psarias? Victoria Evans finds out.
Three words to describe yourself.
Warm, talkative, generous.
What are your social media house rules?
Nothing digital at the table and the kids have set times when they can use the computer. YouTube is weekends only. I’m not addicted to my phone anymore either and most of our evenings are tech-free unless I’m on a deadline. I tend to write during the day now that my book Mumboss is out. I wrote that between 10pm and 3am last year!
Lots of people blog so they can get their hands on free stuff. What was your motivation? I started Honestmum.com in 2010 to rediscover my voice after a traumatic birth. Blogging as a career in the UK was unheard of then. After four weeks, I was offered my first commission and my business grew organically from there. Now I work with global brands while sharing all that I know to help mobilise and inspire other mums and dads to work exibly and remotely thanks to the democratic internet.
Why do you think your profile has grown in the way it has?
My readers tell me they feel I’m their friend: their honest, loving friend who tells it like it is and gives them the advice they need to hear. I’ll take that.
How do you deal with negativity on social media?
I’m pretty good at brushing off the trolls now that I’m seven years in. I think having a cool-headed and caring husband, Peter; and manager Jack Freud helps hugely. I never feel sad for long.
Top tips for someone wanting to blog as a career?
Buy my book Mumboss of course: I share all that I know within that from how to start a blog, finding your voice and confidence and knowing your worth. Quick tips are: let your passions lead you, write what you know and be consistent.
What was the motivation for Mumboss? I wanted a long-form piece that you could follow, or dip into, which houses all that I’ve learnt in the seven years blogging and vlogging.
Last book you read?
Purpose-Find Your Truth and Embrace Your Calling by my pal Jessica Huie MBE. It is brilliantly life-affirming and inspirational.
What’s your top tip for date night in London?
We do date days, to be honest. It’s easier to get a babysitter and there are no hangovers. The Royal Garden Hotel for vegan afternoon tea, followed by a walk in the adjacent Kensington Gardens, would be the best day date possible. I adore being their resident blogger. It’s my second-home and it’s so tranquil there.
Where’s your favourite place to go in London with the children?
Anywhere in Kensington or Notting Hill. I used to live on Westbourne Grove and did so when I met my husband Peter so we have lots of happy memories there. We love revisiting with the kids be it eating out, heading to the park or visiting a local museum.
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you.
I can bark like a dog. Crazy but true. Discovered that as a child. Dogs bark back at me but I’ve not a clue what they’re on about!!!
What would you take to a desert island?
My kids and husband. Then vegan chocolate.
I turned plant-based several months ago and my go-to is a mild chickpea curry the whole family loves.
What’s been your proudest moment?
The birth of my kids and my wedding day. Then, seeing my parents’ faces on publication day. Their pride and joy is etched in my mind’s eye forever.
What’s next on the list of things to do?
Mumboss: The Movie is the grand plan, Stan. A talk show too please and moving to LA in five years’ time, perhaps. Oh, and the big dream is another baby, but I need to work on my non-broody husband for that one (it might take a while). I have a lot I want to do to be honest…
Author/ Blogger/ Vlogger/ Filmmaker/ TV Director & Founder of Honest Mum®
Tully Review – funny, uncomfortable, but a must-see
If there’s one woman in Hollywood that I always want to side with it’s Charlize Theron. She’s clever, beautiful, been through tough times, and is not scared to show a make-up-free face on screen. And as Marlo in Tully, she spends most of the film make-up-free, and looking, well, how we all feel most of the time. Dishevelled, flabby, exhausted, stressed, anxious, pulled in too many directions.
Anyone who’s raised or is raising children knows there are highs and lows, but translating this into tv and film has often produced clichéd scenes, jokes and scripts. Not here. Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman have made a funny film which is, at times, a dark and uncomfortable watch. Theron has perfected the Mum Moodswingometer which is rarely pointing to the well-balanced middle: serene patience to passive aggressive and worse in 60 seconds is totally achievable if you’re a mother to two small children and a newborn.
At what seems like the height of her panic, Marlo calls the night nanny recommended by her brother, and we’re introduced to Tully played by Mackenzie Davis. She’s everything that Marlo isn’t: young, pert, positive, energetic – perhaps everything that Marlo used to be before children. And Davis is pretty mesmerising on screen.
Mackenzie Davis stars as Tully in Jason Reitman’s TULLY, a Focus Features release.
Tully isn’t simply about struggling to be a mum. It’s more complicated than that. It’s about being a wife, a woman, a worker and acceptance. Go see. With tissues.
Thanks to Hustle & Fox and Universal for arranging a great screening at The Soho Hotel.
Baby-faced Genius – Who does your baby look like and why? Some science (and anecdotal evidence) from our ante-natal guru.
Words: Beverley Turner
One of the great joys of running ante-natal classes (I hate that word – you are adults who have had sex – classrooms are for kids) is meeting the babies who we started to know as bumps. Myself and the midwife spend eight weeks laughing, listening and learning with couples who are about to become parents. Then – as if by magic – we’re all back in the pub together with tiny, curled up, pink-faced babies. And everyone looks just like their dad in a baby-gro.
It never fails to amaze me how much babies resemble their fathers. Sometimes, it momentarily slips my mind which baby belongs to which dad. But then I look at the cherub in a pink frilly dress and think, “Ah yes, you’re the one who always orders a pint of pale ale and works in IT … that’s right, Mike.”
Mother nature very cleverly makes sure that dads stick around to do the Sainsbury’s run by carving out newborns in their image. It makes perfect sense. We mums are inclined towards keeping our babies close, feeding them, snuggling them and marvelling at the colour of their poo. Dads may need to work a little harder to feel that bond – but if they look down and see themselves reflected back … well, their hearts melt; they’re soon picturing those chubby cheeks in a Chelsea scarf, which is enough to make them stay.
Although I’d like to claim 100% certainty on this phenomenon, scientific studies don’t actually back my theory. A body of research conducted over decades and published in the journal ‘Evolution and Human Behaviour’, has delivered conflicting results: some studies found that newborns more closely resembled their mums than their dads; other studies found newborns to be matched with
both parents equally well. My personal favourite was the most recent study which found that, although babies more closely resembled their mother for the first three days, the mums themselves remarked on how much they looked like dads. The author of the study concluded that this was an “evolved or conditioned response to assure fathers of their paternity.” I’d also ask (with a mischievous glint in my eye) how many mums down the generations have cooed, “Oh darling! He looks soooo like you!” with a quiet sigh of relief.
Of course, this paternal-bias has also caused some mums to grimace at a large nose or flappy ears and say, “She gets that from your side of the family.” Fast forward two years and the toddler sulks can be weaponised by a tired dad: “She’s just like you when you don’t get your own way!” To the harassed mum, the teenager slamming the door becomes: “A mini-you! He’s learnt that from you!” And, just in case she hasn’t played the genetics card quite hard enough, “Remember the time your brother stormed off at Christmas lunch? That boy is just the same!”
Mud-slinging from the branches of the family tree is a tried and tested means of surviving parenting. We all do it. We shouldn’t. But, we do. It’s oddly satisfying. In essence, it’s an attempt to be a good parent whilst getting yourself off the hook – if Olivia can’t sit still, it’s easy to blame your restless mother-in-law. And if an inability to kick a football is a family trait from your husband’s side, little Jago may never make the A Team, regardless of how much you spend on lessons. It’s not our fault.
And there may be some truth in that. A recently published book, ‘Do Parents matter?’, tried to answer that provocative question. The author, Judith Harris wanted to establish whether a child’s behaviour was “learned from their parents,” taught by their social group or could be attributed to “the genes they inherited.” She concluded: “Studies using the proper controls consistently favour the latter explanation. In fact, personality resemblances between biological relatives are due almost entirely to heredity, rather than environment.” She cites the fact that adopted children “don’t resemble their adoptive parents in personality.” Harris claims not be particularly interested in genetic effects, but the point is that they have to be considered. Unless we know what the child brings to the environment, we can’t figure out what effect the environment has on the child.”
She travelled the world examining many different cultures and parenting styles, concluding that “parenting didn’t have to be such a difficult, anxiety-producing job, that there are many different ways to rear a child, and no convincing evidence that one way produces better results than another.”
So, the moral of the story is that we, as parents, just need to do what we can. I sometimes think the best we can hope for is a well-timed “please” or “thank you” – everything else is genetically pre-determined. We’re all just winging it, moulding our kids as best we can with the product we grew. But genes will always play a part – so pick those daddies carefully, and be honest – we may not be quite perfect ourselves.
Beverley Turner is author of The Happy Birth Book and hosts a show on LBC at 6pm on Saturdays. She also runs The Happy Birth Club in Chiswick.
Want more sleep? The World Sleep Society is at hand with some ideas on how to get more sleep, for you and your children!
How many times have you quietly competed with anyone about how little sleep you’ve had. You must be the most hard done by, you must be the most tired, no one could have possibly had as little sleep as you. Well, as parents, we all know that sleep is the holy grail and that we NEVER get enough of the stuff. And the best way to get more sleep is to get the nippers to sleep like babies. Ahem.
10 COMMANDMENTS FOR CHILDREN
Ages Birth to 12 Years
Sleep is one of the most important contributors to your child’s physical and mental health. Good sleep habits, sleep hygiene, or “sleep health” are alternative terms often used to describe sleep promoting practices. The explanation as to why healthy sleep practices promote sleep is likely to be, at least in part, that they work by improving the regulation of sleep, either by reinforcing the body’s natural circadian rhythms (ie, the timing of light and darkness), or by increasing the drive to sleep. Other sleep practices help us to associate certain activities (like a bedtime routine) and environments (ie, the bedroom) with sleep. Healthy sleep behaviours also promote sleep by reducing factors in the environment which are stimulating (like caffeine) and increasing relaxation, making it easier to fall and stay asleep.
Finally, good sleep practices include providing an adequate opportunity for sleep based on age and individual sleep needs and an environment that is conducive to good sleep quality and safety.
Make sure your child gets enough sleep by setting an age-appropriate bedtime (preferably before 9:00 pm or 21:00 hours) and waketime*.
Keep a consistent bedtime and wake time on weekdays and weekends.
Establish a consistent bedtime routine and recommend wearing comfortable clothes in bed, including strong absorbing diapers for infants.
Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.
Avoid bright lights at bedtime and during the night and increase light exposure in the morning.
Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers, and cell phones, out of the bedroom and limit use of electronics before bedtime.
Maintain a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes.
Have an age-appropriate nap schedule.
Ensure plenty of exercise and time spent outdoors during the day.
Eliminate foods and beverages containing caffeine, including many sodas, coffee, and tea.
* TABLE OF RECOMMENDED SLEEP AMOUNTS
AGE SLEEP NEED 3-12 months —- 14 to15 hours 1-3 years —- 12 to14 hours 3-5 years —- 11 to 13 hours 6-12 years —- 10 to 11 hours 12-18 years —- 8.5 to 9.5 hours
In addition to clinical sleep problems, poor sleep habits can cause poor quality sleep in adults. To help improve overall sleep and wellness, World Sleep Society has created the 10 Commandments of Sleep Hygiene for Adults:
Establish a regular bedtime and waking time.
If you are in the habit of taking siestas, do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion 4 hours before bedtime, and do not smoke.
Avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4 hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
Use comfortable, inviting bedding.
Find a comfortable sleep temperature setting and keep the room well ventilated.
Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
Reserve your bed for sleep and sex, avoiding its use for work or general recreation.
The idea came after I had my first baby. I felt exhausted, elated and overwhelmed, and it struck me as bizarre that the go-to gift for new mums was flowers, which require looking after when you’re already pretty spent! I returned to work but couldn’t shake the idea and, as more friends had babies, I could see how important it was that new mums be looked after and what a difference someone saying ‘Are you ok? I’m thinking of you,’ can make. We started as gifts for new mums and now our packages are sent for lots of other occasions, too – get well, thank you, birthdays or any time someone needs some TLC!
What were you doing before DBHF and did it help?
I was in brand and marketing on large Government campaigns, and then London 2012. It helped massively – I knew the importance of understanding your audience and project management. The budgets are very different, and nothing could have prepared me for how difficult running my own business would be – everything is on you and that’s tough, but it’s also the best thing I’ve ever done.
What’s a typical day like?
I’m currently on maternity leave, except not entirely because, when you run a business and there are salaries to pay, it’s not possible to just stop. Thankfully, we now have a team and a warehouse where the orders are all fulfilled. It’s not in my house and it happens without me! It’s a bit of a juggle at the moment as I’m home with Frank, but when he naps (if I’m not napping!), I am working on longer term plans and interviews, and we’re about to hit Mother’s Day, which is a huge one for us.
What’s been the biggest lesson learnt about business?
To stay focused and not get distracted by what others are doing, or try to do too much too soon, I think. I’m really clear on what Don’t Buy Her Flowers is – we sell thoughtful gift packages. There are lots of gorgeous gift ideas, but ours are about encouraging the recipient to have a sit down, and letting them know they are loved, because someone wants to take care of them.
Instagram: love it or hate it?
Love it! I love the community feel of it – being a business owner can be pretty lonely, especially at the beginning. It’s fantastic for meeting like-minded people, and to also find customers. Our followers are incredibly supportive and kind.
It was actually really positive – the online community was angry on our behalf! I ended up doing lots of interviews about it and it really helped remind me why I started the business. Being a mum is wonderful but hard, and new mums are so vulnerable. We DON’T need people pitting us against each other and criticising how we parent. Most of us are doing our absolute best, and we’re hardest on ourselves, so don’t need judgement from anyone else!
Describe the change from a family of four to a family of five.
A lot more washing and a lot less sleep! We’re in the early stages so mostly knackered, but it’s so lovely to see a different, nurturing side to the big kids – they love Frank and are so excited every time he does something new.
Who inspires you?
Anna Whitehouse (Mother Pukka) is the most driven person I know.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you’re 70% sure of something, go for it. If you wait for perfection it’ll never happen, and you can always change things once you get going. That was Ben Jones, a friend, and one of the founders of Graze.com.
What would you take to a desert island?
A bed. I can’t think beyond sleep currently!
What’s your favourite spot in London?
I love where we live in St Margarets, and we love going to Kew Gardens.
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you?
When I was at university, I applied to go on a TV show called Bar Wars and got to interview stage.
Last book you read?
The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother.
There are lots of exciting things happening at DBHF! We’ve seen huge growth in the number of corporate clients, which is exciting, and we have so many ideas. Personally, I also want to enjoy the next few months as much possible as I don’t plan to have any more babies. It’s taken me until the third one to realise that taking it easy is the key!
Steph Douglas is Founder of Don’t Buy Her Flowers, selling thoughtful gift packages.
Beverley Turner gets to grips with ante-natal celebrations and yak-milk-drinking hippies as she explores the idea of baby showers
Nothing leaves me as conflicted as the ‘Baby Shower.’ As a party girl at heart who will never refuse a glass of fizz and adores hanging out with fecund and fabulous pregnant woman, I should love the idea of a pre-baby celebration. But I don’t. There – I’ve said it. I’m an ante-natal teacher and Baby Showers make me shudder.
There’s a good chance that I must simply chill the hell out. So, forgive my bah-humbug. But what exactly is a Baby Shower? It’s a well-intentioned get-together of busy women to wish the mum-to-be success on her birth journey and shower the baby in gifts. It’s a celebration of an impending human being. Or – while paraphrasing writer Dave Ramsey – is it yet another way to get young women to spend money they don’t have, on things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like?
Shouldn’t we be mortified to ask friends to part with their hard-earned cash because we decided to have unprotected sex? Turning up empty-handed is not an option. The very wording strong-arms attendees to ‘shower’ the ‘baby’ in gifts. But the baby doesn’t give a crap about gifts – they will only want mum (possibly, dad), milk, cuddles and love. They don’t need wet-wipe-warmers and 17 new-born babygros that they will inevitably be too big for. Of course, having a baby comes with costs and I get the appeal of a helping hand.
But once a baby has arrived, folk will keenly arrive with gifts in exchange for a baby cuddle and a cup of tea. These tokens of love are wonderfully uplifting for weary new mums. A Baby Shower places your mates in the awkward position of having to buy a second present when they come and visit you and the bubba. It’s either that, or they rock up with a hug apologising for not bringing anything while clumsily asking if the cashmere cardigan they bought fits him (answer: it does, but he vomited on it and you’ll never have time to do a hand wash). The icky, American-style commercialism of the Baby Shower is perhaps something that a younger, more materialistic generation are much more comfortable with. They would similarly be appalled by the notion of oldies like me not wishing to ’tempt fate.’
Women of yore knew that labour was a risky business. They kept a healthy emotional detachment from their foetus as they dug potatoes from the fields. They certainly wouldn’t ‘count their chickens before they’d hatched,’ never mind counting how many cupcakes they’d need for a party before baby had even arrived. Effective scans did not even exist until the 1970s. Too many women today feel blindly assured that modern medicine will ensure the safe arrival of their unborn. If only that were true! Yes, positivity and preparation are the key to a happy birth. But there is merit in knowing that getting the baby out safely remains a bloody big deal. The Baby Shower allows no pause for thoughts of disappointment – or even worse – disaster. We underestimate the physical and emotional requirements of birth at our peril.
I rather like the idea of women sitting around telling empowering and uplifting birth stories over a pot of tea while helping the centre-of-attention become filled with confidence. But when does that ever happen? Depressingly, most Baby Showers consist of already-mums telling birth horror stories and warning the mum-to-be that she shouldn’t get her hopes up of having the birth she wants. This negativity is never helpful. But surrounded by well-meaning mates, how can the polite host request that everyone shut the hell up about stitches thanks all the same?
There is a less capitalist version of the Baby Shower which is struggling to catch on: The Blessingway. This is a ‘spiritual’ occasion intended to bless the mother-to-be with love and kindness before she crosses the pantheon into parenting. Sounds ace. But there’s only one thing worse than a room of Kardashians and that’s a room of yak-milk-drinking hippies massaging each other and chanting. In a Blessingway, friends tell the pregnant woman a lovely story about her and thread a bead onto a bracelet that she will look to in labour to give her strength. This sounds lovely! So why does it make my whole body cringe?
Ultimately, babies are best left to cook quietly under the gaze of mother nature and good medical care. Mums-to-be are best looked after by responsible employers and compassionate mates. And once baby has arrived safe and well, helium balloons and boob-shaped cakes are wonderful ways to make women smile.
Acid attack survivor, philanthropist, entrepreneur and soon to be mother-of-two
Describe yourself in three words Positive, determined, confident.
What’s a typical day for you? When not heavily pregnant, I like to set myself up for the day with an at-home workout on the treadmill or doing floor exercises. Then, I will make Belle’s breakfast and depending on what I’ve got going on work-wise that day will take her to kindergarten, or we’ll play together and then I’ll catch up on emails. I really enjoy cooking so in the evening I’ll prepare a nice healthy meal for the family, which we will eat at the table before snuggling up on the sofa watching a Disney film. Once Belle is asleep I will have a flick through social media and Richie and I will catch up on each other’s day before bed.
You’ve been called inspirational. Who inspires you? The amazing people who volunteer at my charity, ‘The Katie Piper Foundation’ and my mum because she is so kind and resilient.
Is it important to be liked or respected? I’m a huge believer in treating others how you would like to be treated and respect plays a big part in that, and is something I believe is very important. As far as being liked – there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like you but it’s how you deal with it that counts, and having the confidence to not let it knock you down.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? My wonderful surgeon once told me that worrying was the biggest waste of time. It never helps a situation so it’s something I try not to spend too much time doing.
What would you take to a desert island? Can it be people? If so my family! If not, probably my favourite album ‘Thriller by Michael Jackson’. I could listen to it for hours!
What’s your favourite spot in London? Ohhh that’s a difficult one as there are so many wonderful spots in London. Belle loves the park so Hyde Park would definitely have to be up there for spending quality family time together.
What’s your biggest luxury? It would have to be going on holiday! We love taking family breaks together and have so much fun with Belle playing by the pool.
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you. I usually get by on just four hours’ sleep. For some reason, I’ve just never needed much sleep.
Favourite film? I watch so many Disney films these days – probably Moana!
Favourite date night? Right now, I am so busy with work and heavily pregnant so it would probably have to be cooking a lovely dinner together and snuggling up on the sofa watching a film. Ask me when I’m not pregnant and I would probably say a romantic dinner out!
Who would be your green card? I only have eyes for my husband!
What’s next for Katie Piper? Family-wise, I am extremely excited to be welcoming my second child to the world just before Christmas and workwise, I have my first ever theatre tour ‘What’s In My Head’ starting in March 2018 which is extremely exciting as it will be a really intimate experience with my fans. Within it, I will discuss my own battles with anxiety and explain how I have overcome it. Insecurities exist in us all of us and adversity in life is unavoidable but this is my chance to hopefully be able to help others learn how to manage it.
By Susan Hamlyn, Director at The Good Schools Guide Education Consultants
St Catherine’s School, Bramley
The arrival of a baby these days produces less unalloyed joy than in earlier times. Along with the multipacks of nappies come bucketfuls of stress. This is especially true of new parents in London who think wistfully of their own, often far less pressured, childhoods. They look around their chic – (or less chic) – London borough and see queues of exhaust-emitting traffic, crowded buses, unsupervised parks and schools, which are either good and over- subscribed or unacceptably poor.
Not that many London schools aren’t good these days. But few have much space – especially outside. Staff turnover can be high. The best state primaries have catchment areas the size of an exercise book and good preps are highly competitive and expensive. Then there’s the pressure. Schools are expected to pack more and more into a short day. A common sight is a child on his way to school, heavy rucksack on his back, instrument case in one hand and sports bag – bootlaces and cricket bat perilously tipping out of one end – in the other. Can this be the only way?
Well, it isn’t. Recent years have seen a change of thinking in both parents and schools. Increasingly, London parents are sending their children against the commuter traf c to schools in the Home Counties. Hazel and Chris Tomkins are typical: ‘Alba is a lovely child. But she was getting lost in the local school – there were simply too many children who needed more attention than she does. She is sporty and needs a lot of space. Since she went to her country prep, she’s got into the borough athletics squad and is much happier.’
Likewise, doctors Nour and Shazia Mahmood, enthuse about the change in their twins: ‘Their new school has a minibus that collects from a couple of streets away and brings them back in the evening. They did have to sit entrance exams, but it was far less competitive than preps in London – three children for each place rather than 12! And the teaching and results are just as good.’
Schools within commuting distance see London as an excellent new market. Papplewick, a boys’ prep in Ascot, Berkshire, reports: ‘Since our transport service to and from Chiswick was launched, we have experienced a 100% rise in interest, resulting in a second service to and from Brook Green.’ And they confirm what parents say:
‘We offer a huge range of extra-curricular activities and sport in a rural environment. This all takes place within a school day, rather than parents having to ferry their children to after-school activities around London. All prep is done at school here, so there’s no homework. Parents report that their sons are less stressed, happier and working harder. They also achieve good academic results.’
Papplewick School, Ascot
Senior schools also now offer weekly boarding especially tailored to professional London families. A key influence is the lack of space in London schools and the necessity of ‘bussing’ to local sports grounds. St Catherine’s School in Bramley, near Guildford – headed by the highly-experienced Alice Phillips – tells us: ‘Interest is high – we see about 90-100 families at every open morning, of whom about 20% are looking at weekly boarding.’ This is partly because St Catherine’s offers: ‘Space. Green vistas. Outdoor facilities, which include floodlit netball and tennis courts, lacrosse pitches, athletics track, plus a huge sports hall, swimming pool, fitness suite, gymnasium and dance studio. And outstanding on-site facilities – we offer musicians an auditorium with superb acoustics. Actors have a state-of the-art theatre and technical box.’
But it’s not just facilities. Many parents worry about the intensity of an urban childhood. St Catherine’s says: “Here their daughters can develop at a pace less dictated by the media and peer pressure. We are not isolated – we are located at the heart of a village community with Guildford on our doorstep. St Catherine’s girls are very busy and are more likely to be in a club, in an orchestra rehearsal or doing sports after school, rather than kicking their heels around a city centre.’
So – another sleepless night worrying about catchment areas or oversubscribed preps? Perhaps it’s time to look outside …?
Victoria Evans caught up with Izzy Judd as she prepared for the launch of Dare to Dream, and for the imminent arrival of baby number two, who we now know is Kit.
Describe yourself in three words
Kind, control-freak, mum
How did Dare to Dream come about?
Initially, when Harry and I first announced our pregnancy with Lola, I was conscious about putting the news out there. For two years, I saw pregnancy announcements and wondered why it wasn’t me. Having seen another celebrity announcement, or a friend’s, it felt like it was all around me. So, when Harry and I did our Hello interview, I told him how strongly I felt about being honest about how we got here. So, I spoke about IVF and miscarriages during the interview, but it was quite scary to come to the decision to open up.
The response I got back from women – I couldn’t believe the number of people, and even my own friends, who started to open up. Harry was like, ‘Izzy, I think you should write something. There’s something here.’ When I was going through my own issues, a lot of the books that I looked at were very science based. I couldn’t really find anything that spoke to me emotionally. So, the whole idea behind Dare to Dream was driven by the desire to write a book that would be a companion to other couples going through fertility struggles. I was inspired by the people reaching out to me.
How was the process?
My intention is to try and change the perception of fertility treatment. I went through a journey, for want of a better word, but the moment I found out that it wasn’t going to happen straight away, I panicked and opted for medical intervention. I wanted whatever medication I could have to get pregnant. In hindsight, I wish someone had put a hand on my shoulder and gone, ‘It’s okay, these things can take time. Don’t panic.’ Hormonally, I reacted quite badly to the medication and became very depressed, lost a lot of confidence and felt as though I’d lost myself completely.
After about six months, and another negative test result, I went downstairs. I was devastated. Harry took my hand and said, ‘Worst case scenario – you and me, and it’s still a pretty good place.’ It was a moment of realisation for me. Here I was, I’d just got married but I was so consumed and obsessed by this one thing. So, I did this mind, body and soul detox, which was amazing in that I instantly felt a change in my mood, and thought about falling pregnant. I made a decision that, actually, my story is that it’s not going to happen quickly for me. So, by the time I started IVF, I was able to approach it in a very calm way. I looked at my nutrition, I was doing mindfulness and I was probably in the best state mentally.
I really believe that people are frightened by the three letters ‘IVF’, but there is something really magical about it. I really felt that doctors take over your body, but you’re very much in charge of your mind. I really wanted to try and provide a different view, a more positive perspective, as a lot of couples might only have one go. It’s expensive and the pressure on you for it to work is going to put your body into a fight or flight mode. It’s about how you deal with getting through. Hopefully, the book guides people on how to better manage those emotions.
What’s a typical day like?
I’m with Lola full time. We’re very lucky as she can hang out in her cot and play happily in the mornings. She’s always been a great sleeper, but I’m the one who’s up, staring at her, wondering, ‘Are you too hot, or too cold?’ We might go to a class in the morning or meet up with a friend. She has her nap, which gives me a bit of nap time too (seven months pregnant). We go to the local parks or Harry might take her out. My day is quite focussed around Lola and her needs.
Who inspires you?
My granny was a huge inspiration to me. She worked all her life, which, in her generation, wasn’t necessarily what happened. She was quite forward thinking in many ways. I was very close to her and was devastated when she died. In the book, I mention a time when I was going through IVF. I used to walk round St Peter’s Square and there was this robin that followed me around. Apparently, robins are someone from your past letting you know that they’re there. It’s a bit kooky, but I like it. I was always sure it was granny just being there.
Family inspires me. My brothers are all musicians, and I’m very close to my family.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My dad’s always said ‘dignity at all times’, and that does sit well with me. My dad doesn’t say much but, when he does, it counts.
What would you take to a desert island?
Can I take Harry? And Lola? Harry might be happy that I mentioned him first for a change! I have had my Winnie the Pooh bear ever since I was a little girl. I still can’t sleep without him, or go anywhere without him.
What’s your favourite spot in London?
My instant response is St Peter’s Square. I love the fact that, in a big city, there are these pockets like Chiswick House, where one can find moments of peace and magic.
What’s your biggest luxury?
I’m not one for luxuries but, when we go on holiday, I like a nice hotel. Go on, shall we upgrade? Harry is the opposite. We don’t go on holiday every year, but when we do, that’s our little luxury.
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you
I have suffered horrendously with anxiety, for most of my life. When you’re someone who goes out and performs like I did with Escala on Britain’s Got Talent, you wouldn’t think that that person would then go off stage and have a panic attack. I don’t know if many people know that about me, but I’m sure that was the root of my problems when trying to conceive. My anxiety has become a friend. When I say I’m a control freak, being in control is my way of managing my anxiety. I find change very difficult. I do get anxious before events, but it’s such a silent thing, I don’t think anybody notices. I’ve learned when to say ‘no’ to things, and it’s become easier as an adult. At least mental health is being talked about now.
The baby! I knew that I had time to write the book, so I can now focus on Lola before the baby comes. The whole thing with Dare to Dream is, I feel like it’s a long-term campaign. I want to keep the conversation going about fertility, and empower people to feel comfortable talking about it.
A bit silly! When I became a parent, watching charity adverts about the hardship children face all over the world made me determined to make a difference. The emotions of becoming a parent fuelled my belief that every baby should have a fair start in life, no matter where they’re born. I was out shopping for baby clothes when I thought to myself: if I could buy beautiful baby products and know the product helps children in need, why would I buy anywhere else? And so From Babies with Love was born. From Babies with Love speaks to the powerful emotions parents feel for the welfare of children universally. It also appeals to style-conscious parents who want beautiful products. From Babies with Love satisfies both desires in a unique, memorable way.
What’s a typical day for you?
I don’t really have one. I do the morning school run on most days, and then find myself working with lots of talented people that make From Babies with Love what it is. Sometimes I’m singing nursery rhymes to babies to get a smile on a photo- shoot, sometimes in a suit pitching to a client in the City. Generally it’s me and my laptop on the go, checking in with the office from where ever I am. I like that each day is different, that there’s always something new and that I’ve usually flung myself somewhere far outside of my comfort zone!
Who inspires you?
Dame Anita Roddick, for how she incorporated her values, her views on human rights and the environment in to the core of her business and pioneered how ethics can drive consumer behaviour.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. What your character, for it becomes your destiny.” A quote rather than advice I’ve directly been given, but I find it very powerful.
What would you take to a desert island?
Of course my family. And Netflix.
Where’s your favourite spot in London?
A very difficult question, I’m going to go for Islington. I guess because both my children were born there I have quite an attachment to the place. I still take the kids back, for example we love the Little Angel Puppet Theatre.
What’s your biggest luxury?
What’s next for From Babies With Love?
We have lots of exciting projects ahead, including expanding our collection in to more new product categories. All of which will help us to support even more children; we currently support over 2,000 across 35 countries, the need is so great that we move onwards and upwards from here.
OUR KIDS ARE INFLUENCED IN MYRIAD WAYS AS THEY NAVIGATE THEIR WAY THROUGH CHILDHOOD.
SOPHIE CLOWES LOOKS AT THE POSITIVES OF REAL-LIFE CONNECTIONS.
As the real world gets ever more crazy, as politics and politicians break all the rules, as carefully curated Instagram feeds attack our families’ fragile sense of self-worth, as nature throws us earthquakes and erupting volcanoes, as SATs and 11+, GCSEs and A Levels take on an importance disproportionate to their worth, the need to seek solace from this exhausting, mostly man-made madness increases.
Guiding our children through this fog is not a job for the faint-hearted. Nor is it a job to be tackled alone. There are many influencers in our children’s lives, starting with us as parents. As our children grow, the field of influence widens. Siblings, other family members, teachers and peers all inform their decisions. These are real-life interactions, and many people within these groups are positive role models.
However, the trouble with families, as the adage goes, is that you can’t pick them. The negative role we are cast in when very young can stay with us for life: the difficult one, the whining one, the greedy one, the bossy one, the lazy one … while often coming from a place of deep love, these epithets can become self-fulfilling and, subsequently, toxic. Well-meaning family members and friends can enforce negative pre-conceptions and display limited patience or creativity (hands up, anyone?) as influencers.
Similarly, as parents, we take great care in choosing a school to fit the character of our child. However we have no choice in our child’s classmates or teachers. It is left to chance as to whether there will be a conflict or confluence of interests. Many is the primary school child who is lost in the middle of the class, seemingly invisible to the teacher, pin-balling between sets of friends, unable to find their tribe.
Online media, particularly social media, holds sway over our emotionally vulnerable pre-teen and teen offspring. To get a handle on the enormity of this, take 25-year-old YouTube vlogger Joe Sugg (younger brother of the even more successful Zoe, aka Zoella), who has over ten million registered viewers. His videos have had more than a billion views. That’s quite some influence. To put it into old-school perspective, the daily circulation figures of all the British broadsheet newspapers combined are far lower at just over 1.5 million. Or, how about Selena Gomez with her 107 million Instagram followers, or the not-sure-how-much-of-her-is-real selfie queen Kim Kardashian with 90.6 million followers?
One of the greatest triumphs of social media has been its means of giving everyone a voice. It has given increased empowerment to the women of the world in particular, and has helped launch businesses and careers alike, for which, three massive cheers. It is, however, all too often a one-way relationship (Gomez follows a mere 254 on Instagram, Kardashian an even more paltry 104), a super-edited falsity that encourages our children to judge their inside on others’ outside.
Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, talks of the importance of encouraging a growth mindset in children, as opposed to a fixed mindset where the child sees ability as something that is pre-set.
So, who should we turn to for help in nurturing this growth mindset? At the end of last year, I went to the funeral of someone we had known only briefly, but whose impact on our family’s lifehad been immense. Brian Appiah Obeng taught freerunning with the Foucan Freerunning Academy in Hammersmith. He was a real-life super hero. Tragically, in a cruel and unpredictable plot twist, he died unexpectedly from an asthma attack. He was a mammoth of a man in spirit, soul and stature, and he turned my child into someone who could move with freedom and ease. What I didn’t realise when I signed my son up was how much else he’d learn: how to have fun, gain confidence, see opportunity in everything, better learn how to make friends and have a laugh, all the while getting fitter and stronger in the company of someone with extraordinary patience and kindness.
As I walked home from the Tube, after his funeral, I realised that, sitting beside my sadness over his passing, there lay a small seed of optimism. It felt as though he had left his boundless zeal for life in the care of his friends and colleagues. I then looked at the other out-of-school activities my primary school-aged children and their friends were doing, and realised it was as much about the influence of the person leading the activity as the activity itself: inspirational people who are experts in their fields. They all have an extraordinary rapport with the kids, offering encouragement, regardless of ability and circumstance. In short, they gave so much more than itemised on the receipt.
Real-life influencers create a place where, for our child, the world is as it should be – where all the things they perceive as marking them negatively different melt into nothingness. It is a place where they are allowed, and encouraged, to be the best version of themselves. Where meeting their potential is purposeful. An influencer is someone who has your child’s back. It is someone who can encourage your child to flourish beyond the restrictions of school or home. An influencer can light a fire in a child’s belly, one that tells them to reach beyond the confines of (dis)ability, wealth, nationality, race, gender and any other restrictions that hold our children back. Influencers are always radiators, they never drain.
Brian was a man of many talents: photographer, actor, writer and freerunner. He posted his work on a site called Broken Jumps. A broken jump is a freerunning term for “an act that you’ve succeeded at that you’d never done before and likely was something that scared you before you did it”. This is what a good influencer will help your child achieve.
Such richly influential people are all around us. When discussing the wealth of activities on our doorstep with an out-of-towner, I was blithely told that such classes do, in fact, exist in the provinces. Maybe, but not as many within walking distance, and not necessarily with a diverse group of participants taught by some of the best in their field. This is where living in London is such a privilege.
Next time you are wondering what activity you should sign your child up for, whether it’s to buy you more time at work or to encourage some independence, consider what else they are going to learn. Choose wisely and go and break some jumps.
KITE STUDIOS Kite Studios is an art studio just off the Askew Road, set up and run by Auriol Herford. It bills itself as a creative oasis for all. From toddlers to retirees, via exam portfolios for teens, Kite Studios is an all-inclusive place where Auriol’s experience with her own special needs son informs so much of her exceptional teaching. This has been a welcoming port in a storm for many a mother ship, regardless of their child’s ability. www.kitestudios.org
FOUCAN FREERUNNING ACADEMY Sébastien Foucan, president of Parkour UK, runs classes in Hammersmith. If you don’t get Sébastien himself (‘that guy from Casino Royale’), no matter: all the teachers are inspirational. www.foucan.com
KIDS CIRCUS CLUB Trapeze, silks, hoop… this class in Hammersmith is as fun as its name suggests. Courage, strength and team work are required while egos can be left on the ground. Paula and Diego, both from Colombia, are inspirational teachers and exceptional talents. firstname.lastname@example.org
SPILLARD KARATE As the longest-running karate school in the area, these are the masters of strength, co-ordination and concentration. Adults learn alongside children and there’s a heavy side portion of respect and fun. www.seikijukukarate.com
LOCAL SIXTH FORMER Ask your friends if anyone knows a reliable, inspirational sixth former who could sit and do homework/kick a ball with your child. They will be grateful for the money. Get the right influencer, and your child will flourish.
I’m often surprised to hear that so few parents have heard of state boarding schools; but they are often recognised as the UK education’s ‘best-kept’ secret. Given that state boarding can offer a stable, caring environment and provide high-quality education, state boarding schools seem to offer the Holy Grail – all at a reasonable cost.
Any student with a UK passport is eligible for state boarding. The costs are limited to the boarding element. The educational provision is, like community-based state schools, free. Therefore, state-funded boarding school fees are typically around a third of the cost of the independent sector. A state boarding school costs, roughly, £10,000 a year; a number that compares positively to private school fees, which have increased by an average of 20 per cent since 2010 – four times the rate of growth in average earnings, according to Lloyds Banking Group. That’s not a small difference, especially for London parents struggling with rising living costs, and juggling the demands of the school run and extracurriculars, while working long hours or with travel expectations.
Of course, cost isn’t everything. Our children’s education is worth every penny, but pupils at my own school, Sexey’s in Bruton, Somerset (and, no doubt, at the other 37 state boarding schools up and down the country), are also involved in their local communities. They have an understanding of how the breadth of society works, and most importantly, can converse easily with people from all walks of life. Simultaneously, they also benefit from many of the elements often valued in independent education: excellent facilities, pastoral care, and a range of extracurricular activities that promise a tailored, unique experience for each child, from music, sport, art, and drama to horse-riding and debating.
But, what about the level of education? All state boarding schools follow the National Curriculum, and pupils take the same exams as they would in a state day school. Whilst the exams are the same, the performance typically exceeds that of many other state schools, with state boarding schools frequently featuring at the top of league tables. For example, Sexey’s achieved the best state school GCSE results in the South West this year. It was also listed as being in the Top 50 state schools across the country for their GCSE grades. The school’s A Levels this year were also strong: over 34 per cent achieving A*-A (versus 25.7 per cent nationally); and over 86 per cent reaching A*-C (versus 75 per cent nationally). A survey of parents by the State Boarding Forum found that over 80 per cent choose state boarding schools due to their high academic standard, and the opportunity for children to fulfil their potential.
Of course, boarding isn’t for everyone. If it is something you would consider for your child, there are 37 different state boarding schools around England – from selective to comprehensive, from co-educational to single-sex, from primary, secondary and sixth-form.
Parents usually find a school that meets their requirements, no matter how specific they are. For further information, please take a look at the State Boarding Forum website www.stateboarding.org.uk.
Jo Tutchener-Sharp, founder of Scamp & Dude, tells Victoria Evans how serious illness inspired her to help others
There’s a quite a story behind Scamp & Dude, can you tell us about it?
I had a brain haemorrhage in October 2015, then had surgery to remove a blood tumour in January 2016. While I was in hospital recovering from the surgery, and desperately missing my kids, I came up with this idea. It really struck me how difficult it must be for kids when their parents are seriously ill; the time away in hospital and the recovery time at home – it’s so hard for kids. Even though mine had their amazing dad, and my wonderful parents with them, I knew they would find it hard when I wasn’t around. I wished there was something I could have given them, something to watch over them, to keep them safe, and to make them think I was close. Hence the creation of the Superhero Sleep Buddy. It’s a Superhero comforter, in the form of a shaped dinosaur or bunny cushion, that can sit on the bed and watch over kids while they sleep. On the back is a pocket that holds a photograph of the person they want to keep close. For every Superhero Sleep Buddy sold, we donate one to a vulnerable child: whether they have a seriously ill parent, have lost a parent, or are in hospital themselves and need a Superhero to have their back. We are working with some amazing charities such as Don’t Forget the Kids and Grief Encounter, as well as with London’s leading children’s hospital.
How did the family cope while you were ill?
My family were absolutely brilliant. After the haemorrhage, I was really unwell. I used to go back to my parents’ house, while my husband was working, and spend time with my kids. It was very scary as there was a possibility I could have had another haemorrhage at any time. So, it was hard for everyone, but they all gathered round, stayed positive, kept smiling, and we all got through it. It felt like we were all going through this together. I actually spent most of my time worrying about how they were all feeling, my kids, my husband, my parents, my sisters, and my closest friends. I knew this wasn’t easy for anyone. I kept thinking about single parents, or parents who don’t have close family around. It’s such a horribly hard thing to go through, despite having an amazing network around me, supporting me. I am very aware that not everyone has this, and it was this thought that drove me to try and help in some way.
How did the link up with Liberty come about?
Through the power of Instagram! I have worked in the beauty industry for many years. The beauty buyer for Liberty and I followed each other on Instagram. I sent her a direct message asking if she could introduce me to their kids’ buyer. She replied, ‘well, as fate would have it, it’s me!’ She had taken over kids, as well as beauty, so it really was fate! She invited me in to present the collection to her. The rest is history. Liberty is my absolute favourite store in the world. I couldn’t be happier that Scamp & Dude will be there.
What’s a typical day like for you, or is there one?
I get the boys ready, then take Sonny to school while my husband drops Jude at nursery. I then head to the office, put my head down and try to get as much done before 3pm, when I have to go and collect Sonny from school. He’s only just started school, in September, so I am still getting used to these shorter working days, which can be a challenge when your to-do list is the size of Mars. I spend my days dealing with the factories, making decisions, checking samples and providing feedback (I am a nightmare client as I’m a huge perfectionist), working with web designers, designing my next collection, dealing with all of the safety tests and legalities that come with starting a brand; the list goes on and on.
What have you learned from previous business experiences, which has helped you this time?
Running your own business is not for the work-shy. I become completely obsessed with whatever business I am working on. I live and breathe it. My haemorrhage was caused by stress, so I am now more aware of not getting into horribly stressful situations. I’ve changed my life in order to make it less stressful, more fulfilling and meaningful. I went through some dark times when I was facing brain surgery, thinking about my kids growing up without me. It really affected me, but it gave me the strong desire to do good and help others. It was this desire that led to the creation of Scamp & Dude.
The first sign may have been the Thomas train hurled across the room; the book slammed shut; or the lovingly prepared pasta pesto on the floor: it’s early September and things at home are not as they should be. Your darling – just starting nursery, primary or secondary – is struggling. Welcome to the world of a child in their first term of an educational step-change. The symptoms are remarkably similar across the ages: exhaustion, sulks, the occasional tantrum. And that’s just you. Imagine what it’s like for your poor kid.
For all those struggling, we’ve pulled together a first school term survival guide with tips from teachers and educational experts.
Let’s face it, we all do the prep: we read starting-nursery picture books with our toddlers, we play word games with our four-year-olds, and we practice the bus route with our 11-year olds. But no matter what we do, there’s always a moment, however brief, where we think, is this the new reality? The answer, obviously, is no; but here are some tips to refer to in the next month or two.
FROM HOME TO NURSERY
Moving from the security of home to a room filled with at least a dozen other two- and three-year-olds is a shock to the system.
1) Manage the separation sensitively.
If the nursery offers a period of transition, where you can sit in the room while your child gets comfortable, by all means, take advantage of it. However, at some point, you will need to leave, and for many kids, anticipating that moment is the hardest part. “Every teacher will tell you that [a child] will keep crying as long as his or her parent is in sight,” says Sabine Hook, former primary teacher and early years educational consultant at Holland Park Tuition and Education Consultants. Give your little one a kiss and cuddle and make your exit quickly; if you’re worried call the nursery later to check in. In most cases, children settle very quickly once their parent leaves. Ask if your son or daughter can bring in a special toy as a transition object.
2) Keep an eye on how tired your child is.
It’s not unusual that children have to drop a nap when they start nursery, so allow your son or daughter to miss a day occasionally if necessary. If childcare doesn’t permit that, go for an early bedtime. Regardless, just being at the nursery can be exhausting, so be as flexible as possible. “You want it always to be something to look forward to, so play it by ear, and see how they are handling it,” Hook says.
3) Encourage independence.
Children are empowered by small acts of independence: maybe it’s putting on their shoes, or their coats, or simply parking their scooter in the scooter park. Those small moves can go a long way to making the child feel in control. You’ll also likely be reinforcing what they are being encouraged to do at the nursery.
4) Remember, it’s nursery, not school.
Not a few parents worry that nursery isn’t academic enough. Sarah Raffray, the headmistress at St. Augustine’s Priory, an all-through girl’s school in Ealing, says, “We’re not looking at the output when they are so little. The nursery is about learning through play, about learning to learn.” Hook adds that every school introduces reading and phonics at Reception, so don’t worry too much about anticipating that in the Nursery. “When they’re ready, they’re ready,” she says, adding that I-Spy and reading picture books together can lay a strong foundation for phonics and reading.
FROM NURSERY TO PRIMARY
This can be an easier transition, particularly if the child is going to primary in the same setting as their nursery; or if the child has an older sibling at the school. Still, it can be quite a change.
1) Talk to your child about how Reception is different from the nursery.
Ask your child’s teacher if you can have a copy of the weekly timetable, and talk to your child about what the plan is that day, Rebecca Leviston, Head of Lower School at Ravenscourt Park Preparatory School (RPPS), recommends. In some schools, children may travel to a different room for an art class – and the simple act of navigating a bigger space can seem overwhelming.
2) Keep an open line of communication with your child’s teacher.
“It’s best to open up and talk to us about your child. It’s really important that as teachers that we really understand them as people,” Leviston says. She points out that some children make it very clear that they are struggling, which can make a teacher’s job easier. However, others keep their emotions in check at school and express them at home. Make sure you raise any concerns to the teacher.
3) Keep increasing your child’s independence.
Make sure that their toilet use is as independent as possible; go back to old training routines should there be any regression, Leviston says. Also, encouraging the use of a knife and fork at home can increase confidence at school lunchtime.
4) Remember they all get there in the end.
Reception is really about physical development, communication, understanding rules, and working with others, Hook reminds us. Be patient with the academics: some children gallop ahead while others take it more carefully. Raffray cautions parents not to compare their children to others. Advancing through the reading scheme, for example, “is not trophy-hunting,” she says. Educators also advise to not worry too much about homework. “You can actually hinder their learning by putting that subtle pressure on children,” Leviston says. Again, the message is, trust the school. “No matter what your child goes through, we have seen through a diversity of experiences that they always get there in the end,” Leviston says.
PRIMARY TO SECONDARY
The move to secondary marks a dramatic shift in independence, which can make for a tricky transition for both child and parent.
1) Big kids are small again.
The most obvious change in secondary is physical. “A lot of youngsters come into secondary having been a big fish in the small pond [at primary]; they are suddenly swamped in terms of the size of the school and the size of students,” says Camilla Smiley, secondary school consultant at Holland Park Tuition and Education Consultants. St. Augustine’s Priory’s Raffray agrees: “Moving up is a challenge. It’s the sense of being one child in the midst of hundreds.” Add to this that now your Year 7 child is moving from class to class for different subjects, and they are often overwhelmed. “The learning curve is very sharp,” Smiley says.
2) Help your child get organised.
Here a little help goes a long way. Help them get their backpack ready the night before. Smiley recommends printing out a copy of the timetable and hanging it near where your child stores his or her bag so they have it to hand when they pack. Help them think through what homework is due the next day, later in the week and next week to foster basic study skills.
3) Be proactive with the teacher.
Compared to the cosy relationship that you may have had with your child’s primary teachers, secondary teachers are necessarily much more removed. For one, your child has different teachers for each subject; and secondly, as your child is likely to be getting to school on their own, you don’t have the daily interaction of drop-off. Smiley recommends reaching out early to the form teacher by email or in person to establish a relationship.
4) Keep an eye on homework.
Year 7s tend to be very keen to get things right in all aspects of school (Smiley says not to expect this to last past Year 9!) and can overwork their homework. Most teachers will recommend an amount of time to spend on a particular assignment. Review that timetable with your child, and speak to the teacher if they consistently go over the recommended time.
By Christmas, hopefully, you’ll have been through the worst of it.
In fact, as often as not, the simple act of returning after the first half-term makes what was once so strange and scary seem familiar. Regardless of when it happens, though, remember, as Raffray says “Every child really is unique; that’s not just the school talking.”