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.
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
Rick Stein Barnes
The Pony & Trap
The Hinds Head
Music line up for Chiswick
Soul II Soul Sound System
Scouting for Girls
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.
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 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.
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
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.”
TO BE A PARENT IS TO BE BLINDSIDED BY QUESTIONS such as, why do men have nipples? Do the people at the bottom of the world fall off it? Is the orange man with the weird hair going to be president of America? The parent charter reads that you will have ready answers. This is why Google and Siri are up there with A&E staff and good teachers as vital parent go-tos. (As regards Donald Trump, your child’s judgement will be every bit as valid as any psephologist’s.)
When we have children we are told to follow our intuition. Might that be the same intuition that tells us tequila slammers are a good idea? As the new school year starts City Kids brings you the best pieces of parenting advice that we have gleaned from friends, family and those we admire.
You will not go to hell for not being able to breastfeed.
You will treat your first baby like Granny’s fine china, the last one like a rugby ball. Both are ok.
Parenting books have the capacity to induce panic rather than quell it.
Place a coverless hot water bottle on a wet mattress to dry it out.
Marketeers are good at their jobs. Do not listen to them. You do not need special pots for freezing baby food. Ditto nappy bins that stop the smell. A baby bath? WTF…
If you have a daughter, Google the comedic genius Tina Fey’s Prayer for My Daughter. She provides no answers but knowing that Tina Fey fears the same stuff as us is comfort enough.
Try not to judge the actions of fellow parents. Particularly if they have children older than yours.
When a child asks you a difficult question, buy yourself some time and ask them, ‘What do you think?’
Cinderella got it right (in the 2015 film version with Lily James, at least). The tenets to being a good person are to have courage and be kind. Twofold, simple and yet über clever.
Children make mistakes. You need to figure out how to pick up the pieces.
Nature and nurture – the debate still rages. What is important is that the nurture fits the nature.
Children will copy what you do, not what you tell them to do.
Children are people. Often their ideas, unfettered by the negativity of age, will be better than yours. Often they will be terrible.
If you’re going to call a girl bossy, make sure the same behaviour in a boy warrants the same adjective. Swap the child’s gender in your head and save them from negative gender stereotyping.
Treat siblings as a team, not as competitors.
A rolled-up towel, blanket or swimming noodle placed under the sheet on the side of a bed is the perfect alternative to a plastic bed rail. A pillow on the floor softens any fall.
Instead of buying a bigger car when you have your third child, try buying narrower car seats.
Write your phone number on your child’s arm or get temporary tattoos with it on for when you are in a crowded place.
Get your babysitter to come early enough to cover tea, bath and bed. It’s called getting your money’s worth…
The first time you encourage your small child to try fizzy water, lemon and/or ice cream they will pull the best surprised face of their life. This is permitted cruelty.
Kitchen roll when upright makes an exemplary ice cream cone stand.
A balloon is a winning present every time. It fits in an envelope, can be used for tennis, football, volleyball or wet farting noises.
Where you come in a family, oldest, youngest or in the middle, will inform much of your life. It is impossible to know what it’s like to be someone of a different rank.
Never go the beach without talcum powder – it cleans all sand off sticky, salty bottoms, balls (both kinds) and feet.
Wipes. Handbag, kitchen table, car. They are indispensable.
Expensive holidays are wasted on children younger than eight. However, they may not be a waste for the exhausted parents.
A simple guideline for holidays is that it has to be easier, better and more comfortable than home. The Luxury Family Hotels range in this country is popular for a reason.
Release yourself from the burden of homework by finding a local sixth-former with gumption to lead your child through this minefield.
The subject of schools will dominate your conversation for years. You will worry that you haven’t got it right. You will make the best decision possible at the time.
Tutors. Eventually you will realise that every child you know is being tutored. The price is exhorbitant.
Getting a secondary school place in London is up there with moving house and divorce as far as stress levels go.
School clothes do not need to be washed and ironed every day for who is to know if it is today’s dirt and creases or yesterday’s?
If you choose/are offered a poor fit of secondary school when your child is 11, you may get a second stab at 13.
Academic achievement is overrated. Education is a much broader, rounded effort.
If you can (sort of) afford private education for a few years only, make it the middle ones. The longer days and extra-curricular activities will help stem teenage boredom and keep your kids out of trouble.
The positive power of sport is jaw-droppingly brilliant. Friendships are born this way. Sport is fun.
Sport is for girls too. Read sports journalist Anna Kessel’s Eat Sweat Play to learn why.
Good mental and physical wellbeing can, for the most part, be maintained with three things: a good diet, enough exercise and sufficient sleep. This is the non-negotiable holy trinity.
Technology is wonderful when used wisely. If you don’t want your children playing certain games, don’t give them access. Simple…
…except if you are being a stick-in-the-mud luddite. Get with the programme.
The bedroom is a sanctuary for sleep and, as such, should be a screen- and homework-free zone. (We repeat) sleep is the basis of good physical and mental health. For life.
Have a family computer in a living space where the screen can be seen by everyone. You can see what your children are doing online and they will learn the vital skill of being able to work with background noise.
Let your children read your phone messages and know your access code. This will give you leverage with their phones. Do as you would be done by.
Try to get your child into a sport or hobby when they are young so that they have an interest to distract them from screens when they are teens.
You will know you are old when you ask your children how to work every piece of tech you own. Live with it.
This list is not meant to be dictatorial and is certainly not exhaustive. Being a parent, however, is exhausting. Sometimes it all becomes overwhelming. That is when you need to call on your friends and slam those tequilas. You can then discuss the important things in life, such as why do men have nipples? And if you can explain the appeal of an orange man with a seedy comb-over then you have drunk too much. Call a babysitter for the morning after.
In our new series looking at working parents, we meet Adelle Smith to discover how she turned baking with her son at home into an award-winning business working alongside the likes of Google, Virgin and Nintendo.
How did it all start?
BKD launched in 2014, in my kitchen in Shoreditch. What started as fun at home with my kids, swiftly grew and I had to rebase from my home, with my baking classes, to local haunts such as Hoxton Hotel, hosting corporate events, private birthday parties, creating bespoke cookies and styling photo-shoots
After establishing the events side of my business, I turned my attention to creating a collection of creative baking kits for children. I wanted to create a collection that encapsulated the BKD spirit of fun, teaching children kitchen basics and fuelling their imaginations. The collection launched in May last year and we are now stocked by lots of lovely kids boutiques, cook shops and delis, as well as bigger retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Fenwick and the Design Museum.
What makes BKD stand out from the crowd?
BKD’s focus is kids and design. I loved baking with Cai when he was younger, but hated all the baby blue and pink kitschness. We wanted to make fun, unique things like monster cupcakes! We get kids into the kitchen learning essential life skills, fuelling their imaginations, and enable families to have quality time together. Our baking kits make baking super easy, fuss-free, and are made with quality ingredients. Our unisex monochrome packaging shouts out to the crowds and has definitely given us a distinctive look in the children’s market.
What’s a typical day like for you?
There is no typical day! Things change week on week. Recently, there has been a lot of writing and recipe testing for my new book, Baked, and photo shoots for that too. I also make YouTube videos with my boy when we get the time. As a small business owner, I am heavily involved with day to day management, from updating our social media, emailing customers back, paying my staff wages, to helping the team get a corporate biscuit order out the door. In other weeks, I could be doing a personal appearance and demonstration at shows such as BBC Good Food Show or at Big Feastival, entertaining the kids. I really mix things up and love the variety.
Do you love it?
Have you found the holy grail of work/life balance?
It’s funny, as I thought that running my own business would balance well with family life. Whilst it offers me flexibility, I also have to work very hard! There are never enough hours in the day and I often find myself working at night when the kids are in bed. Cai often comes to the bakery to ‘work’. He’s our mini apprentice, always bringing so much fun, chaos and distraction to our day. The ladies are amazing with him, though I have to say, on Fridays I often get a lot less done! But I absolutely love running my own business and being creative; I get such a buzz out of it! I literally never know what’s around the corner. If you told me last year that I’d get a book deal and publish a book this year, I’d have laughed my head off! I feel tired but very lucky 🙂
Where do you get your ideas?
Our kids constantly inspire me and are, of course, my chief tasters! But I also take inspiration from everything around me, fashion, product design, toys, travel, interiors, and trips to the park; I always see something that inspires me. I picked up the sweetest metal chocolate moulds in a market in Essaouira, Morocco. I’m always on the hunt for cool things for the bakery.
Do you ever have ‘me’ time?
I have to say that is a very, very rare thing. Being a mum, a wife, running a business, and writing a book on top of that, it hasn’t left much time for me. I can’t remember the last time I had a haircut! But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love BKD and what I do. I adore my family, and know in time that things will become a bit calmer.
What three words would your kids use to describe you?
Cuddly, fun, bit crazy.
How far would you like to take BKD?
What started as baking at home with my kids has now developed into a brand and business. I would love to keep developing that. It’s been a roller coaster journey from day one. Within a few months of launching, I was thrilled and gobsmacked to hear that I’d made it into the finals in the ‘Best Loved Kids’ Food’ category of the Virgin Foodpreneur competition, where I could meet Richard Branson.
So what can we expect from you in 2016?
We’ve just launched a range of Baking Mixes that we hope to get into supermarkets, opening up another category for us and taking BKD to kitchen cupboard staples. I will also be doing more online video content very soon. I’m really looking forward to getting back in front of the camera. In July, my book, Baked, will be out. So, so much work has gone into it and I’m super excited about promoting it. It still feels surreal to think how far I’ve come with BKD in such a short space of time; it really has changed my life.
Don’t forget that we are giving away 4 fabulous BKD Baking Mixes. Head over to our COMPETITIONS page to enter.
The rise in blogging over the last few years has seen a new trend emerge, that of the kid blogger or #klogger.
Victoria Evans follows the amazing world of one of them.
MEET THE #BLOGGERS
Like it or not, the Internet and social media is now an integral part of most kids’ lives. Kids are connected, and they know a lot more about it than we do. Social media is not “limited” to Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, OoVoo, WhatsApp, Burn Note, Yik Yak, Meet Me, Tumblr, Vine — you get the message — there’s a legion of child bloggers making waves in a market once ruled by people two or three times their age.
Introducing ‘Amazing Arabella’ Daho, from North London. A fashion, beauty and travel blogger who has already met Kelly Hoppen, been invited to the London Fashion Week, modelled for Monsoon and Burberry and been sent on trips abroad to blog about her experiences. She has collected a following of over 26,000 across social media; she only started her blog in September. Oh, and she’s 11.
“I started modelling when I was three, and as I got older my friends were asking me what I had been doing so I decided to start writing about it … and they told me it was really good so I turned it into a blog.”
Luckily for Arabella, her mum, Shadia, is a dab hand when it comes to blogging, vlogging and social media networking. Between her and other family members the Dahos have an incredible 800k followers worldwide. Their combined knowledge means Arabella is not flying blind.
“When she’s out blogging I go with her. We were at London Fashion Week and I wouldn’t feel comfortable about her going with anybody else. I monitor everything, and if she gets a load of followers I go through them all. It’s been ok. Generally it’s positive.”
We all have countless questions crashing around in our heads when it comes to social media and our kids. Can our children blog “safely” (what does safely even mean in this context?), will they be bullied, isn’t the web a hunting ground for paedophiles, is my son/daughter going to share pictures of themselves? Basically, we don’t know what the social norms for this relatively new medium are — are there any?
Joanne Mallon founded Kidsblogclub.com when both her children started blogging. Her site now promotes creative child bloggers and offers advice to parents and their kids alike.
“[Blogging’s] like anything else — as safe or unsafe as you want it to be. We encourage children to think about personal safety and how much information they want to give away. Do they want to blog anonymously, under an assumed name? How much info do they want to give out about where they live? Will they be sharing pictures of themselves? All of this stuff has to be discussed with parents. From a practical point of view, when it comes to blogging, both Google and WordPress have it as part of their terms of service that users have to be over 13. So if an under 13 is blogging, they will effectively have to do it in conjunction with a parent, which is probably a good thing.”
Like with most things related to social media and generally the Internet, as a parent it pays to stay informed so you know how to set limits and have genuine dialogues with your kids about it.
Mallon has found that blogging is widely used and approved of by schools as it is a method of encouraging children’s literacy and creativity. This stands to reason, and Arabella and Shadia would agree with the benefits.
“I think it’s made me more confident — it’s helping with my school work.” Shadia: “Her English has got a lot better. She manages her schoolwork really well, and the things that she’s learning about and writing about have opened up a whole new world.”
Which brings us to blogging as a business. Bloggers, in the main, start out because they have something different to say, which might resonate with their contemporaries. A point not lost on big brands that see bloggers as a direct connection to their potential markets. Arabella is at an advantage here, as a young, fashion-conscious tween, with a ready-made audience. But Shadia is keen to stress that the integrity of the blog must never be forgotten.
“We get approached by a lot of brands because she’s unique in what she does. We don’t just work with anyone because, in the end, you’ve got to be truthful. What you say can be very powerful. Working with brands that you can relate to, that’s the way forward. You need it to be truthful, and if it’s artificial, no one’s going to read it anyway.”
Many bloggers now have agents and earn enough money to support a back up team of publicists and admin staff. If this is what you want to do, Shadia recommends you find a good management company first. In fact, she’ll be casting 10 adults and 10 kid bloggers for her new company, Blogaholics. And, there’s no doubt that Arabella will be on hand to offer advice and tips to the kids that are chosen.
So what’s next in the diary for Arabella (and her lucky friends)? Only a trip to Hogwarts, teaming up with Virgin to blog about their Experience Days, working on the Xfactor…
1. Choose to write about something you are good at or are really, really interested in because it will be hard for you to keep your blog up if you don’t know what you are writing about.
2. Don’t start a blog because you want to be famous — that is not what blogging is about. I love blogging because I love sharing my adventures and have made lots of friends.
3. Keep at it! If you don’t post for a while your followers may lose interest.
Schools – is there a more hotly discussed topic amongst parents? We don’t think so.
Rebekah Hall sat down with Toby Young, Catriona Sutherland-Hawes and Tony Ryan to determine whether the fear and paranoia perpetuated by some parents is justified.
We’ve all heard the stories and some of us have seen them in action. Stand-up fights between mothers outside school gates over waiting lists; lying about tutoring and keeping those tutors names a well-guarded secret. This inevitably creates stress and apprehension… creating tension and paranoia. It’s little wonder that some families move away from the West London bubble.
However, even out of town, you can’t escape the facts. There is pressure on school places as pupil numbers grow. Data from the Department for Education (DfE) predicts an extra 900,000 children in English schools over the next 10 years, and statistics from the Local Government Association report that this will cost £12 billion. Private school fees have trebled since 1990 to £286,000 per child over 14 years of day school according to The Killik & Co Private Education Index. So yes, parents do have reason to worry. Maybe that’s why it is impossible to avoid those draining school discussions, especially in West London.
A six-year-old has a creative writing tutor, maths tutor and must do 100 sums before he is allowed to play. A father is angry with the head teacher because his son failed to get into Oxford, despite his son’s average marks. Urban myths or a reflection of the competition for places at West London private schools?
As registrar for the past nine years at Latymer Upper School, Catriona Sutherland-Hawes says she often sees a lot of worry revolving around a parent’s desire for their child to attend a specific school. Unfortunately, she admits to seeing trophy hunting, with some parents unable to bear the thought of their child… failing. “The difficulty comes when parents think the best place is actually the wrong place; aspirational parents don’t always accept that,” says Sutherland-Hawes.
In these competitive times, what is her advice for parents? “I genuinely think there is a right school for everyone and there is a lot of choice. Parents are not always willing to accept that what they might think is the best place is not somewhere that will suit their child.”
STATE DOESN’T ESCAPE
While state schools continue to improve, (and private schools up their fees) they are included in the discussion too. Parents worry about catchment areas and consider moving house to within metres of their preferred school. League tables play their part as competition across the board increases.
As Chiswick School achieves better results, head teacher Tony Ryan says he’s seen more anxiety from parents due to the current entry waiting list. “Parents are now concerned about … the possibility that they might be just outside the catchment area,” says Ryan. “For some parents in certain geographical areas, there is huge anxiety because we are their first choice.”
To help alleviate some of the pressure, Chiswick School increased its intake from 215 to 240 pupils. While this means increased class sizes, Ryan is confident the school can manage without impacting the classroom. “We have a … moral purpose to try and provide a place for as many local parents who want it,” says Ryan.
During exam time, Ryan sees more parents at his door and receives many more phone calls. His advice for parents is to stay informed
throughout their child’s schooling. “The more information you give parents, the less anxious they are likely to be with [their child’s] results,” Ryan says.
Toby Young, CEO of the West London Free School Academy Trust, says parental anxiety in primary school is a combination of things.
“Parents with pre-school children are concerned that their children won’t get a primary place due to the national shortage, or concerned that their child won’t get a place at their first or second choice of primary,” says Young.
If you’re in the first situation, he suggests moving, going private, or urging the local schools to expand or start a free school. If in the second group, then Young says to “send your child to your third, fourth or fifth choice of school and supplement what they’re learning at home.” To supplement learning at home, he naturally points to his book What Every Parent Needs to Know.
TO TUTOR OR NOT TO TUTOR?
Tutoring. Perhaps the hottest topic of all. To alleviate worry and keep up with the Joneses, parents often turn to tutoring to help ensure
entrance into a top school or to achieve better test results. Analysis entitled Extra-curricular Inequalities  by The Sutton Trust and Ipsos MORI states that, of 2,800 11 to 16 year-olds, 23 per cent of young people nationally and 37 per cent in London, say they received private or home tuition. The national figure was 18 per cent in 2005 and 24 per cent in 2013.
But what we all want to know is, are tutored kids better off?
Sutherland-Hawes knows tutoring is rife, and has become an industry. “If you need to be tutored to get into a school, then it’s not the
right school,” she says, adding that Latymer is only interested in a child’s natural ability on entrance exams. “If you are not at the right academic level for that school … you will then struggle. Three years ago, we stopped doing verbal and non-verbal reasoning, as it was being over-tutored. It wasn’t giving us an idea of the child’s natural potential.“
However, she does believe some exam preparation is a good idea, but warns not to the point of memorising an entirely irrelevant story for the English exam. She tells of one particular year when children from the same prep school wrote the same answers in the English section. However, the answer had no bearing on the actual question, and their tests were marked down. In another instance it was obvious that many children in one postcode had had the same tutor. “Exam preparation is different,” she says. “I fully support sitting down, doing exam papers to time, and getting used to that technique … Being tutored adds artificial intelligence; preparing for the exam is being aware of what is coming and having your timings right.”
Young suggests that the decision to tutor or not depends on where a child falls on the ability spectrum and parents’ ambition for their child. “Children with exceptional ability are going to do well in public exams … without any need for private tutors,” Young says. Those children most likely to benefit [from tutoring] are those on the pass/fail border.”
At Chiswick School, tutoring seems to be used as it was originally intended. Ryan says he rarely meets a situation where a child is being over tutored. At his school, tutoring is used instead as a healthy top-up. Outside of school Ryan doesn’t believe that a tutor should be a requirement for any parent, but if used, should complement what is being taught in the classroom. However, the school does bring in tutors to help give students more individual attention. “We employ tutors [to] work with small groups,” he says. “A tutor [will] come in and diagnose where [students] are and work with them … before we put them back into lessons.”
THE GOLDEN RULES
We can all agree to some basic ground rules, like do your research, read Ofsted reports, visit every school, meet with heads, ask tough questions and listen carefully to the response. Walking into a school, every parent should have an instinct as to whether the school is the right fit for their child, and this is far more more important than simply accepting a school as being a “top” school. Schools should also be a good fit with a family’s educational values because, frankly, you will be attending that school too.
When asked for some golden rules, Sutherland-Hawes provides sound advice. At the top of her list is for parents to listen to head teachers because they have special knowledge of a child’s abilities. Also, she says, at secondary level ask your child what they think because it’s just as much up to them. “Ask yourself, will my child be happy here? Don’t be over aspirational. Be sensible about your choice,” Sutherland-Hawes says. “Keep [children] calm.”
Young’s advice is two-fold. He feels that children likely to benefit the most from going to a good independent school are those from very disadvantaged backgrounds who have high IQs. “If any parent reading this thinks their child falls into that category, they should find out what the eligibility criteria is for full bursaries”. He adds that, unless your child is one of a handful who would really benefit from going to an independent school, send your child to the local state school. “Take the money you would otherwise have spent and put it in a savings account. You can then use that nest egg to help them buy a flat when they leave home. That flat represents far better value for money than a private education,” says Young.
Ryan says he works closely with parents. “We constantly check the progress of students at school, and we [bring] that back to parents,” says Ryan. “You want them to go to a school you trust, where they can get the right education, the right mould. It’s not just the exams you are buying into. You’re buying into a much bigger deal.”
Still need a last word of advice?
“Don’t listen to anybody,” says Sutherland-Hawes. “It’s about your child. Trust your own instincts and judgements; there is a right place for every child.”
And by the way, she occasionally reads Mumsnet. You’ve been warned!
In many senses how you care for your clothes is almost more important than what you bought in the first place. Between 50 – 80% of the environmental impact of a garment will come from the washing, drying and ironing stage of its life – so its crucial we do a few things to limit this. When we do go out for a browse around the shops at the weekend, think about visiting the local charity stores first. It’s all about making more of what we already have an abundance of. Finally, if we make an effort to keep clothes in use for as long as humanly possible we will be doing ourselves and the planet a huge favour – we can save money, virgin materials and valuable resource use, and also enjoy a sense of creativity and family fun. Extending the life of fashion and resources is as much about our mindsets as our purchases.
HEALTHY HOME HABITS
Give a little extra time and thought to how you care for clothes at home by following these guidelines.
1. Live a Low Launder Life. In short – try to wash clothes less often. Quite often we run around picking up things (after the children have thrown them off!) and we put them in the laundry basket as a matter of course. Take ten minutes and a small sponge to remove spots of dirt, and hang things back up. A quick iron can refresh things without having the full washday experience. (This advice is not for underwear of course!). When you do wash, select 30 degrees – as often as you can. Don’t tumble dry – line dry if you have the space. Invest in a low energy drying rail for the winter months. And really – don’t iron. Our grandmothers wasted their lives spitting and hissing with a hot iron.
2. Be Your Own Stylist. You pretty much have what you need in your wardrobe – so invest more time in sorting through it and trying out new combinations. Styling sessions with friends, music and a little wine are not just for teenagers! For the kids you can make it quality family time, and build their confidence, knowledge and creativity at the same time.
3. Upcycle. Cotton, silk and wool items can be over-dyed – it’s easier than you think. Buy dyes for the washing machine from Dylon, or get crafty and make your own natural dyes. Onions, dandelions, berries and a bucket. You really don’t need much more than that! Fabric pens and fabric paints with a homemade card stencil can go over stains, and an iron sets the print for washing.
4. Make Mending Cool. Kids love to learn to sew, and mending clothes can be a great way to teach them about the planet and ready them for a life of conscious consumption. Invest in embroidered badges and patches – John Lewis have a good selection or buy online. Being able to mend and sew puts kids in a good place – for being an impoverished student in later years, and as a way to de-stress around exam time.
5. Make Your Own. If you really get into good wardrobe stewardship, then try to make your own stuff from scratch. There are lots of classes, kits, youtube tutorials and even websites these days that can act as a private tutor. Get help with knitting cardigans from Wool and the Gang (woolandthegang.com). Take the kids to special sewing workshops like Little Hands Design, littlehandsdesign.com and see if you have the next Vivienne Westwood on your hands!
To indulge your interests further, look for upcycling design enthusiasts online. Check out Mini Magpie, run by a lady who makes amazing kids clothes from old cashmere knitwear, which you can buy from etsy (etsy.com). She is based in East London, has a shop and runs workshops teaching mums to make upcycled clothes themselves (minimagpie.com). The cashmere jumper sleeves transformed into baby leggings photo tutorial is well worth a look. My mums also love Christa Davis for her exceptional eye for vintage fabrics (christadavis.com). There are so many designers out there – go seek for yourself and get you and your family some truly original clothes to cherish.
SECOND HAND SATURDAYS
When you are in the mood for something new and don’t have the time or energy for your wardrobe makeover, then think about a Saturday afternoon charity shop treasure hunt with the kids. I give mine £3 each and off we go to the most easterly end of Chiswick High Road. We start our hunt in Mary’s Living and Giving, which is where Mary Portas has created a new model for how second hand goods can be sorted and presented. We have found amazing kids clothes there – a Harrods linen blazer for £25 is the best buy so far (and a £30 Biba jacket for me). From there we head west to Oxfam Boutique – the second best for carefully curated content. Head up Turnham Green Terrace for Fara Kids as well as Trinity Hospice, Barnado’s, Oxfam Books and a number of other great little shops to rummage in. If the kids have any spending money left, and the ability to carry on walking, the final stop on the High Road is always Cancer Research.
A bit further afield there is of course TRAID in Shepherds Bush, Westbourne Grove, and Kilburn High Road. My friends say vintage gems can often be found in Trinity Hospice on Kensington Church Street; they have a specialist in children’s clothing there. West London has no end of charity shops – it’s the mindsets and sense of adventure we all need to embrace. Let’s do it for the kids!
CONCLUSION – BACK TO THE BAGS
I appreciate there is a lot to think about and do each time you want a new outfit for your kids, but there is also a much bigger choice out there than heading for Gap. All of the mums I spoke to spend a good deal of time with the five bags I outlined in part 1. If you are really canny you can even make money by keeping your wardrobes edited – reLIKE.co.uk offer a great bundle selling service – and you can get size specific bags of clothes delivered to your door too. The bottom line is many of us have slipped into shopping for clothes as quickly and cheaply as possible – but much like the food that we eat – what takes a little longer and costs a little more is often well worth it – for our wellbeing, for our kids and for the future of our planet.
We all love to look good, and we want our kids to be well dressed, but whilst the price of fashion can often be a bargain for our wallets the cost to the planet is far from cheap. However, research shows that even the greenest of green people find it tough to economically clothe themselves and their families in a totally ethical way. I’m not here to slap your wrists for occasionally buying baskets of fast fashion. Rather this is a guide to help us all shop a little greener, buy with a conscience and discover the high street or online good guys.
I contacted some old friends and asked these eco activist mums how they clothed their kids and these are the ideas they shared.
BASIC GREEN FASHION PRINCIPLES
The eco kids wear story is currently mostly about looking for 100% certified organic cotton and fair trade made, but there are a few other things to think about.
Good quality fabrics and strong stitching – So many ecomums say that when buying new it’s worth buying from brands like Boden, as they stand the test of time. Look for organic cotton, and the new cellulosics like tencel and lyocell. Try to buy monomaterial clothes – all made from the same fibre rather than a mix of fibre types (e.g. cotton with polyester), for easier recycling at end of life.
Colours and material finishes – no patent leather shoes or fluorescent colours, which are very toxic! Darker colours mean more dyestuff has been used and that’s not good for the environment. Go for prints – they hide the dirt and stains and don’t have to be washed so often.
Multifunctional garments – trouser legs that zip off, garments that can be worn inside out.
Sewing – look for good hem allowances on clothes so they can be altered, and items that come with spare buttons and repair patches.
GOING GREEN ON THE HIGH STREET
Many brands are now signing up to be greener producers of kids’ clothes – to varying degrees. Right now there are a few that are doing just that little bit more, so it might be worth rewarding them with your custom.
Cheap to Mid Range
In Sweden H&M has long been considered a very good choice for babywear. They were amongst the first to use organic cotton and non-toxic dyes in their ranges, and have recently won awards for their ‘Conscious Commitments’. Look for the green labels in store that show items are part of the Conscious Collection range – I think their recycled polyester stuff is particularly good.
In the UK it’s M&S that comes out top in my poll. Their Plan A work is considered world leading, and the company is dedicated to making a holistic swathe of improvements across their product ranges. (You might feel a bit bored by the design from time to time – but I have inside knowledge that a new designer there is shaking it up a bit, so keep an eye out for the new range!)
Next is another ‘good guy’ – I visited one of their factories in China last year and was really impressed with the conditions and quality (and food – I had lunch in their workers canteen!). Finally, I am currently avoiding the brands that haven’t signed up to the Bangladesh Safety Accord like Gap (who have implemented their own system of standards). More than 170 brands have signed so there are plenty to choose from, including Debenhams, Fat Face and Mothercare.
Mid to High End
Head to Zone 1. Peter Jones or John Lewis – I love their democratic staff policy, who doesn’t? – are increasingly investing in sustainable fashion, so I always head first for People Tree and Polarn O. Pyret. If you want something more upmarket, then Stella McCartney has been working for a long time on the fabrics for her kids line – the organic cotton jersey and wovens are gorgeous, and her packaging is all recycled and recyclable – it all counts!
I would consider the most special upmarket clothes to be bespoke and made especially for you, and for this I recommend Sasti in Portobello. Rosie makes to order, and has the most edgy and fun designs. I really believe UK handmade, in second hand vintage fabrics, is worth saving up for, and may give you a richness of user experience you don’t get with the regular brands.
GREEN ONLINE SHOPPING
By far the biggest selection of green kids clothes can be found on the internet. The small labels are generally able to have greater control over their supply chains – working with smaller producers who offer better conditions to workers for instance. You may pay a bit more here, but consider it an investment. The more small green companies there are, the more the big companies will feel the competition and adopt better practices to try to attract the green pound. These small lines mostly focus on fabrics like organic cotton and fair labour conditions – not unlike the high street brands – but they also produce smaller runs of quirky, unusual designs, and you will be supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses as well.
Our cover features clothes made by Swedish brand Mini Rodini, available in Selfridges and online, which holds sustainability, the environment and fair labour at the heart of its core values (minirodini.com). The Fableists is an uber-cool brand, which is chemical and sweatshop labour free – they use 100% organic cotton and their factories are either Fair Wear or Fair Trade. They set up the label to ‘stop the cycle of kids making clothes for other kids’, as they put it (thefableists.com). Frugi clothes are really fun, well made, and designed to last a long time (welovefrugi.com). A Chelsea textile graduate set up Little Green Radicals and as you would expect the fabrics are gorgeous. They even sell real nappies, and are working with Ecotricity, a green energy provider (littlegreenradicals.co.uk). Eternal Creation has a great transparent ethical story – made in the Indian Himalayas – and beautiful clothes to boot, especially their animal print shirts (eternalcreation.com). For school uniform Eco Outfitters are trying really hard to offer a range of well-priced basics (ecooutfitters.co.uk). Ask your school if they have heard of them.
BEFORE YOU SHOP, WORK THOSE BAGS
When you are planning a shopping trip take an hour to double-check what you already have. My ecomums all work a system of hand me downs – and the more organised they were about this, the better it was for the planet. So developing a five-bag system is the key first step:
1. Best Friend Bag.
In here put the nicest hand me downs. If you have a friend who gives you stuff, have a look at what they have given you recently. There is often a bigger anorak or pair of wellies lurking that I had forgotten about – and I end up being able to cross that item off the list.
2. Shwopping Bag.
When you have given away the best stuff to a friend, save a bag for the shwopp! TK Maxx and Cancer Research UK have led the way, running their joint clothing collection campaign since 2004. Give Up Clothes for Good has raised £17.6 million, with £13.1 million funding ground-breaking research into childhood cancers. M&S has recently teamed up with Oxfam, aiming to reduce the volume of clothes thrown into landfill and its environmental impact while supporting Oxfam’s many campaigns.
3. School Fair Bag. Especially good for uniforms, and great for passing on toys and books.
4. Charity Bag.
Avoid chucking any clothes in the bin – no matter how stained and tatty they are your local charity shop can benefit from your donation. Clothes that are not fit for wearing will be sold on to industry as ‘wiping rags’ or to be made into shoddy (a kind of industrial felt material). Bundle shoes together with an elastic band (essential tip!)
5. Mending/Making Bag.
If you or your kids love craft, this bag can be used for projects (old tights for stuffed toys especially good), and mending other clothes with nice fabric patches.
Chiswick-based mum of two Rebecca Earley is Professor of Sustainable Textiles and Fashion at the University of the Arts London, and Director of the Textile Futures Research Centre. She trained in fashion at Central Saint Martin’s and has taught textile designers at Chelsea College of Arts for nearly twenty years. She currently advises design teams in fashion companies in Sweden, Denmark, USA and the UK about how to design lower impact, longer lasting clothing.