We’ve been lucky to work with Jo Pratt since the very early days of City Kids Magazine. Here we have an exclusive, yet to be published recipe, straight from the test kitchen.
BAKED PEA AND PANEER SAMOSAS
I’m a huge fan of making family friendly recipes from simple to source ingredients, often using ones that are already sitting in my fridge or cupboard. These crunchy baked filo pastry parcels are a perfect example. Strips of pastry are filled with a mildly spiced vegetable and cheese filling. I have used paneer, a classic Indian cheese, but cottage cheese, feta or even halloumi would work equally as well.
It’s not just the cheese you can be flexible with, as you can increase the spice by swapping the korma paste for a hotter spice such as tikka masala or rogan josh. Once cooked, the samosas can be served hot or cold, as a snack, starter, lunch with mango chutney and raita, or as an accompaniment to a curry feast.
sunflower or rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp korma paste
1 tsp tomato puree
200g paneer cheese, finely diced
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
175g frozen peas, defrosted
4 sheets filo pastry
1-2 tsp nigella seeds and or sesame seeds
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and ginger, and sauté for about 10 minutes until the onion is beautifully soft.
Stir in the korma paste, tomato puree, paneer, coconut, peas, 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring frequently until the filling has all cooked together nicely. Check for seasoning and add more salt if you feel it needs it.
Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
Cut each piece of the filo pastry into 4 strips. Working on 4 strips at a time, brush each one lightly with oil. To prevent the remaining pastry from drying out, keep covered with a damp towel.
Spoon a heaped tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom corner of each lightly oiled pastry strip. Fold over diagonally to create a triangle over the filling. Continue to fold/roll the pastry around the filling, keeping the triangle shape, securing in the filling.
For more of Jo’s brilliant recipes, or to buy The Flexible Vegetarian head to jo-pratt.com
Hever Castle’s Bed and Breakfast scores 96% and maintains its 5* Gold status after Visit England assessment
Hever Castle’s luxury Bed and Breakfast has maintained its 5* Gold status and a Breakfast award.
The accommodation was assessed by Visit England and received a 96% quality score. To gain a 5* rating businesses have to score between 85% and 100% and are marked on bedrooms, bathrooms, cleanliness, hospitality and breakfast.
The Gold award is given to accommodation which offers the `best of the best’ including exceptional quality and going the extra mile for their customers and the Breakfast Awards recognises breakfasts which exceed guest expectations.
Visit England said that: “Hever Castle Bed & Breakfast presented extremely well on this year’s day assessment, comfortably retaining its Five Star Guest Accommodation rating.”
Hever Castle’s four bedroom holiday cottage, Medley Cottage also maintained its 5* Gold rating, scoring 92%.
House Manager Roland Smith said: “We are delighted that the hard work and high standards of cleanliness and customer service has been recognised by Visit England. It is testament to our dedicated members of staff that we have retained this accolade. We look forward to welcoming more guests to our luxury accommodation throughout 2019 and 2020.”
The bed and breakfast is housed in the ‘Tudor Village’ – an Edwardian extension to the Castle which consists of the ‘Astor Wing’ and recently refurbished ‘Anne Boleyn Wing’ – with 28 bedrooms in total.
The extension was added to the Castle by William Waldorf Astor to accommodate staff and guests was previously only available for weddings and corporate events.
In 2012 underfloor heating, flat screen TVs and wifi were added as part of a refurbishment to open the accommodation up to the general public. The doors opened in March 2012.
All bedrooms are en-suite and individually styled, with some offering four poster beds, roll top baths or walk in showers.
Guests to the luxury bed and breakfast, which recently received the TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence for the fourth year running, have exclusive access to some of the 125 acre award winning gardens when they are closed to the general public.
We interview the founders of Bloom and Blossom about creating a dream business, working with family and building a brand
Three words to describe yourselves.
Julia: Committed, honest and a giggle.
Christina: Determined, loyal and fun.
What’s it like working with a relative?
Julia: It really is great, and we know we are lucky. At first our family thought it could be too close to home, but we really are each other’s biggest supporters. We give each other the sanity check we know is essential in business. We support each other emotionally and physically. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and, as we build Bloom and Blossom, we are enjoying seeing ourselves develop as business women and as parents, this ensures our brand is continues to grow authentically.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced while being in business?
Christina: Business is challenging, that is the truth, but we have learnt to embrace that. Managing manufacturing, NPD, retailers and customers makes it the rollercoaster ride that it is but we are happy with that and know it will continue. We take time to look back and evaluate decisions, the right ones and the wrong ones, to ensure we learn along the way. We are brave, we take leaps, and we aren’t scared to try new things, and with that we also take on the challenges of business, but that is half the fun, it is a little bit bonkers, but we wouldn’t change a thing.
Who does what in the business?
Julia: We are lucky to have built an incredible team of talented, dedicated and passionate people. For many years it was just us two, so we have literally done every job within the running of our business from financial accounts to product development to social media and packing up orders. We are not afraid or too grand to turn our hand to any task, and this is the attitude we look for in all our employees.
Now we have a strong team means we can focus our time on fulfilling our sustainability promise, developing new products, discovering new innovations, understanding our customers’ needs and building an authentic business focused on helping families thrive.
How did the initial collaboration with Roald Dahl come about?
Christina: All our product development comes from a place of authenticity, flowing from the products we need and want as parents. We developed incredible pregnancy products when we were pregnant and incredible baby products when our children were babies. So, it was almost a given we would bring out products for older children as ours grew up. As parents we know the importance of routine in promoting quality sleep and reading plays an integral part in that. Reading should be part of every child’s day and particularly their switch off process at bedtime. Who better than to partner with the world’s number one author Roald Dahl. Two British brands in partnership promoting the importance of sleep.
How do you decide on fragrances for the different lines you have?
Christina: Our fragrances sit at the heart of our formulations and play a powerful role in the efficacy of our products. Fragrance is key in evoking mood and wellbeing – we start with how we want our customers to feel when they use our products then blend in the ingredients to achieve this.
What has it been like to support Beauty Banks?
Julia: Having seen Jo Jones and Sali Hughes set up Beauty Banks and having watched the incredible impact it has had to people living on the poverty line – it was a no brainer. Being clean is a human right and whatever we can do to help get toiletries in to the hands of families, we will do. Our ‘one for one’ initiative was kicked off alongside the launch of our hand washes, and this is just the beginning.
Last book you read?
Julia: Sara Cox’s Till the Cows Come Home: A Lancashire Childhood. I am from Lancashire, I adore Sara Cox’s writing, her humour and outlook on life.
Christina:I AM, I AM, I AMby Maggie O’Farrell. A brilliant biography of one of my all-time favourite authors and her many brushes with life and death.
What’s your top tip for date night in London?
A top tip for date nights in London is to try something new. We are so lucky to live and work on the doorstep of one of the best cities in the world and there is always something wonderful and new to explore. Some favourites include Palomar (amazing middle Eastern food) and Kyseri (Turkish) but also enjoying the London parks, grabbing a picnic, taking in the views and enjoying walks around the city, when the weather permits.
Where’s your favourite place to go in London with the children?
Julia: The Southbank. Walking along there with the children is incredible, taking in the views, the atmosphere and the entertainers.
Christina: Kew Gardens. It’s got everything. The new children’s playground is insane. Just make sure you book in advance!
Tell us one thing that people don’t know about you.
Christina: I bought my first house on a property TV show.
Julia: I have a Blue Peter badge.
What would you take to a desert island?
Julia: Suncream and Spotify.
Christina: Complete library of Sex And The City and a lifetime supply of mango sorbet.
Christina: Cooking is not my forte, but I do a mean Indian takeaway…
Julia: I love cooking, particularly cooking for friends and family. A favourite of mine is crab linguine – super simple, but so tasty. And then throw in some Ottolenghi inspired salads…I could go on and on, don’t get me started on puddings!
Your proudest moment?
Christina: my daughter recently won a coveted award at school for kindness. I really couldn’t ask for more. Very proud mother!
What’s next on the list of things to do?
Christina: is world domination too much? We have big, exciting plans ahead. Watch this space…!
Today is the launch of MORI’s The Gruffalo collection for babies and toddlers. The London based clothing brand has also devised a secret Gruffalo crumble recipe in celebration of the book’s 20th anniversary year.
Mori’s signature organic cotton and bamboo fabrics, which are the base for their sleep and daywear ranges, is now adorned by illustrative details from the celebrated children’s story. Expect to see favourite characters, scenes and quotes from The Gruffalo across the range. Featuring four exclusive prints, the day and sleep collection ranges from newborn up to 4 years with prices from £18 for a T-Shirt to £69.50 for the Clever Sleeping Bag.
Akin Onal, MORI’s Founder says:
“We were thrilled when Magic Light Pictures reached out to us about collaborating for the character’s 20th anniversary. The Gruffalo is such a memorable part of family story time, making this the perfect partnership for MORI. As a brand dedicated to helping to improve a family’s sleep, we believe that story time is an essential part of a child’s bedtime routine as it helps to strengthen bonds between families. That’s why we’re so delighted to be a part of creating this experience.”
Written by renowned children’s author Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, The Gruffalo has won countless awards and sold over 13.5 million copies, delighting readers – young and old alike – for two decades.
Stella Afnaim, MORI’s Head of Product says:
“As a grandmother, reading bedtime stories to my grandchildren is the highlight of my day. Being Head of Product at MORI, I appreciate how important soft yet functional clothing is for little ones, especially at bedtime. Our sleepwear is created with love and I can’t wait to read The Gruffalo with my three grandchildren sitting on my lap in their Gruffalo PJs.”
The Gruffalo collection is available now at babymori.com and in selected retailers nationwide.
Even though we’re seeking out the last drops of summer it’s time to start looking at the autumn wardrobe and N21’s pop-up at Harrods will do nicely.
We’ve been blown away by the images from this collection and you will be too. The fashion brand, created and directed by Alessandro Dell’ Acqua is now available at Harrods. Signature tie-dye that Alessandro featured in his SS19 women’s collection is present here, as well as maxi logo sweatshirts and oversized bows.
Not only are there super stylish pieces for girls and boys, there are also some Mini Me items to double up with your sons or daughters.
For boys, expect prints capturing a fanciful image of the ‘American Dream’, using a strong, graphic statement on sweatshirts, cotton shirts and tracksuits. A stars & stripes theme characterises the check jackets with soft sheepskin detailing, as well as the tartan plaid shirts with logo embroidered, while a 1950s feel is featured in the maxi checkboard knits.
The collection for girls includes chic, modern pieces with fun at the heart of it. Rock’n’roll vibes are clear thanks to red & black leopard prints on maxi hoodies, retro sport tracksuits and bombers. Pop accents can be found on the black-on-pink star prints that add a graphic touch to piping-embellished shirts, smart pleated skirts which are paired with sweet ruche-trimmed stripe blouses and poplin polo dresses with stylish, yet simple yokes.
The range is suitable for girls and boys aged 4-14.
Head to Harrods for the N21 pop up which will remain open until early October.
So we are officially having a heatwave with record breaking temperatures expected over the next few days. But whether you are enjoying sunny days here or abroad on holiday, it’s extremely important to stay safe in the sun as when the mercury rises so does the risk of skin damage from its rays.
We all know the dangers of sun burn and the importance of sunscreen, but choosing the best one to suit your child’s sensitive skin can be a bit confusing. What exactly are all these chemicals and which ones are the most effective? And once you’ve chosen your cream or spray how much of it do you need to use and how often?
We asked Dr Jennifer Crawley the expert dermatologist for Childs Farm, one of the UK’s leading baby and child toiletries brand, to give us the lowdown on how to keep kids (and adults) safe in the sun.
What are the most common mistakes when applying sun cream
“It’s important to use sun cream not just during the summer months, but all year round to avoid long term sun damage and the risk of developing skin cancer. Getting sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. That’s why it’s so important to be applying sun cream all year round, not just when it’s hot as UVA and UVB rays can still be damaging on cooler days. We all need a re-education when it comes to sun protection and we need to get out of the mindset that suncream is just for holidays abroad or during heatwaves at home.”
How much to apply and and how often?
“One of the main problems we find is that parents don’t apply an adequate amount of suncream on their children. We recommend at least two teaspoons for the head and neck area and two tablespoons for the body. But you can’t apply too much, so use it liberally.”
Top tips for staying safe in the sun
On hot days and when you’re abroad keep little ones in the shade between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its hottest
Cover any exposed skin with suncream even on cloudy days
Use a high factor SPF 30+ sun cream, with broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Reapply suncream numerous times throughout the day, especially after swimming
Pay particular attention to often forgotten areas such as the shoulders, back of the neck and behind the ears when applying sun cream
Where possible, cover up childrens’ skin with a hat, loose fitting clothing and sunglasses
Always keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight
For those who have particularly sensitive or eczema-prone skin, make sure you are using a product that has been clinically tested as suitable for this skin type / use a product that is dermatologist and paediatrician approved
Here are some great sunscreens for your little ones
Childs Farm new formulation 50+spf sun cream for very high protection, is water resistant and protects young and sensitive skin from UVA and UVB rays, whilst keeping skin moisturised and hydrated. So you can relax while your children enjoy the sun safely.
Suitable for babies and upwards. Dermatologist and paediatrician approved as suitable for sensitive skin and safe for people who may be prone to eczema, it’s unfragranced 125ml is registered with The Vegan Society. One of their best products is the roll on sun cream which makes it easy for kids to apply it themselves.
The ideal thing to pop in their bag if they are off to a tennis or cricket camp this summer and might need a top up when you aren’t there to help.
If you ever sit next to a French family on the beach you are pretty much guaranteed to see them slathering La Roche-Posay all over the kids. This brand has cult status in France and is increasingly popular with us Brits too – you can even buy it in Boots.
For kids we love La Roch-Posay AntheliosDermo-Kids Multi-Positional Spray SPF 50, which doesn’t leave little ones looking like they’ve been dipped in white paint or leave those annoying yellow stains on pale clothing. It’s super easy to rub in, is absorbed almost instantly and is water resistant. We still pop another layer on after a pool or sea session, but it certainly doesn’t wash off easily.
The Factor 50 face mist is great too and particularly useful when you just want to do a quick top up. Simply spray over their faces (eyes closed obviously) and there is no need to rub in. Perfect for when you are in a rush to get back in the pool – which kids always seem to be!
Commonly used in lots of sunscreens, Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are the UV filters that protect our skin, but research shows they have the opposite effect on the environment.
Once you’ve slathered on your sun lotion, just a 20 minute dip will result in 25% of the ingredients being released into the sea and even tiny amounts of these chemicals can have a detrimental effect on marine life, damaging the DNA of coral and causing dramatic hormonal changes and deformities in fish.
But the good news is there are marine-friendly alternatives. Green People chooses to use Titanium dioxide, which acts as a reflective barrier predominantly to UVB radiation, and Isoamyl P-methoxycinnamate, which is derived from Cinnamic acid found in the leaves of the cinnamon tree, providing natural protection against UVB radiation. For protection against UVA radiation, they use Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate. Although synthetically produced, this ingredient has an excellent safety profile, biodegrades readily and has no adverse effects on the environment. This blend of filters guarantees broad-range protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, whilst being environmentally safe. For kids opt for the Organic Children Sun Lotion SPF 30.
Definitely something worth considering when choosing your sunscreen.
Bioderma’s Photoderm range offers maximum protection for children’s delicate skin. According to the brand the exclusive combination of UVA/UVB dermatological filters and the Cellular Bioprotection™ patent provides children optimal protection against the harmful effects of UV rays as well as internal biological protection.
We like the Factor 50 mouse which is super easy to apply and it smells really good too.
This range is a great option if your kids are playing sport or jumping in an out of water as it’s extremely sweat and water resistant. We’ve heard it said that you can apply in just once a day but personally we would reapply regularly just to be on the safe side.
Ultrasun Extreme SPF 50+ is fast-absorbing, non-greasy, non-sticky with UVA and UVB (SPF50+) protection, plus vitamin E and pro vitamin B5. It’s ideal for extreme sun conditions and extremely sensitive skin, especially children’s’.
With her new fitness app, JENNIS, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill aims to share the expert advice and support she was so grateful for during her pregnancies
When did you start thinking about creating the app?
The original idea came when I was pregnant with Reggie. I found it overwhelming trying to find the right information about fitness in pregnancy and post-natally. Luckily, I had an incredible physio to help me navigate this and I am so grateful for that, so I wanted to find a way to share the information with women everywhere.
What can it do?
There are three options within the app: workouts for pregnancy, post pregnancy (Jennis Pregnancy) or people who have busy lives and want a quick effective workout (Jennis Fitness). The workouts are all very easy to follow and are tailored to different levels of fitness. The pregnancy workouts allow the woman to choose what activity they do based on how they are feeling and are tailored to suit each trimester of their pregnancy.
What kind of advice and support does the app have?
As well as the work outs, we have created something called ‘Your Pregnancy Questions Answered’. There are videos of me with physio Ali Rose chatting about some of the big things I discovered when pregnant and answering some common pregnancy exercise questions too.
On our website we will also host lots of informative pregnancy content, alongside our own content we have partnered with experts in their field – there will be lots of advice and support for mums to be – and Dads too!
How did you feel when you were pregnant?
I loved being pregnant but like every other woman I had no idea what to expect. Our bodies go through so much change and I was super lucky to have an amazing team around me to explain what was happening and why. That was incredibly reassuring and that is why I have created Jennis, to share these insights and training programmes.
Did you feel any pressure to get your body back, particularly as you’re Jessica Ennis, World and Olympic Champion?
After the birth of my first child I was still a competing athlete and I really wanted to get back – I was always asking Ali if I could start doing some ab work, she was very careful and taught me ways to check if my abs were knitting back ok. I am so glad I listened to her advice and that of my coach as I came back all the stronger for it. A gradual strengthening of your core muscles and building back strength sensibly is definitely advisable.
How do you fit fitness into your daily routine with the children?
I just try and grab 20-minute windows when I can, either when the kids are at school or after they have gone to bed. If they are around, I will still try but sometimes they might get cut short if the kids want to ‘get involved’ but even 5 minutes is better than nothing.
We’re told that through the app we’ll see the real Jessica Ennis-Hill. What’s she like?
Ha! I’d like to think… energetic, cheerful and honest. I am very down to earth and love a bit of a laugh.
Did you find becoming a parent tough?
I don’t think any parent is prepared for sleep deprivation! Having a baby is the most joyful thing you could ever imagine – but the lack of sleep is really tough. I am absolutely loving being a mum – it is a new challenge every day but the joy my two bring to our lives is immeasurable.
What advice would you give to new parents?
To accept help from family and friends and that there will be days when you have a newborn that you get nothing done and that is absolutely fine!
How well do Reggie (4) and Olivia get on (1)?
Brilliantly, I am so lucky!
What’s your favourite thing to do as a family?
I think holidays are the best time as we are all together 24/7 – otherwise a lovely walk with our dog Myla on a weekend.
We all spend a lot of time in playgrounds with the kiddies so we have narrowed down our Top 5 in London
TUMBLING BAY PLAYGROUND
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
This huge playground built on the landscape of the Olympic Park encourages your children to experiment in a natural environment. With tree houses, rock pools, sandpits and rope bridges your child will not only be entertained they will be inspired to. queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk
The new interactive Children’s Garden suitable for ages 2 to 12 years old is now open. There is an earth, air, water and sun garden with lots of fun things such as a bamboo tunnel, a worm-hole tube slide, trampolines, a stream and splash pool and much more. kew.org
PADDINGTON RECREATION GROUND
An excellent large playground that caters for both the big and little kids.. With an adventure castle, a mini street, a percussion garden, a shipwreck climbing frame, a train station and a zip wire you will struggle to get them to leave this one. westminster.gov.uk
An outdoor playground with mini models of iconic aircraft such as the famous Spitfire and powerful Sea-King helicopter, there is even a mini version of the historic Grahame-White building. With slides, nets, poles and ladders this play area is a wonderful place to fuel the little ones imaginations rafmuseum.org.uk
BATTERSEA PARK ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND
There’s heaps of fun to be had in this playground where kids can ride a tractor, hop in a car, ride a life size helicopter, get creative drawing their own animals on the chalk boards or be a fireman in the fire engine. The playground invites them to test their skills as they build, swing, balance and ride while the parents can have a sit down on the picnic tables surrounding it. batterseaparkzoo.co.uk
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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