One of the things that I’ve always loved about London is the fact that with a little imagination and an open mind you can easily find lots of new and unique adventures. It’s pretty easy to be the first to discover a wonderful new bar, restaurant, band, dj, theatre show….and so forth, which makes you feel like an urban Indiana Jones.
I did wonder whether all adventures would stop with the arrival of baby Fred, but am pleased to report that in many ways life continues, so I’ve been able to maintain my Indiana Jones-ness with a baby twist. Think of Harrison Ford with a baby strapped to his front, with a small patch of sick on his shoulder and you’ve pretty much got me.
I’ll stop the lame Indiana Jones analogies there, as it would be unfair to refer to the Bees Knees as the Temple of Doom. The Bees Knees is a new kids playspace at Battersea Arts Centre. BAC are great at pushing the boundaries of theatre. A couple of years ago I attended the One on One festival, a delightfully subversive theatre experience quite unlike anything else I’ve been to before or since. If you see that it is on again, definitely go and check it out. So I was quite intrigued to see what The Bees Knees would be all out.
The Bees Knees is a really lovingly put together indoor play space. There’s a man made grass hill up to a tower and drawbridge, with a room under the tower. For kids of all ages, it enables them to be little adventurers in a safe environment. I was half tempted to roll down the hill myself. There are also lots of toys available.
It’s extremely good value versus your typical soft play venue, as in the mornings you are asked to make a very reasonable donation of £2.50, whilst in the afternoons there are often workshops for the little ones, otherwise entry is free. Be aware though that access is only during the week, as at the weekends it’s hired out for private parties.
Once you’ve tired out your little bundles of joy, you can then pop over to BAC’s cafe where they serve good quality cafe grub, alongside some rather tasty cakes.
The whole of the BAC is very baby friendly, with a buggy park area, baby change facilities and a number of high chairs in the cafe. And not a pit of snakes in sight! A winner on all fronts.
PS. Do keep an eye out for the scary ravens. They’re perched on a shelf in the Bees Knees room and are surprisingly life-like.
If you had asked me my views on bringing up children in London a few years back, I was anti the idea – the harsh urban landscape seemingly in conflict with and unsuitable for a wee baby – and my attitude towards London quite transient and short term. But when nature took its course and I found myself committed to my life in London, with a growing bump and soon-to-be baby, I had to change my views and embrace my urban self and situation.
Surprisingly, a change in attitude has been relatively easy, thanks to the incredible ‘baby world’ that exists in London once you jump on the baby bandwagon. It’s like an underground world of yummy mummies and baby friendly cafes, daytime sing-alongs that take place in pubs, toy libraries brimming with colourful plastic, and babies perfecting their inversions in baby yoga – you name it, and you can most likely do it with your baby in London. Its a world that goes unnoticed by hundreds of thousands of Londoners who are busy commuting back and forth to work, to the theatre, to pubs, to raves on boats etc etc. I know, as I was one of them until not so long ago.
As an Islington resident, I have been particularly impressed by the council’s Sure Start children’s centres – there are sixteen of them in Islington borough alone – an incredible number! And all within a walkable distance from my home. Daisy and I have ventured out to a few of them. Baby massage at Hornsey Road is a particular favourite, with Alex sharing her magic on how to settle your baby and encourage a deeper sleep. Hungerford children’s centre have an under 1s ‘stay and play’. It is quite lovely, with mums and babies sitting in a cushioned play area, mums swapping feeding tips and sleep stories, and the babies coming into awareness of their own being as well as the existence of their baby neighbours. The staff at Hungerford are really friendly and supportive and each session ends with a group story time and an old school whirl-y-gig (a colourful parachute swooshing and swishing over the babies heads) which makes them gurgle with delight – delightful.
Most importantly of all, these sessions are either free or cost just a couple of pounds, making them accessible to everyone – great for those of us trying to stretch out our Statutory Maternity Pay. I’d say one of my biggest worries about having a baby in London, was that I didn’t know many other new mums in the area and was worried that it would cost the earth to attend baby activities and find some baby friends for Daisy (as well as new mum friends for me). But these children centres really do what they set out to achieve, so for those of us Baby Jumblers that live in boroughs that have continued to fund the centres, we are so lucky to have them.
For those boroughs that are no longer funding the Sure Start children’s centres or where funding has been reduced, I’ve heard that often, this means improvements in other areas and facilities. For example, whilst Haringey council has (apparently) reduced funding to their children’s centres, they have really ramped up their library facilities for children – so it’s worth fully researching understanding what your council does provide in the way of baby and children’s facilities, as these little communities are very accessible, and really help us new mum’s get to grips with our new world of mother and baby.
You can read more about the funding situation relating to children’s centres, and how many centres have shown a ‘picture of resilience and creativity’ when finding alternatives, in a piece of exclusive research completed by the national family charity, 4Children.
For us mums who are bottle feeding our babies, the current news stories about the rationing of formula milk in store are a big concern. The temptation is to stockpile, but that just puts more pressure on the system. The attached communication from Cow & Gate popped into my email box this morning. I thought I’d share as it provides a bit more clarity on the situation.
Baby milks product availability – Update from Cow & Gate
You may have seen news about the limits on buying baby milk this week and, as someone who has shown an interest in Cow & Gate, I wanted to get in touch with you personally to let you know what’s going on.
But before I go into the detail, I would like to reassure you that I, and everyone at Cow & Gate feel a very deep responsibility to make sure that parents in the UK who have chosen our brands can get them easily. I would like to sincerely apologise if you have recently found it difficult to buy our baby milks.
So what’s happening? In recent weeks and months there has been a sudden increase in demand for our powdered baby milk in the UK. As far as we know, the increased demand is a result of unofficial exports to China to satisfy the needs of Chinese parents who want international brands for their babies. In some parts of the UK this means that products meant for UK babies are being bought, in bulk, by these unofficial exporters from the shelves in retail outlets. This can lead to products being temporarily out of stock until the next deliveries arrive at the store.
We are working hard to resolve this situation and this is the number one priority for me and my team. To make sure that parents here get the baby milk they need for their children we have responded to this situation in the following ways:
- Firstly, we have already increased, and will continue to increase, our production of baby milk for the UK. Extra supplies of baby milk are arriving all the time and we, and the retailers who sell our products, are working very hard to continually replenish the shelves in store. We are monitoring demand on a daily basis and responding swiftly where needed. This is the absolute priority for our business and will remain so until this situation is resolved.
- Secondly, we have been working with the retailers who have now mostly introduced a limit of 2 packs of powdered formula that a customer can purchase at any one time. This is a precautionary measure intended to limit bulk-buying from retail outlets for commercial purposes.
I would like to apologise to parents for any inconvenience caused by this retail purchasing limit. We know that most parents only buy one pack at a time and so we hope that the impact of this limit on UK parents will be minimal. However I also know that there are some parents who will find it difficult, for example parents of multiple births, and we are putting in place special arrangements to help families who need more.
Finally, I want to reassure you all, we do not export baby miks from the UK as the powdered baby milk formula we sell here is made only for UK babies, and labelled according to UK regulations. The amount of milk we are currently supplying to UK retailers is comfortably enough to meet the needs of UK families and, together with the retailers, we are working hard to ensure that the milks we supply are reserved for UK babies. However, if you are finding it difficult to buy your baby’s usual milk, please try another local store or try re-visiting your usual store on another occasion because new supplies are arriving all the time. I invite you to get in touch with us if you are having problems – we are here to help by free phone, 24/7 on 0800 977 4000, email or live chat.
In the meantime, I am committed to keeping you informed of progress towards resolving this situation.
Managing Director, Danone Baby Nutrition UK
One of the things that I’m missing as a new mum is the chance to see live music. Baby Fred is pretty flexible, but I suspect that he’d object if I strapped him to me and headed out to a late night gig, spoilsport that he is!
I was therefore thrilled to hear about Bach to Baby. Whilst classical music isn’t necessarily my first choice of music genre, tending to favour music with a few more electronic beats, an opportunity to hear talented musicians play live is a winner for me.
Bach to Baby has been set up by the brilliant pianist Miaomiao Yu, who wanted to perform for her son in a concert setting, but found that it was pretty unrealistic, particularly due to the late nights. Bach to Baby was conceived from the idea that there must be an opportunity to play to him and his friends at a kid friendly time.
Rather than just performing in small scale community halls across London, the venues have been carefully chosen for their atmosphere. Many of the events take place in churches which tend to add to the sense of occasion, as well as offering impressive acoustics.
Back in February I went along to the Clapham concert in St Luke’s Church. Initially it felt quite surreal. My experience of babies and churches is that there’s usually a desperate desire to keep the little ones quiet, so as not to detract from the service for everyone else. So to see the church full of happy, noisy babies and pre-schoolers was very refreshing. Once the music started most of the babies were both mesmorised and enthralled by the music. My own wee man Fred felt inspired to babble along noisily to the music. I suspect that he may have inherited his mum’s tone deafness, but no one flinched and his babbling seemed to be totally appropriate and in-keeping with the spirit of the event. The older kids in attendance also got up and had a bit of a dance.
From my perspective, I actually found the whole experience to be quite meditative….thoroughly switching off and tuning into the sounds being played. It’s certainly not my usual reaction when participating in baby classes/activities, so the opportunity to sit back and relax a bit was really appreciated.
Tickets are £10 per adult and kids go free. Whilst not the cheapest of baby activities around for us Baby Jumblers, it’s certainly compares favourably to a gig or concert. Plus if you sign up for more concerts there are discounts available.
Overall I’d say that Bach to Baby is a winner for both parents and babies. Do have a nosy on their website to see if there is a concert taking place near you. It’s well worth attending.