Category Archives: Things to do

Camping holiday with a baby (is it a holiday?) – list of essentials

Relaxing amidst lush green fields, beautiful beaches with freezing cold water, eating stinky cheese and baguettes for ten days solid and drinking only the reddest of red wine. Our camper van trip to France was full of potential for our first family of three holiday – and it was fabulous – really lovely. Daisy loved the seaside – shouting with excitement each time she saw dogs jumping the waves, ponies trotting down the beach, and seagulls swooping down to scavenge picnics. To watch her little inquisitive face trying to work out all of the new things that she was seeing was fabulous.

But seriously… nobody tells you that camping with a baby is HARD WORK! I can’t decide if we came back more tired than when we left (actually, we definitely did!), but on reflection it is definitely worth it. So go ahead and book that ferry crossing, dust down the camper and get packing.  My advice is: know your subject.

So, here is my holiday essentials checklist for camping with a baby:

          awning or  gazebo come rain or shine to avoid sunstroke and to keep the pram dry during downpours
          at least two beach or yoga mats that can be your base when back at camp and can be taken to the beach etc for picnics (beach picnic with baby on the move = very tricky)
          tiny blow up paddling pool (AKA baby bath) to keep baby clean and to cool down on a hot day (we got ours from the pound shop – best £1 I’ve ever spent)
          highchair – this may seen excessive but is probably no. 1 on my list of essentials as Daisy was SO distracted when eating picnic style as she just wanted to crawl around.  The highchair enabled me to keep my sanity during mealtimes and prevented Daisy from starving (luckily, we’d splashed out on the Baby Bjorn highchair which folds flat and is super neat, so didn’t take up too much precious room in the camper).
          sterilising tablets to keep baby alive (and another top tip: be vigilant about rabbit poo on the floor = BAD when put in baby’s mouth)
          plenty of hats / bibs / vests / weaning spoons and bowls
          easy to put on / take off cardigans and warm layers
          WET WIPES
          head torch
          warm, runny baby porridge for the morning – drunk from a bowl (I consider this to be the baby equivalent of the early morning caffeine fix….an essential kick start to the day)
          bananas (the simplest,  healthiest, easiest of all foods for littluns, non?) and other easy to access snacks (esp. for driving days)
          small selection of toys

Finally, don’t forget to take a healthy amount of humour for the ride – it was much needed at times, especially when the tiredness crept up on us!

Enjoy the trip brave travellers – your baby definitely will – but be prepared to book grandma in for a day on your return so that you can rest up and recover!

 

Yoga For Pregnancy

Guest blog by Sunnah Rose – Yoga Teacher, Pregnancy Yoga Teacher and Child Birth Educator in North London
http://www.stretchingpeople.co.uk

I feel so honoured to be part of the positive experience that women go through on their journey to becoming a mother. With their body changing before their eyes, the sense of control, the harmony and the peace that Yoga helps to realise can be such a powerful benefit to mums-to-be, whether it’s their first time or if they’ve been through it before.

Yoga plays a very important role in pregnancy. It is such a wonderful time and yoga is a beautiful way for a pregnant woman to allow herself the opportunity to connect inwards with herself and her baby.

The postures and movements are all designed to ease problems that come up while pregnant and by keeping flexible and mastering different techniques Yoga can be a wonderful way to promote positive outcomes for mother and child. Even if you breeze through your pregnancy easily (lucky you!) the breath work and visualisation will help you to connect with your body and baby.

The classes are designed to give you a range of tools to take in to your birth, and working with similar movements week on week helps you to trust in your body. From experience, I know that a lot of women find themselves too much in their heads throughout pregnancy and delivery but of course the female body is a highly developed baby machine and yoga techniques are one of many great ways to recognise and trust in this.

The tools that you learn will help you through the discomfort associated with labour, will give you positive relaxation techniques and from this relaxed place, hopefully you will be able to deal with whatever comes up in as calm a space as possible.

Sunnah Rose
www.stretchingpeople.co.uk

Another useful resource for finding yourself a brilliant local Yoga teacher is www.yogabirth.co.uk

Go wild this summer

Last night a rare purple emperor butterfly briefly flew into my South London living room. It was a magical moment, one that instantly took me back to my childhood and the only other time I’ve ever seen one.

I could see the flowers in our front garden it rested on, wings open; the smell of the suntan lotion my sister had on and the sound of my dad’s old Olympus as he snapped picture after picture. We felt singled out; we glowed; we talked about it to anyone who would listen.

I can remember watching my first barn owl, too, quartering a field in low, late afternoon sun on silent wings. I can still recall the time a grass snake slithered over my bare feet; the fiery orange belly of the great crested newt I caught in our pond; and the exact texture of the bark of my favourite tree, the one I always used to climb and play spaceships high in its branches.

And yet it’s becoming harder and harder for children to have these experiences. It’s hardly surprising: the roads are busier, 24-hour rolling news means we’re all too aware of ‘stranger danger’ (although today’s children are no more at risk than in the past) and computers and games consoles have made the indoors a lot more alluring than it was when we were young.

But we must at least question the trend to keep kids inside and supervise them at all times – for their sakes. There is a critical weight of evidence building that reducing outdoor play and free contact with the natural world is taking a heavy toll on the next generation.

‘Nature deficit disorder’ is a term coined by Richard Louv to describe “the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.”

The evidence that we need contact with nature is growing, both for adults and children, as the National Trust recently summed up in their fascinating report, Natural Childhood:

  • Child psychologist Aric Sigman has found that children exposed to nature scored higher on concentration and self-discipline; improved their awareness, reasoning and observational skills; did better in reading, writing, maths, science and social studies; were better at working in teams and showed improved behaviour overall
  • A recent UK study endorsed by Natural England found that those with close access to green space lived longer than those with no green space, even when adjusted for social class, employment, smoking etc
  • Exposure to nature has been found to reduce symptoms of ADHD in children threefold compared to time spent indoors
  • Not only are children who regularly spend time outdoors less likely to suffer from childhood obesity, but the physical benefits of outdoor play continue into later life. There is clear evidence to show that a child’s attitude towards exercise lays the foundation for their habits as an adult.
  • Researchers from Bristol University and University College London have discovered that a “friendly” bacteria commonly found in soil activates brain cells to produce serotonin in a similar way to antidepressants
  • A National Trust survey has revealed that 80% of the happiest people in the UK said that they have a strong connection with the natural world, compared with less than 40% of the unhappiest
  • So clear is the link between increased contact with nature and better mental health that in 2007 the charity MIND launched a campaign to incorporate nature into mainstream NHS treatments
  • Studies have shown that even in cases where the only variable is the view of green space from a window, incidences of crime are reduced by as much as 50%.
  • According to MIND, research has shown that ‘green exercise’ (gardening, walking, conservation work, running or cycling) can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression.
  • A study published in the journal Science by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich examined people recovering from surgery in hospital. All other things being equal, patients with windows looking out on leafy trees healed, on average, a day faster, needed significantly less pain relief and had fewer complications than those who saw a brick wall
  • A study carried out at the University of Essex found that as little as five minutes of ‘active time’ spent outdoors boosted mental health. “We believe there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups… were to self-medicate more with green exercise,” said researcher Jo Barton.

What’s more, increasing alienation from nature threatens nature itself: as David Attenborough has said, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

To protect wild places and creatures, and give our children the best possible start in life, we need to help them develop a felt connection to the wildlife and nature on their doorsteps – wherever they live.

Click here for a list of upcoming family-friendly events in the London area and help your kids go wild this summer.

Melissa Harrison is a nature writer and novelist whose book, Clay, has been chosen for Amazon’s Rising Stars programme and shortlisted for the Portsmouth First Fiction award. She regularly writes and speaks on the subject of outdoor play for organisations including the National Trust and Urbanwoot. Follow her on Twitter here: @m_z_harrison

DaisiesPost seedling

Swim Baby Swim

Being a pretty useless swimmer myself, I was keen to get Fred into the pool as soon as possible to ensure that he is confident and capable in water. I also thought that after spending 9 months in the womb, he’d probably be fairly at home there.

We began lessons when he was 4 months old and haven’t really looked back. Such is his excitement, that even before we’re in the pool his legs are kicking in anticipation and that’s pretty much how it continues throughout the lesson (which is lucky!)

We’ve recently joined London Baby Swim in Wandsworth, which I’d highly recommend. It’s in a purpose built unit, so there’s loads of space. As the focus is on babies and toddlers, the changing rooms are set up with baby changing mats and a playpen, plus there are high chairs in the reception area. The facilities are also kept really clean and the water temperature is warmer than a usual pool, so very baby friendly. In term’s of the lessons, there’s a really nice balance between helping the babies to learn some essential skills and having fun in the water.

We’re now reaching 6 months of swimming lesson, so along the way I’ve picked up some top tips on how to make the most of the experience. I hope that you find them useful.

  • Be organised about finding lessons – in London, baby swimming lessons tend to get booked up fairly quickly, particularly for the more popular weekend slots, so sign up to newsletters from pools that you like the look of, which means that you can book as soon as that term’s lessons become available.
  • Give yourself plenty of time – getting yourself and baby changed often takes even longer than the actual swimming.
  • Make sure that your baby is well rested before the lessons – a cranky baby is more likely to be overwhelmed by the experience, which can mean tears in the pool.
  • Double wrap your baby’s bottom – your cute little floater doesn’t want to be the generator of any floaters in the pool, with some pools now insisting that you use both a swimming nappy and Happy Nappy swimming trunks.
  • Plan your post lesson escape – have everything that you need to get baby warm and changed at the top of your bag, as it saves you having to scrabble around after the lesson.
  • Take a drink and snacks for your baby to have after the lesson – the lessons might only be 30 minutes long, but it’s both mentally and physically tiring for them.

A Bee’s Knees Activity in Battersea (for 0-5s)

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.

Jenny

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.