Tag Archives: London

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.

Baby Soft Play Fun At the National Army Museum

A few years ago, a friend of mine was in the process of buying a new house and as she listed some of it’s assets, high up the list was the soft play area for children located just 5 minutes away. Pre-baby, soft play was a world that I’d never really ventured into and not too surprisingly, wasn’t a big interest of mine! It wasn’t a widely available activity when I was growing up, although I do vaguely remember the ball pool at Blackpool Pleasure Beach… I was an extra tall 9 year old that exceeded the height limit, so much to my dismay I wasn’t allowed to enter. I stood on the edge watching my little sister, ‘our Nic’ have all of the fun. Yes, soft play holds some tough memories for me, although I think I’ve fully recovered from this hard lesson in life now. Anyway, moving on…

With little Fred in tow, I can now see the benefit of having a good soft play area nearby and am even becoming quite well versed on what’s hot and what’s not in the world of soft play fun! Having attended a couple of the big commercial offerings, I can report back that their scale can be a little overwhelming. They often seem to be in purpose built warehouses, which doesn’t help the acoustics when you’ve got 200 kids screaming noisily with excitement. Perhaps these larger spaces will come into their own when Fred’s a bit bigger and I can leave him to play whilst I escape to the cafe, but for the moment I just want something a bit, err ……calmer?… more chilled?

A tip off from a friend pointed me in the direction of the National Army Museum Kids Zone which I have since visited with Fred. It’s suitable for children from 0-8 years and has lots of different zones: climbing frames, a dedicated soft-play space for babies, arts and crafts, dressing-up costumes, books, interactive toys and panels. Plus, it is a far, far more calming space than some of the other soft play spaces, so is great for younger ones.

I’m sure that this is largely attributed to the ticketing system which they run, where you book your preferred time-slot online before you arrive – very handy. This keeps the number of children to a manageable level, which is important because it isn’t a huge space. The staff are absolutely lovely, and between each session, they run a 10 minute break for a quick tidy up which means that whatever time of day you go, it’s tidy, clean and generally feels well nurtured and looked after.

To top it all, the entry price is just £2.50, which is an absolute bargain for central London and should appeal to all thrifty Baby Jumblers! I can highly recommend it for a lovely outing for you and your baby.

To read a bit more about soft play for babies, and to find some other ideas for activities, here are some links that I found useful:

Benefits of soft play areas
UNICEF’s Early Child Development Kit (loads of good ideas and activities)
How to Stimulate a Child’s Mind, Michael Meyerhoff

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.

Bach to Baby – for parents missing & craving their musical fixes!!

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.

http://www.bachtobaby.com/

PS. A lovely new venue has just been confirmed. Concerts will now also be taking place at the beautiful Lauderdale House Continue reading