Tag Archives: Five Things

Best of the West – five recommendations for under fives near Bath

five under fiveWhen you have children or start looking after them, you discover an area in a way you never did before. When you move house, you get to do it all over again. I’m really enjoying seeing what this area of the West Country has to offer families. Seven months in, here are some of my favourite day trips so far in the Bath area.

The classical one – The Roman Baths
This was a no brainer and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. I first went with my mum, a historian, when I was quite a bit younger and I still remember its amazing beauty and sense of place. Years later, I’m pleased to report that Scrip really enjoyed our visit. There were children’s activities to complete but what I found particularly good were the holograms of Roman people projected into some of the baths. It really brought everything to life. The Baths are very popular, so expect crowds.

The one for small children – Ugly Bugs
It’s cheap and cheerful and my two love it here. Plus there are fish and chips for lunch: what’s not to love? It’s not far from us in Warmley and, while it’s not plush, it’s clean and not too crowded as they stop entry when all the tables are taken. It’s also a manageable size so you can see the children at all times (unless they refuse to move from the ball pool, as Baby D sometimes does). It suits small children age five and under. Arrive early for half price entry.

The outdoors one – Westonbirt Arboretum
We came here for Autumn colour last weekend, but still found lots of green leaves after our Indian summer. It was still lovely. The treetop walkway was a highlight as was the den building area. With a newish walker on small legs we didn’t get very far in a few hours and we only scratched the surface. Dogs are only allowed in certain areas but we seemed to see quite a few of them along the way. Entry is quite pricey – as is the food – so it could be worth looking at a year’s pass.

The local one – Dyrham Park
My cousin – who grew up near Richmond Park – wasn’t particularly excited about seeing the deer here, for obvious reasons, but they’re still pretty exotic to me and you usually spot the fallow herd on a trip to Dyrham Park. It’s very close to our new house and it’s a lovely spot – a country house (currently being renovated) enclosed by swooping hills on the entrance and with more formal gardens behind. The play area has ride-on tractors (perfect for our resident farm vehicle spotter, Baby D) and there’s a nice cafe.

The Harry Potter one – Lacock Abbey
I’ve only seen one of the films (or half of one, I think) but some of Harry Potter was filmed at Lacock Abbey and you can see why they chose it. It’s a lovely, atmospheric building and it’s been a winner with Scrip on a few occasions. Downstairs is the 13th Century Abbey; upstairs is the Fox Talbot residence, which is interesting in itself but also because it was one of the birthplaces of modern photography. There are some good children’s activities, including a playground just outside, and lots for grown ups to see. Make sure you have a walk around the National Trust village, too.

The 5 rules of an extended family Christmas

Merry ChristmasThe Christmas pendulum has swung back to my family this year and so we’re in a windy but dry (and always beautiful) Cornwall for the week. Scrip and I drove down at the weekend with one of the Aunties (helped by hot chocolates, pastries and plenty of Christmas songs) and we picked up my husband from the train station today.

These are my favourite Christmases – lively, animated (with the odd disagreement thrown in), warm and fun. But I do sometimes find myself forgetting there are unwritten rules of an extended family Christmas, which have emerged over alternate Christmases for the last few years and particularly since having Scrip. I’ve noted them down so I won’t forget them next time:

  1. Remember the new routine – whilst I’ve been off trying to become a grown up, new regulations seem to have been brought in at my family home, and I’m still learning them. It’s always red top milk in tea – woe betide anyone who mixes it up with the green stuff – coats are banned from banisters and never, ever forgot to refill the water filter (cardinal sin).
  2. Limit the amount of washing you generate (and it’s best to hide the full extent of your children’s). It’s been a while (over 30 years) since little people were regular inhabitants here and although you’re very familiar with just how many items can get messy in a 24 hour period, your parents probably aren’t. Even if you’re washing it yourself, be discreet – note: asking how to use the tumble dryer for the fourth time is a dead give away that another load’s gone on.
  3. Adapt to the portion sizes – as a super-hungry 6-month pregnant person I could eat without limits at the moment and my husband has never had a problem tucking away seconds. But conversely, my parents seem to eat less and less. Learn to make the most of any pre-dinner snacks, enjoy a pudding and, if your tummy’s still rumbling, make a mental note of where the Christmas cheese is stored.
  4. Train your children up to get them used to Christmas lunch ahead of the big day – this applies more to my in-laws than my parents, to be fair (my mum and dad have brought up three fussy girls so they are just delighted when anything is eaten). Scrip eats well but she eats particularly well when no one’s monitoring. My MIL, however, takes an active interest in what’s been eaten and what’s not, and is a fan of ‘gentle’ encouragement (which goes down as well as a plate of peas with Scrip…). So we’ve had a few practice roasts with Scrip in the last month or so. She’s been eating gravy (good), sprouts (very good) and turkey (could do a lot better).
  5. Enjoy the rest if you can can – my family are particularly good at keeping Scrip constantly entertained (I could learn a thing or two here). In fact she’s gone out for a long walk with them as I type. It’s hard to switch down a gear, but as I think they’re enjoying it as much as she is, I’m going to try and take a few breaks with my feet up this Christmas: a glass of ginger beer in hand and my mum’s festive Good Housekeeping resting on my bump.

What are your family Christmas rules?

Merry Christmas, thank you so much for reading this year and I hope you all have a happy and peaceful day.

Five things I’ve learnt from my nanny(share)

Nannyshare toddlersAs the (oft-quoted) saying goes, babies don’t come with a manual. However, there’s an abundance of well-meaning advice out there which every new and soon-to-be parent needs to sift through – starting from maternity leave and continuing indefinitely.

In my (limited) experience, some parenting skills can be read, some can be learnt, some taught and a lot is instinct. But aside from family, one source I’ve found particularly helpful is my fab nanny, J, who works with us in a nannyshare with Scrip’s best buddy. I’m eternally grateful for everything she brings with her and the way she cares for, teaches and most importantly, loves Scrip – which was the number one priority when we sat down in Pain Quotidien a year and a half ago and first interviewed her.

For her tender years (she’s almost a decade younger than me) she’s a qualified child carer with a lot of practical experience and she’s taught me so much. Here are just five things:

  1. Distraction is sometimes the only way. Whilst I’m tempted to explain things to Scrip – especially now she’s asking so many questions – or deal with issues head on, I’ve learnt that sometimes, the only way is distraction. When I’ve had to leave Scrip to go to work or they’ve had to do something she wasn’t keen on, J is a master of distraction – and I’ve learnt to be one, too.
  2. Always try and keep naptime at home. I was out and about as much as I could be when Scrip was little and naps would often be in the pushchair or in the car. Staying in seemed constraining. But J always makes sure she’s here and it’s really helped with getting Scrip into a routine. There’s no keeping her moving or popping her in the car to fall asleep – she knows what naptime means and where it is, and there’s usually no complaint.
  3. Always eat at the table. This is one we’re both keen on – I didn’t want to have a child tearing around, half-eaten biscuit in hand. J feels the same and she always makes sure both little ones eat at the table and stay until they’re finished. She’s taught me that they can be patient and can wait for a short time – even when they’re really small.
  4. Don’t force potty training. With a little girl who’s always been alert and keen to learn and mimic, I was happy to embrace potty training from 18 months onwards. Scrip had other ideas. She’s still nervous of the potty (‘too big’ she says…) J reminds me not to rush, that she’ll get there in the end but only with patience. If you encourage too enthusiastically, she’ll only be put off.
  5. TV is OK for a treat. J is the most vehemently anti-TV person I know – I remember trying to explain how to turn on the TV when she first started working here, but she told me she didn’t need to know as she never watched it. When she’s babysat for us she’s read or used her iPad – she never watches it herself here or at home. But I know even J turns to the TV when one of the little ones is not feeling so good and she advocates that. It keeps them entertained and distracted. She’s taught me that there’s a time and a place – and she has a good point.

Parenting is a constant learning process – and this is just a fraction of what I’ve picked up so far. But I’m so grateful for what I’ve learnt. What about you – what have you learnt about childcare from the people around you? I’d love to hear.

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Five simple toddler activities for when the sun’s shining

Toddler eating ice creamI don’t know anyone who isn’t lifted by the emergence of the spring sunshine. Even in the most difficult, sleep-deprived early days with a baby Scrip I was so glad I’d made the effort to gather together my changing bag essentials (all 50 of them) and head out to feel the sun on my face, even for a short walk around my local streets.

Getting out is essential; getting out in the sunshine is even more rewarding. So here are five ways to celebrate the spring sunshine with your toddler in tow (and no swings in sight):

Playing Pooh Sticks
I was in Barnes this morning with a good friend and her little girl and they were fascinated by a family nearby playing pooh sticks. Rushing from one side of the bridge to the other to spot the sticks first and whose was in front, was high entertainment.

toddler playing pooh sticksMaking a daisy chain
Even if the execution is a little too much for Scrip’s toddler paws she enjoys pottering around collecting the daisies and I enjoy a little sit down in the sun making the chain. She’s very into jewellery at the moment so is particularly intrigued by a necklace or even bracelet of flowers, and it takes me back to long lunchtimes sitting in groups in my primary school field.

Eating an ice cream
A good way to pause in the sunshine rather than racing around – there are some fab, tactile toddler ice creams like the Smooze Scrip had last weekend – a better choice than the large, unweildy ones that too often spoil appetites. Just make sure you have lots of baby wipes around as these ones seem to be stickier than ever.

Toddler picnicHaving a picnic
If you want to go one further, there’s nothing like a picnic. I bought a new rug with a waterproof backing from Sports Direct last summer which is cheap and cheerful.  The food doesn’t have to be complicated – just some bits and pieces laid out on a rug – like cherry or chopped up tomatoes, chopped apple, sweetcorn, bread and butter or mini pittas and grated cheese. It’s a much more fun and sociable way to eat.

Making (and chasing) massive bubbles
Those bubble wands you can pick up in toy shops are such a simple way to entertain little ones outside. If you start off it’s not long before they want to have a go themselves – and I find it easier them running around with one rather than them struggling to blow using the little pots. The bubbles look so pretty glinting in the sun and there will be plenty of smiles, so a good opportunity to get some pics when everyone’s grinning.

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