Posts Tagged ‘Guest blogger’

The First Aid skills every parent needs

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Would you know what to do if your child started choking?

Sarah Kohn, founder of Early Bird First Aid Training

 

We spoke to Sarah Kohn, mother of son Leo and founder of Early Bird First Aid, to get some information on basic skills that could save a child’s life. Sarah feels strongly that first aid skills are as vital to a new mum as information about weaning or immunisations.

“Being a new mum made me realise how grateful I was to also be a first aid instructor”, says Sarah. “My skills gave me confidence and the feeling I could cope in an emergency. New mums have enough on their plates and it meant that I had one less thing to worry about.”

Leo is now 21-months-old and I spend my spare time (what little I have!) teaching other parents essential first aid skills. I set up my business, Early Bird First Aid, about a year ago, as I really believe that basic first aid skills are essential training for anyone looking after children. They should be as much a part of becoming a parent as attending antenatal classes or an NCT course.  

Obviously not everyone can find the time or money to attend one of these courses so I have put together a list of five emergency situations that could occur at home and how to prevent and deal with them.

The first thing I will say in any emergency is: don’t panic! Try to remain calm and use your common sense. I hope readers find this useful, but there is no substitute for practicing these skills and techniques for real so if you want to come along to a course or schedule a course for you and your friends please let me know!

Falls
Unfortunately young children do fall over and get bumps and bruises as they learn to walk, but being aware of potential risks can help you avoid serious injuries. 

Babies can easily roll off the edge of a changing table, bed or sofa. Toddlers quickly learn how to climb and explore and it is very easy for a child to fall off a piece of furniture, down the stairs or even out of a window or balcony. 

  • Make sure your baby cannot roll off the changing mat.
  • Do not put baby bouncers on tables or beds
  • Fit locks/restrictors to upstairs windows and keep balcony doors locked
  • Keep chairs and other climbing objects away from windows and balconies
  • Fit safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.

What to do

If your child does bump his head hold a cold compress/ice pack on the bump for 10 minutes (if you can keep him still long enough!).

Take your child back to the accident and emergency (A&E) department of your local hospital if they:

  • are unusually sleepy or you cannot wake them
  • have a headache that is getting worse
  • are unsteady when they walk
  • are repeatedly sick
  • have a seizure (fit)
  • develop a squint or blurred vision, or they start to see double
  • lose consciousness

Go to A&E if your baby has a minor head injury and continues to cry for a long time.

Trust your instincts, if you feel your baby or child is not acting normally after a fall seek medical attention

Choking

Babies and young children can choke on small objects such as marbles, grapes or small toys. To help prevent choking

  • Keep small objects out of the reach of small children.
  • Choose toys that are designed for the age of your baby or child
  • Encourage older children to keep their toys away from your baby.

What to do (for babies)

1. Look in the baby’s mouth and carefully remove any visible objects.
Do not feel blindly down throat

2. Position baby face down on forearm supporting head and neck with your hand

3. With the infants head slightly lower than body deliver up to 5 firm back blows between shoulder blades with heel of hand

4. If choking continues perform 5 chest thrusts. This technique can be learnt and practiced at a first aid course www.earlybirdfirstaid.com

 

Burns and scalds
A child’s skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s and hot water can scald for up to 15 minutes after it has boiled. Hot bath water is the biggest cause of severe and fatal scalding injuries in young children.

  • Always place hot drinks out of children’s reach
  • Do not drink anything hot with a child on your lap or in your arms
  • Use a cordless kettle
  • Use the back rings on the cooker whenever possible and turn saucepan handles away from the edge
  • If possible, keep young children out of the kitchen
  • Before bathing your baby or child, check that the water is not too hot 

What to do

  • Flood the area in cold running water for at least 10 minutes.
  • Do not break blisters or interfere with the burn
  • Do not apply any creams, lotions, butter or fat
  • Do not use any adhesive dressings
  • Cover the area with cling film or a clean pillowcase to help avoid infection.

Suffocation and strangulation

  • Keep plastic bags, nappy sacks and balloons (non-inflated or burst) away from young children
  • Curtain and blind pull cords should be kept short and out of reach of children.
  • Beware of clothing with cords, dummies on necklace cords and bag straps
  • Keep cats out of your bedroom – if they jump into cots or beds and fall asleep in the wrong place they could suffocate your child. Attach a net over cots if necessary.

What to do

  • Remove cause of suffocation/strangulation if possible
  • Start CPR on an unconscious, non-breathing baby or child

Attend an Early Bird First Aid CPR/First Aid course to learn how to resuscitate your child if they have stopped breathing. You will also learn and practice other skills such as how respond to choking and how and when to put a child in to the recovery position.

Contact Sarah at sarah@earlybirdfirstaid.com, 07967 598 338, www.earlybirdfirstaid.com

An Original Sharky & George holiday

Monday, March 18th, 2013

When we heard that one of angels & urchins’ favourite party entertainers was working with multi award-winning travel company Original Travel, we started to pack our bags and dust off the beach balls.

Read on to discover how Departure Lounge Olympics and Airplane Bingo might just make parents feel as though a break with the children has actually been a holiday.

Original Travel has teamed up with Sharky & George, the much loved children’s party people, to inject some (much needed) creativity and fun into the family holiday process. The result? Wholesome and creative family holidays for every age from toddlers to grandparents.

Together with Sharky & George, Original Travel selected their favourite family holiday destinations, ranging from sun filled beach holidays and city breaks, to snow adventures and family safaris and injected some extra fun.

The first Sharky & George-ified Original Travel Holiday!

Tom Barber, father and Original Travel co-founder, test drove the new-style family holidays on a trip to Oman with his five-year-old twin girls.

From the airport terminal where the girls’ new stopwatches (courtesy of S&G, naturally) and the instructions for a round of Departure Lounge Olympics lead to much enjoyment of ‘fastest circuit of the departure lounge on one foot,’ and so on. On the plane it was time for a spot of Airplane Bingo, with the girls circling the various things on their (wipe clean, reusable) cards.

Once arrived in Oman and settled in to the Six Senses Zighy Bay hotel, the Sharky & George funpacks came in to their own. Arts and crafts through to beach activities, the make your own T-shirt kits and suggestions for a tennis ball for a sand rollercoaster, it all went down a storm.

Become ‘Trickographer’ of the year!

To celebrate the launch of the collaboration, a trickography competition is being run on the Original Travel with Sharky & George Facebook page. Upload your best trick photography to the Facebook page for the chance to win a long weekend away with your family.

Maggie & Rose’s World Book Day

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

 

Maggie Bolger, is the founder of super cool, original family members club Maggie & Rose Kensington and the soon to launch Maggie & Rose Chiswick.  Maggie & Rose is a hub of creativity where a loving, home from home environment has been crafted. It’s a place where parents can relax whilst children can play and learn to their hearts content – a place where childhood memories begin.  She lives in Kensington with her husband and four children Azia, Oscar, India and Olli and dog Coco.  Maggie is also a published author of three (and counting) activity books based on a group of friends called Maggie, Rose, Oscar and Bentley who loved nothing more than to make and do. From basic cooking, to creating their own art supplies, the characters engage with kids to encourage them to get creative in their homes. All of the activities are based on the workshops created for Maggie & Rose and all have been tried and tested by hundreds of children.

World Book Day is today (March 7th) and it’s such an awesome celebratory day; what better invention in life to celebrate. The humble book, a simple little thing that brings such joy to millions all over the world.  The very thing that ignites the imaginations of children, and engages them from as young as 3 months old.

Who doesn’t remember discovering the world of Roald Dahl and his many characters or hiding under the blankets with a torch dying to finish the lastest ‘Famous Five’ adventure…getting lost in the world of J. R. R Tolkien’s hobbits, bringing the characters to life in your head and loving them so much you cry with the tradegy evoked from only words on a page.  The simple pleasure of turning a page, the sense of achievement when you get to the last page, that pang of remorse because it is over.  A book is a little piece of magic, bought to us by some of the cleverest people on the planet – the authors.

Without this simple pleasure the world we live in would be a dull and boring place.

Now, with our lives being driven more and more by technology, the humble but ever so important book is being edged out. I worry that with kindles and iPads,  books will one day only be found in antique shops. I am waiting (secretly) for the day that research comes out to prove that tablet devices are bad for the brain!

My kids are all bookworms, something I am super proud of.  We have an epic library of books and encourage book buying and swapping at all times! So join us on March the 7th and truly celebrate the beauty and genius that is the book!

Here are a few tips that work in our household to encourage bookworms: 

-          A family trip to a good bookshop or library: We love the ones with characters, like Daunts. There is a fabulous second hand book shop on Gloucester Road called Slightly Foxed, which is everything a bookshop should be, full of charm and people that love books. We then go to a café and read our books together over hot chocolate.

-          Reading a family book:  Our kids love it when we all read a book together – now they are old enough we take it in turns to read. Recently I read them “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume. I remember my teacher reading it to us when we were kids and laughing and laughing. I repeated the voices she used and laughed along with the kids.

-          Bed time wind down:  We have a rule that kids have to be in bed by 8pm at the latest. But they are allowed to keep their lights on for an extra 15 mins if they read.

Happy World Book Day everyone.

Maggie x

Why boys won’t read…

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Chris Lloyd is the author of the What on Earth Wallbook which charts billions of years of history unfolded into a giant wallchart made up of more than 1,000 pictures and captions. His email newsletters are must-reads, challenging conceptions of teaching and learning. I found his latest newsletter on boys being reluctant readers fascinating and hope you’ll be interested too.

BOYS are so-called €˜reluctant readers€™. Ask most primary school teachers and they will confirm that, generally speaking, we have a problem when it comes to persuading the less fair sex to get stuck into a good book.

Why should this be?

Are boys generally programmed to resist reading? In part I suspect so. Millions of years of gene flow have honed hunting instincts into the male line €“ the theory being that over the last 3 million years or so (since our apish ancestor adapted to walk on two feet) the most successful hunters will have fathered more children. So the instinct to get outdoors and play, fight or climb trees is expressed best through the male line. And charging around outside in a pack (playing football, for example) is far less conducive to sitting down with a good book. Conversely, the feminine €˜nesting€™ instinct to feather the home would seem far more aligned to sitting down in one place and reading a good book. €¦So girls are instinctively better wired for learning to read.

Generalisations, especially when it comes to gender, are dangerous goods these days. But zooming out to try to work out the connections between things necessitates a degree of generalisation for the sake of trying to paint big picture. It is no greater a crime, surely, than specialising so much that there is no big picture to be seen at all.

But the gender issue €“ particularly with regards to boys reluctance to read – seems to go a great deal further than evolutionary instinct, so I have recently begun to realize.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to be asked to speak at The Federation of Children€™s Books Groups Conference, at Bradfield College near Reading. It is an august organisation with a conference now in its twentieth year. The auditorium was packed with teachers, book lovers and educationalists (many from Norfolk for some reason, well, why not?)

The topic of literacy in young people is absolutely the bulls eye of discussion amongst such a group.

€˜How wonderfully refreshing to have a non-fiction author speaking€™ said one happy delegate after I had given my 60 minutes romp through the history of the world, with a giant Wallbook as a backdrop.

Why, I wondered, should €˜non fiction€™ be such a big deal? Surely stories about the real world are so much more amazing than any number of fantasies you can dream up in your mind €“ as I try to demonstrate in my talks. If you love truly amazing stories then non-fiction€™s the place for you€¦.

At least that€™s how it seems, if you€™re a boy.

Facts, how things work, encyclopaedias, maps, books about nature, superheros from the past €“ this is the stuff that sets off fireworks in the minds of most boys. The tallest man, the bloodiest war, the biggest skyscraper€¦.. these are incredible stories.

But I suspect (in fact I am sure) for girls, generally speaking, it is different. Fiction rules €“ fantastic non-real worlds are constructed for whatever reason €“ Escape? Romance? I don€™t know. €¦.

Then, as I looked around the room, a penny dropped. Almost everyone there was female. The same is true whenever I visit a primary school – almost all the teachers are female.

So what type of books would these teachers generally encourage their pupils to pick up when they are being encouraged to read? The most natural choice would be to feed them whatever it is the teacher thinks is most appealing to a young mind €“ which, because they are female, will generally speaking be fiction no non-fiction! Hence the novelty of having a non-fiction author visit a school, or indeed give a talk at a conference on children books.

Now I am wondering if the problem with boys being reluctant readers isn€™t so much nature but nurture. Perhaps it€™s because they are being fed a diet of books chosen by females that are really inappropriate to the male psyche. If so, then hurrah! We really ought to be able to do something about it.

How to get boys to read

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

How to get  boys to read

We caught up with the author of Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways that Will Change Their Lives on a recent book tour. angels & urchins blog is the mother of four boys, so couldn’t wait to quiz Allyn about the books and poems that a would help young boys learn to love reading.

Q Which poem would you read to a young boy?
A April Rain Song by Langston Hughes on a rainy spring day when it€™s too damp to go outdoors. Anything by Jack Prelutsky when the mood is low. The Homework Machine by Shel Silverstein when homework is overwhelming, and Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff when you want to inspire to grow up to be the kind of person who will see all people as one, and will write his own poems in that spirit.

Q And which novelists would you recommend to a boy just starting to get confident with his reading?
A Hmmm. I think that really depends on the interests of the boy himself. But some great transitional reads include The Invention of Hugo Cabret and The Maximum Ride series.

Q And which three titles would you recommend for a teenage boy?
Three favorites for teen readers include Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees, The Absolutely True Story of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers.

How to get boys to read The Brothers Torres

Q Is the data you€™ve compiled about the differences in achievement between boys and girls in the US comparable to the UK?
A I do not know as much about the statistics of the UK as I do about the United States, but I do believe that this is an issue endemic to the developed world: that we do not see boys in the same light as we see girls: we do not enculturate them to become readers.

Q What can parents/carers do at home to counteract some of the pressures boys feel to conform in school?
A At home the message should be joy. Make it fun and interactive to read with your sons. Don€™t send them to their room or find reasons to criticise them. Love what they read and express interest in knowing more, whether they are comics or classics.

Q In your book, you say boys are drawn to graphic novels. Are there any benefits to this form of reading?
There are plenty! First is we want to build stamina in our boy readers, and reading with a combination of text and pictures helps boys read faster and for longer. Second is that for a boy who struggles, or who might feel a bit anxious about reading for sustained periods, the graphics in the graphic novels provide welcome companion to the print.

How to get boys to read Hardy Boys

Q Where are your own favourite places to read?
A I could read anywhere, anytime, and any place. The only thing I fear is being somewhere I don€™t have anything to read with me.

Q If you had an imaginary bookshelf of books that you could never part with, which titles would be on it?
A I love that idea! I would have Charlotte€™s Web, Anna Karenina, the poems of Mary Oliver and Langston Hughes, and the books hand created by the children I have taught, for I love them all so much.

Green Families wins work/family balance

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Green Families provides awareness and educational activities about eco-friendly and holistic living for families. It€™s a new company that recently won a competition to benefit from a host of business and childcare services from innovative, south-west London-based combined office and childcare space Third Door. We were so interested that we invited founder Jessica St. Clair to tell us how it’s changing her life – and how she wants to change yours!

Green goddess: Jessica St. Clair and son Henry

Green goddess: Jessica St. Clair and son Henry

Services on offer at Green Families include workshops on subjects ranging from Natural Parenting, Green & Clean Homes to Organic Weaning for Healthy Development. They also organise customised living consultations, and publish resources that provide families with clear guidance and information about the toxins in their environment. They will soon have a directory of €œgreen havens€ and a line of quick and fresh organic baby foods.

How did you come up with the idea for Green Families? Did it coincide with becoming a parent, or had you been wanting to do something with a green ethos for a while?
I had studied and worked in developmental psychology throughout my university and pre-baby years. It was a topic of discussion during my courses, and I remember being struck by the impact everyday living has on young children. I see non-toxic living as the key to healthy development, and have always been passionate about children€™s issues, holistic and green living, organic and healthy foods, and resource sustainability. When my son Henry was born, my interests and life€™s work became more than a calling but a personal mission.

I spent a period during my pregnancy on bed rest, and took that time to research green and organic products. I quickly became overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, its inconsistency, and the plethora of available products once I€™d found credible ones. Many close friends were starting families and having similar issues, so I decided that it was important to share the knowledge I had gained and create a resource for other families. I wanted to bridge the gap between resources/valid information and everyday consumers.

What does your Third Door prize include? How useful do you think the facilities at Third Door will be for you as a working mother?
The Third Door prize includes free membership, 30 hours of workspace/childcare, a business in a box package (logo design, business cards and website), 3 x 1 hour consultancy sessions €“ in marketing, legal, financial, PR, social media, technology, business management or life coaching advice and a laptop. In short, a lot! Basically, an entire support network, not only in setting up and establishing, but also advertising and developing the business on an ongoing basis. The best aspect of the prize is the community of working parent entrepreneurs who have to balance business ambitions with ambitions for their children in a supportive environment.

 third-door-logo

Third Door is a no-brainer for working parents. As much as we all love to work from home, the mere idea of an accessible parent means I€™ll more likely be playing with my son than working. Third Door provides the support system, the flexibility, the space and the educational stimulation for children that makes the entire prospect of a self-employed parent much more feasible.  

Do you have any advice for mothers who want to set up a business around the needs of their child(ren)?
Be easy on yourself. I think a lot of times we get so wrapped up trying to be the perfect parent, the best partner and a successful business owner that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Most entrepreneurs are naturally ambitious and perfectionist €“ it€™s the nature of what creates us, but it also means we need to be conscious about mapping out our paths in a bite-size manner so that we don€™t feel too overwhelmed.

What three easy things any family can do to become greener?

  1. Try to eat local, organic food whenever possible. It€™s important to avoid the toxins and chemicals found in conventional food products. This is sometimes difficult from a budget and accessibility standpoint, but doing the best we can helps. We also have a nice resource that we give out that lists the most sprayed and least sprayed products that any family with young children should avoid.
  2. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products. They are widely available now and do not cost more than conventional. In fact, if you make your own (vinegar and baking soda or lemon), it costs even less.
  3. Turn off the lights (and the laptop and mobile chargers when you don€™t need them). Teach your children about how to save energy and the earth by being conscious of your consumption.

What next for Green Families?
Our hope is to grow first locally and virtually, and then on a broader basis. We€™re doing this through our immediate networks and the consultations and workshops we provide, our online tools and resources, as well as planning for the launch of a fresh and organic ready-made babyfood delivery service. 

Football summer from UK’s funniest blog?

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

World Cup Logo

It’s all about to kick off. Hopefully not too literally, in the case of England footie hooligans, but FIFA World Cup 2010 is nigh. I’m not much of a fan, still unable to forgive two male housemates waking me at 5am on the first day of Euro 1996 by singing Football’s Coming Home. And yesterday I discovered that heading a football hurts. Especially when you’re reading a book and drinking a cup of tea. Thanks, son #2. Anyway, to help me through the jargon, I’ve enlisted MADs‘ finalist MrShev (between you, me, the Englishman and the Sowetan, he’s up for Funniest Blog) to help me understand why people get so fired up about football. He claims not to be that into football, but as he knows who Messi and Kaka are, up to now names I’d considered synonymous with nappies, I think he’s a safer pair of hands than I am. Or any England goalie during a penalty shootout, come to that.

So, here it is – MrShev‘s footie  focus post:

In an ironic twist of fate crueler than a kids’ party in a plastic ice-lolly factory, I now play more football than I ever have before. Not in a football strip, with goalposts, the offside rule, quarters of orange, fights outside nightclubs or adhering to any of the myriad of rules that govern today’s game – no; I kick a football gently towards my children, I make exaggeratedly bad saves and I use two balls so that UEFA doesn’t turn into WWE.

I am not saying that I miss Sunday League football with the lads, because I don’t…mainly because I never played Sunday League football with the lads…mainly because of one of my biggest disappointments and regrets: I can’t play football for toffee. Even in goal.

I have all the qualities needed to be a good player. I am tall, I can run quite fast and I am ambidextrous – I could practically make the England Squad with these qualities alone. But my greatest handicap is my brain: it’s just too clever. I just don’t have the slack-jawed, vacant stupidity required that enables one to pursue footballing as a professional career. Interviews with the average footballer render the expression the lights are one but no one’s home into a sparkling tableau of metaphors. But I think it’s more The lights are on but no one’s home…in fact, they’ve moved out and taken the furniture. So when I was a kid I was always the last to be chosen, and would spend the entire game kicking mud around in defence. Which – to be honest –  I was good at.

Two very rich men, who are probably extremely famous, demonstrate the offside rule

Two very rich men, who are probably extremely famous, demonstrate the offside rule

So not having the ability to play football at even an average level is harsh but what I wasn’t expecting was that I would be watching less football. I love football, my surrogate parents were Des Lynam and Alan Hanson. I knew just about every player, in every position of most Premier League clubs, some Championship clubs and a great deal of European sides. I could, with a degree of integrity, mutter the phrase: ”e’s a decent player, great first touch and ‘e knows where the goal is…’ Now I haven’t got a clue who anyone is – apart from the big names – and I don’t have the time to watch Match of the Day (Grazia for football fans, ladies…). It’s like I stopped watching Eastenders when the Mitchell brothers were running the Queen Vic and now it’s full of old cast offs from The Bill and Hollyoaks. I can’t kill sabretooth tigers anymore, I need football and cars to express my manhood – dammit!

Oh…but it’s the World Cup and my kids are now old enough that I can watch an evening game without disturbance. For two weeks I am going to gorge myself on football, I am going to fill in wall charts and I might even buy myself a Panini Sticker Album and do swappsies with the local swizzer kids. Beer, sunshine and footie = bliss.

BUT – and this is a big, Nike sponsered, hairy BUT - I am changing the future. My son is learning how to play football – at the tender age of 3 ½  - and his footballing prowess will be the stuff of legend. He’ll be like a cross between Messi and Kaka but with the ability to tie his own shoelaces, use cutlery and read. The only fly in the ointment is that he is learning in Switzerland – a football Death Valley – but I have determined that if the bar is set low enough he can only over-achieve. He’ll be better than me at any rate.

Guest post: Spanish v British babies

Friday, May 28th, 2010

There€™s a bloggers€™ guest post day happening today, organised by Little Mummy. angels & urchins blog was thrilled to hear it had drawn a swap with Very Bored in Catalunya. She€™s got a lot to say from her expat home in Spain, despite professing that all she writes about are the €œUtterings and mutterings of a stay at home mum with far too much time on her hands€. I love her blog because it gives an insight into something I€™m always itching to do more of, namely live abroad. Here, she gives a first-hand account of the differing (and sometimes startlingly similar) parenting practices between the UK and Spain.

Map of Catalonia

Bringing a child up in another culture does have you questioning who is right and which approaches are best. Are we as Brits over-cautious, or are all these Johnny foreigners too carefree or just downright careless?

You€™d imagine that there would be many differences between the Spanish way of raising children, and the British way of doing things. Indeed, there are some definite cultural differences, but so many things are just the same.

Flamenco earringsEar-piercing springs to mind. A much balked over affair in the UK, with most mums preferring to leave it as late as the obligatory battle of wills allows. Over here, it€™s done routinely by the midwife shortly after giving birth. I can only think of one girl in Joseph€™s school who doesn€™t have her ears pierced. One of these days, I must remember to ask her mum why not. Most babies (male & female) also seem to wear lots of baby jewellery, necklaces and bracelets that in the UK would be considered a huge choking risk, I can€™t say that I€™ve ever heard of such an incident. There is also such a thing as Baby Cologne. I€™m going to go all Peter Kay on you and say €˜Baby€¦ Cologne? Cologne€¦ for Babies?€™ Indeed!

On the other hand the Spanish could be accused of being overprotective towards their newborn offspring. Newborns are rarely seen out. Not unless the weather is just right, by that I mean relatively warm, and even then the babies seem to have too many clothes on. Surely it isn€™t necessary to wrap a baby in so many layers when it€™s 25ºC? Again, I doubt you€™ll find many a horror story of overheating being written about in the media, unlike in the UK where there are a couple of such incidents every year. British babies are generally bundled up and taken out much earlier in their little lives regardless of weather. I think however this is due to the grandparents playing a much larger part in day to day life in Spain, whereas most British women have to take the baby with them should they need to go out, Spanish women have good reliable babysitting options.

All the baby books tell us that it€™s imperative that the child€™s bedroom be kept at an ambient temperature of 18ºC. Well guess what, you€™d probably find that only a couple of weeks a year would the air temperature actually be OK for you to heat or air condition a room to such a precise temperature. I wonder how all the babies born in hot countries ever survive? Ooh I know, maybe it€™s because it€™s all they know, and they get used to it very quickly. Joseph€™s bedroom temperature ranges from 15ºC to 26ºC over the course of the year.

There are some other practices that I don€™t approve of, the use of biscuits in milk, especially for bedtime.  But hey, are they any worse than rusks that us Brits regularly give our little dears to chomp on?

Then there€™s the old gem of bedtimes and naps as they get older. You would imagine that all the children have a two-hour siesta, and are then up running around until 11pm every night. I certainly did. However on speaking with some of Joseph€™s school friend€™s mamas it turns out that they don€™t nap anymore in the afternoon and are usually in bed for about 8pm, a little later on weekends and fiestas. Sounds familiar€¦

Well food then, that must be different. Surely all the local children will be tucking into sardines, paella, chorizo etc, with lashing of salad on the side. Huge lunches and then late, late dinners? Actually, nope! Whilst they will generally have their main meal at lunchtime and then sandwiches for tea, Spanish three-year olds it seems are just as fussy and picky as our own. Who would have thought it?

Attitudes to nurseries are probably one of the major differences between British and Spanish mothers. Over here no-one bats an eye when you put your child into nursery. There is certainly none of this working mother guilt trip that attacks most British mums. Although it€™s generally not done before they reach their first birthday, practically every toddler will go to nursery fulltime regardless of whether their mother works or not. When you consider that our local village nursery costs just ‚¬90 a month for full-time childcare, it€™s not surprising that the parents queue up the night before to ensure that their child can get a place on registration day. Also, there is only one intake a year, so if you miss that you have to wait until the following September.

Schooling is different too. While not compulsory until six, everyone sends their children to school at three, where they will begin a formal classroom-style education for five hours a day, with some homework at the weekends.

Toilet training takes place very early on. Most kids are dry by their second birthday, our policy of leaving the child until they are fully ready would probably be considered lazy, and a waste of money on nappies. I guess when the children start school at three you€™d be unwise to leave it too late to tackle in case they weren€™t fully toilet trained by the time they started school. I know of one daft English woman who left it until a couple of weeks before school term started before she started her son€™s toilet training, and it was still a bit hit and miss for the first couple of weeks. Yep, that daft woman would be me.

Other parenting issues such as smacking and general discipline varies as you would expect from parent to parent but on the whole children are taught right from wrong and to be respectful to each other and their parents. Just as good British parents do.

The one resounding difference however is the general attitude towards all children over here. Children are much loved by all. The saying it takes a whole village to raise a child is very much a living and working thing here. Every mother knows the names of not just the children in her son or daughter€™s class but the whole school. Shop keepers will have supplies of lollipops or sweets to give to the children (the dentists must do a roaring trade). Sadly back in the UK children are still considered by many as a nuisance, pests, things that should be seen and not heard.

WIN a copy – Tales from a Travelling Mum

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Tales from a Travelling MumAlice Griffin is a freelance writer, owner of perpetually itchy feet and author of Tales from a Travelling Mum (and we have a SIGNED COPY TO GIVE AWAY – leave a comment for your chance to win), a travelogue based around trips she embarked on during the first two years of her daughter’s life. Alice lives in England aboard a boat with husband Scott, daughter Isabella and their dog, Milla and is busy working on her second book, Travellers€™ Tales. She explores the world whenever she gets the opportunity! Visit her website here and pick up plenty of tips on travelling with children.

What gave you the idea for the book?
I€™ve always been an avid traveller, and when I fell pregnant with my daughter, Isabella, I decided that once she was born, as much as possible I wanted to continue the more independent style of travel I had always enjoyed. However it wasn€™t until we sold up and opted out of our city life to go travelling around Europe in a campervan that writing specifically about travels with a baby crossed my mind.

I had decided to blog about this life-changing travel experience and as I began to connect with readers, I found that many were specifically interested in approaching such a trip with a then one-year-old. Due to this surprising interest I decided to contact some baby magazines with a view to writing about our experiences and from this came several articles.

When I began talks with my publisher about a possible travelogue, she suggested I consider a €˜how to€™ guide on travelling with a baby. I was unsure as to whether I could write a whole book in this guidebook format and decided that if I simply shared our experiences as a family on the road, practical advice on how to approach different situations would naturally come from that. The result is a travelogue about the trips we embarked on during the first two years of Isabella€™s life, peppered throughout with tips and advice. My hope is that this will give readers a more laid-back approach to travelling with children, rather than a formulated guide.

 

Life in the slow lane, by mule in Portugal

Life in the slow lane, by mule in Portugal

How old is Isabella now, and is there anywhere you wouldn€™t take her?

Isabella recently turned three. I try to never wonder about why we should do a trip without Isabella, instead I always think about how we can do it with her. It is my belief that children should become part of their parent€™s life and that most things really don€™t have to be out of our grasp just because we now have children. Having said that, of course I am realistic and would never knowingly put my daughter in danger, or have her take part in a pastime that is inappropriate – bungee jumping in New Zealand is probably out at this stage – and I consider carefully what I feel she can deal with before planning a trip. This is partly the reason why in her first three years we have stayed within Europe, but in December 2010 we will be heading to Thailand for three weeks back-packing, because I believe that at three-and-a-half she will be ready for this destination and will gain a great deal from it.

Have you always had itchy feet? What was your first experience of being abroad?
My first holiday was to Madeira when I was five. At the time, my dad worked for an airport, and we were able to bag a cheap deal. I can still remember the unbelievable excitement of going on a plane, seeing faces and places that looked different; hearing new voices and sounds. After that trip I would often stare longingly at the atlas pondering all the places to go in the word.

As I grew older this desire to see more of the world became stronger, but it wasn€™t until my early twenties, when I had the opportunity to spend six months in Japan, that I became preoccupied with how I could make travel a permanent fixture in my life.

I have to say that my feet are as itchy now as they were at five and I still stare longingly at the Atlas €“ or Google maps €“ but these days I try to manage and be more realistic about my desire to travel, especially now I€™m a mum and wife with commitments to others and not just myself.

What is the most important thing that you think travel gives children?
For me, there are so many good reasons to travel with children, but if you were to ask me the most important then I think I would have to say how it connects them with the human race. All over the world there are many cultures, people and ways of life and I believe that by exposing our children to the diversity of this world we teach them about understanding, compassion, acceptance and wonder. I want nothing more than for my daughter to be happy, and I believe that the path to happiness lies in realising that life is a gift, and this earth is a gift, so we should enjoy it if we can, and learn from those with whom we share it.

It€™s interesting that your book started as notebook diaries, then moved onto a blog. Do you think a blog is a good launchpad for anyone wanting to write a book?
The journey towards my first book is quite strange. I have written in notebooks my entire life about what I see around me and what I experience. It€™s really something that I can€™t control: I see something, I learn something, I experience something, and I immediately feel compelled to write it down. However, I was always quite skeptical of blogs as I saw them as public outlets for writing about the inane private happenings of our lives, and I couldn€™t understand why anybody would be interested. However, when we headed off on our road trip across Europe I decided that it might be a good (and easy) way to keep my friends and family up-to-date with our journey, so I bit the bullet and started blogging.

What I found, quite unexpectedly, was access to an incredible community of people across the world and a whole host of inspiring individuals to share ideas and experiences with. This excited me greatly, and continues to do so. So the one thing that I would highlight is: blog because you enjoy it, blog to connect with readers, blog to simply force yourself to write on a regular basis, and if it brings other writing opportunities then brilliant, but don€™t just blog with that in mind as you may be in danger of becoming too formulaic and impersonal.

The Griffin family in Andalucia

The Griffin family in Andalucia

The main message in your book is, €˜parents, keep travelling!€™ Though there must have been times when it hasn€™t been plain sailing? What€™s the trickiest scenario you€™ve dealt with?

There are always tricky situations: exploding nappies on the plane, having to face fellow guests in the breakfast room after Isabella has kept the entire b&b awake all night screaming, and certainly waiting to check-in with a huge backpack, toy bag, nappy bag, raisin bag and a grumpy two-year-old who insists on wrapping herself around the nearest barrier pole with the reins I carefully picked out to €˜aid€™ our travel experience €“ are all none too pleasant. But they are all funny stories to tell at the end of the day and nothing can take away from the warmth I feel at showing my daughter new places and sharing these experiences with her.

If you were only allowed to pack five things (apart from a toothbrush each and lots of pants!) what would you take?

Favourite comforter toy

A good book each (pop-up, sticker or activity book for Isabella)

One spare outfit

Sleeping bag

Tent

NB: I would layer all of us in as many useful clothes as possible for the flight/crossing ie: cagool, warm jumper, long trousers, thermals, hats, gloves, gillet!

With all of the above I can guarantee a fabulous family holiday. Everything not on the list you can buy on the road!

Where next (and can we come too)?!
We are off on a mini camping-and-city-break road trip through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany in May, then we fly to Norway in July for a short stay in Bergen before heading North to stay in a log cabin, row boats on stunning lakes, explore rugged mountains and take a train across this magnificent landscape. We are also busy planning Isabella€™s first back-packing trip to Thailand in December.

Of course you can come€¦ but only as my SIXTH item and you€™ll have to bring your own pants!

 Tales from a Travelling Mum is available on Amazon, and we have a FREE COPY to give away.  Alice has kindly agreed to sign it for the recipient. For your chance to win, simply comment below (not forgetting to leave your email address when prompted – it won’t appear in public, or be used for anything other than to get in touch, should you be the winner).

Guest post: Sleep is for the Weak

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Blogger Littlemummy is hosting a guest post day as one lesson in her 10-part weekly Mum E Blogger Course. It’s free to join (though if you would like to receive the course all at once, it’s available for £8.99) and is extremely useful, whether you’re a seasoned blogger, or a newbie just learning the ropes.

The idea of the guest post day (which was officially held on Friday 5th March, and I€™m sorry that Sleep is for the Weak and I are a little bit late with our swap) is to forge links between bloggers, and help teach about the virtues of reciprocal links. Josie, who writes Sleep is for the Weak, doesn€™t need an introduction to many in the parent blogging world. Currently ranking at number five in the Top 100 Parent Blogger€™s index, she€™s an inspiration to many with her weekly creative writing prompts. She€™s also the founder of Judith€™s Room, an online writing forum for women. We€™re thrilled to have her posting at angels & urchins, and know her post will have resonance for many of those reading.

Why I am proud to be a Mummy Blogger

I pause at the door, listening to the soft sounds of my son’s breathing as he settles to sleep, my own deep sigh of relief mingling with his. It has been a long day. It’s always been a long day.

I shut the door and tiptoe down the stairs. My (well-trained) husband has already made me a cup of tea and it waits by my laptop along with quiet space, interrupted time and a whole other world, a whole other life. One in which I’m not the tired, washed out housewife I see when I look in a mirror, struggling with confidence and doubt and worry.

No. Here I am something else. Writer, Blogger, confident deliverer of witty banter and someone, it seems, that people actually quite like to know.

To say that blogging saved my sanity is an understatement.

What began, 10 months ago, as a bit of fun, a way to de-stress after a hard day and try to get my ‘porridge brain’ back into some kind of working order, quickly evolved into something else entirely. I got to write out whatever was in my head, some of it was funny but a lot of it was raw and sometimes painfully honest. I didn’t always like being a mum and writing seemed to make me want to be honest about that. Motherhood for me seemed mostly about feeling tired and overwhelmed, struggling with a ‘challenging’ toddler whom I adored but who left me feeling completely out of my depth most of the time. Extreme sleep deprivation, tantrums, developmental worries. I wasn’t entirely sure how I was supposed to feel about it all.

But by writing it out, somehow it lost its hold. Because, you know what? Turns out a lot of people felt the EXACT same way.

That was the surprise. Because the off-loading? The random writing about whatever I happened to be mulling over that day? Turns out people read this stuff! And commented! And, oh my goodness wait a minute… THEY wrote blogs too! Wonderful blogs, full of humour and variety and written by a multitude of inspirational and intelligent mums and dads.

I was hooked. COMPLETELY.

Blogging began to be the thing that got me through a stressful day. The golden chalice of nap times and long evenings where I could escape my humdrum mummydom for a moment and flex my creative muscles. It began a love-affair with words and writing that had simmered, forgotten, since I was teenager, and that encouraged me to change my study plans, my life plans actually, and take up Creative Writing as a degree. That in turn led to me starting a weekly writing workshop on the blog as a way for me to connect with other would-be writers and which, surprisingly, people loved, somehow managing to tap in to a shared need of many bloggers wanting to develop their writing but struggling to find inspiration. And THAT in turn lead to the creation of Judith’s Room, a space for women writers specifically, who, more than their male counterparts, often seem so riddled with low confidence and a difficulty in claiming and being proud of their achievements. It’s led to new projects, new opportunities. Genuinely a whole new world for me.

It’s been quite a ride. And one that has been increasingly shared with many new friends along the way. REAL friends, many of whom I now can’t imagine my life without.

It’s not all cake and ice cream though, it has to be said. Like all ‘communities’, blogging has its ups and downs. Finding your way in such a rapidly growing field of interest can be a bit mind-boggling at times. Things like stats, the promise of PR pitches (even if they are for silly things like liquorice), and an inevitable desire to achieve recognition and make your voice heard, can sometimes leave you prone to what I usually refer to as the ‘bloggers wobble’. It’s easy to feel like a little fish in a very big pond, easy to feel like the new kid on the edge of the playground, longingly watching the cool kids play.

But the freedom (and the fun) comes when you realise we’re ALL cool kids in this playground. Because we’re all in it together, muddling our way through parenting our children and figuring out what on earth we’re supposed to be doing. Read enough blogs, connect with enough people and you’re ALWAYS going to find someone you can relate to, who makes you feel less alone, less incompetent. Who makes you laugh or makes you think. Who just makes you feel BETTER. You are going to come away feeling good about yourself, as a person and as a parent.

And that’s what I love.

OK, so blogging isn’t going to make me rich. In monetary terms anyway, but it is enriching my life, my friendships, my self esteem, inspiring my creativity and my ambition, in ways I never could have imagined.

It’s making me a better person, and a better parent.

 So, that’s why, quite frankly, I think it’s ace and why I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing.

 Viva la Mummy Blogolution. Long may it continue.