How are you & kids feeling?

Posted January 7, 2019 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , , ,

Apologies for a long absence away from this blog. Here’s a look at the habits that help kids (us all!) navigate adulthood…

Piñata party: where you smash something up in order to get treats. (c) homemade kids

I’ve been re-reading the posts on Homemade Kids recently and am so glad that I have some kind of a diary on this blog about everyday adventures with young children.

Now that I’m out of that daily whirr of time management and meal-making it seems that I have a lot more than 24 hours in a day. For starters I have time to follow the news, which is why I’ve been following with some concern the info that depression in girls is linked to higher use of social media. You can read a summary of the report in the Guardian here.

More time also means that I can even make resolutions to change up habits… This January I’m planning to follow the five ways to wellbeing defined by the New Economics Foundation (admittedly back in 2008 when phones really weren’t such a big thing as they are now, but it did also shake up the long-held view that feeling bad was reminded by volunteering and country dancing). NEF’s suggestion is that you should do some of these things – all of them perhaps – every day in order to feel that your life has purpose and all’s well with the world. They are quite vague/large topics and habits aren’t that easy to change. But it’s certainly a more interesting to do list than tidy up, grab coffee, pay bills…

The five ways to wellbeing might also be useful for the young women who over-use their phones and find themselves stuck in a self-affirmation cycle that seems to lead to low mood and worse.

  1. Connect
  2. Be active
  3. Take notice
  4. Keep learning
  5. Give

The video has a little bit more info.


Meanwhile I observe that my teenagers are insanely busy on their phones. To be honest, that’s also my main way of communicating with them… although we still have regular family dinners.

Over to you
Do you have any tips on how to show your child/teenager to use their phone so it’s a bonus to their life not a burden?


What are the best ways to deal with stress?

Posted November 10, 2017 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , ,

What is it about snowflakes?

Growing up in 2017 – is it a jammy life? Probably not & see how all these jam jars at the Tiptree Jam Factory in Essex are different (c) homemadekids

My daughters – now 16 and 19 – are Millennials. Many of their generation have a clear sense of what’s wrong and right and that’s spread across society, which is why the #metoo took off. I admire the way that they are good at speaking out when they see injustice. Unfairly that’s made other groups dub them the snowflake generation, who call out poor behaviour rather than putting up with stuff (or laughing it off). The press often mock this group, claiming that our mollycoddled-snowflakes melt under pressure, and need to toughen up.

How do you stand out from the crowd in such a crowded world? Pic is of leftover nuts after the Walnut & Wine festival at Dedham Vale Vineyard in Essex. (c) homemade kids

The question is do young people in Britain have more pressure than preceding generations? Or are they simply better at sharing their emotions?

I’m not sure – so here’s a poll to try and find out.

Over to you
Let me know what you think, either by the poll or adding a comment.

6 cool things to enjoy in London

Posted October 19, 2017 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: Uncategorized

Now my oldest is at university she’s discovered just how expensive London can be. Not only are there plenty of places to feast your eyes for free, for anyone 18+ with a London address, doing work experience or in full-time education there’s even a  way to get 34% off all your tube travel… 

Wandsworth is just one of the boroughs you need to explore – especially as Lonely Planet recently rated Tooting as one of the “10 coolest places on the planet’. (c) homemadekids

  1. Free art show – meet 20 pastels by French impressionist Degas on show at the National Gallery. These are normally displayed at the Burrell Collection in Scotland. £0
  2. Farmers’ market nibbles – on Saturday at Primrose Hill, Sunday at Chapel Market, and daily (except Monday) at Borough Market you can be as foodie as you like nibbling cheese, bread, sweet treats, olive oil and flavoured chocolates. There’s no need to buy, but the hungrier you get the more tempting it will be.
  3. Just before it closes – everything is cheaper at Itsu approx half hour before the doors shut (check times at individual shops). Or try asking for best prices for fruit and veg at unpretentious street markets held at East Street Market, Walworth Road (near London College of Communication); Shepherd’s Bush or Chapel Market in Islington.
  4. Time Out magazine – handed out once a week by tube stations, and sometimes the bus. It has loads of ideas about what’s on and where to go. Sign up to the email alerts and you can get lots of good value offers for activities, theatre, comedy etc every day of the week.
  5. Get search clever – google or twitter search #freestuff and see what turns up.  Groupon can offer good deals for sports classes and might even encourage new friends to try something different – tai chi, paddle boarding…
  6. Cheaper travel – if you are 18+ with a London address or in full time education (eg, at uni) you can get a discounted Oyster card (34% discounted travel). Find out more at

Exploring Herne Hill (c) homemadekids

Please let me know what clever ways you’ve found to explore London, cheaper. As they say on W1A “let’s do more with less”…


How learning x teaches y – or does it?

Posted April 28, 2017 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Things you learn, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from doing a dance or football class, often come with quite a price for parents. Here are a few non-school activities which may be “sold” to you as having sweeping life benefits. But do they? Words by Nicola Baird

Here’s a throwback pic to some of the families in our babysitting circle back at a 2009 get-together. The youngest in the circle are now 8 years old and the oldest 18+ so what extra-curricular skills were most useful for them?

I was recently sent a Press Release from a dance wear provider, Dancewear Central (to be honest I don’t know much about dance so I’m quoting them) which: “has uncovered that there’s so much more to dance classes than meets the eye! They’ve spoken to dance experts across the country to discover the biggest benefits of dancing, which include:

  1. Patience
  2. Confidence
  3. The way the body works
  4. Improved social skills
  5. Friendship
  6. A healthy body

There’s so much that children learn when attending classes which make writing endless cheques, taxiing to and from lessons several times a week, buying shoes and leotards, and sewing costumes so much more worthwhile!”

This isn’t spring flower power in Wales, this was a maths lesson about daffodil debts!

It’s intriguing the skills that advocates pick out for their sport or craft. I’m a huge fan of teaching children to ride horses (Yes it’s expensive, that aside). I think the skills picked up by learning to ride include:

  1. Resilience
  2. Empathy
  3. Hard work.

But if I force myself to be honest I also think that those three traits – resilience, empathy and hard work – are life skills that I wanted to pass to my own children. I also like kindness but even horse-crazy me has to admit that riding a horse doesn’t necessarily teach you how to be kind.

I’ve recently interviewed an acting coach, who mostly teachers children, who reckoned acting classes are always popular with parents because they give kids:

  1. Confidence – even the kids who aren’t into the jazz hands spotlight.
  2. Friendship – doing the shows together
  3. Good communication – the ability to say what you want and for people to understand what you are saying.

Being able to control a horse and enjoy riding tends to push away all other problems. Riders photographed in 2015.

What do we want from our children?
Thinking again of those dancers I understand that patience has a place, but I don’t rate it as highly on the grid of useful life skills (relying instead on distraction, perhaps also learnt from horses?). Parents know that confidence is highly likely to be given a boost by dance or acting classes, which will surely be handy in the long run, but I have no idea why anyone would care much about knowing “the way the body works”. But clearly plenty of parents do – the dance classes I tried to send my toddlers to were over-subscribed. Once we moved up the waiting list and secured a place I was shocked to find that every tot was in a frothy tutu and ballet shoes. It was a big lesson for me – everyone takes their profession very seriously, and expects the kids doing it to do so as well.

First loves
So it was not much of a surprise that when I did a web search about what life lessons can be learnt from extra-curricular classes I discovered everyone makes big claims for what might well be called their first love – ballet, ponies, balls etc. On Lifehack, see the top three lessons for an American Footballer are:

  1. You need talent and heart to win anything
  2. It can all end in an instant
  3. If at first you don’t succeed, try again

Dancing, equestrianism and American football (although it could just as easily be football) have some similarities – you need to be fit and are at risk of injury. But in terms of what you are learning as a life skill they are very different skills. And once you’ve learnt those skills who makes the most interesting dinner guest or most effective entrepreneur or parent?

Over to you?
So what sport or skill (eg, art, craft, needlework, orienterring) do you love which you think passes on vital life skills? If you have teenage children what do you think has been the most essential thing they’ve learnt to do, and you don’t regret spending a penny on? There are no right or wrong answers for this by the way – it’s clear we all have such very different hopes and dreams. Looking forward to finding out your answers.

Have a good May Day.

The pluses and minuses of grammar schools

Posted April 14, 2017 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Right now there’s a ban on building new grammars. Should this rule be changed because they “do a good job of closing the attainment gap” for bright, disadvantaged children? Or are we entering a new phase of preparing children to fail? Words by Nicola Baird

My teenager explaining GCSE revision in maths and science to her Dad. He’s a bit confused…

As a journalist I often interview older people who have had fulfilling working and family lives for Islington Faces. But if asked about their childhood they may become anxious. If I see their hands clench, and a slight shadow cross their eyes, then invariably the next sentence is that they “failed at school”. They’ll explain they didn’t pass the 11+ with the sort of score that took you to grammar school.

It’s not just that they missed out on a good education, they’ve also had 50 or more years of feeling academically inadequate. And that’s not healthy.

Not long after I listened to news about the need for more Grammar Schools (put by Justine Greening) on Radio 4’s Today programme I met a well-educated mum heading to the hairdresser with her two children, one in Year 7, the other Year 5. It’s the Easter school holidays so she was surprised to hear that my 16-year-old was back home revising for GCSEs that don’t start until May. Soon she was talking angrily about the SATs test that is taken by Year 6s at 600,000 primary schools every May.

  • SATs are also taken by Year 2 children. In 2016 they were criticised for being so toughly-worded that many children were unable to complete the questions, or left in tears.

At the moment SATs are not an entry ticket to a secondary school. SATs are used by the government to assess a child’s level of learning at the end of primary school. That snapshot is then used throughout secondary school to ensure that progress is being made.

One of those Year 6 moments (back in 2012) when a surprise spring day led to a fab picnic in the park. And no one needed to revise for anything.

Tutors and the 11+
In contrast the 11+ exam deliberately grades a child’s ability against their cohort, allowing schools to make selective choice of the most able pupils. So does the highly competitive Kent Test, which is taken in September by Year 6 students (mostly living in Kent) whose parents want them to go to the hugely over-subscribed grammar schools in Kent.

  • Just for the record September seems a particularly cruel date as it means many young children will be super-tutored over the summer holidays in order to raise their scores and secure a place.

Parents, who can afford it, are willing to pay for tutoring, because once your son or daughter is in a Kent grammar school the rest of the educational milestones – good GCSEs, excellent A levels and a place at Oxbridge or a Russell Group uni – are going to be much easier.

“There is a lot of bad press given to grammars and private tutors alike. People say that it only benefits the affluent middle classes and to a very high degree that is true,” says Muhammad Ali a maths specialist who runs The Tuition Network, based in Islington.

As well as tutoring Ali helps teach maths to students from AIM, an educational Kent charity set up by three mums in a bid to “level the playing field and offer affordable 11+ preparation to bright children who would not otherwise receive it, and so make grammar school places more accessible to all.” Typically the 10-year-olds from low-income families will receive 50 hours of free tuition one evening a week at a Tunbridge Wells venue and during school holidays, as well as being given mock exams to hone their exam technique. This isn’t building on what their schools give them as local schools do not prepare for 11+ exams; instead they focus on the national standard tests – SATs.

“I do a lot of pro bono work for the disadvantaged (he also works for The Access Project) because I want to make a difference. I am of Bangladeshi/northern (Manchester) roots and went to a run down school in Moss Side,” explains Ali. “My background is ‘poor working class’, my friends went on to youth training schemes, rather than sixth form and my parents had not been to uni, so there was no expectation for someone like me.”

Now the Government is touting the idea that Grammar Schools could help ordinary working families – the sort Ali grew up in. At least this is the message from both PM Theresa May and Education Secretary Justine Greening

  • Interestingly Theresa May was mostly state educated, but at 13 won a place at the former Holton Park Girls’ Grammar School. During her time there the Oxfordshire school system was re-organised and it became a comprehensive. Justine Greening went to a Rotherham co-ed secondary, now an academy.

Better off families throw everything at their child in that bid to get into a grammar school (because whatever the costs of tutoring it is a lot less than years of private school fees), which could be why there’s scant evidence that Grammar Schools aid social mobility. In fact many think their entrance policy prevents bright, but poorer children, getting a place.

Indeed the Government’s own report (published on 12/4/17) shows that better off families are far more likely to fill grammar school places (36% from below average incomes [but not receiving free school meals], compared to 53% from backgrounds with above average incomes).

On BBC News (13/4/17) the politicians spoke out against a return to the Grammar School era too.

  • Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the government could not “hide from the fact that grammar schools do not aid social mobility”.
  • Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, said: “pupils of working families are getting stuffed by this plan, yet again rather than making every state school excellent the government want to spend more cash on another ideological experiment.”
  • Head teachers’ leader Russell Hobby said the government seemed “fixated” on expanding academic selection. “Despite all the evidence showing the harmful effects on social mobility, the government is committed to delivering a policy for the few at the expense of the many.”

How much childhood is lost if you decide to try and make your child an A student?And then what happens if they can’t live up to that pressure?

SATs stress
The Grammar School debate is going to run for a while. Considering that SATs aren’t an entry ticket to a child’s next school, it should be a concern just how many parents find even the SATs process hugely stressful – and carry that stress to their child.

“We were told that level 5c was normal. How awful to know you’ve failed at 11,” said my mum-friend, in front of her similarly-aged daughter and primary-school-attending son. Both her children looked faintly bored. In inner London (everywhere maybe) impromptu chats in the street about education are an interminable part of waiting for mum or dad as you head to the park, shops or even hairdresser.

Should the ban on Grammar Schools be lifted my friends’ kids won’t be looking bored.

Hypothetically, the youngest would be in the middle of stressful (and expensive) tutoring sessions to increase his chances of getting into the nearest Grammar. And he’d know it. While his older sister would already be experiencing which side her life’s bread was buttered – potentially quashing ambition, aspiration and, most detrimentally for a pre-teenager, academic achievement.

Perhaps when the kids can look bored by secondary school chat it’s a sign that we’re still doing education right?

  • Nicola Baird is a parent governor at a community secondary school

Over to you?
What do you think? Should the government be giving the OK for more grammar schools



So, it’s mother’s day. What next?

Posted March 23, 2017 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , ,

How do you acknowledge Mother’s Day? For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children see more on this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see

Me with my two daughters. (2015)

Mother’s Day in the UK  is in spring – this year it’s Sunday 26 March 2017 – conveniently after my spring birthday, and before my own mum’s spring birthday. But Mother’s Day in the US, Australia and NZ is not until Sunday 14 May (one day I must find out why & thanks to Vanessa-Jane for sorting out my now corrected error).

Me and my Mum. (2016)

As if that wasn’t enough confusion for those of us with mothers, or who are mothers… it turns out that “76% of Mothers with Young Children Want a Break from Parenting Duties this Mother’s Day.” They don’t want a card, or a gift, they want time out… claims info from a survey organised by (a British-owned market place allegedly similar to Amazon).

Luckily for, mums don’t mind if money is spent to get that precious time out… For instance they’d be OK with:

  1. A relaxing spa day- 19%
  2. Date Night- 17%
  3. A quiet night in with wine- 14%
  4. An extra three hours in bed-11%
  5. No housework- 9%.

Admittedly Numbers 4 & 5 are free, so that’s good news for all Mother’s Day gift givers. And I’d be happy with any of these too. But I was shocked that found out that the average spend is a huge £38.50. I suppose that is because more adults are buying for their “old” mum, rather than little kids raiding their tooth fairy money.

Buying flowers is a cheat. I really treasure hand-drawn cards (as my daughter Nell knows they can be inspired by communing with the great outdoors), but for my own mum I’ve bought her a bunch of flowers this year… and it’s not the first time either!

Obviously a big bunch of flowers tops the gift list. I’ve always really enjoyed taking a bus journey through London on a Mothering Sunday to see which people are carrying a huge bunch of blooms to their mum/wife/partner. But tragically the research found that very few mothers with young children were that pleased about this particular gift. They felt keeping the flowers alive added to their stress, they were picky about the flowers they wanted (eg, British-grown, particular types) and – by implication – a waste of money they’d rather have spent getting someone else in to do a spot of spring cleaning.

The information has left me a bemused. I’d planned to hop over to the Scilly Flowers website and send my mum a monster bunch of scented narcissi. But now I don’t know. Admittedly she has grown up kids, who don’t live with her, so the cut flowers can die when they want and then be composted.

As for what my family will get me – I have an internal shopping list wheeled out for second hand shops, jumble sales and occasional Freecycle swoops – but I don’t think they’d want to keep an eye out for the sort of items on it, eg, pillow protectors, a new-to-us sofa cover and a scrap of oil cloth to cover the garden table so that I can eat outside without chicken poo spoiling the experience.

Over to you?

What do you like getting – time or gifts – on mother’s day if you are a mother? And/or what has been your most successful gift to your mum?


8 ways to deal with air pollution – Delhi dilemmas

Posted January 26, 2017 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Delhi is the world’s most polluted city. I think. London however has been shaping up nicely this January in its bid to reach toxic gold. Here’s my attempt to unpick the ridiculous suggestions mooted in a bid to help us all ‘beat London smog”. In case there is ANY doubt this is a parody. Words from Nicola Baird  (see for more info about my books and blogs). 

These doors at Senate House are the very ones that inspired George Orwell's famous Room 101 scene in Nineteen Eighty-Four. My room 101 doesn't have rats.

These doors at Senate House are the very ones that inspired George Orwell’s famous Room 101 scene in Nineteen Eighty-Four. My room 101 doesn’t have rats.


Now lots of the ES is super sensible and covers the London Air Pollution saga well. It’s where I heard about London having breached its annual toxic limit by the fifth day of January 2017. But it also runs daft stories like A breath of fresh air: here’s 6 ways to clean up your act and beat London’s toxic air from two of its regular feature writers – Susannah Butter and Phoebe Luckhurst. This piece is shameful because it wasn’t tongue in cheek. The ladies suggest  “REN’s flash defence anti-pollution spray creates a viscous layer that noxious chemicals will struggle to penetrate. It smells great too.”

Why does the news so often seem like an April Food at the moment: shouldn’t Butter and Phoebe be warning us that buying this stuff would be £24 badly spent? I remember writing an exposé about the Solomon Islands trying to flog tropical rainforest oxygen back in the 1990s… Now I think the islanders had it right, Londoners are so daft they’d have sniffed up bottles of this and passed them round their Uber. PM10s are not going to be watered down by an imaginary body spray.


On the #airpollution stream on Insta there is plenty of smogporn (if that’s a thing yet), but also  brands who view air pollution as an opportunity– such as koolmask, hypeingham and metro-mask. There’s even a bedside alarm LaMetricTime which displays CO2 levels allowing you to watch the levels rising…

Got to admire capitalism because everything is an opportunity. Those masks aren’t going to help London tackle air pollution are they?


Yup – eating avocado (vitamin D) and almonds (vitamin E) gives your body all the nutrients you need to fight toxic air pollution.  

I’ve read this. It must be right. It also gives zero thought whatsoever to how those pops of goodness arrived here (air freighted) or what damage avocado and super-thirsty almond plantations are doing where they are grown.

Written by me in 1998.

Written by me in 1998.


That was the advice from at least one school nurse to asthma sufferers. 

One of my daughters has had a tricky time with asthma and we’ve met a large number of asthma nurses. Some are great, but very few understood the big picture or factored in what it meant to be a child who likes to use their legs and eyes in the big outdoors…

It makes sense, because there are still a huge number of families who drive their kids to school, refusing to accept that their journey is not necessary. It’s still an aspirational desire to drive.

I’ve had a car in the past and of course it’ll be used it if it’s temptingly parked outside and you’re running late… but get rid of the car and you’ll always walk, or scooter, or bike to school which teaches your kids good habits (and burns off breakfast). If rates can justifably skyrocket (and i wish they wouldn’t if it kills independent stores) then so too can road taxes or the cost of the right to drive in a city in a diesel powered car. (I should add that I’m not that impressed by private petrol or electric vehicles either)


When environmental health officials are tricked (surely?) into saying it’s dangerous for kids to use the school playground be wary of following their advice.

Already most kids stay indoors far too much despite the indoor air pollutants from cooking, furniture, sprays and cleaning products create a toxic soup. They can’t be independent from a young age because of the dangers from cars knocking them over (not stranger danger). City kids need to know as much as possible about nature even if it is just jumping the weeds in the pavement cracks, pulling at last year’s hollyhocks languishing in the tree pits or hearing the blackbird singing on that house’s old TV aerial. Having a glimpse of even this diminished nature is what may help the kids figure out that life outdoors ought to be one of opportunity, not threat.

Front garden - there's a bird in the apple tree.

Front garden – there’s a bird
in the apple tree.


My poor Victorian home is subsiding. The only way insurers deal with this is waging war on anything green around the foundations, and so the buddleia and jasmine have to go.

It’s impossible for me to denude the bricks while my head is swirling with toxic London fog scenes and the sweet inner-city robin cheerily sings when it sees me heading towards its corner of the buddleia brandishing a bow saw.


Watching The Crown on Netflix ought to cancel out visions of toxic smog… but no, in episode 4, in December 1952 there are a dreadful three days which flood hospitals and ultimately kill as many as 12,000 people during the Great Smog of London

Churchill is hopeless at coping with this, writing it off as British weather, an “act of God”. At least Sadiq Khan seems to be looking at our problem head on. Now he’s got to show the sort of leadership that no one has yet dared to do against the car lobby, and in particular diesel vehicles. Couldn’t we just do something radical like shake up the whole way Londoners move around for a trial phase and see if it made a difference?


Of course I’m not training to run the marathon, but I’ve heard the moans. Toxic air wrecks “Marathontraining plans” so the runners have to head to the indoor gym and cycle on stationary bikes and indoor running tracks, rather than plod pavements.

Wouldn’t it be great if the generation obsessed by bucket lists and meeting personal challenges could start working together to force politicians to make London’s air cleaner – and by default other cities cleaner as well? Because if they did within a year no one would ever have to cancel their training run.

So where does that get us? Nine ways to clean up your act, or nine opportunities to speak up?  The only good seems to be that at last air pollution in London – and the impact cars, traffic (and airports) have on it – is at last being talked about by everybody, even if the messages aren’t always clear. Next step is action. Please.

7 ways to stop a tantrum

Posted January 19, 2017 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , ,

What can you do to when your child has a tantrum? For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see

Reward good behaviour, ignore the bad. Here's the famous thumbs up in Trafalgar Square by David Shrigley to remind you of that maxim. (c) homemade kids

Reward good behaviour, ignore the bad. Here’s the famous thumbs up in Trafalgar Square by David Shrigley to remind you of that maxim. (c) homemade kids

My daughters are definitely too old to be having tantrums – they are 15 and 18. But recently I spent a couple of nights in a house with two primary school aged children and realised how much I’d forgotten about negotiating with little kids. How do you get them to go to bed? How do you get them to get up? How do you get them to get dressed? Or eat breakfast? And how do you do all that so you can arrive at their classroom without being late?

Anyone who manages this, regularly, even if not every day deserves a medal. Or should be volunteering to sort out Theresa May’s Brexit problems.

Tips and tricks
But when you are in the midst of dealing with little kids then there are some techniques that can help make life a little less tricky.

Your child has switched from super happy to impossible. They are lying on the pavement refusing to move… What next:

  1. Try asking them to get up… (only once. It might work)
  2. Avoid raising the stakes. Pinch yourself to prevent this happening. If you end up saying “if you don’t get up I’ll never buy you sweets again,” they’ll know there is NO way you are going to keep your threat. If you are like me you tend to use threats that were things you were actually looking forward to doing, like going to the park or feeding a friend’s pet rabbit.
  3. Never threaten because this is a toddler tantrum. You need to rethink fast…
  4. Try humour. I can’t carry you because “I’ve got a bone in my leg” is baffling and funny (for a young child). Will it work?
  5. Try distraction. Look there’s (name a friend) let’s go and see what’s in their lunch box/book bag/ whatever springs to mind.
  6. Try better distraction. “Oh my word, there goes a blue unicorn down the high street…”
  7. Deal with it. OK nothing has worked. Your tot is definitely embarassing you. Don’t worry, everyone who has a had a child has been in this situation. And so they should. Either wait until s/he’s bored or exhausted by this behaviour and then without making it into a big deal walk on. The school door is waiting.
Tantrums don't last - but reacting the wrong way to them can make managing small children much harder. (c) homemade kids

Tantrums don’t last – but reacting the wrong way to them can make managing small children much harder. (c) homemade kids

On reflection
Figure out what might be the problem. It won’t be obvious – maybe it’s just that your child is tired, hungry or doesn’t want to be parted from you. In our family we used this phrase “Are you struggling with your big girl self?” far too much (and just occasionally I even wheel it out now). The kids grew to hate it, but I think it helped them recognise when their emotions were taking over.

If it’s simply that your child has no power and wants attention then aim to do more rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad. It may seem impossible, but every fight lost is going to make the next stress point slightly harder.

Good luck, do you have any tips or tantrum stories?

5 things everyone can learn from I Daniel Blake

Posted November 14, 2016 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

I Daniel Blake is a courageous film by the veteran social commentator Ken Loach. It follows the lives of two unlucky benefit claimers – Daniel and Katie – in the north east of England. It’s Newcastle that he uses so the screen is filled with Geordie accents, white faces and northern poverty.  If he’d picked on Tottenham it’d have been a very different set of faces – predominantly black and brown – but all would be facing the exact same problems. How to cope when you’ve got no money.

I loved the film, and recommend everyone sees it (it’s a 12A because there’s a little bit of swearing). The more income you have, the more important it is that you go – that’s why Jeremy Corbyn suggested that Theresa May went to see it.

Here are some things that could be learnt from I Daniel Blake.

  1. In I Daniel Blake, Daniel just presses bubblewrap against a sunny window as insulation. I found you had to sellotape it. I'll let you know if it works.

    In I Daniel Blake, Daniel just presses bubblewrap against a sunny window as insulation. I found you had to sellotape it. I’ll let you know if it works.

    Britain is cold Coping without money in the summer is tough and impossible. But in the winter you need electricity and maybe gas to have light and heat. If you use it then the bills can tip you into debt. If you don’t you are just ground down by the cold.  Daniel shows his friend Katie how to insulate windows with bubble wrap to trap any sunshine (I’m not sure it works, but i’ve had a go on one of my windows). He also uses four candles and two terracotta pots to build a little indoor woodburner.

    When you use a supermarket look out for foodbank collection points. At some Morrisons and Waitrose on a saturday there are often food sweeps where you buy from a list - to help people who are hungry and unable to shop.

    When you use a supermarket look out for foodbank collection points. At some Morrisons and Waitrose on a saturday there are often food sweeps where you buy from a list – to help people who are hungry and unable to shop.

  2. Foodbanks are essential. In an ideal world food banks wouldn’t exist. But right now is not ideal especially when an individual or family with little money has to make a big unexpected expenditure – maybe to visit a sick family member, or because they are sick, or because they have been “sanctioned” or their benefits have changed and money is delayed. The Trussel Trust organises foodbanks throughout Britain, for many they are lifesavers. Please donate a tin or two when you next can.
  3. It’s hard being a woman. I’d never really grasped this before, but if you have no money then you can’t afford san pro. In the film Katie ends up in big trouble because of this – and though the foodbanks offer loo roll they don’t offer Bodyform, Allways or any other sanitary towels. A friend who lived through a seige in the 1980s told me how humiliating it was running out of shampoo, soap and tampax. Poverty isn’t a war, but how embarrassing it can make life. Maybe donating some san pro to foodbanks could be a start.
  4. Couscous is great fast food.  The thing about couscous is that it cooks so fast (compared to potatoes), is quite a cheap grain to buy (compared to rice) and fills you up just as well as bread. It can be very tasty, although that takes other ingredients. I’ve used it camping for all these reasons – but lots of people are using it because they have to. Donate couscous to the foodbank.
  5. Being homeless is even worse than being stuck in the Catch 22 of waiting for the call from the decision maker. There’s no safety net when you are homeless (i’ve no idea how A Street Cat Called Bob turns into a positive film!). Generally i don’t give money to homeless people – but if you haven’t got any food on you to hand out maybe giving a bit of cash is the right thing to do.
  6. Using spray paint is fun. And it’s hard to stop writing the message, so make sure you’ve got enough wall before you start.

See comments about the film in the Guardian.

How to prevent tensions between school & home

Posted November 3, 2016 by nicola baird blogs
Categories: parenting

Tags: , , , ,

What can you do to help students getting ready for exams? For more ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children follow this blog or get my book Homemade Kids, out of the library. This post is by Nicola Baird, also see

Some of the families in our babysitting circle back at a 2009 get-together.

Some of the families in our babysitting circle back at a 2009 get-together. Plenty of these children are now dealing with exams at school – and even university!

As the Year 11s start getting deeper into their revision schedules – for some that will be pre-Xmas mocks, and others January testing – tension between home and school can start to appear. It will definitely help if you, your child and the school have worked any difficulties out in advance. It will also be useful if you’ve been to the scheduled parent evenings over your child’s school career so you have a realistic idea about how they are getting on. The point is to make progress!

Everyone’s situation is so very different – and exam results, to a certain extent, matter a great deal. But it probably helps if parents remember that most 15-16 year olds doing GCSEs in 2017 need us less on their backs over trivial misdemeanours at the moment (like tidying rooms, helping with housework, etc). The kids have got enough to do and worry about, rather than adding a full on family fight to their stress levels.

What Every Parent Needs to Know by Toby Young & Miranda Thomas (Penguin, £14.99)

What Every Parent Needs to Know by Toby Young & Miranda Thomas contains all that you used to need to know. Now you just need to be kind and boost your child’s mental and physical wellbeing. (Penguin, £14.99)

Assuming everything else is OK (attendance, learning, revision schedules, homework) then teaching your child how to relax properly, and eat well – both by your example – should surely be the top priorities right now, eg,

  • Going to bed at sensible times (and thus getting up at a sensible time)
  • Being encouraged to do some sport or spend time outside even if it’s just kicking leaves or chatting
  • Getting together some healthy snacks (nuts, sunflower seeds, crackers, cheese, fruit most things on sale at Itsu)

It will also help if you can listen to and/or support what the school says needs to be done.

Here’s hoping you have a real positive partnership with your child and their school. Because it’s going to make the next few months of GCSE countdown much easier.

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