Archive for the ‘events’ category

Come to the Green Fair, London Sat 9 June

June 8, 2012

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post invites you to the Green Fair in London 9-10 June. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

Hello all – just in case you feel like sheltering from the rain on Saturday 9 June … You do? Well then, come along to the Green Fair in Regents Park, London. This year it’s all about celebrating, educating and empowering.

I’m giving a FREE talk from 1-2pm in the Peoplecare Marquee (very dry!!) in the Permaculture zone, so it’d be great if you come and join me. The talk is all about:

Natural parenting, thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children
Modern living offers convenience, and as parents we need all the help we can get. Food is produced in abundance, and clothes are cheap enough for us to use and discard. But is it necessary to be so wasteful? And is this really how we want to raise our children? Nicola Baird, mum of two, has tips, inspirational ideas, practical advice and a need for your experience to make your home a more healthy, energy-efficient environment. Let’s get thinking about babycare, toddlers and bigger kids – especially ways to tackle consumer and peer pressure.

See you then. Nicola x

PS – your children are welcome.

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Keep it clean for our grannies

May 8, 2011

This year I’ve given a range of Homemade Kids talks in Stoke Newington (London), Cardiff and most recently at the Isbourne Holistic Centre in Cheltenham (pic here of organiser, Kate, at Cheltenham’s famous hare and minotaur sculpture).

Learning curve
What a lot a speaker learns at every venue – including the tantalising possibility of joining a course for laughter yoga…

Leaving venues can be telling too – at Cheltenham train station there’s graffiti in the ladies’ loo that reads “wash nan in sink“. Irresistible!

Also here’s a link to a piece in Families West about how to be a local hero – written by me for their May/June issue. BTW being a local hero is ever so easy if you happen to have a very young child. Hopefully the habit then sticks…

How do you celebrate seasons?

May 1, 2011

May girls by a May tree in full blossom on May Day 2011.

Spring is turning into summer – the lilac’s out in London and the elder is flowering. Even if we are still in the midst of the hungry gap (ie, there’s not much freshly grown seasonal veg available from the UK and in particular my garden) at the moment the dryness and sunshine makes me crave salads, new potatoes (got to wait until June!) and all those fabulous greens that will soon swamp farmers’ markets, indeed any market and be put on sale alongside honesty boxes in non-urban areas everywhere.

So this post – by Nicola Baird using some ideas from her book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children – is in praise of celebrating the seasons. We have four Bramley Hedge plates (found at a car boot sale) that during the year each take a turn on the dresser. Spring’s still on show but looks mighty dated (yes, in more ways than one) with its mice amongst primroses.

Green Man looking good with an ipod, leaves and flower garlands.

Chiswick Mall during a high Thames tide.

Today Lola, Nell and I walked along a portion of the Thames path on a quasi history mission – looking for traces of Barbara Villiers, a mistress of Charles II’s whose last home was in Chiswick. It was a gorgeous walk: we saw a spring Thames tide flood part of the road, got lost shoulder-height in cow parsley in a churchyard and met a real Green Man plus Morris Dancers performing by the Rutland Arms pub. No wonder I’ve at last clicked that my significant others are named May – and if our family don’t make a song and dance about May Day then we’re missing a fine chance for celebration. These pictures are the result (and Pete’s not there because he was watching West Ham…).

“Pinch punch it’s the first day of the month – no returns…”

OR “Here’s a kiss and a kick for being so quick”

Morris dancers are a great chance "to stand and stare", often by a pub!

And that got me thinking: how do you celebrate the seasons?
Is it an event –  a party like a birthday – or is it just a general feeling of relief when the house martins/swallows come back, or the first mowing is made, or utter confidence in being able to walk to school/nursery without a fleece?  Admittedly, that last one may never be possible in the UK…

Enjoying high days and holidays
Here’s to many more opportunities to enjoy marking the good things in life, especially the days that seem to promise so much – the first of  a month and the start of a weekend. Such a different feeling to the often consumer-fuelled pressure of organising a birthday. Happy May Day!

How do you celebrate weddings?

April 28, 2011

Nell, 10, & Elsa, 9, find out just how big Westminster Abbey is.

A 10- year-old turned to me proudly in the school playground this morning and told me she, big sister and their dad were going to watch THAT wedding (ie, Will and Kate) near Buckingham Palace. I felt equal parts envy and happiness at her excitement, and within a few seconds we were discussing what to wear, best viewing spots (I’d been to the same area to watch the Marathon a fortnight ago) and could have probably discussed this for a lot longer if the dreaded bell hadn’t been rung and off the kids went into lessons.

Be happy
It was a reminder how important it is to be enthusiastic and follow up children’s passions with questions, rather than dismissing it all with a cynical nod or a snide comment. Which I certainly would have done during my teens, 20s and 30s!

Where to watch?
As we haven’t organised a street party (our’s is a fixture in July, and frankly two in a year is a bit many!) what to do about the wedding that’s the talk of the world, and has given us another long weekend? Well, Lola, 12, plans to join her 14-year-old friend, Corinna, to provide running commentary for the TV shots in  a London sitting room. I may do this too. And all because I want to watch the whole of the wedding, so expect TV to be a better way of not missing a thing. In contrast Pete thinks being there (eg, for a West Ham match or the Olympics) is the only approach. It’s also why he is not keen to hang around the Mall waiting for a horse and cart to go by flecked with Royal dust, London smog and Twitterers mixing cheesey happiness and grumpy troll soundbites.

My mum remembers sitting on shoulders of her nanny (or the nanny’s boyfriend) for a royal funeral – the only way a tot can see – and also being pushed to the front by adults, again for a better view, at another royal occasion. I hope my attempt to give my princesses big history memories – such as taking them to see Westminster Abbey a month ago – will stick in their brains. At least they know where the action is.

Shhhh
Even so, secretly, I think, I’d like one of the kids to say, “Let’s go see what’s happening…”

For the everyday, as well as celebrations, have a look at the thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to enjoy life with children in my book, Homemade Kids. And if you are tempted to organise a street party – not for the wedding – just for you and your neighbours, have a look at Streets Alive which has brilliant info to make it a far easier task, see here.

Half term fun: the sleepover

February 25, 2011

Ha ha, the sleepover – bet you didn’t think that would be a heavenly choice? For the families sending their children to another house it can be a great way to get a free night’s babysitting, or just a night off from the usual bedtime routine. But for the brave folk taking in the spare child it can be one night of hell…

This post is by Nicola Baird, adapted from ideas in her book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children.

I love having people to stay – they bring news of the outside world and a chance for the children to meet other adults, from all over the place. I suppose we have about 40 people staying one night (or a lot longer) each year.

It’s a date
But most kids don’t need to copy their elders, they just love the sleepover date with all the anticipated staying up late, sweet-eating and naughtyness. Hopefully none of this materialises – my pet hate is families organising sleepovers that let  primary school children stay up super late so that when you pick  child is so sleep-deprived they are horrible to be around. As for bad experiences: the little girl who was ill and wanted olive oil poured down her ear (!); the boy ashamed he still was wearing nappies (although this is usually easy enough to sort out with tact thanks to PJs); the homesick eight year old who wanted to go back to Yorkshire (just 300 miles away) etc, etc…

Sometimes you really can’t get a gaggle of kids to sleep. For example when there is a crowd for a birthday sleepoverMy tip would be to keep the numbers down, make sure everyone has enough warm bedding and be sure they’ve all had enough physical exercise during the day. A night walk, a swim, a big play in the garden perhaps?

And as the children turn into teenagers mums say put the girls to sleep in one room and the boys in another… and that way they police each other.

When my children were much younger I always tried to get the younger one tagging along if the big one was invited over. That way they didn’t get homesick and Pete and I got a rare night out. Now they are bigger it is sometimes a luxury to have just one child in the house – they both really like pretending to the singleton and enjoying their family’s undivided attention, or use it as a chance to invite a friend over for the spare bed.

So last night while Nell was with her friend 9yo Anna, Lola invited 14y0 Corinna to come around.

Five rounds rapid
Nell and Anna probably got the better deal, because here in Mayhem Towers Lola, Corinna and I were obliged to watch Pete’s tribute to the untimely death of a Dr Who actor (Nicholas Courtney who played Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart) in The Daemons. At any rate I know all the girls were pleased to be doing something different at half term that is sheer unadulterated fun.

And I was pleased because Anna’s mum said Nell was nice to have around – and then Nell said thank you again. As is well known, manners maketh you another invite! And that’s good for us all. Good luck with your sleepovers…

Half term hell: the workshop

February 23, 2011

It may be half term for the kids, but I’m obsessed by 45 minute slots and feedback forms. Right now glued to my laptop trying to work out how to do a workshop for (1) politically sassy campaigners this weekend in Cardiff. OMG. And (2) happy Cheltenham mums and dads on a May Saturday when the British weather will finally be perfect and there’s no way any human ought to pay £50 to be stuck inside a workshop room thinking about ways to get their kids to eat more greens mindfully, or swap the sentence “I want it now…” to “I think I need...”

Working out the right talk for your audience is a hell, honest. But if I put enough sweat and humour into it, I’m hoping anyone who comes along will enjoy themselves and leave feeling that the world hasn’t yet collapsed into doom and gloom chaos. (That said I couldn’t watch all the news of Libya boiling and Christchurch crushed on TV last night…)

My friend Annie reckons I always mix politics and pleasure. Seeing this Saturday’s workshop (26 Feb, 3-4pm) at the GreenParty fringe meeting allows me to bring the girls for a lovely mini-break in Cardiff, plus gives me a chance to catch up – and dine – with Julian and Raoul, two of my favourite ex colleagues from Friends of the Earth it’s clear that she’s cottoned on to how I operate.

Just in case you are passing Cardiff’s Angel Hotel this Saturday, this is what I’ll be talking about…

A special 45-minute workshop where you can bring your little one, based on a new book which helps you raise a happy, healthy child. Join campaigning mum Nicola Baird at a play, stay & learn session based on her latest book, Homemade Kids.

While the kids play and draw their own model worlds, the grown-ups will discuss ways to future proof our kids. How can we help children develop the skills they need to cope in communities tackling climate change? How can we warn kids off rampant commercialism but still keep childhood fun?  Enjoy an inspirational session about keeping it simple.

Future proofing
I’m looking forward to it really, after all there’s not many opportunities you get to beat up the phrase “rampant commercialism” and turn it into a discussion about what’s right for a party bag!

Secret shopper feedback
And with my two girls in the corner there’s also no way I’m going to escape the full force of a kidult’s withering looks or Nell’s remembrance of successful pester power. Actually they are perfecting this skill at the moment with their Dad while looking around Romford museum/market in the rain (to help him write his Essex blog/book…)

Any suggestions, quick. Pop them on to this site and I can assure you I will use them – and report back.

Got kids: need help?

October 14, 2010

Don’t panic, I’m not trying to be a life coach, but in addition to writing and publicising books like Homemade Kids I spend a lot of my time trying to get people to do things.

(A quiet plea here – please buy this book or suggest a friend does
as it is currently Amazon’s 380,000th most popular book,
ie it’s not getting out much – one or two book sales can
rack it up to the 18,0ooth most popular seller…).

Everyone knows if you want someone to do complete a job you ask a busy person. But most of the people I ask to help me do things – organise a fun run, plant bulbs in the street tree pits, shop for the car boot sale, run a stall, take on an admin task for the school’s PTA (parent teacher association) really are too busy to help. Sometimes I haven’t asked them, but they make their boundaries clear – for instance a friendly note from a mum joking that she is knee-deep in admin “three children should come with their own admin secretary” is almost her email signature. And she’ s not lying – three kids are a lot of work, and a lot more if they are at different schools or you are involved in activities at their school and working or looking for new schools or any of the myriad daily tasks involved in running a life that makes you think “we” rather than “me”.

Throw in illness – either your own, your child’s or your parents and it all gets very complicated.

You can’t force volunteers to help with your nursery management committee, or take on the babysitting circle organising or whatever it is that’s needed, but you can usually make running an event a more doable activity if it involves their own  friends or when they do it they find they have a good time. It sounds rather Svengali but I think of it as more happy parasite – everyone ends up a winner so long as we all have the energy when doing a community task.

Recently this comment was sent to me: “Where I live (names Scottish city) unfortunately, is lacking in volunteers, and the few that we have can’t do everything. One of our Nearly New Sales might not go ahead for that reason, but let’s see. We just need to persuade more people to volunteer – not sure how we do that though…”

Ever since I read this note I’ve been trying to think how you persuade more people to volunteer, especially groups who specialise in having members who are pregnant or looking after very young pre-schoolers. Obviously try not to make friends with people following Gina Ford’s rather strict routines – but if you can’t help this (or do it yourself), then organise events at the times when those routines insist on the baby being up and about.  Early evenings are not good for new mums. Even later evenings are hard  – think of 6-8pm as danger hour and avoid it if you can.

But yesterday -at 7pm – I went to a fantastic meeting in the pannelled rooms of Toynbee Hall run by  Climate Rush – a group who have every intention of changing the world for the better. As their red sashes say “well behaved women rarely make history”. Turns out that their inspiration, the Suffragettes relied on cake and a nice cuppa, sometimes even sandwiches, before they set off on their actions. They made friends, shared stories, kept the action creative and vitally everyone’s effort was seen as a help towards getting votes for women. So selling newspapers, or baking those cakes was as valid as chaining yourself to a railing. As must be obvious a mix of skills are needed to make an event work well.

Worrying about climate change, and how it is going to effect the next generation, and all those ones not yet born, is an easy way to keep my family living a green life (at its most basic this means thrifty, creative and eco-friendly). But these aren’t necessarily motivators for many of the people – and lots of them busy women – who will come along and help run, say, a car boot sale, secondhand uniform sale, street party or a draught-proofing workshop. Making it fun might.

So if you need help to get something off the ground, watch an episode of The Apprentice on TV, be appalled by the lack of comaraderie of the women and from then on refuse to take the martyred or shouty approach. Doing something for the community may sometimes be a slog but it’s making:
*** where you live better,
** it’s creating a network of friends and helpers you can call on when things are not going so well
* and it can be a lot of fun for you and your children.

Let me know how you actually get people to do things won’t you? There are sure to be a lot of tricks. 


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