Posted tagged ‘nicola baird’

8 things I’ve learnt about raising children

March 9, 2015

Any ideas for more useful tips about how to raise children in a thrifty, creative and eco-friendly way? First eight from Homemade Kids author Nicola Baird who also blogs at (about people who live or work in Islington, UK).

I learnt all this up my Granny's apple tree. Years later my own kids reminded me.

I learnt all this up my Granny’s apple tree. Years later my own kids reminded me.

1 All crusts are evil. No child will eat them. Tweens and teens with braces can’t. What’s more it doesn’t help if you say eating crusts will make your hair curl.
Save the crusts and either eat them yourself or stick in the freezer to breadcrumb another time.

2 Are we nearly there yet? Yes, because a good walk starts when it starts: that could be just outside the door or before you leave a car park.
A good walk is never rushed and doesn’t involve a route march A-B. Split the party so the walkers walk and the explorers track ants, lift up logs, find sticks, climb trees, play hide and seek. Get out your flask and have a cup of zen tea.

3 Snacks are essential (fed often, even just before tea). Most mums carry snacks because they literally cannot afford not to. All praise to rice cakes, bread sticks and toddlers’ nectar – the banana. Babycinnos are a gift to syntax, but a purse curse.

4 Really tired toddlers can fall asleep anywhere – even if their mouth is full of spaghetti. Get them tired and then there’s no need to paste notes to your doorbell/knocker saying “please don’t use as I’m trying to get baby to sleep”.

5 Even clean bagged up outgrown clothes will start to smell. Air them on an outdoor washing line before you resort to yet more laundry chores.

6 Nits love us all. They love nursery- and primary school-aged children the best. But they don’t mind joining teenagers for their lessons, or even Mum in the office. Plaits, hats and a super-fine comb help keep embarrassment at bay.
However right-on your office colleagues, never fess up to having nits because they won’t understand. However up-tight your childs’ friends’ parents always talk nits.

7  The minutes drag but the years fly. Take photos, keep drawings – or scan and save. Date what you can. In a few years time you will struggle to know which child is even in the picture. And your child is going to mind, a LOT.

8 Treat car boot sales like expensive department stores – if your child wants something tell them “yes, next time”. If you bend on this, your home will soon be a stockpile of stuff you can’t find when your little one grows into it. And you’ll have to step over boxes and suitcases to get into your bed. Or is that only me?

Over to you?
Bet readers can think of at least two more good tips! Thanks.



What do you say about birds and bees?

May 15, 2014

Talking about birds and bees isn’t always a grimace-inducing sex chat is it? When spring and summer visitors return to the UK even city kids can be tricked out of school grumps and into a happier mood. 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

Flowering jasmine makes the street and house smell sweet.

Flowering jasmine makes the street and house smell sweet.

Oh happy day! The swifts are back – the wonderful free-wheeling screamers that zip above the city streets where I live. The swifts are late this year – I know this because the greater celandine in the bucket by the door has nearly finished flowering. And they’ve flown an amazing distance from Africa probably, over war zones, seas and the guns of European bird hunters. It’s hard for me to stop myself rushing up to passers-by to point out these wonderful birds.

I spotted them after my daughters had headed off to school so you’re the first to hear the news. I’m sure you know that spring or summer is really here when a particular plant blooms or bird or animal is spotted. Earlier this week I had to attend some training on a farm a few miles from Guildford. It’s a commuter dormitory but within a few minutes of the main town the roads are wreathed in cow parsley and everything is the perfect English green. On the farm the first thing I heard was a cuckoo. For a city dweller like me this is a really special sound, some years I don’t get to hear them unless I put on a bird tape. At the farm – a dressage centre rather than the conventional food producer – the receptionist said the cuckoo’s return meant she “knew spring was here at last.”

Nell's friends Lucas and Nat look for newts in our garden pond.

Nell’s friends Lucas and Nat look for newts in our garden pond.

My city-born daughters probably have their own spring-is-here coda when the newts come back to our pond. Mostly they don’t fuss much about wildlife and I don’t think that’s very good for their mental and emotional resilience. So when the 15 year old looked stressed from too much GCSE exam revision yesterday I suggested she picked some chard for dinner. She flounced out of the house to do this, very put out.

Fortunately the magic of the garden quickly changed her mood. Even before she’d come back in happier she’d found an ailing bee which she reckoned she could rescue. Her plan was to flip it right side up – a good one. But I suggested she also gave it some sugar water and an empty loo roll middle to shelter in overnight. Happily she set about saving the bee… and the morning report is good. The bee is bumbling about far more happily ready for a bit more sugar water.

Get your coat
Do you find being outside – doing something with plants, animals or insects – helps your child out of tricky feelings?

image001 (2)A good book to help you and your family explore the outdoors in towns and cities is The Wild City Book by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks. It came out on May day and has loads of things to do to get your kids more comfortable with nature. There are lots of bee tasks – such as making a bee hotel or a nectar café by clever planting. But plenty of ideas could be impromptu such as creating a massive daisy or dandelion chain for a flower necklace or art in the park just using leaves and sticks.  Definitely a book to improve every city dweller’s life whether big, small or six-legged.

The Wild City Book: loads of things to do in towns and cities by Jo Schofield and Fiona Danks (Frances Lincoln, 2014, £9.99). Find it on amazon here. There’s also an opportunity for half term visitors to London’s Natural History Museum to have a go at some of the activities in the book for free and supervised by the authors. Turn up between 12-4 on Thursday 29 June 2014, in the museum’s wildlife garden.

2013 homeadekids in review

December 31, 2013

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

What do we want? A clean air cloud please.

September 19, 2012

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post asks you if you know about the clean air cloud coming to London on Saturday 22 September – world car free day. For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

I write this at bedtime listening to Nell my 11 year old daughter check her peak flow. She’s like many London children, someone with asthma who needs to takes a puff measurement twice a day. “Have you got your asthma medicine,” is asked endlessly in our house. We dare not let her leave home without it.

The thing is, I love Islington where Nell was born and still lives.

Just before her big sister Lola was born (in 1998) my book The Estate We’re In: who’s driving car culture? was published. By coincidence it is being re-released as an ebook on 11 October, see here. It’s strange how little has changed in 14 years – cars are still king, despite wonderful inventions like car club cars, Oyster cards, Boris bikes, super-duper trainers and even better buggies for the babies.

My family still does not have a car – well why would we in central London? We do a lot of rushing and pottering around Islington on a bike, with the dog or the kids, so I know its parks, playgrounds and polluted places well.

It  makes me mad to know just how polluted Islington is. The price we pay for living here in central London is what, virtual smoking of a packet of fags a day? Everyone knows the bad effects of smoking , which we can choose to do or not. Yet few of us make any fuss about the increasingly poor air quality in London. And if we’ve got kids with asthma we’re often too wrapped up in their health problems to make any fuss at all. But we really need to complain more. And because I feel like that I plan to celebrate International Car Free Day on Saturday 22 September (soon!) with the wonderful campaigners at Climate Rush who are coming to Islington to help highlight Islington’s dirty little secret – it’s one of  London’s most polluted boroughs.

Dress code blue and white – just as a clean air cloud (see pic above) should look.  For more info about the problem, and what’s happening read on… Otherwise, see you there.

This is an extract from a climate rush blog about air quality:

Young children in pushchairs are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution on busy roads because they are much closer to the source of pollution, the exhaust fumes. It is estimated that up to 30% of childhood asthma is caused by poor air quality – a terrifying statistic bearing in mind that 1,148 schools in London are within 150 metres of roads carrying 10,000 or more vehicles per day and a total of 2,270 schools within 400 metres of such roads.

This Saturday (22 Sep 2012), take a guided tour of Islington’s most polluted places, schools and residential areas, parking along the way and carrying out fun family friendly car-free activities.

Join Climate Rush in Laycock Street Park (Playground) at 11am to take part in the tour; they aim to finish in Highbury Fields at around 2pm.

Support the idea of cleaner air and less cars on London’s streets, share cars with your neighbours, campaign for a better cycling infrastructure built and walk a little bit more.#cleanaircloud

Apparently the running costs for an average car is around £3000 a year. Think if you shared a car with your 3 best friends how much money you would save :-)

Follow and don’t forget to use the hashtag #cleanaircloud

Back to reality

September 1, 2011

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This blog is temporarily about travel and homeschooling.

Years ago – the sort of time scale (20 years?) that I left between leaving the Solomons and revisiting them – Soul2Soul was the most listened to dance band in London. It’s not island reggae, but I quickly began to enjoy their music, and especially “Back to life, back to reality…” It’s an anthem with meaning!

Today the travelling ended. The passports are locked up. There are no plane tickets or plans or reservation vouchers to guard.

In short, we are back home with milk bottles on the doorstep and a lawn to mow. Everyone is beaming – even now with jet lag when it’s 6pm but feels like 11pm. Actually I’m not beaming, I’d have been v happy to stay in the Solomons for months, no years, longer. I miss staying with ML and her lovely family, the beautiful food and those blue skies.

London at 5.26am when we landed was grey and a tad cold.

Back home I’ve tackled the jobs that build up after three months away – the mountain of post especially. I’ve also done the family washing (suds’ law), mended the wooden dugong and helped Nell sand her carved dolphin (woodwork), buried poor Snowflake our pet mouse who, once dead, was placed in the freezer and fortunately didn’t get defrosted in the new microwave. The microwave is not technically new – it’s from a neighbour who gave it to our housesitter Christina, and I guess we should play with it to see how useful it is, or not. I’ve also picked up the dog from kennels where he ended up for the final week of his staycation and amply reapplied red mite barrier to the hen house in a bid to tackle these horrible pests before the hens arrive home. Then, in case the pesky critters had crawled on to me I removed all my clothing and did another load of laundry…

So busy at home, though upsettingly I’ve found out that my uni teaching hours have been halved.

Reality is like London weather (I’m thinking it never rains, but it pours). What I have to do is ignore all the inconveniences and find some good tricks to recall all the happinesses and lessons learnt over the past three months travelling. In short: smile more, listen more, do more and realise how lucky it is to be born with a British passport, in Britain.

Back to the here and now
Here’s what the girls are feeling as they settle back to breakfasts of butter, granary grains and lashings of marmite!

NELL: “I don’t want to tell you what I learnt because you’ll think I was really stupid. But… I can now picture the globe and all the countries and think about their different climates and realities. I learnt that in the Solomons the sky is much clearer, that might either be because of less pollution or where it is positioned.

“I found that it is a lot easier to breathe in a hotter place if you have asthma which is incredibly annoying as I do not like hot climates – they are too hot. In fact I spent about half an hour in a cool house in Singapore which had fake rain. I loved it, I could have stayed there for one whole day. I learnt that the countries all around the world have different currencies that can be more or less than English pounds, so if you visit a different country it is quite hard to know what you are paying – whether it is a rip off or not – unless you have taken time to learn about the exchange rates. I also found out that England is one of the well-off countries compared to the Solomons and other small Pacific islands because there they still have houses made of leaves, without proper windows (but that’s because of the climate). No one complained about being poor. People make their own houses which is extremely impressive. And I think a TV would be very expensive, and not everybody has one. But in England if you don’t have a TV or computer it would seem quite weird.

“I was really excited when we got on the plane to London, even though it took 13 hours from Singapore. But it actually seemed pretty quick because about 10 hours of it I was asleep! When the plane arrived at Heathrow airport I was really excited. It seemed really strange seeing all the lights of London compared to Honiara, which is about the same size as a tiny town in England which hardly anybody knows about. Anyone from there who has come to London would probably think it is one of the biggest cities they’d ever seen, and they’d be right. the UK has 60 million citizens, whereas Australia which could cover most of Europe only holds 20 million people. It’s really strange because you’d think they could fit a lot more people in. I think I know why – it’s because most of Australia is uninhabitable, for example we spent three days crossing the Nullabor Plain on a train which is incredible. We boarded in Perth, I felt like we should have got on the train in China or Russia or somewhere just from the amount of time it took.”

LOLA: “Going around the world I’ve learnt so many things. Like people are so kind and I’ve learnt a different language. I’ve learnt about different animals, and volcanoes. It’s hard not to when you see one. I’ve seen many things on my travels but I’ve come to realise that none of them hold the same place in my heart as my home. That sounds really cheesy! I think it will change me for good, I think I’m more relaxed but I think I’d like to put more effort into the things that I do, because I see now I’m so lucky to live in England and get these experiences and opportunities in things like music, riding. The classrooms in my school are so different to the Solomons. In the Solomon schools everything is bare. There are no posters, no carpets, no proper desks. Half the kids didn’t seem to even have books. And the books in the library at one of the schools I visited had all been eaten by white ants! People say state schools aren’t nearly as good as private schools, but I think state schools in London have so much more stuff, like computers and posters and paint on the walls, than the private school we went to in the Solomons. However the kids there really concentrate and learn so much better because they know it’s the only chance they will get. In England you have to keep going to school until you are 16, but in the Solomons you can get failed from school at 11; 13; 14; 15 and 16. To have a chance in life it helps to stay at school until 16!”

Get Fit With Azmain

“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.”



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