• Isobel Mary Champion

Weddings, paddling pool recycling, and baby-led BBQs - Summer is here!

Hello, and welcome to my Summer newsletter! I hope you enjoyed the Jubilee weekend (Prince Louis was the star of the show for me!) and are ready to enjoy the end of the school term without the thoughts of social distancing that have worried us over the last couple of years!

Like me? Need hay fever tips?! I have started my annual hayfever pergatory, and have had some very unusual and intense symptoms this year! Luckily there is always something new to try, and I would like to share a fascinating list of natural herbal remedies from Pukka Herbs (my favourite herbal tea brand!) - including some I have never heard of, like ginger, which seems to cure everything!

Now that we are socialising again, barbecues are back, but to be honest, they are not always particularly baby and toddler friendly! If you are hosting one this summer, set a sterling example for others and plan ahead for the little ones - I absolutely love this recipe selection from Babyled Feeding (and just in time for Father's Day!).

Now is the time to be slapping on the suncream to your little one's exposed skin, and thank goodness the texture and applicators are all a lot easier to use and a lot more pleasant than they were a decade ago! (And since they became more ocean-friendly they don't seem to sting when you get them in your eyes so much either which is a real bonus!) Mother and Baby's lowdown on the top rated suncream for babies and toddlers is a must read!

Got an outdoor space? Then it's definitely worth investing in a paddling pool if you don't already have one, or considering updating last year's tatty model! It will give your kids hours of low-key entertainment and cooling relief on those long hot summer days! Check out the Independent's very in-depth guide to the very best of this year's paddling pools!

And if like me, you are worried about the plastic waste that your paddling pool will create once it becomes defunct, don't worry, I am one step ahead of you, click here to find out how to recycle your paddling pool once it's lifetime in your garden has come to an end!

Holidays all booked for the Summer? You lucky things, please send me a postcard! Feeling the travel nerves? Let me share some useful tips to set your mind at ease!

Summer holiday travel tips:

  • Take used kids bedding on holidays if possible (sounds strange but it will help them to sleep better in an unfamiliar environment!).

  • Take a backpack filled with small toys for the flight - any kind of “fidget” toy, small books, handheld games, and a few crayons and a notebook.

  • Take lots of familiar wrapped snacks for both the flight and the rest of the trip.

  • Plan a few treats for the flight (and holiday!) for yourself (you are more likely to be able to stay calm if you are in a good mood!)!

  • Try to find and keep a structure and routine each day.

  • Don’t push your child out of their comfort zone on holiday, take a relaxed approach and see what they can achieve on their own terms!

Not only are foreign holidays back on the calendar, so too are weddings, parties, and family gatherings! But many pandemic parents of preschoolers have asked me how best to handle challenging behaviour in front of an audience? Planning ahead is key!

My tips for positive parenting at parties and gatherings this Summer: 1. Have a“team talk” before the event to prepare your child for what will happen during the event, and your expectations of them during the occasion, making sure to include lots of praise, encouragement and affection! 2. Think about how to make the event more fun or engaging for your child OR less overwhelming and overstimulating for them. This could include things like:

  • Taking along a bag of small toys or books.

  • Taking along a few of your child’s preferred snack foods.

  • Thinking about seating your child in a quieter corner.

  • Seating your child near to their preferred relatives.

  • Taking your child outside for regular breaks from the noise.

3. Be prepared to calmly and swiftly remove your child from the event with a smile and a vague apology if their behaviour becomes challenging (don’t be ashamed or embarrassed – this is the best approach to take for everybody’s sake!). Discuss with your partner who will be the one to do this beforehand (a bit like being the“designated driver”). If your child can cool off and return to the event, great! If not, it’s time for bed! 4. Feed your child their main meal earlier in the day – do not expect them to eat their much at the event. In fact, do not expect them to eat anything at all! If you can get them to eat a few chips and some ice cream then you are winning! 5. Do not expect your child to remain seated for longer than about 40 minutes – let them move around if possible (again, if this means that one parent needs to also be on their feet to move around with them, designate this in advance OR take turns!). Young children don’t sit still for very long – this is why toddler groups are usually 45 minutes maximum! IMPORTANT: Try to relax and enjoy yourselves, parties are supposed to be fun, and are all about the gathering!

Childcare! I have spoken to a lot of parents who are currently in the process of sorting out their childcare arrangements for September. Are you in the same boat? Let me know! I am always a happy to share a few tips from the field!

Reading about childcare in the media always brings up the inevitable question, "Is childcare too expensive?". With the average family in London spending £164 per week for a childminder, £180 per week for a nursery place, or £450 per week for a nanny (based on part time childcare), you may well agree!

But having spent over a decade working in childcare myself, I can't help seeing this from the other side of the fence. Most childcare workers are undperaid, and do a low status job that is undervalued in many ways. And yet they do a magical thing - they create love from thin air, and often spend many years of their lives raising child who are not their own. In my opinion childcare is not expensive ENOUGH, it's just that nobody wants to (or is able to!) foot the bill.

Other countries in Europe take a far better approach. In Estonia children stay home until they are 18 months old. Estonia's unique parental benefit system allows parents to take 435 paid days leave - one of the most generous parental packages in the world! From 18 months onwardchildren can then go to daycare, and then from three to seven years to kindergarten. These are both heavily subsidised by the government, with parents only paying a small fee which works out at 10-12% of the minimum wage. Children attend formal schooling from the age of 7, and are among the happiest in the world, also rating extremely highly in reading, maths and science. Clearly investing more in the well-being and care of both parents and children in the early years has many rewards! Where have we gone wrong?? There is some help out there from our government to help parents cover the cost of childcare, click this link to see which schemes you are eligible for! And visit my homepage if you would like to listen to episode two of my Childcare Maze pod, which is all about how to calculate your childcare costs.

Do you have a child going into Reception Class in September? Are you lying awake at night worrying about their "readiness for school"? Are they ready? After a global pandemic?? Are you kidding me?? Are any of us ready? To even suggest that pandemic preschoolers might "ready" in the same way that previous cohorts would have been is unreasonable. Let's be honest, they are probably not ready, and neither should the schools expect them to be.

The "landing platform" needs to be changed in order to accept that many of these children may not be ready in the ways previously expected in terms of speech, social skills, and toilet training (to name but a few!). Don't let anybody pressure you into rushing to meet a September deadline for your child's development - any school worth attending will be asking you what they can do to help you and your child transition into Reception Class, not adding to your worries by setting you a list of targets to meet over the Summer. A happy, secure child with happy, relaxed parents is much more likely to achieve and thrive than one who is under pressure and whose parents are stressed and anxious.

Know a stressed new Mummy with a baby at home? Feeling stressed out yourself? Check out my recent article in the Belfast Telegraph and take a breath, slow down, and come back to the present! There is no rush, everything will happen in it's own good time.

While you are here why not read some more great tips from some of my other favourite specialists: more from Midwife and Lactation Consultant Shelley Wilson, Pre- and Post-Natal Fitness and Nutrition expert, Emma West, The Step-In-Mum Veronika Durham, and Declutterer and Organiser Joanne Forde.

Check out my other posts for more info and advice on screen time, dinner times, fussy eaters, planning a babymoon, why your child needs a pet, and more!

Visit the rest of my website to find out more about my parenting coaching services, child development, child behaviour, and positive parenting!

Get in touch for more information on any of the topics mentioned here or elsewhere on my site, I would love to hear from you! Have a wonderful Summer!