Our new ‘London 2012 Olympics’ playground

A brand new playground on our doorstep. The powers-that-be are slowly regenerating the area that housed the Olympic games a couple of summers ago.  The new Queen Elizabeth Park (we still call it the ‘Olympic Park’, I’m not sure that will ever go away) is taking shape, with play areas, parks, new swimming and sports facilities and a river running through the middle of it.

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We’re very impressed with the unique and ‘natural’ children’s playground that’s been designed and built using tree trunks and branches as the main components, as if it had sprung up out of a forest (well, I can wish). Rope bridges are slung between wild-looking turrets, perfect for imaginary play and adventure. There’s rocks to climb on, water and sand to play in and slides to whoosh down.

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It was designed by play space experts Land Use Consultants and Erect Architecture and even includes a piece of art: Heather and Ivan Morrison’s Cross and Cave sculpture, which aims to depict a ‘ruin from the future’. You can watch more about the creation of the piece here:

 

Little details are found underneath walkways, such as these metal canisters which reverberate like bells when struck and piano strings hidden behind textured branches.

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Glimpses of colour in the planting break up the winter leaves.

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You can see the soon-to-be-opened velodrome nearby, with building works still taking place all around.

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Very nearby, the Timber Lodge cafe serves up food and hot drinks throughout the day. We found the service a little shambolic, but perhaps that’s just teething pains.

Tumbling Bay Playground, Queen Elizabeth Park, London

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Life Hacking: Avoiding the shoe shop

We’re a bit particular about having ‘proper’ shoes for the kids; in my book this means Clarks shoes. It’s something that was drilled into me from an early age and, perhaps because of this, I’ve never had any feet issues (bar that incident when I broke my big toe raving at a festival in Serbia, which, I think, is probably unrelated). Oh, and there was jealousy of course: who didn’t want to be a ‘cool kid’ in in some renegade shoes that weren’t the standard issue Clarks sandals?

However, getting a child to the shoe shop to get their feet measured regularly? That’s a tough one. I’ll be the first to admit, we don’t go as regularly as we probably should so I’m not always aware how quickly feet are growing. Ada is nearly toddling now so she’ll be needing her first pair of proper shoes soon (*sniff* – how fast they grow up).

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It turns out you can now measure your kids feet at home through Clarks Measure and Fit. You can buy gauge at £6 or £8 depending on size (with free delivery), plug the measurements into the Clarks website and it will spit out the correct size.

This seems GENIUS to me. I can track how fast their feet are growing and – although I imagine Clarks didn’t quite intend it this way – I can even buy secondhand shoes which I know will fit. (I’m thinking nearly new rather than well-worn; the merits of well fitting shoes have been drilled into me enough, thank you). I can’t take all the credit; someone suggested this on Facebook. Clever, thrifty mum types.

Whilst we’re on the subject, these are the specimens I’m eyeing up as Ada’s first shoes – all but one in the BOYS SECTION. Get a grip, Clarks, we don’t all want pink/floral/bows for our one year old girls! See my previous rant about the gender wars in kids clothes.

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And I like the look of these ones for non-school time for Harper. Traditionally, I’ve had just two pairs of shoes on the go for him – ones for school, ones for not, plus wellies for wet and crocs and/or sandals for Summer. At £35-40 a pop for a pair of decent shoes that need to be updated at least every 6 months… well, you’ve got to be a bit frugal…

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This is not a sponsored post.

Kids Clothes: The Gender Wars

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I am loving – nay, ecstatic! – that more and more clothing companies are starting to eschew the idea that clothes must be gender specific. You know the story: walk into a clothes shop (or search online) and you immediately have to choose which path you go down – blue for boys, pink for girls; camo and skulls for boys, glitter and princesses for girls. Who’s to say my boy doesn’t want a bit of sparkle on his clothes or my girl can’t wear black?

Last year, I read Alice “Wonderland” Taylor’s blog post showing how she’d had to go to the boys section of M&S to buy her girls clothes, namely: “an awesome KAPOW! comicbook sweater, a superman tee, a teeshirt with a skull on it (lightning bolt, no bow), and an umbrella with robots on.” Cue: UPROAR! (from me, atleast).

She suggests ditching gender divides with clothing and, instead, grouping clothing together by things such as “ADVENTUROUS, HEROIC, FUNNY, CUTE, CLEVER, EDGY, CASUAL, SMART.”  A wonderful idea!

In reality – until kids hit puberty – you don’t really need different boy / girl cuts of clothing (skirts and dresses the possible exception here). Alice says that the upshot would be: Manufacturing costs – lowered. Shopping experience – more interesting.

This is the sort of thing they could A/B test with the website so easily – you hear that, M&S?

Whilst I will admit that most of my kids clothes come from charity shops, donations from friends (thank you, lovely friends), eBay and the occasional high street purchase, I am rather taken by the recent trend in really bloody lovely kidswear. Stuff that, because of my want to keep things nice and stain free, I would probably be a bit antsy about them wearing when slurping up spaghetti in tomato sauce or eating chunks of blood red beetroot (I’ll be there, Vanish stick in hand), but yet I know that these clothes are hard wearing, quality items that won’t fall apart like some high street stuff does (Looking at you: Primark, *shudder*). You know that when you buy independent kidswear that each item of clothing will last more than one child and, most likely, that you’ll be supporting some brilliant, probably local, entrepreneurial parent who wants something better for their kids.

My personal style is important to me. It makes me feel confident, puts a smile on my face and others – I hope! Whilst I don’t want my kids to feel that they are only judged on what they wear, I’d like them to experience a bit of the enjoyment that I get from putting bright colours together, rummaging around in a thrift store for the perfectly patterned vintage dress, or perhaps wearing big chunky beads.

Tootsa Maginty has been championing unisex kidswear for a few years. They promise colourful, quality, children’s clothes for boys and girls “that won’t fall apart in the wash”. And – music to my ears – they have a SALE on at the moment. I adore their Epping sweatpants, which I know my son would love (he goes for anything comfy, over the look of it to be honest, as many an 8 year old would) and we’d get good wear from their chunky knit cardigans or Surfers Against Sewage T-shirts with a pelican print.

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Tootsa 1Boys&Girls are local to me in London – I get their newsletter which tells you about their frequent offers and sales. They go for a bright, outdoorsy urban look – grey marls, fun prints such as stars, slouchy harem pants and adorable all-in-ones for babies. (They still divide by Boys and Girls when you’re searching – I’d like to see this mixed up a bit more please!). All clothes are organic too.

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And Loveitloveitloveit sell all sorts of non-gender specific kids brands, sorted by colour, and Ruth, who runs it, is very funny on Twitter. Plus – BIG SALE on at the moment too.

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Screen shot 2014-02-19 at 13.37.04 I’m also really liking the look of Pom Berlin (as spotted on Fine Little Day last week) with fun bunting prints on slouchy sweat pants and jumpers and eye-popping prints on skirts.

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This is not a sponsored post.

Is it a Book or a Bed?

Much debate currently in the news about whether children should be allowed in museums following an art-accidentally-used-as-soft-play incident at the Tate Modern. Cue Kids in Museums waving the child-friendly flag and some other curmudgeonly types saying ‘Shhh! Children should be seen and not heard!‘. Not in Peckham though – see here cousin babies Olaf and Ada Ngaio playing happily on a giant book-shaped bed, aka the Bookbed.

Created by artist Ruth Beale (name not just a coincidence, she’s my talented sister) at the Peckham Platform in South London, Bookbed invites you to explore the library in the context of 21st century technologies with a giant bed as it’s centrepiece (that you can lie on, take in the world, read a book). You can have a go at the creative writing challenges using the ‘self-publishing station’ of an old fashioned typewriter, read books from the shelves, join in with workshops and talks, or, if you are a book group, use the space for free during the period of the exhibition.

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Half term chaos at Grandma’s involved tipping all the lego out and rolling around in it. Or at least that’s what Ada Ngaio did. Harper was a bit more constructive – building a ice cream van helicopter out of lego. I wonder what tune it would play?