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

TOP SECRET MEMO (destroy once read)

BRRRPPP… Message incoming! DOT DOT DOT DAASH DAAASSH DASH DOT DOT DOT. Thus sums up my full knowledge of morse code (SOS, in case you were wondering) however, I have now been fully trained up in spy skills at the Secret Agent training Academy and here’s how…

Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, London is a magical place, full of prompts to inspire childrens’ imaginations about reading and stories. It’s all very educational, but the kids will never guess that! On top of it’s permanent spaces, the centre produces a new interactive exhibition a couple of times a year creating an immersive experience where children (and maybe even adults) can lose their inhibitions and get playful. Last time, they had Superheroes – this time, it’s Secret Agents.

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You walk down the steps into what is seemingly an old tube station and get a surprise when you enter – it’s actually a Secret Agent Briefing Room.

There’s lots of important secret agent stuff on the walls.

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We’re told that they need our help.

The evil Dr Iscove has used the Professor Irene Bop’s brilliant mind to create a treasure teleporting machine. He has stolen treasure from around the world, from the Louvre to the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. His next idea is to steal the pocket money of everybody on the planet. Eeeeek! We have to stop him before it’s too late and recover the treasure teleporting machine.

Can we act as secret agents to help crack the code and save the missing scientist?

We enter the elite Secret Agent training academy. We need to learn how to unlock codes, dodge laser beams and make ourselves invisible.

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Once out of the initial briefing, the kids are free to roam and they around the space, looking for clues. Perhaps listening to the call on the telephone, or looking through the binoculars, or clambering through a fireplace. Dare you try and make your way through the tunnel of lasers? What clues might we find in that diamond catalogue on the coffee table?

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We discover the code and enter it into the special machine and we’re successful. We’ve saved everyone’s pocket money!

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There’s lots of little things to amuse and inspire the adults too. I love the typography and wit in these posters dotted around the place.

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Roger that, over and out.

The Secret Agents Spy Academy runs until Sun 31 Aug 2014. Book here.

Disclaimer: I am on the board of trustees for Discover and they did ply me with James Bond-style cocktails on the opening night, but in this no way alters my opinion of the fact that Secret Agents is a must-see

Tough Love

Very interesting post about our concept of ‘tough love’ and how in fact parenting in a rational, ‘in the moment’ way is really, really tough – but possible.

Raising Mama

“Tough love,” says the mother as she forces her child to the busy street corner with a sign declaring his sins to the world.

“Tough love,” nods the father as he blasts his daughter’s laptop into pieces and posts the video online.

“Tough love,” applauds the Internet commenters, when a photo of a note goes viral, a note that says “You came home past your curfew, so you can sleep on the porch. You’re lucky I gave you a pillow this time.”

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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.

#FirstDay : Why The World Needs Midwives and Basic Medicine for Newborn Babies

Zakaria, a newborn baby in Gardo General Hospital, Puntland, Somalia.RS67063_Baby_Zakaria-11 Do you remember that moment of pure rapture, shock and excitement of your baby’s first few hours? Last year, I had my second child at home and even though the birth was so fast that she popped out before the midwife arrived (!), I felt safe in the knowledge that she was on her way and would help me deliver the placenta and check my baby over.

The knowledge and experience that midwives have is amazing and everyone in the world should have access to that. In the UK, we have the services of NHS (despite it’s faults) and wonderful independent midwives. People in other countries are not so lucky. Every year, around the world, 2.9 million babies die in their first month from things that are preventable. The outcome could be changed with the help of a trained and equipped midwife along with basic medicines such as antiseptics and antibiotics, vital equipment and a clean environment to work in.

The world has made amazing progress in saving children’s lives over the past two decades. The number of children who die each year has dropped from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012.

JOIN THE CALL FOR MORE LIFE-SAVING MIDWIVES

This year, for the first time ever, countries around the world will sit down to agree a global action plan to save newborn lives which would mean:

  • Saving the lives of 2 million newborn babies a year
  • Ensuring that every baby is born with the support of a trained and equipped midwife

Save the Children want David Cameron to sign the Newborn Promise – a plan to ensure that by 2025 every baby is born with the life-saving support of a midwife.

Please sign the petition to the Prime Minister to make sure every baby is born with the life-saving support of a midwife.