Micro-Scooter Love

She may never ride the bicycle again. . .

We were super excited to review the Maxi Micro-Scooter this month, and my older daughter (age 4, a fairly tall age 4) was just the girl for the job! The specs say it’s for children weighing up to 50kg, so it looks to last around here for several years. She was given an Ozbozz for Christmas last year and she used it a little, but I saw nothing like what I’ve seen in the past few days. The girl is zooming away, using the brake to slow down and stop, and doing tricks! The Maxi Micro-Scooter is stable under her feet and quick. We’ve had it for two weeks and we’ve been around the neighbourhood and in the parks with it. It’s easy to transport in the car boot and very light, so I don’t mind carrying it if I have to. My niece (8 years old) and nephew (9 years old) in the USA both have Micro-Scooters and they love them as well. They were really excited to find out how we liked it. Evidently, it’s THE scooter to have, even on the other side of the Pond. And I do see why.

Compared with the other scooters we’ve had in the house, the Micro-Scooters are clearly better designed for action (and looks). Both of my girls had a Little Tikes 2-in1 as their first scooter, which was good in that they could sit on it or stand, but it was stiff plastic. At £29.99, it was a good value, but I do think they would have had more use out of the Mini Micro-Scooter, had they had it instead. The Little Tikes scooter doesn’t turn at all really, so it’s only good for going in straight lines, but at least it was sturdy underfeet. We also have the Ozbozz “My First Scooter” which is VERY heavy (and so I never like to carry it), not to mention unstable. My daughter fell many times in the early days–even with all four wheels on! Luckily, she is not the type of child to give up. It appears to ride roughly over city pavement. You can hear the wheels banging and knocking over every bump. Not good.

The Maxi Micro-Scooter glides along. . .  quickly! Even at speed or down hill, my four-year old is able to control it. Our three-year old who got the Mini Micro-Scooter for her birthday last month is also happily scooting along.

Maxi Micro-Scooters are priced from £99.95. If you want a fancier model or accessories, you’ll pay up to £123.95. Micro-Scooter offers free delivery on the product and spare parts are easy to come by. These scooters also offer excellent resale value on eBay, so it’s definitely worth buying it new and getting several years’ use out of it.

We met up with some of our Mumsnet friends who also got Micro-Scooters to review at Tumbling Bay playground at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park over the Easter holidays. The kids had a ball. It was a cloudy day, so we had this amazing place mostly to ourselves. I think they had fun!

“A Bing Thing”

bing bunny dvdBing, the toddling, pre-schooler bunny on CBeebies is the star of a new DVD hitting the shelves on March 30th. We were invited along for a screening in Central London last weekend.

It’s a CBeebies show for toddler and pre-school aged children and their families. Episodes are narrated and seen from the point of view of Bing, the bunny who seems between three and four years old and Flop, an orange sock body who seems to be Bing’s grown up. He’s smaller than Bing, which reinforces the idea that the show is really about and for the child. The point of view in the animation often pans to “Bing height.” I wonder if the kids really notice these things. . .

But since we grown ups will be watching also, the writers have given us lovely moments to keep us entertained. Bing’s grown-up, Flop, is very, very patient. Something we grown ups can certainly learn from. And, I have to admit, he uses some good parenting methods.

red Balloon

Photo from the “Balloony” entry of Disney Wikia.

  I was happy to see a thoughtful nod to established childrens’ stories: “Bye-Bye” reminded me of the red balloon in the film versions of A.A. Milne’s Classic Winnie the Pooh stories. Bing plays joyfully with a balloon in his living room until it pops and he has to then, with the guidance of the loving Flop, deal with the end of the fun. While I won’t be setting up a bye-bye box in our home for broken toys, I’ll admit it might not be a bad idea if a child has trouble coping with broken toys or giving something up.

For the children, Bing is a mirror of their lives, replete with the fun and frustrations of the toddler years. He’s got a few friends and two bunny cousins, one a little older (“Coco,” my girls’ favourite character) and Charlie, a younger crawling baby. He’s also got friends the same age–an elephant (your child’s sensible and calm friend) and a panda (your child’s friend who marches to his own beat and doesn’t like trousers). This cast helps to illustrate an array of scenes of sibling or playmate interaction within an early years group. A lesson is learned and retold by Bing in each episode. It’s good social and emotional learning fun. And the Banana song is awesome.

My three year old daughter loved the episode with Brenda the blender and has been singing the banana song since yesterday. This morning, she reminded me that the banana went poo into the Brenda and chuckled. It was one of those moments when you realise that they really were paying attention and making sense of what they’re seeing. My four year old daughter’s favourite was, predictably, the one with Bing and his cousins playing blocks. . . Obsessed, she is with rainbows and putting blocks in orderly lines and towers, usually right where I need to walk.

No news here. . .

According to the Guardian, in an article published today, “Childcare is now so expensive that families are increasingly better off if one parent gives up work to look after their offspring, a major new report has found.”

Trust me. I’ve known this for a fact for the last 4.5 years. We are part of the middle sector who earn “too much” to qualify for any real help (and still recovering from losing the formerly Universal child benefit, as it was our only means of creating savings). And we earn too little to be living better than hand to mouth.

Resourceful as ever, we just carry on as best we can, making the sacrifice and doing the best we can for our family. We also realise that lots of other people face an even tougher situation, so public moaning is not appropriate.

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/feb/19/cost-childcare-high-uk-families-work-family-childcare-trust-nursery

The cost of childcare and the effect on the squeezed middle class, helping parents who have been out of the work force because they’ve stayed at home to care for their children–not always by choice. I want to hear more about this during the upcoming election.

Expert Tips: Capturing Those “Perfect” Moments

We recently met local photographer Claudine Yap. As a new mum to a two-month old son, she’s making a transition in her photography career from event photography to children and family portrait photography, offering on-location shots or studio shots.

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Based in Buckhurst Hill, she shoots in her bespoke studio or on location for your family.

She specialises in recording the feelings of family life: joy, wonder, happiness, quiet contemplation, and great good humour. Shooting newborns, babies, children and family, she aspires to create a fun and relaxed environment during her photo shoots to bring out the very best in people.

We asked her to give her suggestions for taking our own family photos. We thought this might come in handy as the Christmas season approaches.

  1. I always advise my clients to put plain, bright-coloured clothes on their children, especially if the pictures are taken outdoors, because patterned clothing can sometimes add distraction to the picture on an already busy background. Of course we think you should still go for the shot of the whole gang in Christmas jumpers in front of the tree, but for those special moments, less really might be more.
  2. If possible, always use natural light – near windows if you’re indoors and indirect natural light like under a tree if you are outdoors on a sunny day to avoid harsh light on your subject. Cloudy days usually offer the perfect lighting. Lucky us–we’ve got plenty of those. The light should always be in front of the subject unless aiming for a ‘silhouette’ look. Try to avoid using flash as this can cause red-eye and harsh-looking light on your subject.
  3. It helps to have another parent or “favourite” around to help with getting them to smile. Usually by talking and playing with the children helps. And try to schedule around nap and meal times to avoid erm unpleasant moments.
  4. Take multiple shots at a time to avoid missing out on capturing what could be your child’s best expression and best moments!
  5. Get down to their eye level and see the world from their perspective.
Good luck and remember to have fun! Patience is required to get the perfect shot. You know what we mean.
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If you’re still not convinced that you can swing it, why not give Claudine a call. She’s running a special offer on Mumsnet Local, which you can find on our Offers page. The price in the Offer is based on photography in London and Essex. She is happy to travel further afield, and will give a quotation for that expense.
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Georgia Lindsay’s Family Garden and ‘Bub Tub’ Competition

Calm and reassuring, the figure of a circle makes us think of a great big hug, and Georgia Lindsay, a finalist in  the 2014 Grand Designs Garden Design competition, created a garden full of them. We met the London-based designer during a family day out to the Grand Designs show last Spring and instantly knew we had to help her show it off!

Action man

A gorgeous metal swing seat designed by Steve Myburgh (Myburgh Designs) provides comfortable and playful respite from all the action in the garden. Artificial turf is used throughout. This can be cut in shapes to help form the lids for the tugs and circular play spaces.

The colours and shapes of this wonderfully child friendly space made my children beam, a response Georgia was clearly aiming for:

“The circles were very deliberate. Soft curves seem much friendlier and child orientated than angular lines.” I also was taken with the boldness of simple colours and shapes that were. . .well, appealing.

Georgia-Lindsay A penchant for clean lines were traded in for a family garden resplendent with circles in order to create a family friendly and appropriate design.

“I am actually known for doing very clean lined contemporary gardens but for this Family Garden I made a deliberate decision to smooth out all the edges.”

The garden upholds the circular theme, from the choice of a single proliferating bloom–a daisy–to the circular-seats of the beautiful steel swing and Georgia’s signature ‘Bub Tub’ kiddie seats to the holes dug as an interchangeable sandpit or paddling pool or trampline recess, or even a fire pit for some grown-up fun!

The seating area is inviting, comfortable, and purposeful. The softly circular theme is maintained whilst remembering that children DO go to bed (after helping to put the toys away, of course) and then the adults do not want to be sat in the middle of a landscaped toy shop. To that end, she has oh-so-cleverly devised turfed fitting lids for the play pits.

seating zone

Georgia’s “Bub Tubs”: One of the attractions of the chairs is that they can easily transform back into a storage bucket once the kids have grown out of them. They also stack easily when the cushion is taken out and look fabulous in all the beautiful rainbow colours they come in. People also love that they can store toys in the little compartment under the cushion, a little bit less clutter is always a bonus with kids!

So how did she dream up this amazing landscape? “The brief of the competition this year was introducing colour to your garden,” she tells us. “It would have been too predictable using colourful plants to fulfil this brief so I purposely didn’t use any flowers with colour and chose the white daisies and green grass as a neutral palette.”

Atop this neutral palette are the play spaces and sitting spaces: a beautiful wrought metal swing seat hovers over a dug-out circle, giving the feeling of depth. The gentle steps up and down were designed to make the terrain easily navigable for little ones.  She is a mum of two toddlers, ages 2 years and 9 months and 11months, so the well-imagined and safely realised space is a true labour of love: “The garden was really a tribute to them,” she says, and “completely designed for that age group, hence the curved lines and easy heights to navigate.”

Grand Designs Live Excel 4-12 May 2013

Kevin McCloud, of the Grand Designs Show, called the garden “innovative and practical.”

Since the show this Spring, Georgia has been overwhelmed with interest in her design and for the “Bub Tub” she designed for the garden. “The reusable quality of them really has appealed to people. As we parents all know we go through kids’ paraphernalia so quickly as they grow out of things so fast.”

Innovative yet practical. And we really like that.

Creating Your Own Garden

daisiesGeorgia’s design was purpose-built as a small show space, but you can use some of her great ideas in your own garden, large or small.

Do consider the shapes of the things in your garden–choose furniture, flower beds, and blooms with rounded edges instead of sharp, angular ones. Georgia recommends sunflowers for rapid and impressive growth.

And back to the theme of purposeful–why not incorporate edible, weed-controlling blooms? “Strawberries are another great one, not only do you get the thrill of picking the juicy fruit but also the added pleasure of putting them to bed in a little nest of straw. All veggies give great satisfaction, I don’t think anyone could ever tire of the thrill of pulling a carrot from the ground and the condensed carroty smell which fills the air.”

 

Play Along and Win a Pair of Bub Tubs

Grand Designs Live Excel 3-11 May May 2014

These amazing little chairs are soft, stackable, and have toy storage underneath! Perfect for toddlers and pre-schoolers, for indoor or outdoor use.

This garden is so chock full of playfulness, irresistibly so. Mumsnet Local and Wanstead’s neighbourhood pub, The Duke, would love for you to play along, so here’s your big chance.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for simple, affordable child-friendly home gardens. The winner will receive a pair of Georgia’s signature Bub Tubs, pictured here. These are valued at £45 each. If you’d like to get up close and personal with the Bub Tubs, they’ll be at The Duke in Wanstead from Friday, July 25th until the competition closes.

Entries will be accepted from Friday, July 25th until Midnight on Sunday August 3rd. The winner will be chosen by Georgia Lindsay herself.

If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, our friend at Mumsnet Suffolk and Norfolk has some great ones on her blog.

When you’re ready, post your idea to the Talk thread on Mumsnet Local – Redbridge. You must post your entry by midnight on Sunday August 3rd, 2014.

Good luck and have a wonderful, playful summer!

  • Find your Mumsnet Local web site here–register by updating your Mumsnet account and receive a customised monthly newsletter with all the latest happenings in your area.

duke wanstead

Head over to The Duke on Thursday 31st July & Friday 1st August at 10am when they will be hosting their Little Duke’s kids club.

A Little Moomin Lovin’

Cherry-picking from the Guardian’s Culture section this morning reminded us of one of our favourite library finds.

moomin and the little ghost

Tove Jansson was born in Helsingfors, Finland, in 1914. Her mother was a caricaturist who designed 165 of Finland’s stamps and her father was a sculptor. She studied painting in Finland, Sweden and France, and subsequently became a book illustrator. Her extraordinary illustrative style is seen as a design classic the world over. Originally written in Swedish, the Moomintroll books have been translated into 34 languages and adapted for television, film, radio and opera. Tove Jansson lived alone on a small island in the gulf of Finland, where most of her books were written. She died in 2001. (from Amazon.co.uk)

. . . just remembering the joy of reading words like ‘Moomintroll’ and ‘Moominmama’ with my children.  And this one was useful as well since Moomin and his pal Snorkmaiden had to conquer their fear of ghosts during their holiday at the lighthouse–we’ve had discussions of crocodiles and monsters under the bed, so Moomin became a handly little hero for us.

Besides that, the illustrations are so very funny and endearing, odd but in a good way, as the Scandinavian imagination seems to produce. It’s good that trolls can be endearing, surely.

We were sad when Moomin finally went back to the library’s shelves and are searching for his further adventures!

Sadly, Chae Strathie did not choose any Moomin books in her “Top Ten Utterly Zingbobulous Nonsense Words in Childrens’ Books” list, but she found plenty of other goodies.

Off to See Matisse’s Colourful Cut-Outs

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The Snail, 1953

The famous shapes of Matisse’s Cut-Outs are at the Tate Modern! This is the largest collection of them shown to date, in fact, with 120 or so of the Cut-Outs to enjoy.

The vibrant colours and shapes should really be engaging for children, so we’re thinking it’s definitely worth a visit. The folks at the Tate are expecting this and have prepared some material for the wee ones’ visits: read the The Tate Kids Blog here. Already, some enthusiastic young fans have sent in photos of their own Matisse-inspired creations to the blog.

We are learning to use scissors carefully around here, so the transition to home should be a good and useful one. Cutting, sticking, and positioning paper into sought-after shapes seems like something we could all get happily stuck into.

This will be my first trip to the Tate with children. I’m thinking of starting at St. Paul’s Cathedral and taking a walk across the Millenium Bridge on the way to the museum.  I’ve always liked that journey.

Matisse, the Cut-Outs runs from 17 April – 7 September 2014

Adult £18 (without donation £16.30)
Concession £16 (without donation £14.50)
Help Tate by including the voluntary donation to enable Gift Aid
Additional booking fee of £1.75 (£2 via telephone) per transaction applies
Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian)