Category Archives: Books

SM reads… ‘Mum Hacks’ by Tanith Carey

When this one arrived we did wonder if Tanith would be able to teach us old dogs any new tricks… So often with parenting self-help books, the suggestions are either too complicated to integrate into family life or just not the kind of things that resonate with boisterous children.

SM tester writes: this book is so easy to read that I did it in one evening; very straight-talking, very ‘to the point’. The premise is that as a Mum you could save a lot of time and effort with a few tips, a bit of streamlining, some systems, a dash of decluttering and a rigid set of rules. The book is divided into sections discussing areas of family turbulence such as mealtimes, the school run, holidays, bedtimes etc plus some advice on getting on top of toybox explosions, toddler strops and how to sneak in a 200 calorie workout in the playground.

Some of the tips, for a seasoned parent, are fairly obvious (like get a high chair with a washable plastic tray; let’s face it, who *doesn’t* opt for the cheapy Ikea one at least by their second child?) or store hairbands on the handle of the hairbrush – but actually it makes a lot of sense to have all the tips in one place and if you have a slightly child-frazzled brain, some of them serve as a reminder (I found myself saying to my other half ‘remember when we used to do that, that worked for a bit, didn’t it?)

There are also some tips that are total genius. Making a week’s worth of school sandwiches and freezing them, for example. Great idea! Slicing pizza with scissors; OK so you won’t win Masterchef but it’s better than battling with a knife or pizza cutter. Keeping a bin in the car; again, it’s a curveball one but it makes sense… 

‘Mum Hacks’ is available on Amazon or in good book retailers.

Editor’s tip: Tanith applauds the benefits of ditching the Bunnykins bowls and cups in favour of plastic or melamine. Can’t resist cute plates at teatime? Check out the range of colourful kids’ unbreakables at Vibrant Home...

Read to your child, even when you’re away…

This is a lovely idea – created by a husband and wife team and aimed to help parents who are often away (or grandparents who aren’t ’round the corner) to ‘be there’ at bedtime… allows one to customise a book online by reading it in your own voice. Your child can then playback the book on a tablet or laptop and read along with ‘virtual you’. All the books can also be saved to a virtual bookshelf.

And the cost? At the moment you pay what you think the service is worth (although obviously reading with your child is priceless!)


Weaning Like The French vs BLW

According to Pamela Druckerman, author of ‘Why French Children Don’t Throw Food’, it is all about letting your offspring experience a huge variety of gourmet tastes from an early age. With formal courses and napkins and the right amount of pomp and ceremony.

Aghast at the thought of blending veg into baby mush and shovelling it in with a cheery ‘choo choo’ a la Annabel Karmel, Druckerman reports that our Parisian counterparts integrate tots into the adult (French) dining experience with starters, amuse bouches, gastronomic dishes (and require that they remain at the table whilst Papa retreats for Gauloises and brandy)

Through educating children to appreciate, discuss and discover food, maintains Druckerman, these tiny connoisseurs  se tenir tranquille dans le restuarant.

Other out-takes of French parenting from the book include:

‘Le Regarde’ – ie glaring at your kid menacingly until they oblige (surprisingly effective but hard to pull off in Waitrose)

‘Adult Time’ – described as ‘a basic human right’ – essentially the opposite of attachment parenting and frequently exemplified through Mummy reading Grazia in the playground.

‘Le Pause’ – getting babies sleeping through the night by letting them settle themselves, rather than pouncing on the crib every time one hears a snuffle through the baby monitor.

Obvious downsides: finding intellectual ways to describe the taste of carrots to your child on a daily basis…

(from £3.49 at Amazon)

By contrast, ‘Baby Led Weaning’ by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett advocates much more of a liberal approach. Give them anything and everything, regardless of age, teeth, size or texture – and to hell with cutlery!

Here there is a similar logic to Druckerman’s – exposing babies to a variety of ‘adult’ foods ignites their natural curiousity and thus hones less fussy eaters.

But whilst the French children are encouraged to eat tidilly and finish their courses, BLW suggests food is fun:  ‘the more the messier’; a little bit of everything and it’s just as good to mush it in your hair as to taste it.

Out-takes from this title:

‘Dippers’ – or using food as its own cutlery (scooping up hummus with pitta bread or yoghurt with toast, for example)

‘Family Meal Times’ – with BLW Rapley stresses that there is no need to cater separately for your offspring. Simply serve them the same what you are serving everyone else, minus the G&T aperitif…

‘Chunks’ – teeth or no teeth, Rapley says there is no need to puree food. She suggests letting the little ones gurn away on a lamp chop or vampirically suck the living fibre out of a slice of melon.

Obvious down sides: unless you have a maid or a lackadaisical approach to food hygeine standards, this one is going to result in a good deal of baby led cleaning…

(from £5.99 at Amazon)