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Childcare issue New year, new you! Health & Education

For Families with young children aged 0 - 12 in Bedfordshire

Editor’s Welcome


Hello and welcome to the new year!


I hope it’s a great one for you and your families. In our January-February issue we’re looking at childcare, from nannies to nurseries and everything in between. We also have a brilliant competition for you to enter to win tickets to the annual Milton Keynes Model Railway Exhibition in February and lots of ideas about where to go during the winter months.


News & Info News & Competitions


Clubs & classes


nursery feature


What’s On


child care

12 -13

Health & Fitness

14 - 15



book reviews

We’ve got plenty of health, education and clubs and classes news for you as well to the start the year with a bang! Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2016. Judith P.S. Our March-April issue will include lots of Easter what’s on activities and a fantastic competition to enter. Copy deadline: Friday 5 February. Congratulations to our Stables competition winners who were J Smart and J Barber. The Frost Fair competition winners were A Thomas, R Mickey, K Oliver, J Barber, K Coad, J Tillin, A, L Thomas, V Yarrow, K Needham.

Editor: Judith Dow Mob: 07889 894431 or phone: 01727 373929. Twitter: @FamiliesBeds

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Photo Credits Front cover: © Shutterstock ( pg 3 © Ben Hall ( pg 9 © Robert Kneschke - Families Bedfordshire is printed by The Manson Group (01727 848440) on paper sourced from sustainable forests and the inks used are vegetable based. Distribution: we are printing 15,000 copies which will be distributed to selected points in Bedfordshire. For further distribution information please contact the Editor (

Award-winning tuition Maths & English ages 5 -14

New skills Confidence Enthusiasm

Free trial session - book today! Bedford

01234 365 905


01582 742 979

Milton Keynes Central

01908 394 912

Milton Keynes Kingston

01908 776 682


Families Bedfordshire is part of Families Magazines Ltd a franchise company. All franchised magazines in the group are independently owned and operated under licence. Families ® is a registered trademark of Families Magazines Ltd, Temple House, Regatta Place, Marlow Road, Bourne End, Bucks SL8 5TD. The contents of Families Bedfordshire are fully protected by copyright and none of the editorial or photographic matter may be reproduced in any form without prior consent of the publisher. We take every care preparing this magazine but the publishers and distributors cannot be held responsible for the claims of advertisers nor for the accuracy of the contents nor for any consequence.

January/February 2016

NEWS & INFO Get twitching this winter! There are three great ways to get into birds this winter. First is the RSPB’s Big Schools’ Birdwatch – the biggest survey of wildlife in schools – from 4 January- 12 February 2016. A record breaking 90,000 pupils and teachers took part in the survey last year by counting the feathered friends that visit their grounds. The survey helps to track numbers of birds in school grounds, providing an insight into which species are doing well or not so well and inspiring children about nature. More than 70 different species have been recorded in school grounds, ranging from starlings and house sparrows, to kestrels and even little egrets. While more than half a million people are expected to watch and count their garden birds for this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch ( which runs from 30 - 31 January 2016. Since it began it has provided valuable information about the changes in numbers of birds using our gardens in winter. Finally, the Big Birdhouse Tour in association with the RSPB, featuring brillantly designed birdhouses, arrives in Milton Keynes intu centre from Sunday 3-Saturday 30 January! More info:

Take the Marston Vale Line (Bedford – Bletchley) to Milton Keynes Model Rail Exhibition 2016!



a R Grea ail Tic ve kets t rate 1/3 o s for fa of 3- ff for gro milies! 9 u half- adults, ps Saturday 13 February: 10 – 4:30 pm kids price 5s g , under o fre Stantonbury Leisure Centre, Stantonbury Arts e! & Leisure, Stantonbury, Milton Keynes Free vintage shuttle bus from Milton Keynes Central Station! Discounts on admission for Marston Vale Line passengers! Adults: £6 (£5.50 with valid rail ticket); Children: £3.50 (£3.00 with valid rail ticket); Families: 2 adults + 3 children £11 (£10.00 with valid rail ticket). Call 01494 773759 for further information or visit

For further information please contact: Stephen Sleight Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership Tel: 01234 832645 E-mail: Visit our award winning website!

Find us on Facebook! marstonvalecrp Follow us on Twitter! @marstonvalecrp

The Philharmonia orchestra season continues at Bedford Corn Exchange The Philharmonia, (, one of the world’s great orchestras, continues with its 21st season and residency at Bedford’s Corn Exchange. Across the season, the Orchestra will travel over 500 miles to and from Bedford, play 23 pieces by 15 composers which totals over 1,000,000 notes. From January until the season finale in May there will be five performances in Bedford. These include The Philharmonia’s Principal Flute, Samuel Coles performing alongside ‘Queen of Harps’ Catrin Finch, playing Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp on Friday 15 January. Plus, the symphony that Brahms famously took years to write, his first, but once completed was likened to that of Beethoven in its grandiosity will be performed on Wednesday 16 March. While on a different note, Carl Davis will conduct the orchestra as part of the Philharmonia at the Movies series at an evening entitled Charlie Chaplin on Screen on Friday 8 April. Combining Chaplin and Davis' own music with a showing of Chaplin's films this is a treat for eyes and ears alike! For more information and to book tickets:

Get bendy this January! If you're looking for something new to do this January with your baby or young child then the small team at Tatty Bumpkin in Bedford may be able to help. They love taking little ones on adventures that encourage them to use their imaginations and learn what their bodies can do. The Bedford based classes are aimed at youngsters aged from 6 weeks to 7 years old; and the yoga inspired movements, stories and music, aid their development and build confidence. Hayley Simpson, the owner of Tatty Bumpkin Bedford has been running classes in Bedford and the surrounding area for nearly three years now. She found out about Tatty Bumpkin when she took her own baby to classes and could really see the benefits for both of them. Her baby was happy and curious during the class and they both loved relaxing together at the end. Hayley said: “We have had the pleasure of teaching hundreds of children in schools, nurseries and private classes. Plus, they're all aligned to the Early Years curriculum as well!” Hayley will be offering classes in Tavistock Community Centre, Olney Youth Club and Rogan's Books in Bedford in the new year. Contact her on 07592 660885 or for dates and to book. To advertise: 01727 373929

January/February 2016


NEWS & INFO Brain Tumour Research are hoping to reach 100,000 signatures by Wednesday 3 February on the lack of funding for brain tumour research to be considered for debate in Parliament. With over 35,000 signatories reached at the time of going to press, there is still some way to go. To find out more and sign the petition online go to:

Test your knowledge of 20mph speed limits Start the new year as you mean to go on by testing your knowledge of 20mph speed limits and their benefits with a new online “GO20” quiz ( from road safety charity Brake. It's designed to promote the benefits of 20mph limits, and to raise awareness about the importance of people in cars slowing down around homes, schools and shops to protect more vulnerable road users. Brake’s recent research on 20mph limits demonstrates that reducing limits from 30 to 20mph has been shown to reduce casualties because drivers have more time to react to unexpected events and emergencies. At 30mph, if a child runs out three car lengths ahead, you will hit the child at almost full speed, with a high chance of killing or injuring them. At 20mph you should be able to stop in time. Children also benefit from slower speed limits because they struggle to judge the speed of vehicles over 20mph, so often make mistakes crossing roads with faster traffic. Gary Rae, director of communications and campaigns at Brake said: “Reducing speed limits from 30 to 20mph where we live, work and play protects the most vulnerable – children, older people, disabled people and anyone on bicycle or on foot.”

Should you share a holiday with another family?

Get decorating! Now these look fun. Decorate your fridge or your friends with a selection of 43 magnets and turn it into an exciting London metropolis! FridgeScapes London, by Robert Samuel Hanson and published by Laurence King, will be available from the end of February at all good book and gift shops, price £12.99.

if there are disputes between the children. Spend a day together in the run-up to the holiday and have the children on a sleep-over to iron out problems before you go.

Set the rules Make some ground rules. Set a budget and decide how you are going to share the price of the house and shopping once you are away. It’s best to share everything equally (easy if your families are the same size, otherwise work it out proportionately). Talk this all through before you go, as the last thing you want is an argument at the supemarket check-out!

Doing the housework The chores will also have to be shared equally, so that nobody has to do all the cooking or all the washing up. Take it in turns and eat out a couple of times so that you all get a break.

Us-time By Sally J Hall It seems like a great idea when you and a friend are daydreaming about your next holiday and it turns out you both want to hire a cottage in Cornwall. If you want to go away with both your families and share the costs of the holiday, read our tips to make this a holiday to remember – not a nightmare.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing… How well do you know the other family? Are there areas of their life you find difficult to cope with? If you’re a neat freak and they are the kind to ignore mould on the milk bottle – or the other way around – you’re probably not going to get along with each others’ standards of housekeeping. Do you know what their politics are? And do your children get along?

All good friends Your partners also need to get on and you need to be friends as a foursome. The grown-ups need to be united


January/February 2016

As there are other grown-ups with you, this would be an ideal opportunity to have some time alone with your partner. Take it in turns to look after all the children, so that each couple has some personal space.

A room of one’s own Make sure there’s room for you all to have some personal space. Even the best of friends can end up getting on each others’ nerves at times. Letting the kids sleep in the same room may backfire too, as they will be so excited that they may not get to sleep before the small hours. So while there may be some things to consider before you embark on a holiday with friends, there are many advantages. You can afford somewhere much nicer than you might otherwise have done, you can share chores and babysitting and you can forge lifelong friendships between both the adults and the children. With a little forethought, this will truly be a holiday to remember!


New writing competition The Harpur Trust ( has joined forces with the John Bunyan Museum ( to launch a major writing competition for children as part of the Harpur’s 450th anniversary celebrations which takes place this year. Entry forms will be available via local schools, online (see above) or via the John Bunyan Museum shop, Waterstone’s and Rogan’s Book shops in Bedford. It launches on Monday 22 February and will be open to children living in Bedford Borough within four age categories, namely 5-9 years; 10-14 years; 14-16 years and 16-18 years. There will be 12 prizes in total with a first, second and third prize for each of the categories. The theme of the competition is ‘Recording Bedfordians’ and entrants will be asked to write a 500 word newspaper report based on a Bedford resident past or present, factual or fictional. There will also be special commendation prizes for the most imaginative reports which feature John Bunyan or Sir William Harpur. All prize winners will get to see their work in print, and they will feature in a special celebration evening at the Quarry Theatre, St Luke’s during the Autumn. The closing date is Wednesday 1 June and the winners will be announced on Tuesday 5 July 2016.

Do you want to make new friends? Do you enjoy having fun & playing games? Are you aged 5 to 18?

Join the adventure... Local groups in Bedfordshire & Milton Keynes

Or call 01525 720506


Win a Family ticket to the Milton Keynes Model Railway Exhibition!

TV presenter Andy Day launches his first album for children Cbeebies star, Andy Day has launched his first album of children’s songs entitled ‘Who Invited this Lot’. It’s performed by Andy and his band, ‘Andy and the Odd Socks’ and it’s full of funny songs for families. Each song is a mini-story featuring children’s favourite characters from ‘Battle Robot Rapper’ to the ‘Dinosaur Football Legend Mega Match’ which has become a particular favourite of my football mad eight year-old son. Guest vocalists include Andy’s TV co-stars Katy Ashworth and Sid Sloane as well as children from Hotwells Primary School in Bristol. Andy says: “We wanted to write something that would not only make kids laugh out loud but also engage them creatively whilst having something in there for the grown-ups too. Our music is aimed at the whole family; we are a variety show for the ears!”

Families Bedfordshire magazine has three Family tickets to give away to this year's Milton Keynes Model Railway Exhibition (www.mkmrs. which will be held in Stantonbury Leisure Centre, Stantonbury Arts & Leisure, Stantonbury, Milton Keynes, MK14 6BN on Saturday 13 February from 10-4.30pm. This year, there will be a free vintage shuttle bus service in operation to the venue from Milton Keynes Central station. Change at Bletchley station on the Marston Vale Line (celebrating its 170th anniversary in 2016!) for frequent connecting trains to Milton Keynes Central. There are lots of great days out available for Marston Vale train line users throughout the year. Plus, if you do travel by train to the Model Railway Exhibition then discounts are available on entry tickets. For your chance to win a Family ticket, simply answer the following question correctly. Which anniversary will the Marston Vale Line be celebrating in 2016? a) 100th b) 170th c) 200th Enter online by Monday 1 February 2016 at:

For more info and to buy the album visit To advertise: 01727 373929

January/February 2016


Clubs & classes

Dancing Feet By Sally J. Hall Ah, the ballet. All those gorgeous costumes, perfect turn-outs, buns and the sublime music. Who hasn’t dreamed of being a Prima Ballerina when wafting around our bedroom in a synthetic net tutu? And if you actually went as far as learning to dance when you were younger, you might be keen to instil this love of dance in your child – even if you gave up when you weren’t allowed to tie your shoe ribbons up to your knee. How can you find out what kind of class is best for your child, whether they are a boy or a girl? Read on to find the perfect dance space for your baby.

Tiny dancer When your child is very young – say, under five – shuffling around on tip toe while wafting their hands or pretending to be a tiger is about as much as you can ask for. Look for a class that teaches very young children together, not mixed in with older age groups when they will probably be ignored or will be disruptive. A class where there’s an emphasis on having fun and doing different dancing games each time will keep them keen and entertained – and going back each week. Expect to have to stay for these classes and possibly join in, too.

Starting to get more serious If your child makes it past the age of five or six and still wants to go to class, it may be time to start looking at a proper training class where they can take grades or get involved with productions. The choice for ballet is the Royal Academy of Dance ( syllabus or for modern dance there’s the Imperial Society Modern Theatre & Tap Dance ( course. If they are still keen but aren’t motivated by grades, find a class that keeps their attention and won’t get boring. Street and jazz dance are great for this as they will learn new routines all the time. They can also try out holiday classes where they might spend a week doing different activities – this gives them a great grounding in what they might be best at. All-round schools are also options where they learn to sing, act and dance.


January/February 2016

Royal Ballet Associates training If your child has been taking ballet grades and is seriously thinking about a career in dance, the Royal Ballet runs classes to prepare them for this move. The Associates Programme trains children aged eight to 15 in conjunction with their usual classes (

Boys' Ballet Dance is not just for girls and though your son may have to cope with teasing if he intends to dance and carry on dancing, there are plenty of roles for ballet, jazz and modern dancers in all areas – the stage, TV and touring groups. There’s also a Boys’ Ballet school in London ( that teaches the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus.

What’s available? If you’re not sure what all these styles entail, it’s best to take your child along to have a look or try a taster session. One style may resonate. And if they get older and hang up their ballet shoes, why not encourage them to move on to a funkier style rather than give up dancing altogether? •



Ballet and Tap

Modern Dance and Tap


Hip Hop


Break Dance

Street Dance

Commercial Dance (a blend of Street and Hip Hop)

Sally J. Hall is a writer and editor who has written for all the main parenting titles as well as The Independent and The Mail. She is author of Eco Baby and contributing author to Watch My Baby Grow (Dorling Kindersley).

Clubs & classes ®

The adventure begins here

Yoga inspired classes/parties

As part of its new recruitment campaign Growing Bigger, Growing Better, The Boys' Brigade, has called on children aged 5-18 years to join the adventure at groups across Bedfordshire. For 130 years, The Boys' Brigade has reached out to millions of children and young people across the globe. Today the organisation is passionate about building bridges into local communities and engaging children and young people by means of weekly groups, residentials, special events, community involvement and training programmes including Duke of Edinburgh's Award. The Boys' Brigade offers an experience of life beyond what is possible in school or at home. They believe that by engaging in exciting activities, making new friends, having fun and finding out about faith, children and young people can discover and develop their potential. Activities are all led by thousands of trained volunteers who are committed to providing a safe and supportive environment. Local Boys Brigade leader Alasdair MacFarlane said “We offer a variety of activities and opportunities to children that they don’t get elsewhere.” whilst Matthew aged 8, said “ Boys’ Brigade is fun, I love the sleepovers, the stories and getting badges” The West Anglia Battalion is made up of 13 local groups known as Companies across Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes. Each Company is different and may operate up to 4 different age groups including Anchor Section for 5-8 year olds; the Junior Section for 8-11 year olds; the Company Section for 11-15 year olds and the Senior Section for those over age 15. For more info on local groups see: or tel: 01525 720506.

Fun classes to encourage movement, enhance development and inspire confidence in your baby and child 0-7 years Enhance Creativity, Improve Concentration Develop Communication, Increase Strength

07592 660885 • 0845 4506103

Inspiring tuition– free trial session! Explore Learning centres provide maths and English tuition for 5 to 14 year olds of all abilities. The centres in Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes are open 7 days a week, meaning Explore can fit into busy family life. As Explore members, children work with tutors who are great educational role models, enthusiastic about learning and fantastic motivators. Each child has an individualised learning programme, and all Explore courses map to the National Curriculum in England and the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. Find out how your child can benefit from Explore Learning membership today. Book your free trial at

Kids' activities and swimming courses on offer Pop down to your local leisure centre this February half-term to keep the kids entertained. Hougton Regis will be holding swimming crash courses and running children’s activity sessions from Monday 15 February until Friday 19 February. A crash course in swimming will offer non swimmers, beginners and stage 1, 2 and the 3 the chance to practice their skills. The cost is £30 for five sessions. Or you can try an activity session by choosing from basketball, football, table tennis, quick cricket, trampolining, a bouncy castle and fun and games. Two hour sessions cost £2 and run from 10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm, More info tel 01582 866141 or drop into see them.


at Houghton Regis Leisure Centre Lessons from 1 year+ to Adults Parkside Drive, Houghton Regis, Beds LU5 5PY, 01582 866 141 Find us online




This facility is managed in Partnership with

To advertise: 01727 373929

January/February 2016


nursery feature

What you need to know when choosing a nursery Many mums return to work after their maternity leave finishes and choose to leave their baby in a nursery. Even if you are a stay-at-home mum or dad, it’s likely that when your child is between the ages of two and three years old you will want her to start at a playgroup or nursery school – for both her benefit and yours. But how do you choose the right nursery for your baby? You can usually get a list of local nurseries and playgroups from your local council, from your health visitor, local library, GP surgery or on the internet. Speak with other mums about the nursery or playgroup you are most interested in, and go along and spend a morning at each group, together with your child. Gut instinct can be invaluable in these situations. 10 things to consider when choosing a nursery: 1. Are you and your child made to feel welcome and introduced to the nursery staff, helpers and perhaps to other children? Are you allowed to stay and watch at a time to suit you – not them? 2. Check out the space itself. The room may be a bleak church hall but have the staff made it look lively and interesting? 3. Does the nursery seem too crowded? Numbers are controlled by local authority regulations, and insurance policies, but some playgroups squeeze in extra children. 4. Is there somewhere for outdoors play on fine days? Are there books in a quiet corner where children can go and sit? Is there an interactive area, such as a nature table? 5. Check out the toys, equipment and art materials on offer. Are the same toys put out in the same area every day? (this is why it’s a good idea to visit more than once on random, different days) 6. Are there varied activities on offer (painting, sandpits, water play areas, Wendy house, play dough, building bricks, puzzles, a dressing up box). Are these accessible all the time? 7. Do the children look excited and interested in the toys available? 8. Does the climbing equipment look well-maintained and is there a soft landing area?


January/February 2016

9. What about the staff? Are they listening and talking to the children? Are they calmly in control? Do they seem to be caring with the children? Do they notice aggressive or painfully shy children and get them to join in constructively? Do they spend more time chatting with each other than with the children? 10. Talk to the staff to find out their views on discipline, dealing with anxious children and free and structured play to see if their ideas are the same as yours. The ideal atmosphere at a nursery group should be busy and buzzing, but never out of control. Noisy children racing around or charging up and down on bikes and cars shows a clear lack of organisation. Another point to consider is whether boys and girls at the nursery are treated equally. Do boys get encouraged to do quiet, creative activities or do they run about in gangs and spend a lot of time on sit-on cars and toys? Are girls encouraged to do physical play and large toy activities? Do boys and girls play together? Both boys and girls need physical, energetic play, construction play and quite creative periods with adult attention. Try to visit a group while a singing or story time session is going on. Singing sessions should always be varied and fun with lots of action rhymes and percussion and have all the children enthusiastically joining in. Story time should also be something the children particularly enjoy. The story teller should be able to hold the children’s attention. Story time should not be used as an opportunity for helpers to take the children to the toilet or tidy up. If you like a particular nursery or playgroup, but feel they fall down in one or two areas, then speak with the supervisor. They may welcome your suggestions and be able to make changes to suit you and your child. If they don’t, then move on and find one that’s more in line with your requirements. Emma’s Diary is the UK’s most trusted and influential pregnancy and baby channel. Working in partnership with The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) for more than 23 years, they provide parents-to-be and new parents with the very best medical and practical information. Visit

nursery feature

BM_LS_Ad_57x78mm_Layout 1 03/02/2012 14:55

Children achieve good levels of development through nurseries A report by the Early Years Foundation has revealed that more and more children are achieving a good level of development when they enter infant school, thanks to the care and skills they learn at nursery. They say the gap between girls and boys is getting narrower and also that the gap between disadvantaged children and their peer group is narrowing, though not by as much as would be desirable.

l 3 months to five years l Open from 07:30am to 18:30pm 51 weeks of the year l Secure, rural location l Vouchers accepted & funding available

Chief executive of the National Day Nursery Association, Purnima Tanuku OBE, said: “These latest results show the great work that our sector is achieving, despite all the challenges they are facing with regards to funding shortfalls and difficulties with recruitment. “The gap between the least and most advantaged children is slowly narrowing, more needs to be done to improve this situation. These results show the importance of sufficient funding for nursery places for eligible two-year-olds, which must be of high quality to make a difference to their life chances. “With the impending doubling of funded childcare hours for three and four-year-olds, this documented progress must not be stalled by limits on funding reducing the quality of the early years education being received in private, voluntary and independent nurseries.”

Two professional nursery owners offer their own tips on what parents should look for when choosing a nursery.

Helen Harper, owner, Harpers Nursery School, Blunham 1) Are the staff talking too and interacting with children of all ages? 2) Are children confident, secure and can you see that clear attachments to staff are in place? 3) Ask staff how long they have worked at the nursery as this is a good indication of a nursery that values its staff as the best resource.

“when I finish my lunch I am a full moon”

Banana Moon Day Nursery Manor Farm Court, Lower Sundon, Bedfordshire LU3 3NZ

Tel: 01525 874114

Harpers Baby Unit, Nursery and Forest School BLUNHAM 'A Unique Learning Experience' Limited places now available for children under 2 years old Caring and secure homely environment

4) Look at the environment. Is it inviting, interesting and does it offer children of all ages challenges?

Ofsted rated 'Outstanding' in all areas (Sept 2015)

5) Look at the latest Ofsted report. The inspection framework changed on 1 September 2015 so any inspections carried out before this date will not have been inspected under the new Common Inspection Framework. You should be aware of this as the new criteria is considerably higher than the previous one.

Open 7.30am - 6pm Monday to Friday (50 wks of the year)

6) Finally, generally use your own instincts and go with your gut feeling.

Susie Glenister, owner of Banana Moon Day Nursery, Lower Sundon, Luton “As a parent, choosing a place for my children to thrive in when I was at work ultimately came down to instinct: about the rooms I walked into, the adults who would care for them, the food they would eat, and the amount of fresh air they would get. “I wanted to go to work and pretty much forget about my children, because I knew they'd be safe, stimulated and nurtured personally. With childcare costs rising, having faith in who is taking care of your child is more important than ever. As a parent, your instincts will help you choose the best place for your child to learn and grow in.”

Teaching and learning for children aged 6wks to 5yrs Forest Rangers 'amazing teaching experiences' for children during school holidays aged 5-8yrs Highly qualified and experienced staff Set within acres of countryside Curiosity and challenges for children of all ages Tel: 01767 641499

To advertise: 01727 373929

January/February 2016


WHAT’S ON Please always phone before setting out in case details have changed since press deadline or if we got it wrong. Please send events to be listed to: editor@

January January Beauty and the Beast Monday 7-9 January, 14-16 January & 21-23 January 2016 Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard Box office tel: 0300 300 8125 Jack & The Beanstalk Saturday 9 January, 11am & 3.30pm; Sunday 10 January 12pm & 5pm; Wednesday 13 January, 7 pm; and Saturday 16 January, 11 am & 3.30pm. The Riverside Theatre, Venue 360, Gypsy Lane, Luton, LU1 3JH Box Office: 07906 075455 or book online British Wildlife Photograhy Awards 2015 Saturday 16 January-Sunday 20 March Stockwood Discovery Centre, London Road, Luton Stunning photograhy exhibition taken from around Britain. Free. More info: Open Morning at John Bunyan Museum Saturday 23 January, 10.30 am John Bunyan Museum, Mill Street, Bedford Open morning for anyone interested in volunteering at the Museum. They need volunteers to help welcome visitors and to keep the museum open. They are also looking for people with skills and experience in working with schools, leading group tours, marketing, admin, or an interest in working with the collections. For more info: museum Family Fun Time: Oh help! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo Saturday 23 January, 11 – 11.45am, Luton Central Library Saturday 23 January, 2.15 – 3pm, Stopsley Library Saturday 30 January, 11 – 11.45am, Leagrave Library


January/February 2016

Saturday 30 January, 2.153pm, Marsh Farm Library It’s party time in the deep dark wood, the librarian read the story aloud, and it sounded good. Children aged 3+ and their families. Free. Donations welcome. More info: Anchor Boys are Go! Thursday 28 January, 6.15pm - 7.30pm Flitwick Methodist Church, Chapel Road, Flitwick Flitwick Boys Brigade are relaunching their youngest section for boys aged 5 -8. Come along and join in the fun. For more details email: or call 01525 720506. Alice in Wonderland: High Sunday 31 January, 2pm & 6.30pm Grove Theatre, Grove Park, Court Drive, Dunstable Community performance by On Pointe Dance Academy and The Performing Arts Depot. Students aged 3-18 years old will be performing.

February Aliens Love Dinopants Saturday 6 February Luton Central Library, 11-11.45am Stopsley Library, 2.15-3pm Aimed at children aged 3+ and their families. More info: Gifts for all occasions craft fair #4 Sunday 7 February, 11am3pm The Weatherley Centre, Eagle Farm, Biggleswade Free entry, over 60 stalls, raffle and special appearance from Captain America Minion. All proceeds in aid of St Trizah school, Kenya. More info Gangsta Granny Tuesday 9-Saturday 13 February Milton Keynes Theatre, 500 Marlborough Gate, Milton Keynes The world premiere of Gangsta Granny based on the story by David Walliams. More info: milton-keynes-theatre/

Tortoise & the Hare Friday 12 February, 12pm, 2pm & 4pm Grove Theatre, Grove Park, Court Drive, Dunstable Northern Ballet bring their magic to the Tortoise & the Hare. Suitable for ages 3+. Model Railway Exhibition Saturday 13 February, 10am4.30pm Stantonbury Leisure Centre, Stantonbury Arts & Leisure, Stantonbury, Milton Keynes. More than 30 traders, modelling demonstrations, a miniature ride-on railway, free parking, free vintage bus from MK Central railway station, something for everyone from novices to experienced modellers. A great family day out! More info: www. or


Enter the Monkey with Vincent the Vain Saturday 13 February, 1111.45am, Leagrave Library Saturday 13 February, 2.153pm, Marsh Farm Library Saturday 20 February, Luton Central Library, 11-11.45am Saturday 20 February, 2.153pm, Stopsley Library Aimed at children aged 3+ and their families. More info: Awesome Archaeology Monday 15-Friday 19 February Wrest Park, Silsoe Discover hidden treasures and fantastic finds as you excavate the secrets of Wrest Park. visit/places/wrest-park/ John Bunyan Museum reopens Tuesday 16 February, 11am4pm John Bunyan Museum, Mill Street, Bedford. The Museum reopens and there will be the normal trails around the Museum including the Pattern Tracker. The Museum is open Tuesday to Saturdays. Free admission. More info museum/ Musical Maestros Monday 15 February – Wednesday 17 February, 10.30am-3.30am. Grove

Theatre, Grove Park, Court Drive, Dunstable Half-term workshops for 7-12 year olds. Learn songs, dialogue and dances from a well-known musical. More info: The Good Dinosaur (film) Tuesday 16 February, Wednesday 17 February, 2pm (relaxed screening) & Thursday 18 February, 2pm Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard More info:


Meet the Player Thursday 18 February, 3.30pm Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre, Ridgmont Come and meet Daniel Powell from MK Dons for an autograph signing session! More info and www.marstonvalecommunityrail or call 01234 832645,

Heritage Centre open specially from 2-4pm. Heritage Centre closed until Easter except for pre-booked parties. Tea Room open daily except Mondays & Bank Holidays. Closed Sundays until 4 March. Booking recommended. Call 01525 287120. The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark Friday 19 February, 11.30am & 2.30pm Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard Blunderbus Theatre’s production based on the children’s classic by Jill Tomlinson aimed at children aged 3-7. More info:


Stunt Fest Saturday 20 February, 10.30am-6pm Santa Pod Raceway, Airfield Road, Podington, Wellingborough, Northants An afternoon of awesome stunts and displays for all the family, featuring some of the top UK stunt drivers and riders. More info tel: 01234 782828 or

child care

Hello nanny! Liane Herbert is a former international nanny and maternity nanny, having worked for several high-profile families in the UK, New York, Russia, Brazil, and various European countries. Now a mother, to a sixmonth old baby boy, she runs Hello Nannies, a bespoke Bedfordshire based nanny service for both UK and international clients. As the name suggests, Liane offers a secure, tailored service for parents looking for their next nanny and she will help guide you through the whole hiring process. Similarly, Hello Nannies also offers fantastic employment opportunities for nannies who may be looking for their next role. To find out more, contact Liane to discuss further on

Hello Nannies are a local nanny agency specialising in the placement of professional nannies, and household staff, throughout Beds and Bucks. Contact us today to find the perfect nanny for your family. 02036 672745 or e:

02036 672745 / 07507 869478 email: or

A good night’s A good night’s sleep makes for sleep makes for a happy family a happy family

Family Sleep Consultant

I offer support and guidance Family Sleep Consultant to parents. Sharing 25 years I offer support and guidance of experience, I can help with: to parents. Sharing 25 years ofImproving experience, can help with: ♥ healthy I sleep habits ♥ Dummy dependency ♥ Routine establishment ♥ Improving healthy sleep habits ♥ solutions ♥ Gentle Routinesleep establishment ♥ Gentle Settlingsleep solutions ♥ ♥ Settling Reflux ♥

Bedfordshire Baby and Toddler show returns!

♥ Dummy Early waking ♥ dependency ♥ Early Feeding ♥ waking ♥ Feeding Overnight care ♥ ♥ Overnight care

♥ Reflux

Here's a date for the diary. The Bedfordshire Baby and Toddler Show is coming to the Bedford International Athletic Stadium on Sunday 24 April for the second year in a row. The Show is the biggest and best parenting event in the county with many different companies all under one roof (including Families Bedfordshire magazine!), to celebrate everything pregnancy to pre-school. With great shopping, a fantastic demonstration programme, activities, refreshments and fun filled family entertainment there will be something for everyone! More info:

Please call Diane 07807 006 167 Please call Diane 07807 006 167

Email Family sleep consultant infofamilysleep Email Family sleep consultant

family sleep consultant_flyer April 2015.indd 1

infofamilysleep 20/04/2015

family sleep consultant_flyer April 2015.indd 1


20/04/2015 14:37

Is your family getting enough sleep? asks the Family Sleep Consultant Diane Pawsey Bringing your newborn home is an exciting time, filled with joy and happiness. Undoubtedly you may have some concerns, one being how to settle your baby to sleep during the day or night. Without good quality sleep as adults, we very quickly feel the effects of sleep deprivation, such as exhaustion, poor judgement, ill health and the feeling of not being able to cope. Sleep is also essential for a baby's cognitive and physical development. Without the right amount of rest, your baby may become irritable, fretful and difficult to feed. As a result, family relationships can become frayed, which adds even more stress to the situation.

'A good nights sleep makes for a happy family' Sleep problems can arise for many reasons. They could be due to poor health or bad sleep associations - or simply because your child has never learnt how to self-settle. Thankfully, there are many resources out there to help new parents find a sleep plan that may work for them. The downside is, after many hours of research, you are on your own. You will still be tired, and probably won’t be feeling confident about implementing the new routine. Feeling uncomfortable with the chosen technique often leads to parents not being consistent, which will lead to failure. All children are unique, so the sleep training technique that you use to teach your child to self-settle, and learn to love sleep, needs to be tailored. All caregivers need to be on the same page, or your child will become confused. Sleep training isn't a quick fix, so you need to be in it for the long haul if needs be – and you will need to support each other through the tough times. It is a challenge, but it's worth it!

Four proven tips to establishing good sleeping patterns: 1. Keep it calm Bedtime should be calm, lasting no more than half an hour. Toys in the cot or bed should be kept to a minimum. 2. Provide a good sleeping environment Use low lighting (with a blackout blind in summer) and maintain the correct room temperature between 16-20. 3. Learn your baby’s sleep signals These could include losing interest in toys & people, yawning, rubbing eyes or playing with their ears. Putting your baby to sleep when they are tired and ready to sleep just makes sense – knowing their sleep signals is key to achieving this. 4. Implement a good feeding and nap routine during the day Do not fall into the trap of thinking that less sleep in the day will lead to your baby sleeping more at night. This is a myth – the opposite is in fact true! Diane Pawsey has over 24 years’ experience working with children and their families and, as the Family Sleep Consultant, she specialises in helping them to establish healthy sleeping habits. For more information, contact Diane on 07807 006167 or visit To advertise: 01727 373929

January/February 2016


Health & Fitness

New year, new you!

Quick bursts

How to start a new exercise regime when you’re a busy mum By Sally J. Hall As soon as Christmas Day is over, holiday and weight loss advertisements start to appear on the television. Research shows that most people start a new exercise regime in January, with a huge boost in gym memberships around that time. There’s something motivational in having a whole new year to look ahead to and many of us start of with great new resolutions.

Three of the best post-baby fitness DVDs Baby2body Pre and Postnatal Workout DVD £15.99 Melinda Nicci Best for: those who are quite serious about their fitness routine Two workouts that take 45 minutes – one for pregnancy, one for afterwards. There’s a warm up section, a cardiovascular work out and toning and floor exercises. You’ll need some hand weights.

When you’re a busy mum, when are you going to find the time for a fitness regime? Don’t despair, we have a few great ideas.

My Pre & Post Natal Workouts £34.99 Davina McCall

Preparation is key

In this DVD, Davina and her personal trainer show you how to do a workout in two sections for before and after you have your baby.

Before you start any kind of exercise routine, check with your doctor (or midwife if you’re pregnant) that it’s OK. Always start with stretches to warm your muscles and don’t overdo anything. If you start to hurt, stop. Start with a short routine and increase the time and intensity of your work-out.

Let’s swap Suggest a swap with your partner or a friend. They have the kids while you go to the gym, for a swim, for a long walk in the woods – then do the same for them another day.

Do what you like Choose an activity you enjoy. Try out a few different classes and then pick the one you like the most. Try to include something that gets your heart racing, something stretchy and something that involves weights.

Kids come too Take the kids with you. Go to a local park with scooters and bikes and baby in a pushchair and walk around the outside of the park.

Using baby Try some exercises at home. Pop in a DVD, do a few exercises and have your baby on a play mat next to you.


Use nap time for a quick burst – one of the hottest new fitness trends right now. Do push-ups, use small weights, do squats and a few yoga poses.

January/February 2016

Post Natal Pilates £9.99 Caroline Sandry This DVD offers exercises designed to be used from right after birth. Stage one works on the pelvis and abdomen. Stage two checks that those muscles are getting back to normal and then moves on to improving strength and tone. Dumbbells £5.05 Reebok Weighing from one to five kilos, these weights are ideal for banishing the bingo wings. Rowing Action Exerciser £12 Pineapple This can be used in a rowing motion to help tone your thighs, bottom, abdominal muscles and back. Pilates Stretch Bands £8.10 Calmia Use this oversized stretch bands to give you resistance to help tighten abdominals, tone your arms and back and shoulders and slim your legs and behind.

Health & Fitness MS Stars Saturday Club starts Weekly exercise sessions designed to help lessen the impact of MS and other neurological conditions are being held from Saturday 9 January, 3.30pm - 4.30pm at Lewsey Sports Park and Pool in Luton. On the first Saturday of every month the swimming sessions will take place at the same time at Lea Manor Recreation Centre, Northwell Drive, Luton, LU3 3TL.


For more info tel: 01582 604244 or email

£21.99 per month

New tinnitus support group for Bedford A new group to support the estimated 12,000 local people with tinnitus has been formed in Bedford to create a supportive environment in which to share ideas and bring in guest speakers each month. Tinnitus is defined as the experience of sounds with no external source, most commonly ringing or buzzing, but sometimes experienced as whooshing, clicking or even music. Many people aren't troubled by sounds they hear, but for around 10%, the condition has a significant impact on their quality of life, often linked to stress, anxiety or sometimes depression. Contact organiser Salmah Hussain at email: bedstinnitus@outlook. com or on 07722 340065 for confirmed venue and meeting dates.

Fitness Membership includes: • • • • • •

No Contract Online Booking Unlimited Gym Unlimited Swimming Lifestyles Workout Classes Free Parking

Annual Membership s also availabl e

12 months for the priceof 11

This facility is managed in Partnership with

Houghton Regis Leisure Centre Parkside Drive, Houghton Regis, Beds LU5 5PY 01582 866 141 Find us online



How intolerances and allergies can make your child’s life a misery By Radhika Holmstrom


Everyone’s heard of an ‘allergic reaction’. But what does that actually mean? And what is the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?

It’s also important to know that a lot of people who think they’ve got an allergy actually have a food ‘intolerance’. They do get a reaction of some sort but not an allergic one. Intolerances are harder to identify and there are only a few reliable tests. But the good thing is that although they can be very nasty on the gut, with bloating and stomach cramps, they’re not actually life-threatening.

To start with, an ‘allergic reaction’ isn’t actually caused by the ‘allergen’. It’s caused by a person’s own immune system reacting to something which most people find completely harmless. Unfortunately, these defence chemicals also produce symptoms like inflammation and irritation. At the worst end of the spectrum there’s anaphylactic shock, with a rash, swelling in the throat – which can cut off the airways – and plummeting blood pressure.

Could it be my child – and what should I do? If your child’s showing an allergic-type reaction to particular foods, the sensible thing is to get them to the GP and then press for a referral to a consultant if you need to. If they do turn out to have a serious allergy, they’re likely to be prescribed an EpiPen, which injects adrenaline into the body to relax their airways and muscles so they can start breathing again (remember the EpiPen should be renewed regularly and you must get your child to the hospital as an emergency as soon as you have used it). But the main course of action from here on is just avoiding the allergen.

Once again, though, do talk to the GP and try to get a referral to a dietitian or similar – especially if you suspect that the problem lies with gluten because in fact the culprit may be coeliac disease.

Don’t DIY At their worst, allergies can be deadly – and at their mildest, both allergies and intolerances are pretty annoying. Nobody really wants to spend their time scrutinising lists of ingredients. If you do suspect your child has one, don’t try and diagnose it yourself, or with the help of a ‘kit’ from a company. Get the professionals on board to help work out what the problem is. You may well find it’s quite different from the one you suspected; and you may even find that your child doesn’t have an allergy or an intolerance at all. Radhika Holmstrom has a strong background in health journalism. She has also written for many consumer and specialist magazines. Whilst she focuses on health, parenting and learning issues, she has also written widely on environmental and ethical issues. She is a visiting lecturer at Middlesex University, lecturing to undergraduates and postgraduates on feature-writing.

To advertise: 01727 373929

January/February 2016



There’s more to school than lessons By Liat Hughes Joshi

Needs change over time

These days, education is about much more than what goes on in the classroom. Most schools – whether state or private – offer a range of extra-curricular and enrichment activities and these can be fun, educational, sociable, confidence-boosting or all of these. So how can you ensure your child capitalises on the opportunities on offer but still gets the balance right between work, rest and play?

Certainly most reception children are exhausted enough from school for the first term or so, without lengthening their day by adding extra activities. Keep things simple at this stage. Older primary children have a decent opportunity to learn a few different skills and enjoy classes, whereas once they start secondary, longer commutes, more homework and exam pressures might mean reining things in.

Choosing activities

Relaxation time is vital too

Follow your son or daughter’s lead when deciding which classes to sign up for – most kids have a strong feel for what appeals to them. That said, it’s also worth pointing them towards something you think they might benefit from, such as drama sessions for a shy child.

Watch out for activity overscheduling – quiet contemplation and scope to be creative and relax is just as important as that second musical instrument or third sport. If your child doesn’t have space to just play and chill out, consider cutting back.

Don’t force a square peg into a round hole It might be ‘daddy’s dream’ for your son to be the next Beckham but if your little boy hates the idea, it’s unwise to force him into the football club. Making children take up an activity that they really don’t feel good about, in the hope it’ll grow on them, can be counter-productive.

Encourage persistence Some of us have flighty children who get super-excited about an activity but within weeks, lose enthusiasm – unfortunately only once you’ve coughed up a whole term’s fees. Consider having a rule that your child does have to see the period you paid for out before they can give up – they might well change their mind back after a few weeks anyway!

How much is too much? There’s no set answer about how many activities are optimal – it varies for each child. Some will get more tired than others and find just one or two classes suffice, others embrace a packed schedule of karate to clarinet without losing energy.


January/February 2016

If your child is struggling: particularly if he or she finds their class work difficult, it might be worth putting additional effort into building skills at home or with a tutor. Talk to their teacher about what help they need to focus on. Perhaps they can suggest fun but educational games, or workbooks. Tutoring can be expensive and you need to check the tutor’s credentials (because anyone can set up and call themselves a tutor) but one-to-one attention can have a remarkable impact on learning. Try to search for local tutors. Taking things to the next level: if your child is coping well with all that school throws at them and they’ve found their passion – be it gymnastics or music – you could contact local clubs and associations to see how they can take their talent to the next level, with matches/ performances or extra training. Liat Hughes Joshi is a parenting journalist and the author of four books including 'New Old-fashioned Parenting' and 'How to Unplug Your Child' (both published by Summersdale) and Raising Children: The Primary Years (Pearson).

education Parents turn to grandparents to pay for private school fees With private schools fees averaging £15,675 a year and continuing to rise at above-inflation rates, new research from Investec Wealth & Investment has found that almost a fifth (19%) of parents rely, or plan to rely on, grandparents to help pay for private school fees for their children. According to the study, on average grandparents pay a third towards the cost of their grandchildren’s education but 19% of parents are fortunate enough to have the older generation pay over half the fees. Grandparents account for the third largest source of capital for parents looking to finance school fees behind their salary (63%) and savings/ investments (47%).

Key Stage 2 – a key time in your child’s education All parents want the very best for their child, but paying for private education from the age of 3 through to 18 is not within the budgets of most families. There are, however, compromises to be reached by entering the independent sector at different stages of a child’s educational journey.

A fresh start One such entry point is the start of Key Stage 2 (Years 3 and 4). At this age children are adaptable and young enough to start afresh, make new friends and to quickly benefit from the advantages private teaching can afford. Whilst the compulsory National Curriculum subjects – English, Maths, Science, Design & Technology, ICT, History, Geography, Art & Design, Music and PE - are the same for Key Stages 1 and 2, the subjects are studied at greater depth in Key Stage 2. At Polam School in Bedford, the curriculum includes weekly swimming lessons, additional languages and performing arts, with all children being taught a musical instrument.

Extra time to flourish At the end of Key Stage 1, during Year 2, some children will sit entrance exams to larger independent schools. However at the age of 7 not all children are ready socially, emotionally or academically to move on to larger transition schools. Polam’s small Year 3 and Year 4 classes provide an opportunity for children to increase their self-esteem and confidence. Most pupils at Polam make more progress in one year than the national average of two years, so the chance to be a big fish in a small pond for a while, may be all they need to help them flourish and move on confidently.

Grandparents’ largesse doesn’t stop with school fees, however; the research shows that 13% of parents whose children have gone to university or plan to do so have done so with financial help from the grandparents towards fees and living costs. As with school fees, grandparents rank third in sources of finance for university, after parents’ salaries (53%) and their savings/ investments (50%).

About Polam School Caring for children aged 12 months up to 9 years Polam School is open daily from 7.30am until 6pm term-time. The school also runs its own Holiday Club on site which is open 14 weeks of the year from 8am-6pm. For more information, to order a prospectus or to book a tour of the school please contact Admissions on 01234 264864 or email

Polam School Delivering Academic Excellence The majority of our pupils in Years 3 & 4 progress twice as fast as the national average.

Specialist PE

Modern Languages



Bold Imaginative Reflective Three words to define your daughter’s future. Add three more:

See website for Open Day dates Polam School is part of the Cognita Schools Group

Telephone: 01234 261864 43-45 Lansdowne Road, Bedford MK40 2BU

Open Morning Wednesday 9th March, 10am Telephone: 01234 361918 | Bedford Girls’ School is part of The Harpur Trust

To advertise: 01727 373929

January/February 2016


book reviews

Families Book Reviews

By Justine Crow

Families brings you the best new book releases

Baby & Toddler

3 - 5 years old

6 - 8 years old

9+ years old

12 to teens

Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy (Walker £5.99)

Is There a Dog in This Book? by Viviane Schwarz (Walker £6.99)

The Imaginary by A.F Harrold (Bloomsbury £7.99)

Published as a board book to celebrate thirty years of this iconic childrens tale, about Mrs. Large’s vain attempts to get a five minute breather. It works because it is such a familiar scenario to both parent and toddler. I don’t ever remember having a bath without a little voice from the other side of the door asking what I was doing.

The author’s style is deft and witty and pre-schoolers will chuckle each time they see what each flap reveals (especially when they lift the lid on the popup piano). The three cats aren’t laughing though. Nervous that they might just find something unexpectedly canine, they have many near misses.

Harry Miller’s Run by David Almond & Salvatore Rubbino (Walker £9.99)

The Light That Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew (Bloomsbury £12.99)

A story from the north by the acclaimed author of Skellig, illustrated by the chap who is famous for his city walk picture books. There’s no danger of any walking here though, because Harry has a race to run.

For those readers who adore a bit of Dahl comes the story of Rudger, Amanda’s best friend - who just happens to be imaginary. But the scary Mr. Bunting is out to catch Rudger, so perhaps he exists after all. Great accompanying images by the prolific Emily Gravett (who most recently produced Meerkat Mail for the much younger age range).

Sticking with a supernatural theme, we are entering dreamy Patrick Ness territory here, with a surreal landscape inhabited by troubled teens in a compelling tale of revenge and friendship. Dark it may, be but illumination is within reach.

Justine Crow is the author of The Little Book of Nits published by Bloomsbury. Parent of three, she owns her own bookshop with her partner, The Bookseller Crow on Hill, and is a qualified swimming teacher. And in what little spare time she has, she also runs gastronomic writing retreat courses in France and is the food critic of The Transmitter.

· Self Protection and Anti-Bullying · Safe, Disciplined and Fun

FREE! Four weeks Beginners Course Every Sunday at 10.15am and Every Tuesday at 5pm Upstairs Martial Arts Room Dunstable Leisure Centre Court Drive, Dunstable LU5 4JD Email:

Special rates for families Minimum age 4 years. All our instructors are Enhanced CRB checked.

8th Dan Black Belt International Instructor

Tel: 01753-882012 or 07885-294418 16

Families : (F) 180 x 130mm

January/February 2016