Families Thames Valley West Nov/Dec 2020

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Thames Valley West


Locally sourced Christmas gifts Festive family days out NEW Meet the Head Competitions and give-aways

Issue 110 November/December 2020


Families Thames Valley West is part of Families Print Ltd, a franchise company. All franchised magazines in the group are independently owned and operated under licence. Families is a registered trademark of LCMB Ltd, Remenham House, Regatta Place, Marlow Road, Bourne End, Bucks SL8 5TD. The contents of Families Thames Valley West are fully protected by copyright and none of the editorial or photographic matter may be reproduced in any form without prior consent of Families Thames Valley West. Every care is taken in the preparation of this magazine, but the franchise company, Families Print Ltd and Lifecycle Marketing cannot be held responsible for the claims of advertisers nor for the accuracy of the contents, or any consequence thereof.

...endless ideas for families of young children in Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire Families® Thames Valley West • Issue 110 • November/December 2020 Visit us at www.familiesonline.co.uk

In this issue... 4-6

News and views


Open days


Education news

Also on the festive front, we’ve rounded up a selection of some of the top family days out this Winter – Christmas shows, light festivals, fairs and many more. All organised with safety and social distancing in mind. Hopefully, these ideas might inject some fun and positivity into the end of a challenging year.

10-11 Your local guide to great gifts 12

Kids clothing that’s kind to the planet


How many toys does your child need?

14-15 Festive family fun 16-17 Clubs and classes directory 18

Getting the best out of online kids’ classes


Choosing a tutor for your child


The importance of toddler play






Kids’ activities

Hello from the Edit or...

It’s my favourite time of year, and this issue contains possibly my favourite feature to write – our independent gift guide. It’s packed full of beautiful items that you can buy from smaller local businesses, which are responsibly sourced and produced. Many of the sellers have offered our readers exclusive discounts.

We hope you enjoy our new feature – Meet the Head – where we ask the important questions to headteachers at local schools. First up is Head of the Pre-Prep at Crosfields, who tells us what makes it such a special place to start your school journey – and the lessons we can learn from the animal kingdom when it comes to nurturing our young. Many schools are offering private tours or virtual visits this term so do check out our open days guide. Have a very merry Christmas, and fingers firmly crossed for a healthy and happy 2021.


To advertise: If you are reading this, so are your customers! We can help you reach an audience of over 47,000 parents in Reading, Henley, Newbury, Wokingham, Bracknell and West Berkshire. Give us a call on 07968 711937 or drop us a line at editor@familiestvw.co.uk to find out how we can help support your family friendly business!

The Families team... Editor: Rachel Jones Production: Ridgeway Press, 01256 300420 www.ridgewaypress.co.uk

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Next issue: January / February 2021 – Early Years Booking deadline: 1st December

Don’t miss these great offers • FREE 30-minute family law consultation with LGFL Ltd, see page 4 • £75 DISCOUNT off Mindful Butterfly mental health first aid courses, see page 4 • Exclusive DISCOUNTS for our readers with Bambino Bundles, Little Oak Clothing and Lots of Lovely Art, see pages 10-11 • DISCOUNT off Kookoo but kind clothing, see page 12 • WIN a family ticket to Elmer & Friends at the River and Rowing Museum and a bundle of books, see page 15 • FREE trial classes in dance, acting and more, see pages 16-17 • WIN toys, dining vouchers, tickets to attractions and more, see p23


Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 3

News & views Christmas arrangements without the drama Agreeing child arrangements over the Christmas period takes careful planning and cooperation. Most separated parents need to agree on: 1. Where the children will spend Christmas Day Many separated parents alternate who sees the kids on the day itself – one year with them, the next with their ex. Some opt for one parent to have the children in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. However, this can be a logistical nightmare, and also involves you seeing your ex on Christmas Day, which many parents would not want. 2. I want to see them open their presents Christmas Day or another day, give them their presents when you see them, so you can all share the excitement. 3. I can’t afford to spend as much as my ex Equally contributing to a joint present is simple, and is a great example of co-parenting. A

budget on stocking presents or outings can also prevent over-spending for both parents. Making and agreeing Christmas child arrangements can involve endless phone calls and email ping pong. These can be emotionally draining and lead to potential misunderstanding. With possible further COVID-19 restrictions on the cards, you’ll also need a Plan B, just in case. A professional, impartial letter drawn up by a family lawyer such as ourselves can set out what you have agreed, or want to agree between you. Both parents can agree to it, saving time, stress and worry, so you both can enjoy being with your family this Christmas. Rita Gupta is a Director at LGFL Ltd, a boutique family law firm in Reading. Rita is offering readers of Families Thames Valley an initial online 1-hour consultation with 30 minutes included free, to discuss divorce, separation or any family law issues. https://bit.ly/1-hr-consult

Brick building is back Master Builders Club’s popular LEGO® building workshops are back, running at venues across Berkshire and South Oxfordshire with ‘safe ways to play’ procedures in place. For home-based fun, Master Builders Club DIY parties offer a unique and memorable option for your child’s birthday. Co-owners Clare and Kate have also put together a Boredom Busting Creativity Pack to provide some much-needed stay-at-home entertainment. Clare explains: “During lockdown, lots of children were missing their friends and attending regular clubs. These packs, delivered straight to the door, were designed to bring a smile to their faces. The packs proved so popular that we decided to make them available all year round. The contents have been carefully selected to

It’s ok not to be ok ‘If you can be anything, be kind’. That was the message for World Mental Health Day in October. Often, we do not know what to say or do when someone is in mental pain. Sometimes we don’t even recognise the signs and symptoms. A kind word, a question asked, a recognition that it’s ok to not be ok today, can prove to be a lifeline for those in need. Marlborough-based Debs Sheppard set up Mindful Butterfly after experiencing her own teenage daughter’s mental ill health. The company delivers Mental Health First Aid courses, which are ideal for anyone looking to gain the skills and knowledge to help in a crisis, to spot the signs and to assist recovery. Debs

provide children with playful learning experiences and fun. They can be used as a reward, to entertain your child on a journey or just to give you some time to get on with your own ‘to do’ list.” It’s been a busy few months for the business, which has also seen the launch of its new logo and branding. Kate adds: “We feel that it represents the core values of Master Builders Club and gives us a strong identity for the future. Our ethos has always been to offer fun, engaging and stimulating events that nurture young minds.” Master Builders Club will be hosting brick building fun to children who love LEGO® in village halls throughout the festive period. masterbuildersclub.co.uk

explains: “It can be so hard to know when to ask those questions. How do you know when it’s not just normal teenage hormonal angst, or ‘bit of stress’ from the job that’s getting your partner down? How would you know when the coping behaviours are becoming dangerous? I set up Mindful Butterfly to help others wanting to learn more and get some tools in the medicine cabinet based on knowledge and practical approaches. I so wish I had had this knowledge when my daughter needed it.” Mindful Butterfly is offering Families readers an exclusive £75 discount off courses (which are currently running online) booked before 31st December. Use CODE TVF75. mindfulbutterfly.co.uk

4 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire



Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 5

News & views Leaping back to gymnastics Little gymnasts are delighted to return to their regular classes at Bulmershe Gymnastics Club in Woodley, Reading. After lockdown, the club re-opened for recreational and pre-school classes, adhering closely to new requirements, including social distancing. There are some spaces available in the Leap Frogs classes, which cater for children from walking to the age of five. The structured sessions encourage children to develop through participation in games and gymnastic activities and to work towards achieving British Gymnastics proficiency award scheme badges.

Each of the 40-minute classes are run by specialists who are qualified to teach preschool gymnastics. There are three tiers of classes to cater for each child's individual needs, and they follow the British Gymnastics 'FUNdamentals' programme for early years. Parents or guardians are requested to assist their child. Equipment includes soft play, climbing frames, trampette, bar & beam stations and trampoline. bulmershegymnastics.co.uk or email membership@bulmershegymnastics.co.uk

Letter from Santa All children love to receive a letter addressed to them in the post, but what could be more special than a letter from Father Christmas? Here are two ways of making this happen: Royal Mail letter to Santa For children to receive a FREE letter from Santa via the Royal Mail, they must post their letter to Santa by 11 December. Envelopes must have either a first or second class stamp and be addressed to Santa/Father

New Lego braille bricks launched Lego is launching a new version of its plastic bricks featuring braille. The new bricks are the same shape as the regular ones, but the studs on top have been rearranged. The bricks are moulded so that the studs reflect individual letters and numbers in the braille alphabet while remaining fully compatible with the Lego system.

Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ. The letter must include your child’s full name and address. royalmail.com/christmas/letters-to-santa NSPCC Santa letter Children can also receive a personalised reply from Santa via his elves at the NSPCC in exchange for a minimum £5 donation to the charity. The letter needs to be ordered online by 9 December. https://letterfromsanta.nspcc.org.uk/letterfrom-santa

symbol or letter. Lego is keen to encourage blind and visually impaired children to explore new ways of learning to read and write. “With these Braille Bricks, the LEGO Foundation has created a totally new and engaging way for children with vision impairment to learn to read and write,” says David Clarke, Director of Services at the Royal National Institute of Blind People. legofoundation.com

The bricks also feature a printed version of the

Hitting the right note Did you know that face to face lessons are back at Berkshire Maestros? As the lead organisation of the Berkshire Music Education Hub, it offers musical instrument lessons in most schools across Berkshire, as well as in music centres across the county during evenings and weekends. Lessons moved online during lockdown, but are now back to face-to-face in most locations. Students can also join group music-making opportunities from beginner level up to County ensembles, from Buzzing Brass to the Berkshire Youth Symphony Orchestra. These are a great

6 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire

opportunity to explore making music with others, enhancing music skills and providing social opportunities outside school (and are also open to students who do not have lessons with Berkshire Maestros). Maestros believes that high quality music teaching should be available to everyone, and lessons start at just £10 each, with instruments available to hire in most cases (nobody wants to invest in a double bass for a beginner!) For more information or to book a free taster session, visit berkshiremaestros.org.uk or email admin@berkshiremaestros.org.uk




PANGBOURNE COLLEGE (independent co-ed day and boarding school 11-18yrs), 0118 984 2101, pangbourne.com Fri 13 Nov (sixth form taster day). Check the website or email the admissions team for full information: admissions@pangbourne.com

Most schools in the Thames Valley are still planning open days for this Autumn / Winter. In some cases, these will be either private tours or virtual visits from the comfort of your home. At the time of going to press, the details in this feature were correct, but government guidelines continue to change so please make contact with each school to check the details and to book your place if required. OXFORDSHIRE


MOULSFORD PREPARATORY SCHOOL (independent boys day & boarding school 4-13yrs), 01491 651 438, moulsford.com Prospective parents are welcome to make an individual appointment to visit the school and meet the Headmaster at any point during term time. Please contact the Registrar: admissions@moulsford.com

LEIGHTON PARK SCHOOL (independent co-ed day and boarding 11-18yrs), 0118 987 9608, leightonpark.com Virtual open evening: Tues 10 Nov 6.307.30pm for year 7 entry in September 2021. Individual tours available on weekdays. Please contact leightonpark.com/visitus

CROSFIELDS SCHOOL (independent coed day school 3-16yrs), 0118 987 1810, crosfields.com Families are warmly invited to attend a personal tour. To arrange a convenient time, please contact the Registrar on 0118 987 9902, email registrar@crosfields.com or visit crosfields.com

SHIPLAKE COLLEGE (independent boarding and day school for boys 11-18 and girls 16-18yrs), 0118 940 2455, shiplake.org.uk Whole school open morning: Sat 7 Nov 9am. Go to shiplake.org.uk/opendays to book your attendance.

DOWNE HOUSE (independent day and boarding school for girls), 01635 200286, downehouse.net Open morning: Sat 14 Nov. Interactive virtual tours are also available including a meeting with the headmistress and key members of staff. Please contact the Registrar, Angela Nutt, for more details: registrar@downehouse.net

ST JOSEPH’S COLLEGE (independent coed day school 3-18yrs), 0118 966 1000, sjcr.org.uk November open morning: Tues 17 Nov. Years 7-11 (10.30am-12pm), Early Years (9.30-11.30am)

WAVERLEY SCHOOL (independent prep school and day nursery for boys and girls 3 months-11yrs), 0118 973 1121, waverleyschool.co.uk Prospective parents are invited to contact the Admissions team on admissions@waverleyschool.co.uk to discuss a number of options that are being offered.

ELSTREE SCHOOL (independent day and boarding co-ed school 3-13yrs), 01189 713 302, elstreeschool.org.uk To reserve a place at an open morning, visit elstreeschool.org.uk/admissions/opendays. Alternatively, arrange an individual visit with the Registrar: registrar@elstreeschool.org.uk

THE ORATORY SCHOOL (independent day and boarding school for girls and boys 1118yrs), 01491 683 500, oratory.co.uk Meet the Headmaster via a conference call. Please contact Janet Martin to arrange: registrar@oratory.co.uk

QUEEN ANNE’S CAVERSHAM (independent girls day & boarding school 11-18yrs), 0118 918 7300, qas.org.uk Virtual open morning: Fri 20 Nov 10am. To book a place, visit qas.org.uk and click ‘visit’.

THE ORATORY PREPARATORY SCHOOL (independent day and boarding school for girls and boys 2-13yrs), 0118 984 4511, oratoryprep.co.uk To receive a copy of the virtual open morning, please contact Mrs Aktinson: c.atkinson@oratoryprep.co.uk.

DOLPHIN SCHOOL (independent day school and nursery for boys and girls 3-13 years), 0118 934 1277 dolphinschool.com To arrange a telephone or video meeting with headmaster, Adam Hurst, please contact PA Kate Spooner: headspa@dolphinschool.com



BROCKHURST & MARLSTON HOUSE SCHOOL, Hermitage (independent boys (Brockhurst) and girls (Marlston House) day and boarding prep school 3-13yrs), 01635 200 293, brockmarl.org.uk Open morning: Sat 7 Nov 10.30am-12pm. Or contact Admissions (r.harper@brockmarl.org) to arrange a private tour at a time to suit you.

LUCKLEY HOUSE SCHOOL (independent co-ed day & boarding school 11-18yrs), 0118 978 4175, luckleyhouseschool.org Individual visits can be arranged, adhering to the social distancing guidelines, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. If these times are not suitable, please contact the Registrar to arrange an alternative: registrar@luckleyhouseschool.org.

When I grow up, I want to be a Fairy Princess Aeronautical Engineer Junior School Where learning goes beyond www.theabbey.co.uk


Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 7

Education news

Settling in at St Joseph’s New therapy centre opens in Newbury A new Speech and Language Therapy service is now available to the local community. Originally a school-based service supporting primary and secondary aged pupils at Mary Hare School near Newbury, the centre has now extended to offer private therapy to the public one day a week. It is able to support all age groups and a range of needs. The experienced therapists at the centre can provide assessments, advice, training and

therapy at Mary Hare within the Arlington Arts venue, or can support pupils within local schools if appropriate. If you are interested in this service, or would like further information, please get in touch by completing the form here: maryhare.org.uk/centreexcellence/mary-hare-therapycentre or by emailing privatetherapy@maryhare.org.uk or calling 07423 710016.

As the youngest pupils at St Joseph College settle happily into their first term, the Early Years Centre has been delighted with the interest already received for September 2021. The monthly stay and play taster sessions and open mornings for prospective families have been moved online for now. Those interested in seeing the bustling Early Years classes in action can enjoy a guided tour of the setting in person and a face-to-face meeting with Mrs Boccaccini (College Deputy Head, Prep). From their first days in Early Years (from the term a child turns three), the aim is to foster in all pupils a love of learning which will remain with them throughout their lives. Qualified teachers encourage learning through play and practical activities, inviting the children to develop a lasting curiosity about why and how things work. The stand-alone Early Years Centre is situated in spacious leafy grounds, offering exciting outdoor opportunities for exploring the natural world. It is the start of a journey that can continue until age 18 at the Reading-based school, which prides itself on ensuring that every child is known as an individual. Register for a virtual stay and play session or arrange a private tour: sjcr.org.uk

Virtual school library launched To help children who have fallen behind with their literacy and to safeguard children’s access to books and families’ access to literacy support in the event of future local lockdowns, the National Literacy Trust has launched a Virtual School Library. The Virtual School Library will provide all primary school children in the UK with a free ebook or audiobook, an exclusive video and engaging activities from a different beloved children’s author or illustrator every week. Complimenting existing school libraries, the Virtual School Library will give children access to books all year round, whether they are learning at school or at home. In addition, the National Literacy Trust has launched a website, Words for Life, to provide families with activities to support children’s literacy at home. virtualschoollibrary.org.uk

New 11+ vocabulary quiz game Market leaders, Farquhar’s Vocabulary Flash Cards, is pleased to announce a new addition to its range – a child-friendly quiz game designed to add some fun and variety to 11+ preparation. The quiz game covers a wide range of vocabulary knowledge in a simple and easy to play format, including: • odd one out • multiple meanings • general knowledge • verbal classification. The verbal classification section of the 11+ requires children to spot the links between words. Does your child know their oboe from their tuba? Can they quickly link canine to dog, herbivore to plants, or parliament to owls? Can they spot those tricky words spelt the same but pronounced differently? The quiz helps children build up the vocabulary-based general knowledge which underpins so many 11+ questions – and a quick round makes a perfect ‘break’ from paperbased practice! vocabularyflashcards.co.uk

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Meet the Head Families Thames Valley West spoke to Janey McDowell at Crosfields School in Reading. She joined the independent school 13 years ago as a Reception teacher and is now Head of Pre-Prep (Nursery to Year 2). How would you describe the ethos of the Pre-Prep department at Crosfields? It’s a very nurturing environment, with a good balance between structured learning and exploration. We encourage a growth mindset from the outset. One of our favourite words is ‘yet’, so if a child says they are unable to do something, another child will inevitably pipe up ‘yet’! Children choose their own small challenges – perhaps tying their shoelaces or writing their name neatly – and they record them on a challenge chart. They work hard to accomplish those goals even if it takes a little while, which really develops their resilience. Our facilities are outstanding and offer our Pre-Prep children so many opportunities. Whether that be pond-dipping, den-building at one of our many Forest School sites, autumn walks in our 40 acres of grounds, or swimming in our pool with its moveable floor. Right from Nursery, the children are taught by specialist teachers, including for PE, French and music. They are well integrated with the rest of the school, joining the older pupils for lunch for example, which makes the transition upwards seamless. What, do you think, are the key skills that children should be mastering at the start of their school journey? First and foremost, it’s about communication and language skills; then problem solving and developing the ability to reflect and understand how they can apply skills they already have in new contexts. A baby will learn everything but, at some stage during childhood, we can develop a fear of failure. We really build their confidence and encourage them to take risks. We also work hard to embed our core values of kindness, curiosity and respect.


Outdoor learning is a central part of every day at Crosfields PrePrep. Why is it so important? Our youngest pupils are outside every day. They have free access to outdoors in Nursery and Reception, as well as PE lessons and Forest School sessions. Being outdoors is essential for their wellbeing, providing opportunities to develop team building, leadership and social skills. When they return to the classroom, they can transfer those skills to other areas of learning and relationship-building. You have a degree in psychology / zoology. What can we learn from the animal kingdom when it comes to nurturing and teaching the next generation? My main research topic was the incredibly close mother/child relationships in orangutans – only humans have a more intense one. I observed the reaction from baby orangutans when novel objects were placed in their cages and discovered that they are much braver and more curious when their mother (or another familiar adult) is present. The more loving the mother, the more inquisitive their young. This really resonates with me – if you create a safe environment for children, they feel confident to explore and learn.

What are the qualities of a great teacher? Warmth, fun, energy and empathy. Outstanding teachers give off a positive energy and clearly enjoy what they are doing, which is infectious. They understand every child and prioritise them beyond all else. They also show innovation in how they adapt their approach to individual needs. If you weren’t Head of the PrePrep at Crosfields, what would you be? I used to think I might be a children’s author. We seek to inspire a love of reading amongst our pupils and I enjoy reading to them regularly. They love the more sophisticated and traditional

Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

chapter books, like My Naughty Little Sister, and benefit from trying to remember what happened in the previous chapter. What advice would you give to families choosing a school? Talk to the staff who will be engaging with your child. Do you feel warmth and energy from them? Do the children look relaxed and happy? Our children have manners, but they also have a voice. They’re responsive and energetic, participating enthusiastically in class, rather than sitting stiffly. Can you imagine your child at this school? But the acid test really is – do you feel that you would like to be back at this school? If you do, then you really know it’s a special place!

Families Thames Valley West • 9

Great local Christmas will certainly have its challenges this year as we come to terms with COVID-19 regulations that will mean many families cannot meet up in the same way. Most of us are, however, headed for the festive season with a determination that it will still be fun, and that we will still do our

Kookoo but kind Christmas shopping always gives you a warm glow but buying the perfect gift that helps the planet – now that’s a really great feeling! The recycled children’s casual wear from ‘Kookoo but kind’ is not only beautiful, but speaks a positive message. The production process is environmentally friendly from start to finish. Every purchase contributes to the planting of trees, and the recycled packaging even includes tissue paper that doubles as colouring sheets! The collection features personalised and upcycled denim jackets, slogan t-shirts, hoodies and jogging bottoms. All use fun and playful designs to encourage an awareness of endangered animals, cultural diversity, healthy lifestyles and being kind. The brand is the brainchild of West London mumof-three, Anjelic Kumedzina, who says: “Our products are made to last and aimed at children who want to make their voices heard. The price point reflects the quality of our fabrics and the fact that our supply chain is almost exclusively eco friendly and predominantly British-based. I think our bestseller this Christmas is going to be either our Save me Hoodies, that are exceptionally warm and versatile, or our denim jackets that make a wonderful and extra special gift.”

Lots of Lovely Art Get creative this Christmas with two new art boxes from Berkshire-based, Lots of Lovely Art (LoLA). Ideal for stimulating curious minds, they make the perfect thoughtful and unusual gifts – and they fit through the letterbox. All of LoLA’s packs introduce artists to children through creative projects. The ‘Upcycled Christmas’ box includes a fun, festive Andy Warhol-style wreath project. The box also includes materials to create a cardboard gingerbread house. The second box, ‘What a Wonderful World’, celebrates differences and imperfections. It includes a broken-vase project inspired by Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending damaged pottery. LoLA’s boxes are available on a flexible subscription basis or as single-box orders. A completely new set of projects is launched every month, and each box includes all the quality art materials you need. Priced from £27 per box, they come in either age ranges 3+ or 6+. LoLA was founded by two sisters-in-law, Alara and Selina, who both come from creative backgrounds. Alara says: “We believe that process-based, artist-inspired experiences are an important way for children to develop problem-solving skills, analytical thinking and self-confidence. Our Christmas boxes are a wonderful change from traditional toys and give children an imaginative activity to immerse themselves in over the festive period – with art materials that will last well beyond.” Use coupon code FAMILIES at checkout to receive 10% off your order before 31 December 2020.

Bambino Bundles Finding a truly original new baby gift without spending a fortune can be a challenge. Bambino Bundles has the perfect solution – exquisite gift boxes that contain thoughtful presents for newborns, but also for their mothers. Its secret lies in hand-picking useful and beautiful products, many of which are organic or fairtrade, from other small businesses. It is the brainchild of Wallingford-based, Khi Joyner: “When I had my first baby, I was overwhelmed with the accessories for newborns. I soon discovered there were incredible Etsy shops or local mumpreneurs selling unique, beautiful and practical items. I wanted to share some of my favourites with other new mums who are perhaps feeling a little overwhelmed too.” Bambino Bundles start at £25 with gifts for babies including 100% cotton muslins with watercolour prints, babygros handmade in Oxfordshire, and fairtrade knitted toys. Their Mums will be delighted with such treats as handmade soy wax candles, sweet and stylish stationery, award-winning eye masks and personalised bracelets. You can even fill your own custom box, perfectly personalised to the recipient. Khi adds: “Look out for the Christmas Eve treat boxes for Mums, which I think will be a bestseller. They are packed with goodies like cashmere socks, chocolate, miniature gin and bath bombs. Ideal for all the deserving Mums out there – not just the new ones!” Bambino Bundles is offering Families readers an exclusive 10 per cent discount off any order – just use discount code of FAMILIES at checkout. bambinobundles.co.uk 10 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire


gifts for Christmas very best to come up with original presents for those we love. It’s all too easy to succumb to Amazon when it comes to easy sourcing and value. Many of us are, however, conscious of the need to ‘shop local’ wherever we can and

to support our own local economies and jobs. We took a look around at what’s on offer in our own patch and have been very impressed not just by the originality and value but by the fact that in many cases you can buy online.

Little Cooks Co Fun and affordable activities to entertain children at home are today’s holy grail. Cue Little Cooks Co with its monthly recipe kits, which teach children to enjoy cooking and healthy eating. Delivered by post, subscription boxes come through your letterbox in a neat 100 per cent recyclable box packed with all the natural and organic dry ingredients to cook up a storm. Boxes also include a small activity or craft for children to enjoy while making their yummy bake such as November’s spiced apple flapjacks. Each recipe is fun and easy to make and has been designed by a registered nutritionist, so is free from all refined sugar and packed full of natural ingredients. Buckinghamshire-based founder, Helen Burgess, says: “My goal is to help families make healthy choices for their children and themselves and remind them that nutritious food is tasty and doesn’t have to be boring! Most importantly, it is about the time spent with your little cooks (screen free!), creating happy memories in the kitchen that will stay with them for life.” The boxes cost £12.99 each (with discounts for longer subscriptions). Every sale pays for a vulnerable school child in the UK to receive a healthy breakfast through a partnership with the charity, Magic Breakfast. littlecooksco.co.uk

The Corner Shop The Corner Shop Woolhampton at Christmas-time is a real treat – a treasure trove of beautiful decorations and special, on-trend gifts for everyone from babies to grandparents. For those who are cautious about venturing into larger shopping centres right now, the boutique store between Newbury and Reading offers an intimate atmosphere and thoughtful service. Nina Peddie co-owns The Corner Shop with friend Claire Dibble. She says: “Our customers say they feel inspired when they walk through the doors. It can be so hard to decide on that perfect gift, but we aim to take away the stress and make Christmas shopping an enjoyable and festive experience. We like to think we have something for everyone, and at prices to suit every pocket.” This Christmas, Nina is predicting that their cute felt mice decorations will be a big hit. Handmade and hand-painted Hogben pottery – which is highly sought-after – is in stock and would make an ideal gift. “With us all spending more time in our homes, games and crafts are big news at the moment,” adds Nina. “And not just for children. We have some wonderful 3D jigsaws that adults will love too.” thecornershopwoolhampton.com

Little Oak Clothing Christmas Eve boxes have become a treasured tradition for many families – a parcel of cosy treats that brings even more excitement to the festive build-up. Now you can ‘build your own’ box full of local, quality goodies thanks to Little Oak Clothing in Bucklebury near Reading. The boutique children’s shop sells clothing, décor, dressing-up, toys, gifts and more via its online store and at L Interiors in Bucklebury. The Christmas Eve boxes either come pre-packed, or you can choose your own contents from a range that includes books, pyjamas, hot chocolate bombes and decorations. Each option includes a personalised ‘nice list’ gift certificate. Owner, Alexandra Meier, says: “There is no time of year I love more than Christmas – there is such a magic in the air! As with all our products, each item is made-to-last and sourced from independent businesses that share my values. This year has been really tough on small companies and I can only thank my customers for their support. Parcelling up beautiful gifts for newborn babies, birthdays, or just to show you’re thinking of someone – it reminds me that nothing can stop us celebrating and treasuring the special occasions.” Families readers can use FAMILY10 at the checkout for 10% off littleoakclothing.co.uk


Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel:07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 11

Kids clothing that’s kind to the planet It’s a startling fact that last year in the UK we spent £2.7 billion on clothing that was only worn once. That adds up to 150 million items that went straight to landfill. Add in the cost to the environment of manufacturing it in the first place and you understand the scale of one of the world’s big eco challenges.


t so concerned West Londonbased mumpreneur Anjelic Kumedzina that she made it her mission to create a children’s clothing brand with a difference, selling recycled and organic products. Six months later she has in place an exceptionally ecoconscious supply chain and several collections of beautifully and thoughtfully designed clothing ready to buy from her website. The ‘Kookoo but kind’ range includes t-shirts featuring the diverse faces of future leaders, hoodies spotlighting endangered animals, and personalised upcycled

denim jackets. All use fun and playful designs to communicate an important message – from being kind to living a healthy lifestyle. The pieces are aimed at superheroes of the future – children who are not afraid to be different (or ‘kookoo’) and make a stand. Anjelic was inspired to act by her own three children. “They all love animals and were deeply affected by the plight of tigers and rhinos facing extinction,” she says. “They really care about the world and had just become eco reps at school. I had toyed with the idea of this business for a while, but their

12 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire

passion really spurred me on to make a change. When the window of opportunity arose to break away from the corporate world and my role as a Global Talent Director, I just went for it.” Kookoo but kind clothing doesn’t just talk the talk – through every stage of its production and conception, it aims to make a positive difference. Each item is designed, printed and embroidered in the UK, and each supplier shares Anjelic’s values. The manufacturers, for example, use vegetable ink and only recycled water. Packaging is bio-degradable and the tissue paper within even doubles up as colouring sheets! The fabrics are chemical and fertiliser-free (great for allergy sufferers) and are cut on the bias to ensure they stand the test of time.

positive messages through bold designs that children love wearing, and be environmentally friendly every step of the way. We believe with a little boldness, brightness, bravery and lots of kindness, we can all make the world a better place.” kookoobutkind.com

“Our price point is higher than ‘disposable fashion’ but the clothes last and can be cherished and passed on,” adds Anjelic. “You can also be sure that we are not supporting cheap labour or using poor quality fabrics. I’m especially proud of our upcycled denim jackets. Each is original and features hand-stitched and personalised detail, with badges that can be reused on bags or other items. Compared to buying these brand new, you would have helped save 4kg of carbon dioxide pollution and almost 5,000 litres of water!”

Families readers can enjoy a 10 per cent discount off all clothing – use the code FAMILIES at checkout.

So what next for Kookoo but kind? “We have so many ideas for new ranges and items, from pencil cases to beach bags. All will speak

• Every upcycled denim jacket saves 5,000 litres of water

Kookoo eco facts • Clothing is made using organic cotton and recycled polyester • The whole process is chemical free without fertilisers or pesticides • It uses 100% solvent free water-based inks and environmentally friendly dyes

• The business buys an acre of land for every 100 items sold


How many toys does a child need? By Andrew Campbell


oys have a way of taking over. Of course, it starts innocently enough. As a parent, you love your child and you want to make them happy. But before you know it, you find yourself knee-deep in discarded Legos and naked Barbie dolls. The children are bored; the house is a mess; no one is happy! Toys are easy to come by these days. Equally, parents who cannot spend as much time with their children as they would like may try to occupy them with new toys or assuage their guilt with gifts. We may also feel a compulsion to buy our children things to show we love them, or equally powerfully, feel a desire for our children to have more than we did. The reality though is that most families have too many toys. And sadly, more toys actually equals less play. So why is this? Children are easily overwhelmed with choice, and a child who is unsure of what to play with often ends up playing with nothing at all. But the problem is even more fundamental. Our obsession with flashy plastic junk has taught our children to be passive participants in play. Instead of playing with toys, they expect to be amused by them. And they are… for about five seconds. Then it is back to the toy box. According to a study published in the journal, Infant Behavior and Development, an environment with fewer toys is better for children. The study observed 36 toddlers. Some were given four toys, and some sixteen. It was found that an abundance of toys actually reduced the quality of toddlers’ play. Fewer toys helped toddlers focus better and play more creatively. And it’s not just about the quantity of toys. The quality is also factor. Another study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that the best toys for constructive play are nonelectronic ones: the ones that are simpler and support parents and children playing, pretending, and interacting together. familiesonline.co.uk

More and more families are taking a ‘minimalist’ approach to toys – cutting back on the clutter and focusing on quality over quantity. With Christmas approaching, now may be a good time to consider this approach. In the meantime, here are some tips to help you reclaim your play room or family space. Tips for toy overload 20 toy rule: ask your child to select 20 toys to keep. Store or give away others. Start slow: children often resist giving up toys. If the 20 toy rule doesn’t work, start with one thing first. Talk about giving/donating and generosity. Prioritise binning the plastic junk, like Happy Mealtype toys! Start rotating: A well-organised toy rotation reduces clutter and encourages children to play with more toys. The available toys change regularly, so there’s always something new. Display toys: Toys that can’t be seen go unused. Instead of stuffing them into baskets and bins, organise toys into several themed areas where they are largely on display. Request alternatives: Ask friends and family to take your child on an outing, instead of buying toys. Request that grandparents keep toys they buy at their home for when your child visits. Four gift rule: Try the four gift rule at Christmas or birthdays. There are four categories: something they want, need, go to/experience, and read.

Instead of toys… One-on-one outings: your child chooses an activity to do with you like skating, dining out or bowling. Experiences: lots of possibilities including junior zoo experience, steam train journey, go-karting or a theme park. Magazine subscriptions: there are loads of great magazines for children from comics to specialist magazines covering everything from football to history. They will love regularly receiving one in the post! Memberships: if there's a zoo, aquarium, museum, theatre, or music venue in your area, gift your child a membership so they can attend regularly. Some sporting clubs have special junior membership categories. Binoculars or a telescope: throw in a guide to birds, wildlife or astronomy. Subscription boxes: whether it’s cooking, gardening or craft, the monthly delivery of creative goodies will keep on giving. Classes: whether it’s dance, drama, art or athletics, your child can enhance their skills doing something they love or want to learn. A small fruit tree to grow and nurture: a lovely long-term gift.

Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 13

What’s On Nov/Dec 2020

Festive family fun

Christmas Fair, Christmas at Waddesdon Manor © National Trust. Photo Hugh Mothersole

Although some pantomimes and festive events are on hold this year, the show goes on for a number of others. We have packaged up some of our favourites into one parcel here for you to pick out what best suits your family. If there are tickets you need to book, do remember that many sell out quickly. CHRISTMAS AT KEW 2020, RICHMOND The showstopping illuminated trail returns to Kew Gardens this winter from 18 Nov – 3 Jan. A new route takes visitors through Kew Gardens’ beautifully illuminated Rose Garden. Other highlights include a canopy of stars, neon-wrapped trees and another spectacular light show at the Treetop Walkway. Visitors can keep warm with street food, mulled wine and hot chocolate. 4pm – 10pm (advance booking only). kew.org A CHRISTMAS CAROL AND MADAGASCAR THE MUSICAL, SOUTH HILL PARK, BRACKNELL Families can enjoy two family-friendly shows at South Hill Park this December. From 22-24 Dec, the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge will be adapted for new audiences in a charming and beautiful retelling. For something a little less traditional, Madagascar the Musical (which was a sell-out success in 2018) is back by popular demand and will be showing from 11 – 20 Dec. southhillpark.org.uk ALADDIN, THE CORN EXCHANGE, NEWBURY Your wish has been granted – Aladdin and his friends will be at the Corn Exchange this Christmas for a socially distanced pantomime. Take the trip of a lifetime and journey to far off lands with Aladdin and his friends as they discover treasures beyond their wildest dreams.

But will they foil Abanazar’s evil plan? And will Widow Twankey ever get through her mountain of laundry? 27 Nov – 3 Jan. cornexchangenew.com A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE WATERMILL THEATRE, NEWBURY It's Christmas Eve, and whilst London is alive with festive cheer and seasonal goodwill, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge grows meaner by the minute. A heartless money lender, who cares more about counting his coins than for his fellow man, Scrooge despises Christmas and everything to do with it. But will a timely visit from the haunting ghosts of Christmas past, present and future change his wicked ways before it’s too late? A Christmas Carol will be running in the auditorium from 26 Nov – 3 Jan. watermill.org.uk

experience of unprecedented scale and quality, as well as stories and interactive activities. LaplandUK returns in 2020 for its 14th magical year from 14 Nov – 24 Dec. laplanduk.co.uk READING'S CHRISTMAS TWILIGHT TRAIL Wander through a magical backdrop of illuminated trees, create your own light shows with interactive displays and watch the Abbey Ruins come alive with sound and light. Discover dazzling light orbs, floating mirror balls and enchanting shows of kaleidoscope patterns and colours as you experience Reading’s first Twilight Trail this Christmas. From 8 Dec. whatsonreading.com

CHRISTMAS AT WADDESDON, AYLESBURY, BUCKS Winter Light continues Waddesdon’s Christmas tradition with magical lights and the gardens aglow, plus the spectacle of the façade of the Manor illuminated with dancing lights set to music. There is also a 30-day long Christmas Fair to delight shoppers. Selected dates from Sat 14 Nov – Sun 3 Jan, 12-7.30pm. waddesdon.org.uk

SANTA'S CHRISTMAS CRACKER, ARLINGTON ARTS CENTRE, NEWBURY A 45-minute, interactive family show, particularly suitable for 2-7 year olds. Join Father Christmas and friends for a fun, festive, musical adventure to discover the wonder of Christmas! Afterwards (with social distancing, gloves and a mask for Father Christmas), each child gets to meet him and receive a specially wrapped present. 5 Dec, 10.30am and 1pm. arlington-arts.com

LAPLANDUK, ASCOT LaplandUK is an original adaptation of the Father Christmas story and the secret world of the elves brought to life through a four-hour immersive

CHRISTMAS TOURS AND AFTERNOON TEA, HIGHCLERE CASTLE. NEAR NEWBURY Get into the spirit of Christmas at the real ‘Downton Abbey’ with tours of the

14 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire

festively decorated castle, followed by afternoon tea in the marquee on the grounds. Select dates available from Mon 23 Nov – Sun 13 Dec. highclerecastle.co.uk ILLUMINATED LIGHT TRAIL, BLENHEIM PALACE, WOODSTOCK, OXON The Illuminated Light Trail will be even more spectacular this year with new installations including Blue Neuron and Heart of Stars. Wrap up warm and walk through breath-taking light displays with your family to enjoy the Palace gardens like never before. Walk towards dynamic, colour-changing neon tunnels, lakeside reflections and onto a mesmerising place where, beneath the branches of a sprawling tree, softly glows the fairy-fire known as Will-othe-Wisps. 20 Nov – 3 Jan. blenheimpalace.com FESTIVAL OF LIGHT, LONGLEAT HOUSE & SAFARI, WARMINSTER, WILTSHIRE This winter, stunning Chinese lanterns will once again light up Longleat. Upon arrival, your day will commence with your drive through the safari park. Then you will have free time to explore the house and attractions and the Illuminations commence at 4pm. Selected dates from Sat 7 Nov - Jan 2021. longleat.co.uk ‘ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS’ AT ODDS FARM PARK, HIGH WYCOMBE Odds Farm Park has been sprinkled with even more Christmas magic. Snuggle down with your loved ones and be transported to a magical world of merriment and yuletide wonder, as Father Christmas treats you to tales full of Christmas adventure and festive


What’s On Nov/Dec 2020

Details correct at time of going to press frivolities. Father Christmas invites you to join him and his Elves for an enchanting, and socially distanced, group story-time. After meeting Father Christmas and stopping for a photo keepsake, you will take a stroll deep into the sparkly, wintery woodland, to arrive at the North Pole, with a stop at the Elves Toyshop on the way! Running from 28 Nov – 28 Dec. oddsfarm.co.uk ELMER & FRIENDS: THE COLOURFUL WORLD OF DAVID MCKEE, THE RIVER & ROWING MUSEUM, HENLEY-ONTHAMES Celebrate the colourful and feel-good world of illustrator David McKee at the

River and Rowing Museum this winter. An exciting exhibition takes you on a journey into the imagination of the creator of classic books and characters including Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, Mr Benn and Not Now, Bernard. McKee was awarded Illustrator of the Year 2020 and was recipient of the Book Trust Lifetime Achievement Award. As if by magic, the exhibition from Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books allows you to explore Elmer’s jungle and even enter Mr Benn’s costume shop. Book now! 20 November – 14 March 2021. rrm.co.uk

WIN a Family Ticket to Elmer & Friends: THE COLOURFUL WORLD OF DAVID MCKEE One lucky winner will receive a family ticket to the exhibition at The River & Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames together with a bundle of David McKee books. 5 x runners-up will receive a copy of Elmer’s Christmas – this year celebrating its 10th anniversary. Just email us – editor@familiestvw.co.uk – with your full name and the answer to the following question:

what animal is Elmer? The deadline for entries is 12pm on Friday 27th November. Full terms & conditions on our Facebook post (or email to request a copy): facebook.com/familiesthamesvalleywest

rrm.co.uk Cathedral of Light. Christmas at Kew. Credit Jeff Eden RBG Kew


Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 15

Clubs and classes directory Regular clubs, classes and out of school activities give your child a chance to shine and for you to have fun together, and there really is plenty of variety to choose from. Here are a few of our favourites, for babies, toddlers and school-aged children. Do check latest details directly with each provider as some elements may have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more clubs and classes in your area, check out familiesonline.co.uk

Developmental classes

a unique and exciting mark-making class, designed to help babies, toddlers and preschoolers learn to write through play.

Shichida UK brain-training programme, designed to bring out the genius in every child. Activities are aimed at 0-6 year olds, and improve concentration, memory skills, general knowledge, musical ability and more. Hour-long classes take place in Reading once a week, with parents accompanying their children. For more information and to book: shichidauk.com,

Fun and engaging one-hour sessions develop pre-writing motor skills, as well physical and social skills. Each session includes messy play, paint, play dough, sand, scribbling, movement and dance – all in a safe environment. Term-time sessions run in Reading and Caversham on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and there are also special events in the school holidays. Little Learners also offers birthday parties. More info at littlelearnersuk.com or call Jalpa on 07474 368173.


Gym, sport and swimming Bulmershe Gymnastics Club – based at a purpose-built gym in Woodley, run gymnastics classes for all ages including Leap Frogs for walkers to five years lead by qualified coaches. bulmershegymnastics.co.uk GR Swimming Schools – children’s swimming lessons from 3yrs in Newbury, Thatcham, & Pangbourne. Places for non-swimmers through to advanced academy levels. Also holiday crash courses in swimming, diving and coming soon SYNCHRO!! Uniquely structured lessons, following Swim England Award Scheme. 01635 34862 swimlessons.co.uk SwimKidz – runs small group classes within warm pools to provide a swimming program which starts from birth through to approximately ten years. The structured plans are fun and progressive ensuring children enjoy learning to swim. With each instructor teaching within the water, children learn to swim independently from a young age. As an accredited Swim England and Swim Teachers Association swim school, you can be confident that we provide children an aquatic journey in a safe, caring and nurturing environment. Contact us at E:havefun@swimkidz.co.uk T:01635 777888 M:0750 005 6623 or visit our website for more information swimkidz.co.uk

07774 523660

Master Builders Club Brick Building Workshops for Children Master Builders Club is a LEGO® lover's paradise! Weekend and holiday workshops, after school clubs, birthday parties and nursery/primary school events are designed to provide children with an exciting and captivating experience. Fun workshops start with a short story which Master Builders ‘bring to life’ through the LEGO® models they build. Thousands of LEGO® bricks are supplied in a calm and supportive environment along with the imaginative stimulus to transform a room into a world of creativity. If you are passionate about providing engaging and stimulating play opportunities that nurture your child's mind, then Master Builders Club is for you! To book your LEGO® fan a place or to find out more about our events: masterbuildersclub.co.uk

BilinguaSing Wokingham – award-winning bilingual sensory music & movement classes with Spanish or French singing for babies (from 1 month), toddlers and preschool children. BilinguaSing is a unique class for parents and little ones to learn Spanish or French together in a fun and engaging way. Familiar nursery rhymes and songs are learned in both English and Spanish or French and are accompanied by a variety of fun movements and lovely props. Classes suitable for complete beginners to native speakers in Wokingham, Winnersh, Bracknell & surrounding areas. Taster classes available. Private sessions also held in nurseries, pre-schools and primary schools to support the EYFS, KS1 and KS2 learning objectives. Call Kate on 07810 751645, kate@bilinguasing.com, bilinguasing.com

baby and toddler swimming lessons in Reading and Wokingham. The programme is gentle and progressive, offering a fantastic opportunity for some special bonding time with your little one. Classes are baby-led, focus on the health and wellbeing of babies and children alike, and use songs and nursery rhymes to create a relaxed atmosphere. Contact littleturtle@turtletots.com or 07810 864810

To advertise here please call 07968 711937

Portuguese Language Club – offering tuition to help you talk fluently in Portuguese, but we don’t stop there. For us, it’s all about you and ensuring that you enjoy your stay with us whilst also making sure that your Portuguese language skills are vastly improved. We offer a range of services to suit all needs; including one-to-one and group lessons, in-school clubs, holiday Portuguese and GSCE and A Level tuition. Based in Tilehurst, Berkshire. Contact Maria on 07427630331, 0118 942 4591, info@portugueselanguageclub.co.uk, portugueselanguageclub.co.uk

16 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire


Clubs and classes directory Music & dance

Drama and theatre arts

diddi dance - funky pre-school dance classes for girls and boys. Award winning, high energy sessions explore 16 different styles set to original, age-appropriate music. Classes improve gross motor skills, rhythm, coordination, confidence, creativity and social skills with dancing games, fun exercises, action songs and a host of props. Lessons are aligned to the EYFS and are structured yet relaxed. Nursery workshops and parties too! Free trial available. Classes run every day throughout Reading & Wokingham. Call Andrea on 07719 878789, or email andrea.bickford@diddidance.com Starmaker Stage School – a Saturday stage school based in Woodley that offers drama, dance and singing tuition, allowing younger children to explore their creative side without pressure. The experience of performance aids with public speaking, presentation skills and selfdiscipline. Saturday sessions run from 9.30-11.45am (Mini Stars for 4-6 years) and 11.45am-3pm (Young Stars for 7-12 years). To book a free trial, please email Sue at stageschool@starmaker.org.uk and quote this advert. Berkshire Maestros – fun, lively music classes for children from birth to seven years led by professional musicians and using a wide range of inspiring resources and real instruments. Lots of singing, dancing, games and playing instruments, building confidence and friendships, as well as developing creative, intellectual, physical, social and emotional skills. Classes in Lambourn (Tue), Hampstead Norreys (Wed), Arborfield (Thu), Woolhampton (Fri), Reading (Thu/Sat), Emmer Green (Fri) and Newbury (Sat). Session times and more details at: berkshiremaestros.org.uk/mini_maestros_main.html or email admin@berkshiremaestros.org.uk RABBLE theatre – Reading’s leading professional theatre company. Runs LAMDA classes in Public speaking, Verse & Prose and Acting. Classes run at Kendrick school 5-6pm on Tuesdays for 6-18yrs.

Steppin Out Stars of Tomorrow – fun, energetic classes for 3½ to 18yrs. Dance, drama and singing, tap, street dance, pop styles, musical theatre. Regular classes in Wargrave, Wokingham and Woodley, plus summer classes. Call Shelley on 07970 034 488, or email shelley@steppinoutstars.co.uk, steppinoutstars.co.uk Perform weekly drama, dance and singing classes – confidence building fun for 4-12s. A unique mix of drama games, dance and singing specially developed to bring out every child's true potential. Classes are kept small to ensure lots of individual attention. Go to perform.org.uk/try to book a FREE class. Venues: Reading, Wokingham, Goring, Newbury, Crowthorne and Twyford T: 020 7255 9120 / enquiries@perform.org.uk, perform.org.uk

Award-winning after-school drama classes for kids who love to ACT! Burghfield, Tilehurst, Lower Earley, Mortimer and Wokingham. High-energy classes mean that students never get bored, can't wait to get to class and develop confidence, creativity and focus. Free trial class and a Pay-As-You-Go option for infants. Ages 5+. Full listing of available classes, prices and venues at: https://stageability.class4kids.co.uk Come and join the fun! E: jackie@berkshire.stageability.co.uk M: 07721 565898 T: 0118 933 3791

RABBLE also runs private lessons online and in person. Contact dani@rabbletheatre.com

Please tell advertisers you found them in Families


• BOOKING NOW for classes in Compton, Thatcham, and Pangbourne • Non swimmers. improvers & advanced levels from 31⁄2 years • All levels from 3yrs to Rookie Lifeguard

• Friendly instructors — qualified, insured & DBS checked • 3 lovely locations with car parking • Continual assessment and class progression

We are an Independent family run swim school — not a franchise *Every child is different, every child is equal*

email: membership@bulmershegymnastics.co.uk


Rookie Lifeguard Course now on!

Jo@swimlessons.co.uk | www.swimlessons.co.uk 07853 194327

Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 17

Getting the best out of online kids’ classes

By Gabrielle Nash

As parents, we’ve got used to the idea that we should minimise ‘screen time’ for our children.


owever, the arrival of a global pandemic and enforced lockdown has drastically changed the way we do everything. We go online for our meetings and reunions, and joining classes and clubs online has become the only way many of our children can involve themselves regularly in extra-curricular activities. For a large part of this year, our children have experienced activities as diverse as playball in the living room, Spanish on the sofa and cooking in your kitchen. This has become commonplace, as we try to find our ‘new normal.’ Ideally, it means our children do not miss out on life-enhancing skills and fun. For parents, it can also provide us with different ways of interacting with our children during these difficult times. Fran and her 8-year-old daughter have been trying lots of online classes: “I love the flexibility they offer. It’s hard to begin with but we’ve got used to it, and now we look forward to them like any normal class!” In turn, offering kids’ classes online has been a lifeline for class and club providers and a means to stay afloat. Ettie Bettie Baby Signs is a baby signing business running classes through YouTube. Founder Charly Lewis found ways to adapt her classes to reach as many people as possible. “We use a lot of props and fancy dress in our classes. Of course I couldn’t share these physically but I was really impressed with the inventiveness of parents who came up with amazing ideas of their own.” Ensuring your child gets the best out of an online class If your child is old enough to understand, make sure they know about the class and what is expected of them during it: • Remind them before, it’s about having fun, a chance to try or learn something

• Make sure your technology is working and that you are ready for the Zoom a couple of minutes in advance in case of any difficulties • Have a phone number on hand for the class provider in case for some reason you have tech issues • Establish with the teacher, whether your involvement is necessary (dependent on your child’s age) in case you prove a distraction • Make the class about your child. It’s their time to do something they enjoy. Don’t pressure them but if their interest starts to wane, there may be ways you can get involved? • Make sure the classes are not too long. A young child has a limited attention span and you can’t force them to engage for longer than 45 minutes to 1 hour • After the class, talk to your child about it and

praise them for something they achieved. Try to find out what they enjoyed about it. Whilst not every extra-curricular activity work online (anyone up for a virtual swimming lesson?), there are plenty that work well. The key is engagement. Find a class with a teacher that is confident with the online medium and knows how to use it to motivate kids. Theatre, dance or music-based activities can be easily transferred online, with the right teacher and parental interaction. Children will get the same benefits to their emotional and cognitive development with any performance-based activity, whether it’s in person or on a computer. For more from Gaby, follow her @thelondonishmum

What to try? If you’re keen to start trying out some new activities, but conscious that a normal class might be unachievable, here are some great online ones to try: Baby signing If you would like something to share with baby, then signing is a lovely option for online classes. Check out: Ettie Bettie Baby Sign on YouTube

Cooking Maybe you want a hand in the kitchen? Cooking is a lovely activity to enjoy with your child. Try: The Kids’ Kitchen thekidskitchen.net

Languages If you’ve got a budding linguist at home, check out BilinguaSing. The Wokingham branch is running online classes over Facebook Live. Fun and engaging Spanish and French classes are offered for babies, toddlers and primary school children. facebook.com/bilinguasingwokingham

Science Keep those little brain cells ticking with some science! Head to: Little House of Science littlehouseofscience.com

18 • Henley • Reading • Wokingham • Bracknell • Newbury • West Berkshire

Performing arts If your child has more of a spring in their step, a theatrical class might be for them. Try: Anna Fiorentini Theatre & Film School annafiorentini.com/fiorentini-live


Choosing a tutor for your child

By Kate Hilpern In the past, parents might employ a tutor, discreetly, to help their child keep up at school. Now tutoring is much more high profile and focuses on making students more academically competitive – getting ahead, not just keeping up.


he upside is that parents have a greater choice of highly professional and specialist tutors. However, because employing a tutor is regarded by some as the mark of ‘good’ parenting, parents may waste their money when it isn’t necessary, with little or no benefit to their child. If you are considering tuition, have a clear objective such as helping to prepare for an exam, offering support after an extended absence from school or addressing a particular problem area. A vague feeling of unease because every other pupil in the class seems to have a tutor probably isn’t sufficient reason! How do you go about finding a tutor? Word-of-mouth can be very effective. Talk to friends and parents at the school gates, even ask your child’s teachers for tutors in your area who are reliable, friendly and get results. Bear in mind though that the fantastic tutor who worked wonders with your neighbour’s child may not develop the same rapport with your own. Tutoring websites, which act rather like newsagents’ advertising boards, are a useful starting point. These are little more than a collection of small ads but tuition offered here will be relatively affordable, though the onus is on parents to interview potential tutors. Another option is a tutor agency. These range from small, local concerns to national or even international companies. All provide a personal service and offer a choice of highly


experienced, hand-picked and expert tutors, custom-built to meet your child’s needs. You’ll end up paying more but the best agencies take immense care vetting, training and matching their tutors and conducting careful follow-ups. With costs ranging from £25 to £150+ an hour, depending on the subject and your location, tuition is an investment. There’s no iron-clad guarantee that it will transform your child’s school grades so, if you proceed, then taking care how and who you choose is definitely the first step in the right direction. Questions to ask tutors It’s important to ask the right questions when talking to a potential tutor for your child. The below are examples of questions that will ensure you get the information you need. What is your educational background? How much tutoring experience do you have? How will you tell if you’re suited to tutoring my child and how will you evaluate their needs? What tutoring methods do you use and how do you motivate your students? What do you expect from me? What hours are you available? Where do you tutor? How long do you expect the tutoring to last? What are your fees and are there any hidden costs and terms and conditions? Can you provide references and DBS records?

Reasons to employ a tutor At age 7, to ensure a child is up to speed for independent prep school entry. In year 5 (ages 9/10) to prepare a child for entry to the local grammar school or selective independent school. Most grammar schools (and some independents) test verbal and non-verbal reasoning as well as maths and English. In year 6 (aged 10/11) to bolster basic maths or English competence ahead of KS2 examinations. To assist with Common Entrance/PSB subjects – perhaps to ease the anguish of algebra or Latin. To improve schoolwork following a dip in grades on a school report. To put a youngster back on track after a dodgy exam result. Following a bout of illness or unexpected family set-back. When a specific learning difficulty is suspected or diagnosed.

Kate Hilpern is from the Good Schools Guide, UK’s leading independent source of school reviews, education information and advice. The Good Schools Guide reviews over 50 tutor agencies, having visited each and talked to staff and former clients. For more information, visit goodschoolsguide.co.uk

Good luck! Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

Families Thames Valley West • 19

By Dr Sarah Mundy

The importance of toddler play “One of the biggest complaints from adults about their own childhood is the lack of play with their parents” (Margot Sutherland, Child Psychotherapist, The Science of Parenting)


lay is an enjoyable part of childhood, but also an important one for the developing brain. Through play, children develop physically, emotionally, cognitively and creatively. It allows them to engage in the world in a way that feels safe, explore different roles, address fears, and develop confidence. Children who have parents who actively play with them learn about sharing, problem solving and decision-making more quickly than those who don’t. Playing with your child also helps you understand their world and shows them you are interested in them, both important aspects of a secure attachment relationship, which is seen as the cornerstone of a child’s development. It’s therefore very important to make time for play with our children, even though prioritising this can sometimes be difficult. So, how do we initiate play? And what do we do? A good environment is key Without overloading your child, provide toys and varied activities (which stimulate different senses) without too many distractions. Children need to engage in both calming as well as stimulating activities, so they can differentiate between the two and learn to regulate their feelings.

You’ve made the time and created the environment. Now what? You may feel out of your comfort zone. As adults, our play-seeking systems sometimes need a little encouragement. Make play a joint venture but be led by your child. To enhance connection, Dan Hughes, clinical psychologist, refers to the process of ‘follow, lead, follow’ – let your child explore; show enjoyment, mirror what they are doing and build upon it for them (known as scaffolding), so that they can expand their repertoire of play. Try to stick to their agenda, not yours. Repetition is an important part of learning and completely normal – even if dull for you! Make playtime count Attachment play makes the most of playtime as it focuses on connection. It is characterised by shared activities involving eye contact and mirroring – peek-a-boo, drumming together and messy play are all great. Letting them take the lead and being accepting, not critical, will help them learn and strengthen your connection. To maximise play time, try turning housework into a game. Incorporating play and physical activity is also great – time spent in natural spaces outdoors is also good for both your wellbeing.

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The importance of playfulness Playing is the act of doing; playfulness is a way of BEING! Both are hugely important. Playfulness keeps communication positive, light and fun. Children are more likely to feel that they are enjoyable to be around, giving them a positive sense of who they are. Being playful can help resolve conflicts and defuse difficult situations. When parents are rushed and tired, we tend to focus on getting quick results. Instead, try taking a deep breath and getting creative; the reward will be the chance to connect with your child, whilst also achieving the result that you wanted. Eg: Reframe “You need to get dressed” as “Can you hop into your trousers like a frog?” Adopt playfulness as a helpful attitude – make up rhymes and do silly dances. Laughter stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals, aids relaxation, increases positive feelings and improves relationships. When you can’t be playful, don’t worry. Some of us find it easier than others and it’s hard to be light-hearted when life feels overwhelming. But practice DOES help!

Dr Sarah Mundy is Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Author of Parenting Through Stories. More info at parentingthroughstories.com


Protecting your child from cyberbullying By Shelley Goffe-Caldeira


ockdown and social distancing have increased our children’s dependency on the online world. It’s been reported that 82 per cent of parents said that their children’s screen time increased during lockdown and 30 per cent said that their children were having an extra four hours or more of non-school related screen time per day. Given this increase in online screen time, there is no question that bullying numbers in 2020 will be higher than in previous years. Cyberbullying was on the rise before lockdown – some reports suggest that just 20 per cent of bullying takes place at school now. But cyberbullying incidents increased by 70 per cent between March and April this year when lockdown was at its peak. The strain placed on mental health caused by being confined to the home for weeks at a time could have made matters worse. One of the darker sides of the pandemic is the rise of racial cyberbullying among children. Recent research has found that

what your children see and do online. The applications used by schools all have tools for reporting abuse. Show your kids where to find the abuse reporting tools and how to fill in the forms. Keep any evidence of inappropriate messages and report it to a school official. Use your parental controls. Androids, Apple and Windows all have built in parental controls. These allow parents to block inappropriate content, control access to apps, and limit screen time. There are some useful resources:

because the virus originated from Wuhan, China, and has been referred to as the ‘Chinese virus,’ bullying of children of Asian descent has increased and these children are now more likely to be victims of bullying than their classmates. Bullying has largely been done through private and text messaging in a ‘virtual’ environment.

Protecting your child

To coincide with Anti-Bullying Awareness Week, which runs from 11 to 15 November, it’s a good time to think about how you can better protect your child from cyberbullying.

Have the ‘talk.’ Open the lines of communication between yourself and your child. Discuss what cyberbullying is and what to do when it happens. Don’t be afraid to set guidelines and take control of

We enter an uncertain future with lockdown restrictions likely to continue in some form or another through the winter months. So it’s more important than ever for parents to find positive ways to curtail the ‘pandemic effect’ and limit online screen time to help avoid cyberbullying.

• The UK government guidelines, Coronavirus (Covid-19): support for parents and carers to keep children safe online: gov.uk/government/publications • Essential Guide to Bullying by Need2Know Books. Enter N2K1 at checkout to get a 30 per cent discount • For more information and advice on cyberbullying visit: bullying.co.uk and childline.org.uk If you are concerned about a child’s mental welfare or notice worrying behaviour, please seek professional advice.

Recognising a subtle type of bullying By Tanith Carey Imagine this scene, which plays out in schools up and down the country daily. A Year 4 girl, let's call her Annabel, spots a classmate, Lisa, looking and whispering to her best friend, Eve, at break time. Later that day, Eve informs Annabel that she only wants to play with Lisa today – and the two girls sit together at lunch without saving Annabel a seat. Tearful and confused, Annabel torments herself wondering what Lisa could have said about her to Eve – or what she could have possibly done wrong. Until relatively recently, when considering bullying, our main concern has been the physical attacks and intimidation of traditional bullying. But, in recent years, we have started to understand a much more hidden kind of social conflict. It’s relational aggression, a kind of stealth attack, using words and exclusion – and tactics like seat-saving, gossip and blanking. It mainly happens between children in the same friendship groups and classrooms. It works so well because it’s very difficult to spot and even more difficult to prove.


If Annabel had complained to her teacher that the other girls were excluding her, the teacher didn't see the whispering, couldn't have proved that Lisa was saying mean things and certainly couldn't force Eve and Lisa to save Annabel a seat. Relational aggression happens all the way through school amongst girls and boys. Among boys, it can be even harder to identify because ‘teasing’ is the actual glue that bonds boys' friendships. By secondary school, boys may call each other by such insulting names and be so sarcastic that it's hard for others to tell when teasing has become hurtful and demeaning for a child. Youngsters caught up in this type of situation may be tearful at home, find it hard to concentrate and may not want to go to school. It's tough for parents to help because so much is going on beneath the radar. Some children may not want to admit it’s happening – they would rather put up with being treated badly than be cast out of a friendship circle. It’s likely every child will be on the receiving end of relational aggression sometimes, so we can Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

help our kids by showing them how to spot it, name it and draw protective boundaries around themselves. When to get the school involved? All kids will say mean things to each other and that includes your child. However, relational aggression crosses the line if it’s repeated, intentional and one child is more socially powerful or intimidating than another. If two children are evenly matched, it’s preferable to give your child an awareness of what’s going on and the tactics to fight back – as this is an important lesson in developing social skills and learning how to stand up for themselves. Tanith Carey is author of The Friendship Maze: How to Help Your Child Navigate Their Way to Positive and Happier Friendships, published by Summersdale, price £10.99 and available from Amazon and all good book stores.

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Email: editor@familiestvw.co.uk • Tel: 07968 711937

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