Thank you very much to everyone who commented on the “Health Visitor Baby Clinic Drop-In” cancellation post!

Thank you very much to everyone who commented on “Louise nhm Smith” on the “Health Visitor Baby Clinic Drop-In” cancellation post.

I felt very passionately about this issue, having had so many Mum’s contact me in the past several years asking for mine and the NHM Communities support.

If we can do something to raise the visibility of the issues that Mum’s will face without being able to Drop-In to the weigh-in’s then that is nothing but a good thing.

This was NEVER my intention when I first set up NHM, that I would be filling a gap to try to raise awareness of some very big issues that are facing the local Mum community.

However, there were a couple of comments on the Health Visitor Baby Clinic post towards a paragraph that I wrote, which I would like to address.

The Ladies who wrote those comments may not like what I’ve written below and that’s absolutely fine.

And actually, I don’t need to explain myself to those Mums.

I did not mock or disrespect anyone else’s views or the choices that they have made and there was no judgement in what I wrote.

If those Mum’s who commented felt that their choices were being judged, the only people who were judging them was them. Not me.

This is what I wrote:

‘2017

30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds. Depending on your perspective you can see this as a positive thing but I believe that institutionalising 3 year olds and taking them away from their Mothers at such a young age, for so long, is going to have nothing but a negative impact.’

In the meantime:

  1. Yes, I passionately believe that, in an ideal world, babies and young children should spend more time with their Mum’s than anyone else.
  2. I don’t agree with the 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds
  3. I believe that nurseries and pre-schools are Institutions
  4. I believe that children start school far too early in this country
  5. I believe that it’s none of my business the choices that you have made for your children and likewise it’s none of your business the choices that I made for my child
  6. I passionately believe that being a Mum is the HARDEST job in the world (and being a Dad is the 2nd hardest job in the world!)
  7. I believe we are all trying to do the best we can for our children, regardless of our circumstances
  8. I believe that you and I can have differing opinions and agree to disagree

The problem with making statements like the ones above is that people will always do their best to try to pull them apart.

And that’s fine.

That’s their choice.

I’ve been writing NHM long enough to know that if you are brave enough to put your head above the parapet and share an opinion, there will be at least one person who doesn’t agree.

But there will be many people who do agree and THOSE are the people I have written NHM for.

Let me unpack those statements above a little more, to explain why I’ve written them.

  1. I passionately believe that, in an ideal world, babies and young children should spend more time with their Mum’s than anyone else.

For Millions and millions and millions of years, Mum’s have been the primary carer for their babies and young children. That’s a fact. It is what it is.

I know that society is changing.

I know that in many instances we don’t feel we have any choice but to put our children into childcare and to have someone else look after them.

We have mortgages to pay and lives to pay for and we want the best for our children which, these days, comes with a hefty price tag.

We enjoy our jobs and we want to be a good role model for our children.

I also understand that this statement is a huge steaming pile of hypocracy given that Mr NHM and I put Miss NHM into nursery when she was 5 months old when I returned to work.

But that doesn’t change my belief.

And is one of the reasons why I’ve run NorthHantsMum for all of these years.

  1. I don’t agree with the 30 hours free childcare for three and four year olds

Looking at the big picture, I believe that 30 hours free childcare is far, far too much.

I say that as someone who used to pay more than £1000 a month for her child to be in nursery, so the free hours would have been BEYOND helpful!

The main reason is the number of Mum’s that I’ve spoken too who feel they are now being pushed into the workforce, by financial needs, as soon as their children turn three years old.

They categorically don’t want to go back to work.

They want their children to remain at home with them but they no longer have that luxury (and these days, unless you’re minted, it is a luxury!) with the offer of 30 free childcare hours on the table.

I do feel that 15 hours of free childcare is the right amount for 4 year olds, four half days a week, because socialisation before they join the institution that is school can be so beneficial to them.

But no, when I look at the bigger picture, I don’t agree with the 30 hours of free childcare.

Even though I know how much those hours help many, many, many of you and how they would have financially HUGELY helped my family.

  1. I do believe that nurseries and pre-schools are Institutions

Wikipedia does a much better job of explaining it than I can: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_institution.

When our children start nursery and/or pre-school they must adapt to the routine of that nursery or pre-school.

There are fixed times for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Key Workers are shared between multiple children.

Each “classroom” contains a great number of children.

Miss NHM loved going to Pre-school when she was 4 years old (when she was at nursery she couldn’t tell me if she loved it or not) but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t attending an Institution.

4. I believe that children start school far too early in this country

I don’t believe that YR is a good thing and I believe that children are far too little to start school at 4/5 years old.

5. I do believe that it’s none of my business the choices that you have made for your children and likewise it’s none of your business the choices that I made for my child.

I put Miss NHM into a nursery when she was 5 months old. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make and it almost broke me.

At the time, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I’m the main earner in our family and I spent many years working hard in my career to get to a senior role before I met Mr NHM and Miss NHM was born.

I fell pregnant when I was working for a company that was 98% male and they had absolutely no consideration for my pregnancy or when Miss NHM was born. When I left on maternity leave I was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t return within 6 months, the job I’d worked so hard to have, would be given to someone else. (In 2011 if you didn’t return to work within 6 months the company you worked for was allowed to give you an “equivalent” role, which meant they would phase you out).

I’d heard the horror stories of how hard it was to return to the workforce once you’d left to have a family and I didn’t want to have to start my career all over again when I returned to the workforce.

Putting Miss NHM into nursery when she was 5 months old was, along with breastfeeding, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

The first time I picked her up from nursery and she was smelled of someone else….

But I made my choices, in discussion with Mr NHM, and I’ve made peace with them.

I’m not happy about them and I felt, and still feel, that I was trapped by my circumstances, like so many of us are.

And yet I STILL passionately believe that babies and young children should spend more time with their Mum than anyone else.

6. I passionately believe that being a Mum is the HARDEST job in the world

Whatever we do is wrong.

We are judged by others and we judge ourselves.

We judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else.

We never know if we are getting it “right” until our children are grown up.

This post puts it far more eloquently than I can: https://www.mother.ly/life/self-care-is-not-enough-to-fix-how-much-moms-are-burnt-out?fbclid=IwAR1Yr4uCbYrn7X7r87LJIyNoKLw1Q-ntPmdKOV-o1iUcu-vDiYkQNCRR65Y

7. I believe we are all trying to do the best we can for our children

Whatever our decisions and our choices I know that ALL NHM Readers are just trying to do the best for their families and their children, whatever their circumstances.

8. I believe that you and I are allowed to have different opinions

We are incredibly privileged to live in a Democracy where we are able to voice our opinions.

I apologise if my paragraph upset you in any way.

If you’ve been following NorthHantsMum for a while, you will know that I do my very best to use NHM as a positive force and it is NEVER my intention to upset people, especially Mum’s.

However, if that one paragraph that was embedded in a post that was about something else entirely, hit a nerve, your negative comments actually say more about how you feel than they do about what I believe.

Who cares what I believe and write about?

The only people who should really care are me, Miss NHM and Mr NHM.

Everyone else has a choice to read what I’ve written.

Ultimately, if you don’t like what I write, please don’t read it.

But I’m taking that decision out of your hands anyway.

Don’t miss out on future posts like this – you can receive updates directly to your inbox by email by adding your email address to the box on the top right of this page and hitting subscribe. You can also follow NorthHantsMum on TwitterFacebook ProfileLinkedIn and Feedly. I hope to see you there!

Failing Families: Health Visitor Clinic Closures

It’s been 8 years since I started NorthHantsMum in June 2011.

I’ve seen a lot of changes during that time. Unfortunately many of those changes have negatively impacted local families, especially Mums with babies and small children and families with SEN children.

Yesterday I saw that the Health Visitor clinic schedule has been changed again so that now the Drop In’s are only Monday at The Ridgeway Centre and Friday at the Discovery Centre. The others are by appointment only.

Many of the clinics that have been running for at least 8 years (I know because I used them) have now been cancelled, such as Christchurch Chineham, Overton, Hatch Warren, Whitchurch and Bramley.

I understand that we are living in times of “austerity” but why is it that families, especially Mums and young children, are targeted with any cuts first?

What you can do!!!

If, like me, you are pissed off/ fed up  (I don’t swear on NHM but I feel it’s appropriate in this instance!) with the way local families are being repeatedly let down then this is what you can do:

Specifically email ALL of the three people below and say why it matters to you that the Health Visitor clinics have been cut.

Please cc. me in any emails that you send (NorthHantsMum@gmail.com).

  1. Email the head of Southern Health: hp-tr.complaints@nhs.net
  2. Email Maria Miller: maria.miller.mp@parliament.uk
  3. Email your local councillor. You can find your local councillor here by using your postcode: https://democracy.basingstoke.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

(You can copy and paste all of the emails from here: hp-tr.complaints@nhs.net;  maria.miller.mp@parliament.uk; NorthHantsMum@gmail.com)

Specifically tweet ALL of the three people below and say why it matters to you that the Health Visitor clinics have been cut:

  1. Tweet the head of Southern Health: https://twitter.com/NickBroughton4
  2. Tweet Maria Miller: https://twitter.com/MariaMillerUK
  3. Tweet your local councillors

The remaining clinics also have feedback forms, so please complete these as well.

Please make sure you add comments as to why it matters to you that the clinics have been cut as the way these things work is that individual letters/emails count more than group ones.

What to write about

You could write about how disappointed you are that so many clinics have been discontinued because they were so important to you when your baby was born as they were somewhere for you to go for support.

You could write about how annoyed you are that funding cuts are impacting new Mums and thus putting them at more risk of post natal depression.

You could write about how angry you are that new Mums and future new Mums are being failed by the services that are supposed to be in place to support them.

You could also write something similar to this which I’ve been sent by another local Mum: “in recent years in our area parents have lost specialised breastfeeding support when grant funding was not extended and have had closures of Children’s Centres (11 remain out of 64 in Hampshire I think). To say that support for parents has been decimated is an understatement. I understand that money is tight but the latest blow will affect those parents who are only just coping and in turn these women and children will need to access more services via their GPs for example or as mental health referrals. I consider these additional closures will knock on to the health and well being of ordinary families and will cost the whole system more in the long run. We were promised more Health Visitors in the call for action – instead it seems we have fewer with just a skeleton service remaining. I worry for those families who in the past would have got early support from a trusted Health Visitor – who now will go under the radar. If a GP visit costs around £45, a hospital overnight stay more like £500 and a child taken in to care around £50K per annum… we can see how cutting services for families to the bare minimum will soon knock on to these other budgets. We are calling for a joined up approach to services in the county.”

You can obviously write whatever you would like but please put why it matters to you that the Health Visitor Clinics have been cut.

On Social Media you could use the hashtag #FailingFamilies.

Summary of Closures

If you have a bit more time and feel like you really want to “go to town” on how local families are being let down, then please see my summary of closures and cancellations in the past 4 years….

2015

2016

(There is now direct evidence of how children’s centres saved the NHS millions of pounds: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/04/sure-start-saved-nhs-millions?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook&fbclid=IwAR38KyULT_ELrGweVxT_rNIHgJIK4RKL491e0MVUbcHjaVmsiC99gW3lRC8) Thank you to Danielle for sharing with me).

2017

  • 30 hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds, meaning many Mums are being forced back into working much earlier than they would want too.

2018

  • Closing of Little Play Town in Nov 2018
  • Manydown Family Fun Closed
  • Absolute Karting Basingstoke Closed
  • JJ’s (softplay) Closed
  • Beenham Wolf Sanctury Closed
  • Reduction of funding for school buses – August 2018
  • Removal of school buses for children with disabilities – August 2018
  • National Playday at Eastrop cancelled in 2018. This was a free day for children that had been running for years in Eastrop but now runs in a few of the local community centres instead. It’s not the same. At all.
  • Reduction in funding for the newborn courses at the remaining Children’s Centre, Westside – 2018
  • Cancellation of the EHCP process in Nov 2018 for SEN parents
  • Closing of ParentVoice and switching to Red Rose: https://www.hants.gov.uk/news/Nov27-SENDIASS
  • Changes to Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support in Hampshire

2019

  • Kids N Action Softplay Closed
(If there is anything that I have missed off this list, please let me know).

Impact of these changes

All of these changes are impacting many, many local families.

Even more so with the increase in housing of an extra 10,000 houses to be built in the local area by end of 2020, so more families are moving to the area but services are being reduced that don’t support existing families, let alone new families.

As I said above, I understand that we live in times of “austerity” but it’s very, very worrying and I try not to dwell too much on the impact these changes will have on my 8 year old daughter, her generation and future generations.

I try my best to be positive and upbeat on NHM but I think we need to try to do something to ensure that at least the Health Visitor clinics are better represented. Any help you can give with this will be greatly appreciated. If we ALL send the emails, the impact the NorthHantsMum Community could have would be huge!

Comments from other Mum’s

who have put it far more eloquently than I have!

Sarah: Sadly it Seems like this government would rather waste money hosting a £40million trump visit and push through brexit at any cost rather than look after it’s vulnerable citizens. After brexit more services like this will be cut as we will all be poorer – Apparently it’s “the will of the people”.

Genevieve: As well as writing letters, you may also wish to comment on Maria’s Twitter and Facebook accounts (or here https://www.facebook.com/159961377372565/posts/2184994638202552?s=532163237&sfns=mo – she’s very good at attending awards, not so good at helping people!).

Eleanor: Prevention is better than cure … health visitor clinics are so useful to local people in their own communities. Mums don’t think ‘oh I’m struggling, I know I’ll book a health visitor clinic’ they just keep struggling, until something breaks or nothing happens but just struggle.
I’m so sad to see the Bramley clinic cancelled. The stay and play sessions were so valuable to me. Sadly the funding is ridiculously short I presume. I’ll defiantly be emailing as you suggested. Taking away support for parents is only ever going to cause problems for parents and children in the future. Even if it’s the subtle kind of problems that don’t translate into hospital admissions etc.

Elisa: The unfortunate truth is that they are down on 5 full time health visitors for Southern Health. The reason they are not able to recruit is that most of their time is spent dealing with safe guarding issues. The role of the health visitor has sadly changed and nobody wants to do the type of work they are doing now. Add to this, the fact that the remaining staff are over worked and stressed, it’s not an environment anyone else wants to join.
So as desperately sad as it is about the decreasing availability of them, writing to anyone will sadly make no difference. The jobs are available but sadly nobody wants them ☹️.

Emma: When I had my first I could walk around to chiltern school and see a HV every other Tuesday. He was regularly weighed and as a first time mum I could ask all my questions. Fast forward 4 years and I had a prem baby. Zero support. I was told I’d have more contact because he was premature- I didn’t. When I went for weigh ins the HV’s didn’t all understand how to record his weight!! You have to plot it twice for actual and corrected. The library was the easiest one to get to but queues were horrendous and then you felt rushed because you could feel the strain. Needless to say I stopped going. It was too much effort with two children and with my baby being so little. I can’t believe they’ve reduced this even further. If I was a first time mum now I’d be very worried.

Wendy: Emma, such similar story, my first was weighed once a fortnight at first, then once a month in the Popley 5 drop in that was walking distance for all of Popley, Oakridge and South View. Then they moved it to Popley Fields for my second, no longer walking distance, not at a time that was convenient for nursery/school run. He got weighed about 4 times. He had eczema and allergies but going to the drop in meant missing out on other things or struggling with the car park, so we didn’t bother. Parking charges, town being busy, all things that would have put me off going to the library. I can only imagine what it’s like for those using public transport.

Angela: It’s thoroughly saddening to see such valuable support (emotional to individuals and economic to the wider public health system) being stripped away. I hope people remember this feeling of hopelessness during the next general election and vote for a party that is going to help the public. (I’m really sorry to make this political, but in the words of a great 90s rock band “everything’s political”. We have the power to choose a government that won’t strip the first line of support from us.)

Charlotte: It’s so sad. I used to work on a HV team and the work they do really cannot be underestimated. Yes, you can still see a HV without a clinic but as mentioned above, the clinic is such a convenient and quick way to see them, without having to book an appointment. Some parents don’t have to confidence to book an appointment, or they aren’t sure if they are wasting someone’s time (they never are wasting anyone’s time). I think the cutting down of these clinics alongside the closure of the children’s centres we really come back to bite the Government in a few years when there are increased social issues and late diagnosis of problems that could have been resolved with early intervention 😢.

Mary: To be a HV, you have to be a qualified nurse. They can’t find nurses because they cut the support for people to train. Lots of nurses stop nursing because its not compatible with being a parent unless you are lucky enough to work in a day service. Nurses, however, aren’t paid enough so free childcare is vital to contribute towards the cos. It’s more problematic that childcare support doesn’t start until age 3 so working parents have to struggle through age 1 and 2 first – or not work and then have to pay to reregister or train for their jobs. It’s all connected.

Nicole: I got my almost 3 month old weighed yesterday at Discovery Centre and I was shocked at how much it had changed since I took my first there in 2016. There was a queue out of the door to get in, and then you now weigh your baby and record it in your red book yourself. I didn’t need any support from the HV on this visit, but I’m not a healthcare professional and it would have been nice to just have them oversee it and my baby’s progress. To be honest I won’t be attending again. I feel sorry for the HVs because they look so stretched when you see them trying to get around the room, but most of them were extremely friendly and pleasant, and even found me a seat to feed the baby before I left.

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NHM Readers Recommend: Inspiring Presents for Father’s Day

In June 2018 I asked the Friends of my “Louise nhm Smith” profile on Facebook “I’ve suddenly realised that it’s less than 2 weeks until Father’s Day….EEEKKK!!! It always sneaks up on me, every single year! So, I’m looking for inspiring presents for Father’s Day. Any suggestions?”

Many thanks for all your responses, listed below in no particular order:

NHM Readers Recommend: Inspiring Presents for Father’s Day

Natalie said “Something World Cup football related??? The first England match conveniently happens to be the Monday after Father’s Day!”

Kate said “We can highly recommend Lisa and Phil’s Longdog Brewery Real Ales”

Marion said “Shabby Gourmet Curry”

Charlotte said “Got my partner matching Game of Thrones T-shirts for him and my 2year old boy off Etsy. Will be so cute!”

Tracey said “Paint a pottery gift at Pots to Doodle Do Cliddesden”

Stacey said “Lilliepads Delicious Delights 1kg Mixed sweetie boxes yummy treat. That’s what my hubby is getting with a goody bag of random other bits including men’s sliders, socks lol”

Wendy said “You give your child £5, take them to Poundland and hand them a basket, let them sort it out. Teaching life skills!”

Susie  said “https://www.my-picture.co.uk/ great quality canvas prints from photos & bargain prices too”

Ruza said “What about something for the man shed?”

Leah said Buyagift.co.uk, Notonthehighstreet.co.uk, Red letter days, Chocs, Socks, Red5.co.uk, Men-kind in town, Gadget shops lol”

Kirsty said “Racetrack tshirt The Personalisation Parlour

Mel said “The Home of Hearts Look at my Father’s Day collection for inspiration or give me the details and I will create a keepsake for you!”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Local Country Parks

An NHM Reader recently asked: “Would anyone be able to recommend some local country parks? We like Wellington but it’s so expensive!” 

Many thanks to the NHM Community for all of your responses, listed below in no particular order.

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

NHM Readers Recommend: Local Country Parks

Andrea said “All about a 30-50 min drive away. Dinton Pastures, Itchen Valley, Moors Valley, Royal Victoria, all free except for parking.

Clare saidAlice Holt has the gruffalo trail and in the summer  Moors Valley in the New Forest is great for a while day with only parking to pay”

Charlene saidAlice Holt, Virginia Waters

Dan saidFleet ponds is lovely to walk around.”

Sarah saidCalifornia country park just pay parking”

Jo R saidAlice Holt, Bracknell look out (cheaper later in day) outside free. California country park. Dinton Pastures. Frensham big and little ponds. Elizabeth Country Park. Sign up to National Trust for less than £10 a month then go as many times as you can!

Vicky saidSome great suggestions! We went to California country park for the first time in October and we’ll be going back in the summer to try out the paddling pool (think it’s a £2.50 charge for the pool).”

Tracy saidBeale Park season ticket is very very good value!”

Emma L said “Defo Alice Holt and there’s one in Reading Dinton I think”

Rebecca said I love California country park

Aimee saidDinton Pastures is awesome”

Jo W saidVirginia Waters is beautiful”

Alison saidThatcham discovery centre and Charlton lakes are great

Heather saidQueen Elizabeth Country Park in Petersfield. All free exc small parking fee and brilliant. Drive right to the top for excellent play areas and open spaces. And an obstacle course.”

Jenny saidAlice Holt and Dinton both fab – only pay for parking”

Rachel saidDinton Pastures is brill and free apart from parking. Also nature discovery in Newbury which you just have to pay parking for.”

Emma H saidMoors Valley, you just pay for parking. It’s ace!! There’s also one in eastleigh but I can’t remember the name”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Places to go that include Train Rides

I recently had a question from an NHM Reader that I asked the NHM Community to help with: “Can anyone recommend places in Hampshire or close by that include train rides?”

Many thanks for all of your replies, listed below in no particular order.

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

NHM Readers Recommend: Places to go that include Train Rides

Stefanie saidThe watercress line in Alton. There is also a miniature railway at Viables in Basingstoke.”

Amanda saidWellington country park has a miniature railway”

Becky said “There is a train at Beale Park near pangbourne which is Berkshire but not too far from the Hampshire border”

Wendy said “There’s this one in Eastleigh but most will be shut throughout Jan and Feb http://www.steamtrain.co.uk/

Jo saidRoyal Victoria country park…we went there yesterday.”

Pixie saidDidcot and Swindon but a bit further out.”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Free holiday activities for families 2019

In July 2018, a NHM Reader asked: “Do you have a list of free activities over the holiday which includes older siblings?”

Thank you for all your responses, they are listed below in no particular order. All opinions are the readers own and are not that of NHM.

NHM Readers Recommend: Free holiday activities for families 2019

Jools said, “Basingstoke children and families page has loads of free stuff or very inexpensive including things at Westside cc, viables community centre, Popley fields and Streetz which happen across Basingstoke and caters for older children. Things on every day mon-fri.”

Vicky said, “We did pets at home workshop. Had booked both girls in, who are 6 and 9, but my 9 year old backed out my my 6 year old got to hold a rat, bunny and guinea pig which she loved then there was a small activity box to take away with you. There were mainly younger ones but only half an hour and free! You do have to book online though as max of 12 kids. The lady was very knowledgeable.”

Becky said, “Good question. With a 4 yr old and a 12 year old it is difficult to find things on offer that allow both younger and older children.”

Louise said, “Blackberry picking?” Also check out the free sessions at your local Apple Store. They do educational sessions twice a day that you can book on for free. 

Rebecca said, “Hobbycraft do lots of free craft activities which both kids might like. Included slime making today and you take home the slime you make, that is good or bad depending on how you look at it!”

Hannah said, “We took our three (eldest 10/youngest 3) to the splash pad in popley (Chineham Splash Park) today….they all loved it and didn’t want to come home. Normally I struggle to entertain the 10 year old but he came away having had the most fun and asked to go back. Best bit was it costed nothing!!!!! The library are also running various craft bits too.”

Kate said, “A trip out to local woods (such as Micheldever) to go exploring?”

Hannah said, “Check out viable community centre as they have lots going on at the mo.”

Don’t miss out on future posts like this – you can receive updates directly to your inbox by email by adding your email address to the box on the top right of this page and hitting subscribe. You can also follow NorthHantsMum on TwitterFacebook ProfileLinkedIn and Feedly. I hope to see you there!

NHM Readers Recommend: Best Soft Play

I recently had a question from an NHM Reader that I asked the NHM Community to help with: “What are the best soft play places in Hampshire? Or are they all pretty much the same?” 

Many thanks for all of your responses, listed below in no particular order.

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

NHM Readers Recommend: Best Soft Play

Play Days, Basingstoke

Ellie said “Definitely play days in Basingstoke, have tried them all and this was my favourite. It’s clean, the cafe is nice and the balls are in the ball pit!”

Marie said “Playdays is the best, but the parking is limited. We could do with one the other side of town (hatchwarren/ Brighton hill way).”

Michelle said “Agree playdays is great. Always clean, decent prices, can stay as long as you like and staff all friendly. Has a baby bit and a much larger bit, so good for siblings of different ages…would say probably up to 5/6 years max though”

    • Leah said “depends on the child I think, my 7.5 year old still loves going to Playdays”

Anna said “Playdays is great. My son always had so much fun here!”

Jungle Adventure Soft Play (previously Play Den), Basingstoke

Laura said “Play Gym in Festival place… cleanest place around!”

Helen H said “The play den in town is nice and clean and generally the service is good.”

Active Tots, nr Bramley

Melanie said “For little ones I would highly recommend Active Tots.”

Helen H said “Active Tots near Bramley is lovely and clean, but pricey and the customer service is awful. I’ve been 3x and every time the staff are rude and unhelpful.”

    • Melanie said “Helen I’ve always found the staff lovely and very accommodating to those with allergies.”
    • Helen said “As I say, only been 3x and each time was a horrible experience. But I can’t fault the cleanliness of the place at all. It’s a lovely facility.”
    • Catherine said “and it has windows and natural day light.. which is less depressing for me!”

The Adventure Barn, Winchester

Lisa saidMy favourite is The Adventure Barn its extremely clean (closed every Tuesday 1/2 day to be cleaned) Staff are friendly, it also has a great outdoor play area in the summer. Is suitable for tiny babies up to 9/10 year olds (depending on the child). You can see all areas of the soft play so you can keep an eye on your child and don’t ‘loose’ them. The food is lovely (proper adult food) as well as kids meals, healthy and not so healthy snack for the kids. They do toddler sessions where you get a free biscuit and squash. Its near Marwell. Can be tricky to find the first time. Overall brilliant though…”

360 Play Farnborough

Amy said “It’s really good there. Lots to do but it’s pricey and the food was terrible when I went! Too far for us to go and not have lunch but wouldn’t be in a rush to go again for that reason. That said my little boy had a great time!”

Alison said “Its great but it is expensive. It has great role play areas, carousel, bumper cars, lego building plus usual soft play. My nearly 5 year old loves it. I’ve eaten there a few times and its been fine. Parking is a bit of a pain. The parking outside is time limited so we’ve parked in the multi storey down the road so we can stay all day and make the most especially as its expensive to get in.”

Joellie said “I’m here now! It’s expensive but lots to do

Helen said “Joellie I thought the same about price, especially as on 1st visit you have to register and pay a one off £5 reg fee. But saying that there is loads to do. I agree parking close is limited to 2hrs but next time will park on multi storey as someone else suggested. Definitely will visit again.”

Other and Multiple Recommendations:

Leah said Frankies fun factory in Romsey is big, so much to do & fun! Kids2day in Eastleigh is good. Playdays in Basingstoke. Gym tots in Basingstoke sports centre. Sure there must be one in reading.”

    • Carrie saidkrazy kids is in reading and really good”
    • Leah said “ah knew there would be lol. Not been there yet…”

Leah also said  “Also, fun house in Basingstoke…There’s also one at Finkley Down Farm I think – go for a day out & enjoy. Also, 4 kingdoms play activity centre near Newbury – great outdoors stuff & big soft play centre inside. Marwell zoo has one nearby the zoo – not in the zoo but further down the road (can’t remember what it’s called though)”

    • Lisa said “The Adventure Barn (I’ve mentioned above x )”
    • Leah said “ah yes that one lol.”

Wendy said “I find soft play is very specific to age, active tots is fine for under 1s but a bit pants once they can walk. The sports centre is good for 1 – 4, play days sees them to about year 1. Flip out has a playframe that over 7s absolutely love and my kids love both the indoor and outdoor ones at 4 kingdoms.”

    • Natalie said “Wendy, can you just buy tickets for the soft play bit? Or is it you have to buy for the whole place?”
    • Wendy said “Natalie you have to get tickets for the whole place. Last year they had a ticket sale around March where you could buy discounted tickets with no use by date.”

Steph said “We love the soft play in The sports centre in festival place, it’s clean and reasonably priced. Active Tots is fab for younger children. We love kids in action too but that’s in winnersh”

Alison saidEddie Katz Newbury! (OK Berkshire.. But only just) Also for little ones Active TotsPlay Gym in Basingstoke sports centre”

Vicki said “Love The Adventure Barn near Marwell, Kids n Action in Winnersh and, it’s a bit of a drive, but Sprouts Playbarn near Abingdon is seriously the best I’ve ever been to.”

Kimberley said “Active Tots is really nice for 1-3 year olds however over the top price wise. They even charged a friend of mine over £5 for her 4 month baby which wasn’t going to be using equipment. Play den in town sports centre is also great for younger ones but no cafe anymore. Playdays has a smaller area for younger children and is always clean – not much parking though x”

    • Helen H said “Kimberley they charged us £5 per person to sit in the cafe ! When I had my son with me to use the equipment and two adults who weren’t using it or with kids but would be buying a coffee in the cafe!”
    • Kimberley said “Helen shocking really!”

Julia said “I don’t think anyone has mentioned Madhouse next to the Madejski Stadium in Reading. It’s not too far from Basingstoke, always very clean, staff always friendly when I have been. It does work out pricey if you have lots of kids and eat there too, but I find all the good ones do.”

Michelle saidRosie and Bean cafe in fleet is good for imaginative play, also has a bouncy castle, lovely staff and great food!”

Jessica said “There was a really nice one in Camberley . Magic Kingdom/Dragon or something. That was very good”

Sarah said “Kids n Action is brilliant and something for all ages”

Catherine said fun house

Ruza saidJake’s playworld, with inside and outside space. One of the cleanest I’ve been to and great for the kids. Near tri-lakes”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Best Water Parks and Leisure Centres

I recently had a question from a Reader that I asked the NHM Community to help with: “What are the best water parks / leisure centres in the area for pre-schoolers?”

Many thanks for your responses, listed below in no particular order

Please bear in mind that listings may change in subsequent years, but hopefully they will still be a good base point for your own research.

NHM Readers Recommend: Best Water Parks and Leisure Centres

Laura said “I’ve just been to Coral Reef today as we had an inset day. It’s £6.65 for adults, free for under 5s. The big slides aren’t open on weekdays but there’s lots of fun and slides for smaller kids”

Wendy saidAquadrome has just refurbished their toddler bit. Tadley has the best temperature locally. QMC on a Saturday/Sunday afternoon is the best value for money, Just a simple pool but they chuck loads of floats and woggles in. In the summer, Chineham park splash pad in Popley.”

Victoria said “Been to Guildford Spectrum today- great for all ages and loads to do there”

    • Amanda replied “Agreed :)”

Lene said “We went to Windsor leisure park a few weeks ago. We thought it was great. Not massive but had slides, kids bit, wave pool, couple of bigger slides and plenty of changing facilities.”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Punishment at School as well as at Home?

I recently had a question from a Reader that I asked the NHM Community to help with: “After some parenting advice; if your child misbehaved at school and was punished at school would you punish at home as well or not?”

Many thanks for all of your responses, listed below in no particular order.

NHM Readers Recommend: Punishment at School as well as at Home?

Katie said “I think it depends on what they did. I’ve just gone through this and decided punishing at school wasn’t enough so he also got punished at home.”

Chloe said “I had this issue before, I was unhappy that the school didn’t tell me, luckily my child is honest with me, but because she had already been punished, I chose to talk to her about it but not punish her, I make her reflect on what she does, it always depends on how often it happens and the situation”

Becki said “I don’t usually. If the school has dealt with it, I’d talk to the child about it and see if we can get to the bottom of why it happened so it doesn’t happen again. School won’t punish for bad behaviour at home!”

Jennie said “It’s already been dealt with”

Lorah said “Depends what it was!”

Wendy D said “Agree depends on what they did. If they broke school rules then the school punishment is normally enough but if they broke life rules then I would consider revoking a few home prvillages too. Also depends if they are sorry.”

    • Lorah said “Wendy yes agree with this!!”

Kathryn said “I’d have a chat with them at home about it, there is always 2 sides to a story and discuss different ways they could have dealt with whatever they were feeling but not punish them again.”

Catherine said “There’s not really a lot of punishment the school can doll out. It depends on what it was but I think if it was something you considered serious you should back up at home with a consequence to support the school.”

Rachael said “Depends what happened and the reasons it happened. I would always sit down and talk to them about it so they know that I communicate with the school, also so I can pick up if they are acting out because they are upset, stressed etc”

Kerri said “No. I work in a Pre school and we tell parents when their child misbehaves but only for their information. Depending on the age of the child once a certain amount of time has passed the ‘punishment’ won’t be relevant. I think parents should discuss what’s happened and the fact it’s wrong/they’re disappointed etc and to affirm the fact school have chosen to take it seriously. But not necessarily to punish themselves.”

    • Catherine said “Kerri I wouldn’t consider punishing a preschooler at all, other than sternly saying no and explaining why it’s wrong.”

Emma said “Yes!”

Hayley said “Personally punishment should be done at the time of incident.. else they won’t associate the punishment with the wrong doing. I’m with those who say the school should tell parents and when the child is home to sit down and talk about it.. punishment has been given so a stern talk when home about it is best.”

Amber said “If the child has already been punished at school then I dont punish again at home. I want my child to know that he can tell me anything that happens at school without fear of being told off again. Obviously we do talk about any incident but it is a conversation rather than punishment.”

Wendy S said “No, they’ve already been punished, I’d just say that I know about it.”

Karen said “No. Not if it’s been dealt with. Consequences are much better though…https://www.empoweringparents.com/…/punishments-vs…/

Marion said “If it’s a school rule they broke, no. If they’ve been a proper little for and done something unacceptable to another child, absolutely.”

Ruza said “Well it does depend on what happened. School rules, and discipline at school. However if this is something that you really think needs further dealing with then you need to find out why and then look at what you need to do further. Also remember sometimes something happens that has an underlying reason.”

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NHM Readers Recommend: Classic Tracks to Introduce to Your Kids

I had a bit of a random question from a friend which I thought I’d ask the NHM Community for advice on: “I’m trying to introduce my son and daughter to really good music, especially the classic tracks (not classical) from the last 50 years. What specific tracks would you recommend?”

I LOVED all of the suggestions, now listed below, and decided to steal some myself. THANK YOU!!!!!

NHM Readers Recommend: Classic Tracks to Introduce to Your Kids

Holly said “Queen!”

Matthew said “Acdc just get out classic rock and 80’s etc there are loads but just play them in car that’s what we do and kids love them.”

Natashia said “Bee Gees/ Fleetwood Mac / Roxette / Bryan Adams / ABBA ……that’s just pop……or depending on their age they may prefer rock….otherwise ACDC, Crash Test Dummies, The Doors…list goes on …”

Emma said “I love a bit of rolling stones! Though don’t listen to the lyrics too much so couldn’t say how appropriate they are”

Cerys said “My teenage boys are huge Stones fans. We took them to see them live in Southampton earlier this year and they loved it.”

Kym said “Michael Jackson, Beatles”

Hayley said Requested in our house:
Levellers – One way, Beautiful Day, Angels.
Most songs by Bryan Adams.
Guns’n Roses – Sweet child of mine.
Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the Devil, Paint it black.
Aerosmith – Pink, Crazy.
Most songs by the Beatles.
Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a prayer, Always.
Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t fear the reaper.
Madness – Our house, One step beyond.
Specials – Ghost Town
Fleetwood Mac – The Chain, Landslide”
The girls also like a bit of Metallica, Rob Zombie, Oasis, Coldplay & Pearl Jam too.

Melrose said “Love the Levellers, been a fan since 92! Saw them last week in Bristol as part of their 30th anniversary tour, just as brilliant as ever.”

Hayley said “Melrose Hall I think we’ve spoken about them before actually when I used to take my daughter to playgroup at Melrose…They’re one of our favourite bands, we’ve taken the kids to the Beautiful Days festival for the last few years – they love it”

Cat said “My boys’ current favourites: Nickelback rockstar and MJ bad. We have Amazon prime music and I often ask varied playlists: classic rock, 80s rock, disco, 90s etc….”

Wendy S said “Radio 2!”

Allison said “Don’t forget the Sergeant Pepper album – that’s a real classic with a mass of musical styles and instruments

Laura said “Fleetwood mac
The eagles
Abba
The carpenters
The beatles
The beach boys
Queen
Eva cassidy
Simon and garfunkel”

Genni said “The jam, blur, oasis, pulp, nirvana, the list goes on…”

Wendy D said “Just buy now 100, see what they like on it and go from there. My kids love the Smiths. The ministry compilations are also pretty good for trying out different types of music and kids love songs they know from films.”

Cerys said “My 15 year old is sick of Queen! He likes 2 door cinema club, the Killers, the Gorillaz, 21 Pilots, Jimmy Hendrix, and all sorts of people I’ve never heard of”

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