Wouldn’t it be Nice?

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In which our reluctant hero would like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.

I’m conscious that I’ve perhaps neglected the new mums and dads a little in my musings here of late. And the older ones. And the ones without children. But all that is about to change. Probably.

As an award winning (NCT Wolverhampton “Volunteer of the Month” – July 2016) contributor to the massive dustbin of unnecessary parenting blogs that is the modern day internet, I’m often* asked;

“What would be the one single piece of important advice that you would give to another parent? New or old, it doesn’t matter. Or a person generally.”

See. Told you.

As questions go it’s a tricky one to answer. Like “Whose idea was it to make yet another Bridget Jones movie?” or “WHERE HAVE YOU HIDDEN THE KIDS’ ARMBANDS?!!” ten minutes before the start of a swimming party. The modern day $64,000 question. Or the £256,000 question using today’s exchange rates if you prefer.

Having thought long and hard about this, I always** give the same carefully considered answer.

“Don’t give anyone any advice. Ever.”

Yes, stick to this top tip and you won’t go far wrong. Not just in parenting, but in life. You’re welcome.

 

Fin.

Ok. I could quite happily stop there. Job done. Or I could expand. Read on if you like, else just hit “share” on the Facebooks and move on. It’s fine, really.

Giving advice is a bit like going to McDonald’s as a treat. Everybody says that they want it, but once you start dishing it out, you find that there’s a sudden loss of appetite.

We all ask for advice from time to time, the reason for which generally falls into one of three categories;

  • To reassure us that a predetermined choice is right (but are probably sticking to our choice regardless, so there)
  • To help us decide which one of a couple or more options to go for (but now have a focus of blame if it all goes horribly wrong)
  • We haven’t got the foggiest idea what’s going on… (usually this)

    Parenthood. The time that we are most likely to start involuntarily blurting out random questions at anyone within earshot. Your nearest and dearest or some random stranger who happens to be standing near the nappy section in Aldi, it matters not. You didn’t do this before, but you weren’t feeling inextricably tired, emotional, overwhelmed, and massively insecure then. It’s suddenly time for that long overdue trip to Argos to buy a good sounding board. Preferably in the sale and with an eighteen year guarantee.

    People are generally quite sensible when dealing with the onslaught of contradictory or just plain silly questions that you’re likely to fire at them in the early months. If you can find somebody with good listening ears and a mind like an open book on opening day of the open university bookshop then bingo. They may not necessarily agree with your approach, but respect your position and will help as best as they can within that framework. These people normally live in real life.

    Sadly not all people get the concept of empathy. For every dozen or so voices of reason, there’s a Katie Hopkins lurking. Minds closed. Earplugs rammed tightly in. There’s probably strongly held beliefs bubbling away under the surface, ready to erupt at the first opportunity presented. An unstoppable stream of opinionated lava that burns, belittles and undermines everyone that crosses its path. These people normally live under shady bridges somewhere inside your phone.

    Most of us aren’t daft. Even if it’s a case of copying off a friend on the bus, we’ve done enough homework to ensure that we don’t do anything that daft. Silly, maybe, but daft, no. So, the last thing you need to hear is that you’re doing everything wrong, or worse still, that you’re going to somehow hurt or damage your child. If it’s a medical issue ring a doctor, else the chances are that you won’t.

    The are some favourite areas for the hysterical rant brigade to get on their high horses about, ready to steam in and save the rest of us uneducated buffoons given half a chance.

    Over the course of the first couple of years, these will include sleep training, breastfeeding, formula feeding, when to wean, how to wean, baby led weaning, attachment parenting, dummies (how apt), colic, teething, weight gain, weight loss, weight stay-the-same, milestones, developmental leaps (what?!), sleep regression, potty training, potty regression, phonics, stereophonics, baby signing, baby singing. Blah blah blah…

    If you ever find yourself on the end of any of this nonsense, my (proper) advice is to step away (most likely from the keyboard) and find Mr or Mrs Sensible to sit you down with a cuppa and help pop your wobbly Scalextric back on it’s tracks.

    A lot of opinions are just that. Opinions. They’re not always backed up by fact. Worse than not being backed up by fact, they’re often straight out of The Daily Mail or, worse still, Mumsnet. Being bombarded by these “alternative facts” is a fate worse than a fate worse than death. Stop doing it. It’s silly.

    So, before pressing the panic button at the first sign of trouble, do a little research and try a few things out. Think things through and do what you feel is the right thing to do, as it probably is. Most of all, stop worrying. You’re doing alright.

    My other (proper) advice, for when the shoe is on the other foot, can be nicely summed up in the following words, found on a poster attached to my mum and dad’s kitchen pinboard.

    “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear.”

    Or, simpler still, “just be nice.”

    Yes, stick to this top tip and you won’t go far wrong. Not just in parenting, but in life. You’re welcome.

     

    Fin.

    *(never)
    **(would)

    We Can Work it Out

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    In which our reluctant hero attempts to shake up governmental policy and employment law to get dads a better deal. Or something.

    21st Century Britain has seen many changes. If we’re honest, most of them since 2010 have been pretty bad. And the less said about 2016, the better.

    One of the more pleasing changes, as reported in the papers this week, is the increasing involvement of dads in child rearing, if rearing is the right word. (I’ve an image of sheep stuck in my head now, but it’ll have to do.)

    Anyway, a survey by “The Modern Families Index” (no, me neither) has revealed that 47% of dads would be happy to take a less demanding job and a pay cut to spend more time with their families. “Happy” is such subjective word, don’t you find?

    Not answering the key question of “who the bobbins did they survey?” aside, the Guardian article that I read raised an interesting issue. Women have struggled to find suitable, flexible work for years, but, apparently, men are now more likely to face discrimination when asking for flexible or part-time work. Blimey. On a positive note, men suffering too may mean that something actually gets done about it. Go sisters! I mean brothers…

    The option of home working or working flexibly is sadly not available to all. With technology potentially making this easier, employers could, and probably should, do more to be not just family friendly, but people friendly. It would be a good start to addressing some of the problems and an easy win.

    But there’s also times in life when all of us need a bit more than a couple of hours or days off, be it flexible, unpaid or extended leave, especially when children appear.

    The government’s flagship policy of shared parental leave has been somewhat of a disaster, possibly as it requires mums to jump out of their hospital beds and back on the work merry-go-round at the first opportunity. Some may want to do this of course, but clearly not many.

    So how do you fix the problem of employers and politicians not understanding what families need? Get a dad to write it all down, obviously.

    Here goes…

    0-3 Months (first child)
    Every new parent has “L” plates on for the first three months. Two weeks paternity leave? That’s not enough time to get your head around the upheaval, let alone deal with any of it. Once the fortnight is up, you need to establish another new routine to replace the one that you’ve just nailed. Double trouble.

    Paternity leave of up to four weeks for those who want it, preferably paid, may be a good start.

    3-6 Months (first child)
    The “L” plates are in the bin, replaced by “P” plates. You’ve passed the first test, but it’s still better to warn other folk that you may be prone to the odd erratic manoeuvre and occasional prang. My blurry memory recalls this period being relatively calm asides from the continued night-time wake ups for mum.

    By this point, mum is pretty much in control of everything else and not shy about telling dad this.

    Dad duties mostly involve giving mum a break and finally seeing their child do something other than cry and poo. This is a refreshing change from quarter one, trust me, and chances are that you’re not missing out on much due to work.

    6-12 Months (first child)
    The second half of year one presents a new and exciting challenge in the form of movement. Why Mother Nature hasn’t risk assessed and let human evolution work on adding an extra pair of eyes in the back of the head is beyond me.

    The calm was indeed before the storm. You suddenly realise that your house isn’t anywhere near as childproof as you had thought. Top tip: Buy shares in UHU. Dad will be needed to remove things that aren’t yet broken, and to fix the rest. You’ll probably find him hiding in the shed quite a lot. Mums should avoid mentioning taking any time off even though they’re in need of a rest.

    12-18 Months (first child)
    It’s a doddle this parenting lark, isn’t it? Stuff is still occasionally smashed into a million pieces and you will have invested in a Mr Bump bruise soother by now. Parents and child are starting to communicate and be mutually understood, which is nice. Mum and Dad are still tired and grunting at each other, but you can’t have everything.

    You finally feel like you’re getting somewhere. You notice rapid developmental changes and playing is so much more fun than it was. Sleep is fixed, dinner occasionally stays on the plate rather than on the floor in-between mouthfuls, and your little person is genuinely happy to see you when you walk through the door after a hard day’s yacker.

    If I had my pick, this is when I would take off, particularly if it’s summer. The hard work of year one has been done. It’s time for a cuppa and to enjoy things.

    18-24 Months (first child, latter stages of pregnancy) and 0-6 Months (second child)
    Top tip. Leave a bigger age gap. A much bigger age gap. About fourteen years should be plenty, with the added bonus of a free babysitter in a couple of years.

    Ok, dads. You had forgotten all about the “uffing” hadn’t you?

    So the situation now is that you have a toddler zooming round like the Duracell Bunny with a faulty off switch, and a better half that needs winching off the sofa every two minutes to go to the loo. It’s just like last time, but with no downtime whatsoever for mum or dad for periods of up to fourteen hours.

    Mum will probably want dad to take some extra time off as she approaches full term. Dad will be adamant that it’s better to save his leave for later.

    Post new arrival, this period pretty much mirrors the first six months as before. Only with a toddler permanently pulling at your legs and stamping their feet any time that you even so much glance at the uninvited guest that is clinging like a limpet to mum. Oh, and with no prospect of a lie in. Or a sit down. Or a cuppa or food anything warmer than tepid. Ever. Again.

    Up to nursery or school age (first and second children)
    Repeat until nursery or school kicks in. This is your life now. Get used to it.

    Nursery or school age (first and second children)
    The dreaded “school run” begins. Too many things to do in too little time while negotiating leaving the house. Plus there’s nativities, assemblies, bonnet making, parents evenings, teacher training days, sickness, mums going off to the spa, and a million other things to coordinate.

    If flexible working wasn’t needed before, it is now.

    So there you go. A solution of sorts. Probably. Why not print a couple of copies off, pop one in the post addressed to your local MP, and bang the other on your boss’ desk on Monday morning. What could possibly go wrong?

    Fin.

    Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

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    In which our reluctant hero writes a sort of topical post.

    Thursday 12th January 2017
    It’s early. Too early. I slurp the dregs of my almost cold cuppa and start to apply layers of clothing before leaving for work. Shirt, tank top, fleece, duffel coat, scarf, gloves, hat, thick socks, emergency hat. Pants and trousers too, naturally. What do you take me for?

    As the wind howls, I regret not fishing my long johns out of the drawers before bed. It’s too late now. I’ll take my chances against the elements, rather than risk any fallout from waking the missus up.

    Leaving the house, it doesn’t feel that cold. Maybe it’s the layers. Maybe it’s not that cold. Or more likely a bit of both.

    For clarification, I don’t usually wear every item purchased at the 2001 C&A closing down sale on a weekday morning. But today is going to be different. It’s going to snow. Probably.

    I check my phone. The Guardian’s live snow blog, which is normally the barometer of impending doom, isn’t up yet. So far so good. However, it seems that I am wise in being prepared.

    The BBC Weather app shows two days of intermittent snow for Wolverhampton. ITV News, whatever that is, is talking about gale force winds of 75mph and snow headed our way. Huffington Post are similarly predicting wintry polar blasts. Even The Independent are banging on about something called “Thundersnow” battering poor old Blighty. They’re making it up now. I don’t bother checking The Daily Express’ variant on “UK BLIZZARDS DISPEL GLOBAL WARMING MYTH” as that will just annoy me. Even the Met Office are issuing warnings of yellow snow. Or issuing yellow warnings of snow. Or something. Either way, it sounds bad.

    I was born, and grew up, in Wales in the 1970’s. My blurry recollection is of snow most winters and, when it came, it came good and proper. The world momentarily stopped. We all downed tools (asides from snow shovels) and just got on with it.

    Snowy days were great when I was little as it generally meant no school and lots of playing. Snowmen with coal for buttons and carrots for noses. Snowballs, sledging on bin bags out in the fields, freezing half to death, but back for tea to thaw out again.

    Back then the weather was properly seasonal. These days it seems to flip between nothingness and total disaster. As a result, at four and two, our children have barely seen more than a dusting of snow, which seems a shame.

    Having seen Amazon’s lovely “The Snowy Day” over Christmas, the children, or our eldest at least, are looking forward to making angels in the snow and catching snowflakes on their tongues next time it comes. Idyllic as it sounds, this may sadly not be possible as, the way 21st Century weather cycles are going, the next cold snap will probably be a mini Ice Age.

    Our daughter first saw snow at two months old. I took her out into the garden to look at it, mummified in more layers than I was in this morning. It was cold and bright and she had no idea what was going on. After five minutes outside, new parent paranoia kicked in and it was back to the house where I checked her temperature for the next two hours in case of hypothermia.

    Everything was of course fine, apart from when my frosty hands touched her skin. “SHE’S CRYING AGAIN! I’VE FROZEN HER!”

    It was no wonder that I was worried. As, at the time, a first time parent of a tiny child, everybody who came through our front door had strong opinions (which they were all too eager to voice) about whether our baby was too hot, too cold, about right, or just needed another ten minutes to be done. Take a layer off, and the next person would put it back. Pop a layer on…

    Needless to say, two years on, our youngest had his first glimpse of snow out of Gran and Grandad’s front window as big sister played outside with her uncle.

    The next time it snowed, I took both children to the local park. It was the frostiest of mornings and we managed about ten minutes playing before our son, then one, started crying as his hands were too cold.

    “Well, if you’re holding onto a frozen roundabout wheel without gloves, what do you expect?”

    Nobody ever listens to Dad.

    This (crying and cold things, although not listening to Dad is equally valid) has become a bit of a recurring theme. At a similar age, the waterworks were back on when he stuck his finger into an ice cream for too long. Ice cream and tears were reunited once more last summer, although this time an unprovoked attack by a sugar-crazed bee while we watched “Punch and Judy” in Llandudno was to blame.

    Killer bee attacks asides, preparing against the elements is so much easier now that our children can talk. There are however three golden rules to remember;

    1. Occasionally, little people get “hot” and “cold” mixed up. So if you’re heading out into a blizzard, don’t take the snow suit off and pop swimming trunks on just because they said to.
    2. Prepare for the cold all you like, but at least half of the hats, gloves and scarves (maybe even wellies and socks too) that you start with will be lost within two minutes of leaving the house.
    3. Any item of protective layering not lost in the first two minutes will be unfit for use within a further three minutes. Socks will be soaked and gloves caked in lord knows what having been dragged down the sides of parked cars. You’ll notice a passing dog wearing a vaguely familiar Frozen scarf. Buy ten identical items of everything. Take spares and spares of spares. You still won’t have enough but you’re at least be in with a chance…

    Back to the present-ish.

    Thursday 12th January – 5:14 pm

    It’s snowing. Heavily. I was right. Yay!

    Oh. Hang on… There has been drizzle all day and the snowflakes are dying. My snow blog goes up tomorrow and at this rate there’s going to be no snow. The heavy stuff forecast for tonight better come, otherwise I’m going to look like a right idiot. Again.

    And if there’s no snow I won’t get to post my mildly amusing meme debut. This is terrible.

    Thursday 12th January – 10:26 pm
    Things are looking more promising. The drizzle has turned to ice and snow is still forecast despite it being the clearest of nights. On a positive, it’s also Friday 13th tomorrow. It’ll look like Narnia by morning. Sorted.

    Friday 13th January – 6:04 am
    *Does a little snow dance in the kitchen*

    Nothing.

    Friday 13th January – 8:42 am
    A flurry in Birmingham. Get in!

    Friday 13th January – 8:43 am
    It’s stopped. It didn’t stick. Nothing.

    Friday 13th January – 15:00 pm
    More nothingness in Birmingham. The snow clouds must still be in Wolverhampton.

    Friday 13th January – 17:23 pm
    No snow in Wolverhampton.

    But wait. It turns out that the blogging gods were kind enough to have sent some during the school run. The kids saw the snow, messed around in it for a bit, were late for nursery, and all was well with the world. About an hour later it had gone. No matter. A topical post. Done.

    So, there you go. Some anecdotes and advice about something that didn’t really happen much or for long.

    Don’t forget to tune back in next week when I’ll be out and about putting children’s sun block and paddling shoes to the test at Tettenhall Pool.

    Fin.

    One Small Step for Man

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    In which our reluctant hero tries to be helpful for a change.

    Regular visitors to my blog will have probably guessed that I am not a proper writer, but a Dad who sits on a train bashing into WordPress at far-too-near-to-the-six-pm-Friday-deadline-for-my-liking each week. Take a picture, think of a name, press the schedule button, then it’s back home to changing nappies and getting stressed about the mess. Sorted.

    I quite like the writing bit which can, at times, be fun. Probably. However, coming up with post ideas that I can run with each week is nothing short of torturous.

    The overarching idea for my blog is to mix things up a bit, reflecting on experiences from a Dad’s perspective in an ad-hoc fashion, rather than creating a diary of sorts. The problem with this approach is that, as a parent, everything exists very much in the present and, to a degree, in the near future. This makes writing about things from the past trickier as each week passes. I can barely remember what I had for tea last night, let alone details about failed attempts at potty training and the like from a few years back.

    Nevertheless, I’m going to attempt to go old school this week. Back to the first year of being a Dad no less. A time before arguing about whether “Team Umizoomi” or “In the Night Garden” should be on before bed was the norm.

    Last week’s post about parenting fails to date was quite popular, so why not try to flip it over, brown for a couple of minutes, and serve back up as a list of lessons learned so far? It’s either that or write a post about taking the family to Thomas Land on the only sunny day of the August Bank Holiday weekend. I think that you got off quite lightly considering.

    So, in no particular order;

    • There’s more to life than books you know – Mr Spock, Supergran or whoever else has flooded the market with their definitive guide to parenting this month aren’t bringing up your baby. By all means read their books, but remember why you have a bin if it all proves to be a load of old rubbish.
    • It’s OK to throw in the towel now and again – Middle-class idiots that we are, we bought some fabulous looking reusable nappies with the best of intentions of going green (no pun intended) once the little person popped out. Trying to get everything washed and dried in November after little or no sleep didn’t really happen. Plus the smell of mushrooms kept making everyone hungry. Off to Aldi for some disposables then, and move on. No shame in that.
    • White washes – Speaking of washing, white baby grows, vests and so on look lovely until they are worn for more than thirty seconds by a real life actual baby. Pick more sensible colours if you can.
    • Don’t make a drama out of a crisis – Once they start finding their feet, todlers fall over and bump into things all of the time. They are also tougher than you think, thankfully. When the inevitable happens, see what their reaction is before making a fuss. Nine times out of ten they’ll dust themselves off and carry on without so much as a whimper as our eldest did after tumbling down half a flight of stairs. Oops.
    • Calpol is your best friend – Obviously don’t overdo it, and try not to spill any if swigging straight from the bottle.
    • Reassess how you carry babies that move – This doesn’t strictly need to be at the side, but once they get slightly bigger and more mobile, work out the most comfortable way of carrying that avoids you getting on the wrong end of the all too frequent headbutt or kick in the groin.
    • The rule of threes – If you think you’ll only need one nappy in your changing bag to pop out for half an hour, think again. A change is always followed by another change two minutes later if you only have one spare. If you have two spares, one of the tabs will snap, guaranteed. Take three.
    • Never take more stuff than you can fit into, under or onto a buggy – I wrote about packing issues a couple of weeks back. You didn’t listen of course. I don’t know why I bother…
    • Play Doh is edible – Probably. So, be careful but there’s more important things to worry about and it never did us any harm, right?
    • Learn some “lyrics” – Tunes aren’t the problem as every melody that you hear in the first two years is basically a remix of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” But learn some words. This will be vital if you’re feeling man enough to go to baby group on your own. Dad Expert Level unlocked.
    • Never go to baby group on your own – Especially once the little people are moving and doubly especially if you haven’t remembered any “lyrics.” What could possibly go wrong?
    • Get into a routine – Boring as this sounds, it really helps whether it is bath time, bed time, meal time, or any other time come to think of it. Sterilising things, tidying up, making tomorrow’s lunch or banging dinner in the slow cooker before bed can make a massive difference the next day. If you’ve had no sleep, everything is that bit more organised and bearable. If you’ve had some sleep you may actually get to sit down for a bit. Yay!
    • Remember that you’re a team – If you’re not doing the parenting on your own, then there really should be no “me” in Team America. So work out who needs to do what, stop grumbling and just get on with it!
    • Get to recognise sounds – Is it a gurgle, a burp, a rumble, or something more sinister? Remember that sound travels faster than partially enclosed smells. Get this right and you can be half way down the garden doing the compost before anybody notices the deed has been done. Your turn.
    • Don’t always assume that “Mum knows best” – You’re both making it up on the hoof after all and you may actually be right. (You won’t be.)
    • Don’t ever let on that you may be thinking that “Mum might not know best” – There are some great tips on subliminal persuasion and so on in Derren Brown’s books. Engage brain before putting mouth into gear, especially if you haven’t mastered The Force to at least Padawan level.
    • Avoid taking advice from anyone who gave birth to their youngest child over two years ago – They’ll barely remember anything about the preceding two years plus and just make it all up. Guaranteed.

    So, there you go. Not everything, but a start for you newbies out there and a timely place to end this post just in time for me to start reclaiming the remote and putting my two and three year olds to bed.

    Toy Stories

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    In which our reluctant hero receives a rather odd phone call.

    Tuesday, 2nd August 2016. 12:06 pm.

    BRING, BRING!

    “Hello.”

    “Hello Daddy. I’ve got some sad news.”

    “Oh, what’s that?”

    “Postman Pat has died.”

    “Eh? What happened? Did you stand on him or something?”

    I rarely get personal calls at work, and this conversation was probably not one that I would have predicted when I answered the phone. If you missed the news, what my three year old was trying to tell me was that Ken Barrie, the voice and narrator of Postman Pat for 25 years, had sadly passed away a few days before. A message which, given the timing, was probably sent via snail mail rather than as a special delivery, so to speak.

    Although not a big fan of the programme (asides from the Chinese Dragon episode) our daughter loved the toys, a job lot for a tenner off a local selling site, which she would play with for hours. Parcels got delivered far more efficiently that the “real” Pat would ever have managed, Dr Gilbertson and PC Selby would frequently end up together in a makeshift bed on our shelving unit, and nobody ever discovered where Ted Glen hid the bodies. Just like on the TV show.

    Pat rarely gets a look in these days, as is the cyclical nature of toys.

    This made me think about the various things that we’ve had in the house at different stages so far. Another thought followed almost immediately. If I write all of this stuff down instead of just thinking it, that may just pass for an interesting and informative blog post. Advice and nostalgia all rolled into one. You lucky people. Probably.

    So here goes…

    If there are any expectant parents reading, brace yourself for a bombardment of soft toys. Seriously, get to IKEA or Wilkos and buy as many enormous plastic tubs as you can fit in the boot of the car sharp-ish. It’s the only way you’re going to get around the house in a couple of weeks. Trust me.

    While you’re out shopping, see if anywhere sells earplugs as pretty much everything that is going to turn up that isn’t stuffed will be noisy. And repetitive. I read somewhere that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use the more sinister VTech products to help extract confessions from prisoners. After a few weeks of listening to a loud and tuneless rendition of “The wheels on my bike go round and round, round and round, round and round…” for periods of an hour or more, you’ll understand why this bonafide made up fact isn’t quite so far-fetched.

    As the children grow up, musical instruments start being a favourite. Rightly so as they’re fun, educational and help development. Keep some paracetamol nearby though. We actually have a proper mini drum kit in the loft that I have buried under so much stuff that I’m hoping it remains undiscovered until everyone has left home. Perhaps I should ask Ted Glen to dispose of it, just to be safe.

    Blocks and things that can stack or be built are popular at all ages. Just watch your vase during the “throwing” stage though. Jigsaws seem to go through phases of popularity and the soft toys that sat gathering dust years back will be useful later on, so don’t throw any out.

    There’s just so much stuff these days. To make sense of it, here are some of the bits that we found useful at various milestones should they prove useful;

    0-6 Months

    The Fisher Price “rainforest gym” playmat was a big hit with our two. Hanging animals to pull, kick, rattle, etc. Crinkled bits for texture. Mirrors, rattles, and lullabies too. A bargain.

    We also had a battery-powered thing that made noises and flashed lights when it got kicked. I’ve no idea of the name, but file this idea in the “less annoying than you would imagine” pile. The children loved it and it bought enough time for a shower.

    6-12 Months

    One of the most used things during this period was a play table which the little people could hold themselves up against while doing the various activities integrated into the top.

    Also, walkers were a big hit as the little people tried to get themselves up and mobile. Walkers are also hilarious on tiled floors, especially if the cat is nearby. Get filming and you could earn yourself £250.

    12-18 Months

    Now upright, footballs and things to kick were getting a lot of use. Buggies, the Hoover, toy shopping trolleys and anything else that could be pushed round (and filled up, normally with the cat) became staples. The telly is also becoming worryingly popular.

    18-24 Months

    Role play and building/creating things. Duplo, which is one of the best things invented, Play Doh and anything messy arts and crafts-wise were often brought out. As was the IKEA toy cooker with food, pots and pans which is still in use now.

    The Postman Pat and Peppa Pig toys were much used at this age too. And a mouthorgan is a brilliant, small and cheap source of entertainment so long as you don’t mind getting covered in slobber.

    Note: It’s at this age that we started to notice the split in what girls and boys are drawn to. We’ve never believed in toys for girls and toys for boys, but every morning there was a tea party of sorts for our daughter’s dolls and teddies, whereas our son started playing with things with wheels such as cars, diggers and nee-naws.

    Grandad also built an amazing thing which was basically locks, keys, handles, light switches and so on from the garage screwed on to a piece of wood. Hours of fun for a boy, especially a middle-aged one.

    24 Months +

    At two, our not-so-little little boy likes golf clubs, the remote control Thomas the Tank Engine, cars and garages and the like, and breaking tellies. Our girl likes kid-geek learning books and anything role play related, such as pretending to be at school, hospital, or birthday parties. It is worth noting that baby brother has little choice but to like the latter also, as he’s often the pupil, patient or birthday boy whether he likes it or not.

    Oh, and the tablet. So get saving as the next few years aren’t going to be cheap!