For a family day out/overnight stay that combines the historic, scenic, majestic and elegant with the fun and outright kiss-me-quick kitsch, look no further than Southend-on-Sea and the surrounding area.
There’s everything to keep the family entertained during your visit, including the world’s longest pier complete with a funfair, beautiful beaches, a theme park and more! Once visiting the attractions is over, there are plenty of places to enjoy an ice-cream, alfresco fish and chips or an award-winning dinner to complete a perfect trip, filled with moments to remember.
Now that the weather is warming up, we all want to be beside the seaside. Instead of going on a plane, you can hop on a c2c train and be at the beach in under an hour from London. What’s more, kids travel for just £2 during the week!
The complete prize package includes…
A family train ticket for four from Fenchurch Street (London) to Southend-on-Sea
Four tickets to Adventure Island in Southend, four tickets to Sea Life Centre in Southend and four meal vouchers for Dining-saurs in Adventure Island
One night’s stay at Holiday Inn (Southend airport) for two adults and two children plus an evening meal.
To be in with a chance of winning, simply enter your details in the form below. Good luck!
The prize is valid until 1 September 2018. It is non-transferable, non-upgradeable, non-refundable and has no cash value. Dates are subject to availability and certain blackout periods apply. Winners will have to make their own travel arrangements to get to Fenchurch St Station in London. All other expenses, not included with the prize, will be charged at full price. No spending money is included and winners must cover all other associated costs.
From unicorns to ponies with special powers, there’s a story and a picture to inspire every child this season…
Sophie Johnson: Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood & Ella Okstad A wonderfully humorous story, from a new picture book dream-team, Morag Hood and Ella Okstad about a unicorn hiding in plain sight and a little girl who is totally oblivious to his presence despite being a self-declared Unicorn Expert!
The Secret Sky Garden by Linda Sarah & Fiona Lumbers Funni loves the old, disused car park, and decides to create a garden in the neglected space, her very own garden in the sky! One day, a little boy, Zoo, spots the square of colour amongst the grey and goes to find it. Soon, flowers aren’t the only things to bloom in the garden, but a very special friendship blossoms too!
Gary’s Banana Drama by Jane Massey Featuring banana dogs, banana moustaches, banana space rockets and an adorable, banana-mad gorilla, this hilarious and vibrant picture book will make children hoot with laughter and fall in love with the hapless Gary.
Princess Evie’s ponies: Willow the Magic Forest Pony by Sarah KilBride & Sophie Tilley
Princess Evie is crazy about her ponies. But Princess Evie’s ponies aren’t like any other ponies – oh no! Her ponies are magic. With press-out pieces and a dressing-up element to play with, kids will love bringing Evie’s adventures to life!
You could win all four of these books, as Simon & Schuster is giving away five sets, along with a Book Den tote bag. Plus, if you love picture and story books then sign up to the Book Den at bookden.tumblr.com – the dedicated platform from Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.
British fashion brand Boden is renowned for outstanding quality and serious style with an injection of fun, brightening customers’ lives with clothes that make them look and feel fantastic.
Since launching its first standalone store in Chelsea last November, Boden has been taking London shoppers by storm, so much so that the brand has now opened up a second shop in Westfield White City.
Mini Boden creates adventure-proof clothing for children aged up to 16 years, boasting unique designs with hand-me-down-able quality and colours and prints. The range is created in-house at Boden HQ in West London, by a talented group of print and product designers. From sketch to stitch, the design process often begins with the brand’s memorable prints, each of which are beautifully hand-drawn in the studio by the team.
Prepare to fall in love with the hero prints in the summer 2018 range, which feature Surfer Girl and Under The Sea. Whether you’re dining, dancing or deep-sea diving this summer, do it in style with the help of Mini Boden. We can’t get enough of the fluttery feathers and unique details, including pop-up pockets and colour-changing sequins.
Best of all, to celebrate the new opening of its second store, Boden is giving away a fantastic £500 voucher to be enjoyed in store or online for one of our very lucky readers. Good luck, and happy shopping!
Gather all your family and friends together for a relaxed summer afternoon feast they won’t forget, with these tips from Carole Middleton
A summer street party decked out with food, drink and brightly coloured décor is the perfect excuse to get to know your neighbours and spend time with close family and friends in this warm weather. Long tressle tables adorned with flowers, bunting and colourful crockery will set the scene – and don’t be afraid to mix-and-match your chairs, crockery, napkins and glasses for a real homespun, vintage feel. Red, white and blue is a fun and vibrant colour scheme – and union jack prints add that retro vibe to the day.
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When it comes to serving your food, choose large platters, casserole dishes and oversized wooden serving spoons so everyone can dig in, and let the little ones help themselves to drinks with your very own Kilner dispenser filled with homemade lemonade or punch. Fun is the order of the day for a street party, so you could even have your own drinks station filled with jars of chopped up fruit, mint and paper straws so kids (and adults!) can jazz up their punch. And don’t forget the sweet treats either – a showstopping Victoria sponge topped with strawberries and cool cake pops work well, or beat the heat with homemade ice lollies, or hire an ice cream van.
Finally, eating and drinking is all part of the action, but don’t forget to include a few games and activities to keep the kids busy, too. Tug-of-war, hopscotch, water fights, bicycle races and fancy dress competitions are all classic choices. You may want to steer clear of ball games unless you have sufficient space! You could organise special party bags filled with activities like colouring books and pens, and paper flags, to keep them entertained, too.
This year’s winner of Oscar’s Book Prize was unveiled last night by Princess Eugenie at St James’s Palace
There’s A Pig Up My Nose by writer John Dougherty and illustrator Laura Hughes was announced as the winner of Oscar’s Book Prize for 2018. Dougherty, a former primary school teacher, found inspiration for the tale from a girl he used to teach who has a ‘snorty laugh’. It tells the tale of a group of schoolchildren who band together to help the protagonist Natalie get a pig out of her nose.
Whittled down from over 100 entries, the five titles shortlisted included Lucie Goose by Danny Baker and Sunk! by Rob Biddulph. Princess Eugenie, upon presenting the prize, commented, “I had the best day reading the shortlist and laughing at all the books. I am proud to be here this evening in remembrance of Oscar Ashton.”
Oscar’s Book Prize was set up by James Ashton and Viveka Alvestrand in memory of their son, Oscar, who passed away age three from an undiagnosed heart condition. Each year, the prize aims to award the best book for under-fives that’s been published in the last 12 months. Now in its fifth year, the award is supported by Amazon, National Literacy Trust and the Evening Standard.
Commenting on the award, panel judge Brigitte Ricou-Bellan said, “It was remarkable to see the swell of enthusiasm and quantity of quality submissions for Oscar’s Book Prize this year. Early years literacy is a key building block in a child’s development and we are incredibly proud to be supporting this cause once more. Congratulations to John Dougherty and Laura Hughes.”
It’s been 27 years since the first Tracy Beaker book, but she’s back for 2018 and has grown up just like the rest of us
Jacqueline Wilson is bringing back one of her most famous characters later this year with the release of a new book. My Mum Tracy Beakersees Tracy as a single mum in her 30s, living on a rough housing estate in London and struggling to make ends meet. Her nine-year old daughter, Jess, narrates the book. Primarily aimed at seven to 11-year olds, teenagers and adults who enjoyed the original books will love this new reincarnation too.
Speaking to The Observer, Wilson says she chose to embark on the story because she wanted to explore what kind of modern-day mother Tracy would be. “When I realised just how long ago it was since I wrote the first Tracy Beaker book, I thought: if we were in real time, Tracy herself would be in her 30s. And I’ve always thought that, even though Tracy had lots of problems in her life and a pretty rubbish mum who was never there for her, Tracy herself would be a good mum, no matter what.”
Wilson goes on to say she wanted the sequel to be realistic. “How many young women without much education earn enough, with a daughter, to be able to buy their own home in London today? Being Tracy, she wants to be independent, but with a child, how can she be? So she’s having to scratch around.”
The original Tracy Beaker series began with Wilson’s breakthrough novel in 1991, The Story of Tracy Beaker, chronicling the happenings of a 10-year old Tracy who lived in a care home – otherwise known as ‘the dumping ground’. A groundbreaking subject at the time, the literary series and following television adaptation changed the perceptions of children in care.
Wilson is yet to finish the book, which is due for release in October. Question is, will Tracy get the happy ending she deserves? We’ll just have to wait and see…
Four fun events to entertain the kids this weekend
1. The Canterville Ghost
London Children’s Ballet returns to The Peacock to bring you the ballet version of Oscar Wilde’s witty tale set in the 1920s. The all-child cast tells the story of Sir Simon Canterville who has haunted his ancestral home successfully for centuries. That is, until a new family moves in…
When: Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 April How much: From £14 each Where: The Peacock, Portugal Street, Holborn, London WC2A 2HT peacocktheatre.com
2. Colour: The Rainbow Revealed
This dazzling exhibition explores the endless ways in which colour shapes our world. There’s something for everyone, with interactive displays including an Art Machine, a Mood Room and Colour Café exhibit where you can learn why only certain colours tempt our taste buds.
When: Until Sunday 28 October How much: Adults, £7; children, £4; under-threes go free Where: Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ 020 8699 1872 horniman.ac.uk
3. Aliens Love Underpants
This zany and hilarious children’s book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort is brought to life on stage for the first time at London Southbank’s Underbelly Festival, with stunning effects, madcap action and plenty of original music. It’s a fresh, funny and heart-warming production that will delight the whole family.
When: Until Sunday 3 June, performance times vary How much: From £11.50 each Where: Underbelly Festival, Belvedere Road Coach Park, London SE1 8XX
0333 344 4167 underbellyfestival.com
4. Grandad’s Island
This heart-warming tale, told by Engine House in association with York Theatre Royal, is filled with songs and laughter. Syd’s favourite person in the world is his grandad – and the feeling is mutual. Join the duo as they head off on an intrepid adventure through the jungle that will change their lives forever.
When: Sunday 22 April, 1pm and 3pm How much: £7 each Where: The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, London SE8 4AG 020 8692 4446 thealbany.org.uk
The digital device battle has never been so high – Georgina Fuller delves into the importance of reading to your children
Children are, as the author Emilie Buchwald famously said, made readers on the laps of their parents. But with one in three families now consisting of two parents working full-time, the onset of the digital age and the pressures of homework and after-school clubs, reading to our children seems to have slipped down our never-ending list of priorities.
One in five parents do not spend any time reading with children and a third do not think their children read enough books, according to a recent report. The study of 450 parents, by Book People and YouGov, found that around half of those with children aged between five and 11 spend less than one hour a week reading to their kids.
The study also revealed that almost six in 10 (57 per cent) of us use a tablet, mobile, TV or film to distract our child but only one in 10 of us use a book.
Claudia Winkleman, presenter and ambassador of Book People’s Bedtime Story Competition, said she does everything she can to try and encourage her three children to read. “I always try and get my kids off a screen and I love them reading books,” she says. “I said to them quite recently, ‘guys, you know what, even if you’re just pretending, if I could walk into the kitchen and maybe you’re all just lounging around and you’re all just sitting there reading a book, I would give you whatever you wanted.’”
Dr Genevieve Von Lob, clinical psychologist, parenting expert and author of Five Deep Breaths: The Power of Mindful Parenting, says that gadgets and electronic devices have eclipsed books in many homes. “Electronic devices, smart phones, TV and tablets are now competing for everyone’s attention and are distracting us from sitting down together with our children and reading to them,” she notes.
It also comes down to how much importance the parent places on reading and books. “Many may not value reading as much as other activities and are not convinced of the benefits so it is not a priority,” says Dr Von Lob. “Some parents may have stopped reading aloud to their children because they consider their children old enough to read for themselves, or some simply don’t have the confidence in their own reading skills.”
Carolyn Clarke, head of educational development at The Children’s Literacy Charity, says, however, that reading with and to your children can make a huge difference to both the parent and their child. “Sometimes as parents it can feel like you have to work flat out just to fit everything in,” she notes. “But research shows that reading with young children is the single most important thing you can do to help your child’s education.”
Creating a regular ‘special time’ to read with your child can, says Clarke, help introduce them to a magical world, teach them about empathy and help you bond with your child as they know they will have your undivided attention.
Dr Von Lob believes that reading to your children each night can also help foster a good sleep routine as it shows them how to slow down and relax at the end of the day. “The sensations of being held by their parents and hearing their voice helps that child’s brain development and feelings of trust and safety,” she says. “In years to come, your children will tend to remember how they felt when they were with you, and not what you gave them materially.”
So how can we, as busy parents, make reading more of a priority, especially if we have more than one child?
Firstly, make sure you switch off the TV and put down your digital devices, says Dr Vob Lob. “Take the opportunity to prioritise reading over your household chores or putting up your feet in front of the TV for just a few minutes and you will not regret it,” she notes.
Try to also keep it light and fun, says Clarke. “Children love it when their parents play with them and praise them. If you have fun and enjoy reading stories, then chances are your child will too. Younger children can have a short attention span so little-but-often might be the best way to keep them motivated and enthusiastic,” she notes.
If books aren’t grabbing their attention, then Clarke suggests going online and reading or printing off a web page that interests them or looking at other ways to engage them. “Every day there are lots of opportunities for you to encourage your child to get reading,” she notes. “You could carry a book or magazine in your bag to share when you’re out and about or encourage them to read traffic signs, adverts, cereal packets, simple news headlines and film reviews.”
Part of the problem, says Julie Fulton, author of a number of children’s books including Tabitha Posy Was Ever So Nosy, is that reading often becomes a chore rather than a pleasure when children start school.
“I know it can be a battle for some parents to get their children to read and that it’s becoming increasingly difficult with all the pressures of homework and longer working hours,” she notes. “But just a few pages a night can make all the difference.”
Dr Von Lob says we should try to see reading as something for both the parent and the child to enjoy. “Children grow up so fast and this time is precious,” she notes. “Reading with your children may bring unexpected benefits as it helps you to slow down, relax and connect with them and your imagination.”
As we look ahead to the holidays, we’re following US-based travel blogger and father of three Eric Stoen
As dad to Evelyn, 12, Henry, 10, and eight-year-old Sadie, blogger Eric Stoen knows a thing or two about travelling with kids. The writer has built up a following of almost 65,000 on Instagram, inspiring young families to take their children to see the world through his incredible snapshots and advice.
How did your blog, Travel Babbo, come about? I started blogging after I took my eight year old to Antarctica – it seemed like the easiest way to tell family and friends about the trip. Then others started reading and it grew quickly.
What are your essentials for travelling with children? We always travel with kids’ medicines and a thermometer, a linen towel, a frisbee, a clothesline, sunscreen, insect repellent, and extra Ziploc bags.
How do you decide where you want to go next? I let my kids choose our destinations. Each gets to choose anywhere to go with me one-on-one every year, and they pick based on their interests.
Where is on your list for 2018? This year we’re travelling to Greenland, the Galápagos, Brazil, Italy, Japan, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Lithuania. And we have a few open weeks too, so could end up anywhere!
Favourite place you’ve visited as a family? We love France, Italy and Greece, and return to at least one of them every summer. Florence is my favourite city in the world, and my wife and kids have come to love it as well.
The creative director of Rockahula Kids talks family life, business goals and her passion for design
Why did you set up Rockahula Kids? I have been in retail all of my working life – it’s definitely in my blood. From university I went on to work for a few large high street brands, starting as a buyer’s assistant to running the kids’ department at an international retailer – it was here I discovered that working with children’s products was my perfect fit. After having my first child, Jesse [now eight], I struggled to find a balance that enabled me to look after my little boy and also work. I had always dreamed of running my own business, so after having another baby boy [Luca, six], I decided to take the leap.
What sparked your passion for children’s accessories? Children express their individuality without inhibition and there is so much scope to be creative with kids’ accessories – anything goes! I love anything quirky, cute or kitsch, so it suits me down to the ground.
Describe a typical day for you. As in most working households, it has to be planned with military precision and can be thrown off balance by the smallest thing! I do the morning school run three days a week, after which I race to the office, which is in the same town we live in. I pick the children up from their after-school club and get them home for tea and bed. On Thursdays and Fridays my husband does the school run so I tend to go in early and work a little later, but I’ll always aim to be back for bedtime.
What’s the best thing about your job? Having a sense of fulfilment from my work is very valuable to me. I feel lucky to be doing something I truly enjoy. I also like the fact that my children can get involved in my work life a little bit – they are my guinea pigs for testing new products and they often come up with their own designs.
What’s been your proudest moment? To have got to this point with Rockahula Kids, where I’m able to work on my own terms in a company that I built up from scratch feels like something to be proud of, and thankful for.
What advice would you give to others wanting to launch their own brand? The most important starting point is to have a clear vision that you really believe in – if you are passionate about your brand then other people will be too. Also, be prepared to make mistakes, learn from them and move on.
What can we expect from Rockahula Kids in the next 12 months? We have a number of brand collaborations coming up for next season and beyond, so watch this space! Long term, as the company grows, I would also like to focus on doing things a bit differently behind the scenes, and work out how we can make positive differences by running the business in a more thoughtful way. For example, right now we are aiming to make the business 95 per cent free from plastic packaging. I was feeling more and more uncomfortable with the increasing quantities of plastic bags being used to ship our goods, so have made the switch to paper. It hasn’t been without its teething problems but we’re well on the way to phasing out plastic, and our stockists have been amazingly positive about it.
Mum of one, Meriel Miller and daughter Emilia test drive the Stokke Scoot
My little Emilia is now two-and-a-half so I was on the hunt...
Little London is the essential bi-monthly guide to the most exciting activities and cultural events in and around the capital. Packed with the hottest holidays advice, coolest kidswear and interiors ideas, Little London will inspire you and your family.