So far all have my posts have focused on things specifically for kids, places to go with kids, products for kids. But what about ME? Will no one ever think of me? I learned pretty quickly into my parenting career that if I go somewhere kid friendly there is a chance that I might get 2 or 3 minutes peace in between the nappy changes, feeding and playing. But sometimes I don't want to go to a park, sometimes I'd rather eat a cold Ella's Kitchen than go to a soft play and sometimes I just need get some of that long list of life admin actually ticked off.
So this post is still all about the kids (I haven't had a personality transplant and started talking about anything actually interesting) but it's about places for parents. Places that have tried to make parent's lives easier, by welcoming kids. A round up of places in Newcastle that have a USP when it comes to being family friendly. It's not like us poor parents are going to turn up on a charity appeal on daytime sky telly or anything. There are worse fates than being reliant on babysitters to be able to go to the gym, but I really appreciate it when businesses have been considerate to our needs. There must be some money in it too? All the parents I know, will spend as much as they have available to make their lives a little bit easier. There is the pink and grey pound, surely there is money to be made out of parents? What would we be? The suspiciously brown stain, is it poo or is it chocolate, pound? Lets not get into the details of that just yet, but get on with celebrating the places in Newcastle that are great for parents.
This seems to be an area where businesses are cottoning on to ways to make it easier for parents to exercise. There are a real variety of options to go for. If you have a baby you can take your pick of different types of exercise where you don't need to express milk before you go, or write 4 sides of A4's worth of instructions for a babysitter in order to get active.
Last week I blogged about my session with Cristal Yoga where not only are the exercises focused on areas weakened by pregnancy, but you can meet other mums, include the baby in some of the exercises, and relax as the exercises can be modified if the baby needs to be picked up and comforted. Cristal is even offering a free sesssion for anyone who tries their first post-natal class with her before the end of October. You can read about our class here.
Have you heard of Barre? I have never been but I know that some of my trendier friends have. It's a fitness class combining the best bits of ballet, pilates and some other good stuff to help tone your muscles without adding bulk (I may be paraphrasing here, but Millie Macintosh is a fan, and whilst I can't get my head around her choice of boyfriends, you can not question that she knows what she's talking about with exercise) It's not often when you have a baby that you get to do something cool, but with The Barre in Newcastle you could spend some of your maternity leave making your colleagues jealous by going to the Barre Crawlers class. Crawlers is a very relaxed class, where the babies are welcome to stay snuggled up in their car seats if they are asleep or can have a play with the toys on offer in the sessions.
If you aren't ready to don the full sweatband and leggings combo as per the Call on Me video, but still want to meet get the heart pumping that bit quicker, then perhaps the Pramblers sessions at Gibside might be for you. The grounds are beautiful, you should hopefully be able to catch your breath to speak with other mums and even if you've had one too many sleepless nights to be in great fettle, the fresh air does wonders for your mood.
Other options for very little ones include David Lloyd gym in Gosforth which has it's own crèche which members can pay for so they can exercise whilst their baby is cared for on site. Or some of the various buggy fit classes held in Gateshead, Gosforth, Jesmond or North Tyneside
toddlers and Older Kids
There are definitely fewer options as the sprogs get older. I suppose as they are more mobile it makes it harder for exercise companies to cater to everyone's needs but there are two hero companies out there that have taken on the challenge.
The Outdoor Fitness Company (ODFC) is one of these. ODFC put on child-friendly bootcamps during school holidays. These sessions are open to any members at no additional cost. Children can either join in with the session if they wish to, or play close by. Gary from ODFC explained that these sessions not only allow parents to continue to exercise without the burden of finding childcare, but also gives positive reinforcement to children about exercising outdoor in a fun way.
If yoga is more your thing, then the good news is that you don't have to stop when the baby starts crawling. Fellow North East blogger Helena from Babyfoote recently took her toddler to a class with Yoga Therapies in Heaton. Read about her experience here
So obviously there are a range of places that your kids can trail along after you, discarding the food that you've paid for, and interrupting every second word of a conversation that you try hold. Whilst they might welcome you with open arms at a Wacky Warehouse (I'm not knocking WW by the way, definitely a time and a place for them, I gave a glowing review to this one in Callerton as the play area is so toddler friendly) they aren't always top of my list for places to meet up with a friend. The cafes I've chosen do lovely food, and offer something a bit extra to parents. I find that if somewhere has at least stuck out a couple of toys and hence showed they welcome kids, it reduces my stress level a tiny bit when the toddler and baby decide to communicate with each other only through screams.
Miss Tina's Coffee Shop has branches in Washington and Sunderland. Whilst it has such a great indoor and outdoor space that it really deserves its own blog post, and sets it apart as the type of place that you would only go if you had children, the reason it gets a mention in this post about making parents lives easier is because have thought of everything. Really everything. Baby bouncers and walkers, loads of high chairs, indoor toys, an enclosed outdoor space with slides, play house and ride on toys. Whilst the fact that kids would be so entertained is a huge plus, they also have covered everything kids need to eat, so that if you forget something, you aren't left feeling totally inadequate in front of your super-capable mummy friends. They have kids cutlery, sippy cups, bibs, all piled up to use as you need, free nappies, wipes and nappy bags in the loos in case you run out, and they even have a pre-loved clothes rail so that if things go really really wrong, you can buy a replacement outfit (only for the kids I'm afraid, even Miss Tina's can't help you out if the poonami extends to your clothes) Food-wise it's very reasonably priced and with a decent selection of things like sandwiches, jacket potatoes and salads.
Next is another café which has been designed for parents and kids, The Nest in Low Fell offers a similar set up to Miss Tina's with a play-space for children. The thing I really love about it though is that for parties of 8 or more who take an afternoon tea (priced at £15pp) they will give you a private room, set up with toys for you to use. I can think of loads of occasions such as NCT catch-ups or family gatherings where this would be perfect. As soon as you are taking more than one toddler anywhere, I feel like I'm on borrowed time before one of them kicks off. So it's such a brilliant idea that they are taking this worry out of eating out in a group.
Moving away from specifically child cafes, my next pick is Ernest which is based within Ouseburn. It's a bar café, with a good supply of high chairs, and the relaxed atmosphere teamed with a small selection of toys and books makes it a really comfortable place to take the kids. They also host a weekly baby social where parents can drop in with their little ones to grab a coffee, let the babies play with a few toys, and have a chat with other parents. They don't have a huge kids menu, but the portions are big enough that I've been able to share something with my toddler. It's also really close to Seven Stories and Ouseburn Farm if you are looking to make a day of it
One of my first blog posts was about the excellent baby feed and change facilities in Fenwick Newcastle. Its such a spacious, clean and modern facility, it's pretty much nicer than my house. With 4 change stations, 4 private feeding rooms, a bottle warmer, and comfy seating for people to wait outside, Fenwick have thought of everything to make changing the baby as pleasant as possible. I should note here that John Lewis and Debenhams also has a feeding rooms, but they're nowhere near as deluxe as this one.
Ikea in Gateshead has it's own crèche! Its called Smaland and it's on your left as you go in. Parents can leave their kids in for up to an hour whilst they are in the store. Children aged 3-10 can use it. I plan on spending the first week of my toddler's third birthday in there every day, dropping him off at the crèche and heading straight to the café. In all seriousness though the crèche is really impressive, brightly decorating and really quite big, its brilliant that Ikea have provided it so you can concentrate on navigating around the place without needing to worry about bored kids trailing behind you. Another shout out to Ikea for the small park which is located outside of the front door.
Tyneside Cinema hold a Bringing in Baby screening once a week, with many of the biggest blockbusters being shown. Babies up until the age of 2 can come along. The lights are a bit brighter and the sound is turned down slightly so you don't need to worry about bringing ear defenders. There is somewhere to park your buggies (although spaces are limited so if you can bring a sling it's an idea) and there are bottle warmers to use too. A great chance to actually get to the cinema without needing a babysitter, or worrying that you'll fall asleep after the first half an hour as it's such a rarity to be out past 8pm. Odeon Cinema in Silverlink and Empire in The Gate also do something similar each having a weekly film for parents and babies, however if you want to see a film which is rated a 15, only Tyneside Cinema can show it, as they have a members club, which is free to join and you can join as you pay for your ticket, to enable you to see a 15 film even though you have a baby.
Whilst I've known about the cinema screenings for quite a while, I was so pleased to see that The Northern Stage are hosting production company Tangled Feet, who are putting on two baby friendly showings of their show, Kicking and Screaming a funny and touching story about new parenthood. This is the first time that I've seen any theatre shows which have been advertised as baby-friendly. Its had great reviews, and there are still tickets available for the two baby friendly shows, which like the cinema have slightly reduced volume for little ears, on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th October 2016. If you fancy going then readers of my blog get discounted tickets. Just use discount code SPROG14 to get tickets for £13.50.
tumbles and grumbles - paediatric first aid
It was Tumbles and Grumbles which first got me thinking about writing this blog post. They offer paediatric first aid courses all over the North East, but if you have four or more attendees they'll come to you and provide the training in your home. At a cost for £29 per person for the 3 hour course, I think it's brilliant value. The fact that they will come to you, makes it seem so much more accessible so that you don't need to organise a babysitter before you go.
So this has been my first draft of great places for parents in and around Newcastle. I think that all of these places have thought of something that makes my life a bit easier if I want to exercise, or eat out or shop when I have two very cute but quite demanding little people in tow. But I'm opening it up to you now. What have I missed off? Where do you know that does something a bit different for parents? Where you feel a bit less stressed going there than anywhere else that you could choose? I searched for ages for hair and beauty services. I guess that is why there are so many mobile hairdressers and beauty therapists. But do you know of any hairdressers in the North East with a crèche? Somewhere that will entertain the kids whilst you get your roots done? I would love for this page to become a directory of parent-friendly places in North East as I update it with suggestions from you lot.
Places on this list - I salute you. Please keep it up.