Why do people die? Where do they go?

mnberksAwkward Questions Children Ask Part SevenGood Toy Guide Logo_MED

Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting Psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been helping Mumsnetters with how to answer those awkward questions that children ask.

So today’s question is:

Why do people die? Where do they go?

tshirt sat at tableAmanda says…..

Your answer to this will be heavily influenced by the age of the child, the circumstances surrounding the timing of question, their personal experiences and your own beliefs.  If a child is suffering from grief, it is important to provide reassurance in the answer.  Ultimately, honesty in many cases is the best policy.  Younger children tend to take things literally so explaining that the family has ‘lost’ someone or he/she has ‘gone to sleep’ could lead to problems such as sleepness nights as the child will be afraid to fall asleep for fear of not waking.  As children get older you can explain in more detail but using clear, simple and accurate details is recommended.

If it is just one of those questions, you can encourage children to be more philosophical and think about concepts such as the circle of life, overcrowding of the world and even issues such as quality v quantity of life with older children.  Religious explanations aside, a child will benefit from hearing an adult acknowledge their own uncertainty.  Encourage questions from your child but be honest if you are unsure of how to answer them.  There’s no right or wrong answers.  It is fine to say that no one really knows but lots of people have ideas that they believe and that it is ok to believe whatever you want to.

Young children don’t have a mature concept of the permanence and irreversibility of death so they need an explanation that they can relate to. The butterfly analogy works well – a caterpillar on the ground goes into a cocoon not having any idea that it’s about to grow wings and emerge from its sleep as a beautiful butterfly.  This explanation can help take away the fear of dying that many children experience at some point.

A note from the Mumsnet Berkshire Local Editor: I hope I am not asked this question any time soon. The only thing I can really add to Amanda’s answer is to learn about the signs of grief in children if they have lost a loved one (be that a family member, friend or pet). For example, a change in behaviour (this could be many weeks or months after the initial bereavement), fascination with death, anxiety over certain things i.e. going to sleep, being ill etc. Please feel free to add your comments or email thoughts to berkshire@mumsnetlocal.com

Read more awkward questions here:

Read Part One: Who is lying?

Read Part Two: Why do grown ups argue?

Read Part Three:  What does the tooth fairy do with the teeth they collect?

Read Part Four: How do I explain that we can’t afford what their friends can afford?

Read Part Five: How does a baby get in Mummy’s tummy?

Read Part Six: My Friends say I am ugly. Is it true?


Tips for choosing a toddler activity class by Sport4Kids


There are so many toddler activity classes  on offer to parents. However, choosing the best activity classes can be a challenge, with options ranging from local clubs to professionally run classes. It is often the case that classes can be badly organized, inconsistently staffed and poorly run. This can ultimately lead to toddlers becoming disengaged with the activity and forming a negative association with the hobby.

Sport4Kids have provided the following five key tips for parents when selecting a toddler activity class…

1. Is the class tailored to your toddler’s stage of development?

Tots Small 5

When introducing your child to any toddler activity, it is vital that the class pitches itself at the correct level for the children involved. Take a look at what the toddlers are being asked to do – is the aim of the game understood? Do the children in the class have the capability to learn the skills needed to play the game? We would expect most toddler activity classes to need parental assistance at this age, but it is important that the toddlers are able to grasp the concept of the game so that they remain enthused.

2. Does the class give your toddler a fun time?

Tots 10

Fun is the precursor to engagement in terms of toddler activity. If a toddler is not having fun, they will not be engaged with the class – no matter how much the parent can see the benefit! Is your toddler laughing and smiling with their peers and coaches or teachers? Do they babble about wanting to attend the class during the week when you are at home? Do they perform little actions that mimic the class content around the house? These are all signs that your little one is having fun –oh and of course beaming smiles during the class!

3. Are the teachers of a quality that you are happy with?

Most classes will advertise that their coaches are DBS registered and qualified to coach or teach the toddler activity that you have chosen. This is a good start and should not be overlooked. However, this does not provide an overall picture of the teacher. Is the teacher good at communication with the toddler age group? For example, in the instance of toddler football classes , a large number of coaches claim to have FA recognized qualifications. However, the FA courses provide no information on toddlers or indeed children under the age of 5 years. Can we guarantee that a FA qualified football coach would be suitable for a toddler class? Not at all! Qualities to look out for include…How caring the teaching team is? Are they trained in a child-centric approach to toddler teaching?   Are they well turned out and looking as though they take care of their appearance and therefore the appearance of the organization? Without respect for their appearance and the organization they represent how can we be sure they will respect your child – well the answer is we can’t.

4. Will The Toddlers Learn Something?

Tots Small 6

All toddlers behave differently and will ultimately develop different interests. Some like to draw, others like to bang a tambourine and others will love kicking a football – the crucial part of any toddler activity class though, is that the toddler learns something. Whether this be learning new colours, shapes, sounds or movements, one of the primary focuses of the class should be that every child takes something away…along with the expected smile!

5. Does the class have an ongoing development path?

Many toddler activity class teachers will pitch up and make a set of routines up for the class for the day on the spot. These individuals possess great talent – the ability to entertain children at the drop of a hat is hard enough for parents, so to watch another person do it often leaves us in awe. The only issue with this approach is that it often fails to consider the developmental trajectory of the toddler. It is important that the organization that you select for your child follows a curriculum based approach, with clear milestones for your toddler to develop over time. Toddlers are little bundles of senses, but psychologically and physically they are always developing and need to be challenged. Many organizations also offer classes beyond the toddler years, meaning that if you find a trusted provider for your child’s activity, you can pursue it with them and watch them grow throughout childhood. Ask your provider about the structure of classes and why they are structured this way – the absence or inclusion of a curriculum based approach will soon become apparent!

We encourage all parents to pursue taking part in some form of activity with their toddler. The best providers will always offer free taster sessions for parents and this will allow you to check out all of our tips in person!

Dr Mark Gould

Dr Mark Gould is an innovator of child sport, entertainment, learning and development.  He has a PhD in Psychology and is a champion of women’s sport, with over 10 years coaching experience.

This post was sponsored by Sports4Kids.

To find out  more about toddler activities organised by Sports4Kids please visit their website http://sport4kids.biz/activities/toddler-activities and visit http://sport4kids.biz/classes/s4k-tots for information on football for tots.

How do I explain that we can’t afford to go on holiday like all their other friends? And dance classes, and expensive day trips?

mnberksAwkward Questions Children Ask Part Four

Good Toy Guide Logo_MED



Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting Psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been helping Mumsnetters with how to answer those awkward questions that children ask.

How do I explain that we can’t afford to go on holiday like all their other friends? And dance classes, and expensive day trips?

tshirt sat at tableAmanda says……

Most things in life cost money and it’s important for children to understand its value and to know that everyone has differing amounts.  This can be really difficult concept for young children who think that meals or days out are free.

Why not ask them to save some pocket money towards a day trip out, this will really help them to relate to how much things cost and make them understand that if they spend all their money on this trip they will miss out on other things such as sweets/magazines. If parents are going out to work, you can also explain that mummy and daddy work really hard to earn the money to pay for nice things and try to explain the process.

Some people have lots of money and can do whatever they like; lots of days out, holidays and dance classes. However the majority of people earn less and have to budget or pick and choose what they do as they can’t afford to do everything.

Explain to your child that having lots of money can buy you nice things but it doesn’t mean you will be happier, there are plenty of lovely things you can do that are free, such as visiting your closest beach for the day, having picnics in the park and these can be equally as special.  Try not to mention the cost of activities – a child won’t normally know the cost of a DVD and pizza night at home versus a cinema trip, they will take their lead from you.  Don’t feel pressured to supply endless treats as often a child will want to stay at home and play lego even more than going out for a day – it’s often the pressure we put on ourselves as parents that is an issue.

If there are certain things they really want to do, for example, dance classes why not get them to ask for these to be Christmas or birthday presents.

A note from the Mumsnet Berkshire Editor: Money is such a hard concept for children to understand. What’s most important is making the use of free activities where possible and also just making sure you actually have time as a family. Depending on the age of the child, most just want to have someone/their parents to play with them and to spend time with them.  Don’t forget you can use things such as Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for days out if you save them up. Plan things like Christmas in advance, consider second hand toys (you can get some bargain toys in great condition). When it comes to activities such as dance classes, work with your child to see how much they really want to do the activity. i.e. prove that they will stick at it and not just want to stop two classes in. You could ask them to help you for x no. of weeks with a house hold chore and if they do it regularly with no fuss they are showing they can commit and perhaps it is a worthwhile investment. Shop around for classes and don’t be afraid to ask for discount or to do pay as you go.

Read Part One: Who is lying?

Read Part Two: Why do grown ups argue?

Read Part Three: What does the tooth fairy do with the teeth they collect?

Free or cheap summer holiday activities in Berkshire (and at home!)


How many of you struggle to come up with ideas to entertain the children over the summer holidays? Whether your kids are constant balls of energy or lethargic teenagers who need to be dragged away from a computer there will be something here for you!

Summer holidays can be expensive. As its the one time of year when we are (usually) guaranteed some nice weather, we all like to make the most of it. Days out, breaks away, meals out and more. So I thought I’d compile a list with my ideas and the ideas of many Berkshire Mumsnetters of activities you can do and places you can visit that are relatively inexpensive or free.

I will be updating this regularly throughout the summer and you can of course see Mumsnet Berkshire for other listings

Explore Nature

Go on a nature exploration looking for bugs and insects galore. Pack up a magnifying glass and a few clear plastic pots to (temporarily) capture your finds and examine. See how many you can find! Berkshire has a great variety of nature reserves. Here are just a few:

1) Hoselake Theale http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/233454-good-for-a-relaxing-stroll

A beautiful lake you can walk around with lots to explore. Free parking near by and you can always pack some snacks or a picnic.

2) Inkpen Common Newbury http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/233460-flower-filled-woodland

This flower filled common will be teaming with wildlife such as butterflies, bees & dragonflies!

3) Bray Pit Maidenhead http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/233432-teaming-with-nature

With a little lake and beautiful scenary you are bound to spot some great wildlife here! Definitely take your camera. It’s very pretty!

4) Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/229962-thatcham-nature-discovery-centre

5) Englemere Pond Winkfield http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/230555-nature-reserve

Have a stroll around the pond, take some bread and enjoy the simple task of feeding the ducks

For more nature reserves to visit across Berkshire visit Mumsnet Berkshire http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds

Activity & Discovery Centres

1) Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/229962-thatcham-nature-discovery-centre

With family friendly walks, a visitors centre packed with interactive wildlife and a natural history display, there is lots to see and do here

2) The Lookout Discovery Centre Bracknell http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/235515-the-lookout-discovery-centre-park-woodland

Don’t forget your car park gives you a discount into the Discovery centre! Fun for the whole family inside, as well as three parks with play equipment designed that it can be used by children and families with special needs, equipment designed for older children and lots of things for the little ones to do too. There are loads of walks, you can hire bikes and a lovely café for something to eat if you don’t take a picnic.

3) Horse Shoe Lake Sandhurst http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/parks-playgrounds/230567-walking-watersports-more

Popular with those who enjoy walks, dinghy sailing, birdwatching and other water sports.

Toddler Groups

1) Wokingham Salvation Army Toddler Group is on during the school holidays. http://local.mumsnet.com/berkshire/baby-toddler-groups/165318-salvation-army-parent-toddlers

A lovely little toddler group on Monday & Friday mornings where you’ll get a warm welcome

2) Not a toddler group as such but Toddler Sense have a number of classes on for only £5.50 per class covering Winnersh, Bracknell & Twyford. It’s worth contacting your local Toddler Sense to see what’s on.


3) Diddi Dance Classes have a few summer specials on too in the Reading area



Never underestimate how awesome your local library is for activities for children of all ages. Not only do they have books to read, they also offer crafts, singing and much more! Please note not all rhymetime and storytimes are mentioned here. Please assume you need to book places on activities, especially those with a charge.

1) Under 5’s at the libraries in the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead

Library Time Day Activity Dates
Ascot 10.30am Wednesday Story & Rhymetime 30 Apr, 14 May, 11 Jun, 25 Jun, 9 Jul
Boyn Grove 2pm Tuesday Story & Rhymetime Fortnightly: 17 Jun, 1 Jul, 15 Jul
Cookham 2pm Thursday Storytime & colouring Fortnightly: 17 Apr, 1 May, 15 May, 29 May *
Cox Green 10.30am Wednesday Story & Rhymetime 23 Apr, 30 Apr, 14 May, 28 May, 11 Jun, 25 Jun, 9 Jul
Cox Green 11.30am Sunday Storytime 18 May, 15 Jun, 20 Jul, 17 Aug, 21 Sep, 19 Oct, 16 Nov, 21 Dec
Datchet 10am Wednesday Story &
30 Apr, 14 May, 28 May *
Dedworth 9.30am Thursday Storytime 24 Apr, 8 May, 22 May, 5 Jun, 19 Jun, 3 Jul, 17 Jul
Eton 2.30pm Friday Storytime 25 Apr, 23 May, 20 Jun
Eton Wick 10.30am Wednesday Story & Rhymetime 23 Apr, 7 May, 4 Jun, 18 Jun, 2 Jul, 16 Jul
Maidenhead 10.30am Tuesday (term time only) Storytime & colouring Every Tuesday during term time
Maidenhead 10.30am Saturday Story & Rhymetime 26 Apr, 24 May, 21 Jun, 19 Jul
Maidenhead 12.30pm Sunday Storytime Fortnightly: 3 August, 17 August, 31 August, 14 September, 28 September, 12 October, 26 October
Windsor 10am Friday Storytime & colouring Every Friday (including holidays)
Windsor 10.30am Saturday Story & Rhymetime 10 May, 14 Jun, 12 Jul
Windsor 11.30am Sunday Storytime 27 Apr, 25 May, 29 Jun

2) Newbury Library

Tuesdays & Wednesdays throughout August -11am Rhymetime for under 3s

Fridays 11am & 2pm – Story time for under 5’s

Tuesday 26 August, 2pm & 3.30pm- ZooLab workshop for 8-11 year olds, in connection with this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. Come and meet some of the extraordinary creatures from the world of myth and fairy tale. £2 per ticket in advance.

3) Hungerford Library

Thursday 21st August – 12pm ZooLab workshop for 4-11 year olds, in connection with this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. Come and meet some of the extraordinary creatures from the world of myth and fairy tale. £2 per ticket in advance.

4) Lamborne Library

Thursday 21st August 10am – ZooLab workshop for 4-11 year olds, in connection with this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. Come and meet some of the extraordinary creatures from the world of myth and fairy tale. £2 per ticket in advance.

Wednesday 27th August 10:30am – Rhyme time for under 5’s

5) Pangbourne Library

Monday 4th August -2pm, Tuesday 5th August 1030am & Thursday 7th August 930am – Pangbourne Heritage Group WW1 exhibition

Thursday 21st August 230pm – ZooLab workshop for 4-11 year olds, in connection with this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. Come and meet some of the extraordinary creatures from the world of myth and fairy tale. £2 per ticket in advance.

6) Thatcham Library

Mondays throughout August 215pm – Storytime for under 5’s

Tuesday 12th August 11am – Rhymetime for under 3’s

Tuesday 26th August 11am – ZooLab workshop for 4-11 year olds, in connection with this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. Come and meet some of the extraordinary creatures from the world of myth and fairy tale. £2 per ticket in advance.

7) Theale Library

Fridays in August 11am – Storytime for under 5’s

8) Aborfield Library

Monday 4th August-  215pm Mythical Maze Stories & Crafts, ages 4-12 £1.50

Monday 4th August – 3pm Elmer Parade – listen to Elmer and make your own Elmer mask, age 5 & under

9) Finchampstead Library

Get Creative Tuesday August 5, 12, 19, and 26. Session 1: 2pm to 2.45pm Session2: 3pm to 3.45pm For children aged 12 and under, £1 charge Please book at the FBC Centre, (0118) 908 8155

Beading Workshop for children Create different creatures with tutor Caroline Marriot. Wednesday August 6 Session 1: 9.45am to 10.45am Session2: 11am to 12noon For children aged 8-12 years old £4 charge, places must be booked at the Library.

Mythical Story Morning Friday August 8, 15, 22, and 29 10am to 10.50am For children aged 4 to 12 years, Free, just drop in.

Rainforest Discovery Thursday August 21 1pm to 2pm For children aged 4 to 12 years old £3.50 charge, places must be booked at the Library.

10) Lower Early Library

Thursday 7th August – 245pm Fizzlebert Stump, age 6 and over £3, meet the author and hear stories and poems

Thursday 14th August 2pm – Circus Workshop, age 4-12 £3.50

Thursday 21st August 11am – Rainforest Discovery & Quirks Animal Roadshow, age 4-12, £3.50

Tuesday 26th August 1pm – Alice In Wonderland, free explore learning ages 6-9.

Tuesday Augyst 26th 1pm – Tracey Beaker, free explore learning, ages 8-11

11) Maiden Erlegh

Monday 11th August 2pm – Mythical Maze story & craft session, age 4-12 £1.50

Thursday 14th August 1pm – Mythical Puppet Workshop, age 4-12 £3.50

12) Spencers Wood

Mythical Maze Story and Craft Session Monday August 11 2.30pm to 3.30pm For children aged 4 to 12 years old £1.50 charge, places must be booked.

Mythical Puppet Workshop Thursday August 14 10.30am to 11.30am For children aged 4 to 12 years old £3.50 charge, places must be booked.

13) Twyford Library

Mythical Maze Story and Craft Session Tuesday August 12 10.30am to 11.30am For children aged 4 to 12 years old £1.50 charge, places must be booked.
Rainforest Discovery Thursday August 21 9am to 10am For children ages 4-12 years old £3.50 charge, places must be booked

14) Wargrave Library

Fridays throughout August 230pm – Get Arty, £1.50 ages 4-12

Wednesday 6th August 1030am –  Circus Skills, £3.50, age 4-12

Wednesday 13th August 1030am – Mythical Puppet Workshop £3.50 age 4-12

14) Winnersh Library

Circus Workshop Come along and learn some circus skills. Wednesday August 6 2pm to 3pm For children aged 4 to 12 years old. £3.50 charge, places must be booked.

Mythical Puppet workshop Wednesday August 13 1pm to 2pm For children aged 4 to 12 years old. £3.50 charge, places must be booked.

Mythical Maze Stories and Crafts Listen to tales of dragons, with mythical craft. Thursday August 28 2pm to 3pm For children aged 4 to 12 years old. £1.50 charge, Just drop in!

Children’s Games Club A selection of Chess, Draught, Connect Four or bring your favourite game. Every Wednesday 2pm to 4pm For children aged 4 to 12 years old, just drop in!

15) Wokingham Library

Heritage Walk around Wokingham Find out about the story of James ‘Sooty’ Seaward, from child chimney sweep to town councillor and probable inspiration for Tom in The Water Babies Monday July 28, 11am For children aged 7 years old and over. Free to attend, places must be booked.

“I’m a Little Alien” Poetry Workshop with James Carter Wednesday July 30, 1pm to 1.30pm and 1.45pm to 2.15pm For children aged 6 and under, £2 charge, places must be booked.

“Journey to the Centre of my Brain” Poetry Show with James Carter Wednesday July 30, 2.30pm to 3.30pm For children aged 6 to 12 years old, £3 charge, places must be booked.

World War 1 Vehicle Session Friday August 1, 10am to 11am For children aged 4 to 12 years old, £1.50 charge, places must be booked.

Fizzlebert Stump and Poems Galore with Author A.F. Harrold Thursday August 7, 10.30am to 11.30am For children aged 6-12 years old, £3 charge, places must be booked.

Get Arty Thursday August 21, 10.30am to 11.30am For children aged 4 to 12 years old, £1.50 charge, just drop in

Rainforest Discovery Thursday August 21, 3pm to 4pm For children aged 4 to 12 years old, £3.50 charge, places must be booked.

16) Woodley Library

“I’m a Little Alien” Poetry Workshop with James Carter Wednesday July 30, 9.45am to 10.15am For children aged 6 and under, £2 charge, places must be booked.

“Journey to the Centre of my Brain” Poetry Show with James Carter Wednesday July 30, 10.45am to 11.45am For children aged 6 to 12 years old, £3 charge, places must be booked.

Fizzlebert Stump Come and meet author AF Harrold, hear about Fizzlebert Stump and his adventures. Thursday August 7, 1pm to 2pm For children aged 6 and over. £3 charge, places must be booked.

Circus Workshop Come along and learn some circus skills. Thursday August 14, 10.30am to 11.30am For children aged 4 to 12 years old. £3.50 charge, places must be booked.

Get Arty Thursday August 21, 10.30am to 11.30am For children aged 4 to 12 years old. £1.50 charge, Just drop in!

The Famous Five  Create a picnic collage and try out our Famous Five treasure hunt. Tuesday August 12, 10.30am to 11.30am For children aged 7 to 11 years old. £2 charge, places must be booked.

Mythical Maze event with Author Margaret Bateson-Hill Thursday August 21, 2pm to 3.30pm For children aged 7 to 12 years old.

Free session courtesy of local Federation of Children’s Book Group – ‘Getting Reading Reading’, places must be booked.

17) Bracknell Forest Council Libraries

As part of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge we have some puppetry workshops arranged with ‘Arm Chair Puppets’. These workshops last for approximately 2 hours and cost £3.50 per person. Places are limited and so booking is essential.

  • Binfield Library – Tuesday 5 August at 10.30am
  • Crowthorne Library – Tuesday 5 August at 2.30pm
  • Bracknell Library – Wednesday 6 August at 10.30am
  • Sandhurst Library – Wednesday 6 August at 2.30pm
  • Birch Hill Library – Thursday 7 August at 10.30am
  • Harmanswater Library – Thursday 7 August at 2.30pm
  • Great Hollands Library – Friday 8 August at 10.30am
  • Whitegrove Library – Friday 8 August at 2.30pm

Mondays’ Harmans Water Library – Bounce and rhyme – 10am to 10.30am (weekly – beginning on 2 June 2014)

Tuesdays – Birch Hill Library Bounce and rhyme – 2.30pm fortnightly – please check with the library for dates

Tuesdays Bracknell Library – Children’s Tuesday Club with stories, bounce and rhyme, and crafts. Takes place fortnightly from 10am to 11am. All welcome.

Thursdays Binfield Library – Drop-in – the library opens at 9am for refreshments and the activities start at 9.30am – stories, rhymes and craft

Thursday – Binfield Library Crafts – first Thursday of the month – 10am to 10.30am

Thursdays in August Bracknell Library – Children’s story time and music – 9.30am – this session is run by Willows and Maples Children’s Centre.

Thursdays in August, Sandhurt Library – Storytime – 2.15pm for under 5s Free.

Fridays, Great Hollands Library, Storytime – 3.40pm for under 5s free.

Fridays Great Hollands Library, Bounce and rhyme – 11am under 3s free.

Fridays, Sandhurst Library, Bounce and rhyme – 9.30am – 2nd and 4th Friday of the month

Changes to Maternity & Paternity Leave for 2015

Many parents are unaware of all their rights concerning maternity / paternity leave after the birth of their child, especially as the rules concerning such leave and the ability to share the leave changed in 2011. In addition the government has announced plans to change this further from April 2015. The following are a few commonly asked questions in connection with such leave and the impending changes:

How much maternity/paternity leave can parents take?
All mothers, save for a few minor exceptions, are entitled to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave following the birth of a child. Fathers who meet certain qualifying requirements are entitled to take either one or two consecutive weeks paternity leave following the birth of a child.

Is maternity and paternity leave paid?
Provided you meet certain qualifying standards, yes it is. Statutory maternity pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks it is paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings and for the remaining weeks it is paid at the rate of £138.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. Statutory paternity pay is paid at the rate of £136.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

I’ve heard that a mother can share her maternity leave with the father of her child – is this true?
Yes it is. Currently a father who is eligible can take, as additional paternity leave, the remainder of any period of maternity leave unused by the mother, up to a maximum of 26 weeks, to care for his new child. This additional paternity leave can be taken from any time after the child is 20 weeks old and must finish by the child’s 1st birthday. In addition it cannot start until the child’s mother has returned to work and stopped receiving statutory maternity pay.

The rules of sharing maternity leave are expected to change in April 2015. What will this mean?
Apart from the first two weeks of maternity leave, which a mother is still legally obliged to take, a mother can choose to share any of her remaining entitlement to maternity leave and give the portion that she does not wish to use to the father, provided he meets certain requirements set down in the regulations. It is anticipated that the mother and father will be able to take their respective shares of the leave at the same time, rather than separately as is the position under the current rules.

Can the mother and father agree to share the leave in separate blocks e.g. alternate blocks of 3 months each?
Yes they can, but the employer can refuse to agree to discontinuous periods of leave and insist that the employee takes it in one continuous period.

If I take maternity leave in two separate blocks, will I still retain the right to return to the same job?
Yes, the current rights concerning returning to the same job after 26 weeks maternity leave will still apply, even if the leave is taken in two separate blocks e.g. two blocks of 13 weeks. If you take more than 26 weeks leave you still have the right to return to the same job, or if that is not reasonably practicable, a similar job.

Can we change our minds about sharing the leave?
Yes you can. You can vary the proportions by which you intend to share the leave provided you give the appropriate period of notice, which is expected to be 8 weeks. However there is a cap on the number of times an employee can notify an employer that she/he wants to take or change a period of shared parental leave. This cap is three times, which is the original notification and on two further occasions.

Will the new rules apply to Civil Partnerships and same sex relationships?
Yes. It is expected that the regulations will not only apply to biological fathers but also to a civil partner or partner (whether of the same sex or a different sex) of the mother, subject to certain qualifying requirements.

The above questions and answers are just a snap shot of some of the issues arising out of the current rules and proposed changes, which are very detailed. If you should require advice upon the regulations or any other areas of employment law please do contact us at Clifton Ingram LLP

Clifton Ingram LLP Solicitors provide effective legal solutions to help you achieve your personal and business objectives. Located in our Reading and Wokingham offices, our team of 100 staff provide a high quality service and proactive advice covering all key legal areas including; Divorce and Family, Employment, Wills, Probate and Tax Planning, Residential and Commercial Property, Dispute Resolution, Company and Commercial.

Sticky & Sweet Kids Shoes for my Daughter’s Christening


Wow I was so excited to receive a package in the post a couple of weeks back. Why? Because Sticky and Sweet sent me a gorgeous pair of shoes to try out for my beautiful baby girl.


What an awesome gift! They were beautifully presented and came with two cute pairs of socks.  I must admit, I am not usually into girly girl things especially as I had a son first. But what can I say? These shoes are really well made. They are soft and flexible which is beautiful for little feet taking tiny steps or toddles. The design is really pretty and everyone has commented on these shoes. They are a little big for my tiny tot who is now 8 months old (shoes are size 6-12m) but there is plenty of room for her feet to grow into them. I am keeping them for her Christening and I can safely say these will be the pair of shoes that we keep forever as her first pair of shoes.

Let me tell you about Sticky & Sweet

“Designs for boys and girls are all handmade and unique in their own way.  No pair will be exactly the same and you can be assured that they have been made lovingly and to a very high standard.   Great for everyday wear or as a Baby Shower or Christening gift, Sticky & Sweet creates exclusive baby shoes, in limited runs, but at surprisingly affordable prices. Not only do they look great, they are made from top quality leather and are developed with an infant’s growing feet very much in mind” – taken from their website  http://www.stickyandsweetkids.co.uk  

Priced between £11.50 & £13.50 these shoes are a great price for the quality of the product. The shoes come in three sizes: 0-3, 3-6 & 6-12 months and can be ordered online from the website.

sticky and sweet



Family friendly Day out at Ascot Racecourse

Mumsnet Berkshire
Mumsnet Berkshire

Mother’s Day – what better way to spend it than with your family and complimentary tickets to Ascot’s Country Fair Race Day.


So that is exactly what I did! When I was first asked to come along to a family day at Ascot Racecourse, I must admit I was dubious. My memories of a trip to Ascot were pre-children and involved drinking jugs of Pimms and lazing in the sun. How could a race course be family friendly? By family, I mean my husband, my parents (on-site baby sitters ;-)), my 2-year old and my 6 month old… oh and me!

Panic set in. How would I entertain my 2 year old? He would never sit still. Oh no he would have to miss his nap! Would there be a mega toddler meltdown associated with sleep deprivation? However,  I love a freebie and the opportunity to go in a Private box  was not one to be missed.  I have to point out at this stage that if anyone is going to find fault, it will be me.

On arrival, parking was easy and plentiful, we spent very little time queuing and there was plenty of staff on hand to take tickets, ask directions etc. We walked through the grounds of Ascot and I was struck with amazement at how good it looked with all the children and family activities set out. There were games to play such as a coconut shy etc, there were farm animals in a petting zone, a softplay & toddler area, a climbing wall and a huge blow up slide attached to a climbing frame where you had to scale about 6 levels in order to get to the top of the slide! Oh and not to forget the obligatory Ice Cream Man.

Ascot Country Fair Raceday Ascot Country Fair Raceday Ascot Country Fair Raceday Ascot Country Fair Raceday

The concourse entrance had several stalls outside selling items such as hats and inside there were food stalls and a craft area for the children and a mum chill out zone where you could have a complimentary massage with tea and cake.  All looked good so far!

We found our box and I enjoyed several cups of tea whilst fretting that my 2 year old was going to some how scale the balcony and fall over (not possible for one so small) or leg it under the dividing rail outside that links the balconies of all the private boxes (very achievable for one so small and so quick). Of course, he did manage the latter but we soon learned to hang out by the barrier.

We then went on a quick tour so we’d know our way around. We had a look at the third floor which is for premier admissions, so premier ticket holders can go on a balcony and watch the races, we were shown where the finish line is (surprisingly not obvious for a complete novice). Premier tickets are £30 per adult (children under 18 are always free).

We were then taken down to the concourse where it was explained to us how the system worked i.e. the concourse is slim so you can stand in the grandstand to watch the races but it is only a short walk to place a bet/collect your winnings before walking back outside to the grandstand again. I have to admit, it was a great atmosphere. It was buzzing and nicely busy but not jam-packed.  Grandstand admission is the cheapest tickets starting at £15 per adult if you are booking for 6 or more adults or £25 per adult for less than 6 people.

We then went back to our Private Box for a wonderful lunch. If you can stretch to a Box, I’d recommend it because it’s great to have a base for the family to hang out or leave your stuff whilst you explore the grounds and having your own balcony means a great view! However, if you opt for the Grandstand or Premier admission there are plenty of restaurants and places to sit and eat and drink. So whether you fancy fish and chips, fine dining or just a sandwich, there was something for everyone.


Speaking of food – If you didn’t fancy eating inside and wanted the little ones to run around, there is plenty of green space to chuck a picnic blanket on the floor or take some fold up chairs to sit on and plenty of picnic benches on the lawn of the grandstand. In fact, it was such a lovely sunny day I was (almost) envious of the families sat on the lawns sunning themselves whilst we sat eating our very gorgeous meal upstairs. What a lovely treat to not have to cook for once!!

Ascot Country Fair Raceday






After lunch, I took my 6 month old and my mum to the concourse to find the location of the mum’s chill out zone while my husband and dad took my son off to find something toddler friendly. This brings me to a slight negative – the lifts. I have a Baby Jogger City Select Tandem buggy so it’s very long. We waited over 10 minutes for a lift that we could get in. We gave up and abandoned the buggy because, not only did we have to wait what felt like an eternity for the lift to arrive, when it did, it was full of people from the floor above so we could never get in it. Anyway, as I say, we took the buggy back to the Private Box and just carried the baby downstairs.

The massage was nice. It was right next to the concourse so you were surrounded by people which slightly negated from the relaxing element of the massage. However, relaxing it was and it was nice just to sit down and let someone work out those knots for you! In fact, even whilst my mum had her massage (after mine), I was still being offered complimentary teas and coffees.

This brings me quickly to the staff. They were all so incredibly polite and helpful. I could not fault them. My mum even ran the buggy over a member of staff’s feet and he was incredibly polite about it despite the fact it hurt. Now, you do expect great service but you don’t often get it so it was lovely just to have people offering you help all the time and being really approachable. I actually can’t fault the staff at all  ( and I am normally so good at picking fault with customer service!).

After the massage, we went over to the bandstand where we joined the rest of the family at the animal petting zone. My son was in an enclosed area petting rabbits. It was so cute! All the children were allowed to go in the Rabbit pen and feed or stroke the rabbits. There were also goats, a sheep, ducks & geese, as well as baby chicks. Hand sanitiser was provided so I didn’t have to worry about my sons germy hands.  I was really impressed. Even the layout was good. There was a white picket fence with an entrance and inside the area, the animal pens were nicely spaced out so there was plenty of room for everyone and to navigate buggys and pushchairs.  On one side of the animal pen was the children’s play area. This was very busy as you can imagine as it was filled with children. It was quite hard to keep an eye on my two year old but there was lots of play on that was suitable for him and other equipment as I mentioned above, more suitable for older children.

A bit further over they had a Sheep Racing area for the Lamb National. It was quite funny to watch as these sheep were dressed up with a knitted jockey on each sheep and a sheep dog chasing them round. The commentator made it really good fun to watch.  Unfortunately, we missed the falconry display but I am sure it would have been impressive and I was told that older children would be able to get involved with the show.

Ascot Country Fair Raceday






I have mentioned feeding myself and I have mentioned feeding my toddler (children eat free in some of the eateries) but I haven’t mentioned feeding my baby. I am breastfeeding my baby and although I am happy to breastfeed in public wherever I need to, I do prefer the quiet of a private feeding room. This is partly because my baby is distractable and likes to be nosey and partly to reduce the likelihood of exposing myself to anyone who might be bothered by it (not that they should be mind you!).  I was pleased to see a baby feeding room by the Box Holders entrance to Ascot. I didn’t venture inside but I took note it was there. What then took me by surprise was the fact that there are no private baby feeding areas within the main Ascot Racecourse building.

Once we had arrived at our Private Box, I asked a member of staff to find out if there was anywhere I could feed my baby. She was great and went off to find out immediately. What wasn’t great was her answer. I am welcome to use the ladies toilet or the disabled toilet. What?! Feed my baby on the loo? Despite the fact there was nothing negative intended, but merely the offer of somewhere quieter to feed, offering a nursing (or bottle feeding) mum the use of the toilet to feed her baby is never acceptable.  In the end, most of her feeds were done in our Box but I did resort to one feed in the loo in the afternoon because it was very busy in our Box. It would have taken me about 10 minutes to walk across the Racecourse grounds to the baby feeding room at the entrance. Anyone with a hungry baby will know that seconds count when it comes to producing food. Although the toilets were clean and well-kept, it is quite difficult to feed a baby whilst sat on a toilet seat. One suggestion for future improvement might be to at least put a couple of comfortable chairs in the toilets in the corner for nursing mums (not ideal but better than actually sat on the loo) or to use some of the space within the main building to create a baby feeding room with facilities not only for nursing mums, but also bottle feeding mums i.e. bottle warmers, sterilising equipment etc.

I would like to make it clear that I felt very welcome to feed my baby anywhere and that I believe Ascot Racecourse to be supportive of mothers however they feed their babies. This is proven by the feeding room they already have in place as well as being friendly whilst I was nursing my baby.

Moving on…… Each child was given a little pack with a brochure, colouring pencils and a chocolate lollipop. The brochure included pictures to colour in and games for older children, as well as information on the horses. This meant it was not only fun but educational too. Win Win! If I was going to be picky I’d suggest a piece of fruit instead of chocolate for the children but who doesn’t love a bonus chocolate lollipop from time to time as a treat?


Increasing it’s family friendliness even more, and engaging children in learning about horses, Ascot Racecourse also has a free club that under 16’s can join called Colts and Fillies (www.coltsandfillies.co.uk). On the Race Days there are activities that are exclusively available to these little members. This is taken directly from the site:

The club is free for children age 16 and under and organises activities throughout the year which
allow youngsters to engage in horse racing and learn about it in a fun and exciting way.
For 2014 the club will have a horse in training with Eve Johnson Houghton. This will enable the members to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership. A large number of regular visitors to the races had their interest sparked as a child, usually by being taken racing by a parent who loved the sport. The club aims to ignite that spark in children by making it easy and free to be involved so that no child, whatever their
circumstances, is excluded from enjoying this wonderful sport.

All race days are family friendly and children are welcome any time. However, they do run certain events throughout the year that are specifically aimed with children in mind. Look out for the following dates:

19th May - Victoria Cup Day
27th July - King George Family Sunday
9th August - Shergar Cup Day
1st November - United House Group Raceday And Fireworks Spectacular
19th & 20th December - Christmas Weekend Meeting

If you strip out all the family activities and focus purely on the racing side of it what do children really think of it? Do they take any notice? I can tell you my two year old enjoyed it – he really enjoyed seeing the horses trot past to go to the starting line and actually propped himself up on the balcony to get the best view for him if no-one was volunteering to hold him up. Once the races actually started he did get a bit overwhelmed by the noise and cheering but he couldn’t tear his eyes from the screens with the horses on. We spent some time at the parade ring and got to see some of the horses close up and I was so pleased my son got to see these beautiful animals up close.

Observing all the older children, I’d say they enjoyed watching the racing too but it was good they had entertainment in between races or instead of watching the races.


Earlier on I discussed the price. Cheapest tickets are £15 per adult (don’t forget children are free up until 18!) if you are booking for 6 adults or more, or £25 per adult for less than 6 people.  Does this pose value for money for a family? A family of 4 (based on two adults and two children) would be £50. This does sound expensive but when you consider you are there for the whole day, children are free and you can bring all your own food and drink then I think it offers not only value, but experience, education and atmosphere. I do think for family days all Grandstand tickets should be £10-15 per adult regardless of the number of adults in the party – this would make it more affordable to the general public and therefore more appealing to a wider audience. Plus you get to dress up a bit! The only downside was that the staff weren’t able to tell us which horse would win 😉

On that note, I did find myself talking to other parents who weren’t placing bets on the day because they did not feel comfortable gambling in front of their children. This article isn’t here to discuss the ethics of gambling and children but it is nice to note that there is absolutely no pressure to have a flutter and that for us, whether we placed a bet or not, this did not influence the enjoyment of the day.

Overall, my family had a brilliant experience. The day went very smoothly, the staff were impeccable in both manners, helpfulness and knowledge and a credit to Ascot Racecourse, there was plenty to do without being overwhelming and had a nice relaxed pace set so there was no feeling of being rushed at all or thinking that you’d miss out on something if you spent too long in one area. There was lots to see and do for the children and the adults so very much a day for all.  As I mentioned above, my only real disappointment was the lack of baby feeding areas within the main building. I probably wouldn’t take my toddler to a race day if it wasn’t a family day because I think I’d spend it running round after him rather than enjoying the races, but I would take him to another family day in future. Older children and teenagers are likely to get more out of it on non-family race days than very young children. Plus we all need a bit of grown up time on occasion! Well Done Ascot Racecourse.

*Photos supplied by Ascot Racecourse and William Stott Photography


Country Fair Race Day
Country Fair Race Day