12 ways London changes when you’re a parent

London Child.jpeg

By Gillian for A Baby on Board

How does London change when you’re a parent…? ‘Great news!’ I thought this week when I read that the Night Tube might actually be happening soon. And then I realised, it’s been years pre-children since we’ve lived on a tube line and the rare times I venture out in the evening it’s on the bus, to somewhere local, and I’m tucked up in bed before 12 (10.30). Oh.

Here’s 12 other ways London changes once you’re a parent:

  1. Baby on Board? You’re still green around the gills on the morning commute, but this time the only person in the carriage who didn’t go out for ‘just the one’ Thursday night drinks with your colleagues
  2. Guest lists? Now it’s all about nursery place waiting lists. Who knew you should have put your child’s name down ten years before you even started thinking about thinking about children? And it costs how much a month? Thanks for nothing, London
  3. You make the inevitable retreat from central central to zone 4 or 5. Or even *whispers* beyond that. It’s like a slow walk of shame you hope your twenty-something self won’t see (you swore it would never happen…)
  4. Previously you picked living locations based on pubs, bars and rolling-out-of-bed proximity to transport links. Now it’s all about sensible things like space, green places, schools and the closeness to Waitrose
  5. The newest pop-up restaurants and avent garde city supper club scene means nothing to you, but you’re all about Pizza Express and Giraffe. Wine AND crayons? Everyone’s happy. Bring it on
  6. All those glorious acres of London’s green spaces used to be a convenient location for your Sunday paper pre-pub picnic, or summer weekend Prosecco fest. Now? Finding the play park and trying not to freeze while you secretly check Facebook in your pocket
  7. Clapham Junction, once the hungover harbinger of doom that work was very close, is now a glorious joy with its wide platforms and lift access to every level
  8. Before? You knew the tube map like the back of your hand and could locate shortcuts and secret places all over the city. Now, you’ve a bone fide catchment area bore who can recite the distance for all of the 800 schools within coughing distance of your house (‘I know, 0.004 miles! Ridiculous!’)
  9. All these amazing tourist attractions, events, and places of interest..that you never went to because they’re two too many stops away on the tube and you were always hungover. Now? You still don’t go because the pram on the tubeis a faff and they’re too full of children (although looking at everything through the eyes of your own child, it is kind of cool that there are some jewels in a tower, a big old bridge and the Queen of England lives in a massive castle right in the middle of it all)
  10. People now actually speak to you in the the street and on public transport…if only to dole out unwanted parenting advice and generally unhelpful comments.  Come back, no eye contact and deathly silence, all is forgiven
  11. You get really nostalgic for things like the top deck of the bus, the ground floor of Topshop Oxford Circus and standing outside pubs in the road in the summer
  12. Tired of London, tired of life? Nope, just really, really tired.

Top 5 Yacht Charter Honeymoon Destinations

By Geoff Moore for A Luxury Travel Blog

For those looking for an unrivaled honeymoon experience, a yacht charter offers it all. With a dedicated Captain, crew and chef, all of your requirements will be catered for down to the most intricate of details and you can enjoy cruising in some of the world’s most stunning locations.

Whether you are looking to dine al fresco, swim or dive in a secluded bay or party in some of the world’s hotspots, a yacht charter offers infinite possibilities. Here are our top five yacht charter honeymoon destinations:


Nestled within the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a tropical nation of 26 atolls made up of over 1,190 coral islands and inlets. Offering some of the best sailing in the World, you will experience a journey of discovery that incorporates powdery beaches, secluded anchorages and a laid-back pace of life.

Whether you wish to island hop and visit some of the Maldives’ five star hotels or spend your full honeymoon aboard in complete privacy, a yacht charter provides the ultimate way to experience this stunning destination.


Located just off the east coast of Africa, the Seychelles is a group of islands renowned for their beaches, palm trees and beautiful landscapes.

This archipelago is made up of 115 islands, comprising some of the oldest granite islands in the world, and low-lying coral atolls and reef islands. This diversity of the Seychelles is a fantastic advantage when sailing, as each island is just a short trip away, providing a range of options depending on how you would like to spend each day.

British Virgin Islands  

For those that truly want to get away from it all, the British Virgin Islands, located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico, provide the ultimate destination. Particularly challenging to get to without a yacht, a honeymoon here will position you in 0ne of the World’s most unspoilt of locations.

Made up of more than 60 islands and islets , you will experience white sand beaches at every turn. Beach bars are located on many popular bays, whereas there are also many unexplored and inhabited locations for those moments when you’re looking for ultimate privacy.

Eastern Mediterranean

For those looking for something a little more adventurous, a yacht charter in the Eastern Mediterranean could provide the perfect solution.

Whether you want to casually cruise the coastline, or visit some of Europe’s most stunning cities, a yacht allows you to move between destinations and return to your yacht at your leisure. Some of the best destinations to consider include Greece, Turkey and Cyprus.

South of France

Offering quintessentially breathtaking backdrops that can’t fail to impress, a yacht charter in the South of France can’t fail to impress.

Destinations to visit include St Tropez, Monaco and Bonifacio and your Captain will also be able to show you some of Europe’s most idyllic locations and secret anchorages, perfect for swimming and private dining.

The Right Way to Spend a Weekend in Paris (according to a Paris resident)


By Bryan Pirolli for Thrillist

While the Eurostar trip from St Pancras International to Gare du Nord will be getting some upgrades over the next year or two (including some new restaurants, like the Éclair de Génie and Five Guys), there’s no reason to wait that long to take a trip to Paris. Here are a few tips for how to do a weekend in Paris like a true local.

Stay central 

You don’t want to waste your time in the City of Light underground in the Metro. It can take days to sift through hotels and Airbnbs, so booking a luxury apartment at Paris Perfect is a great idea… if you’ve got the ducats. Their brand-new location on Île de la Cité, in a gorgeously renovated 17th-century building, is as central as it gets, and there’s always someone in the lobby to answer any questions you may have. The apartment living will set the tone for a relaxed weekend, away from crowds and lines, allowing you to really soak up the Paris lifestyle. 

Just trust the chef 

Try to reserve a table at Semilla, a few blocks south from the Île de la Cité. The menu changes often, but just go for the tasting menu, so you can let the chef decide what you need to eat that night (this is Paris, after all -- chef knows best). Afterwards, stroll the banks of the Seine, across Pont des Arts, for a view of the Eiffel Tower, which sparkles on the hour.

... or opt for a classic bistro dinner 

Try a classic French bistro dinner at A la Biche au Bois or Chez Paul down by the Bastille. Sure, you’ll rub elbows with tourists, but locals still love being able to get French cooking like grandma used to make. Finish off the night with a drink at any nearby café terrace that is still open, and watch the Parisian night owls heading home. 

Go for the best version of a classic 

Head for coffee at Caféothèque, just behind City Hall, and pair it with an exceptional chocolate croissant -- or even one of its gluten-free cakes. We swear, these won’t leave you nostalgic for the days when wheat wasn’t considered practically poisonous.

Pretend to be more cultured than you really are 

While Paris is full of gorgeous museums, you may want to take an hour or so to duck into the lesser-known Musée Cognacq-Jay. This 16th-century mansion houses the private collection of a 19th-century mogul. Entry is free, and it’s always virtually empty. 

Go shopping 

Stroll the Marais and its tangle of boutique-lined streets. For shoes, check out Faguo, a French company that makes both men’s and women’s footwear. Every purchase means a tree will be planted by the company somewhere in the world, so your shopping trip is basically charity. Next, head to the Upper Marais for the unique perfumes at Liquides, where different artisanal fragrance makers sell their wares, like the young creator behind Les Eaux Primordiales. Head to their “perfume bar” to test out many high-quality scents. 

Spice up your life 

Stock up on spices after heading to the well-known culinary hub Thiercelin. This aptly named sniffing bar allows you to get a whiff of the many herb and spice mixes, like the exotic 1001 Nights, or tonka beans.

You’re in Paris -- try the chocolate 

Pop into the confectionary world of Jacques Genin to sample his amazing chocolates, and other sweet creations. His salted butter caramel -- especially the one with passion fruit -- is a must-try. Stay for a coffee and pastry if you have some time.

... and probably some wine, for good measure 

Before heading back to the Gare du Nord, stock up on a bottle of wine (or two) from one of the bottle shops open on Sundays. Stroll westward from the Centre Pompidou, under the newly reopened Canopy at Les Halles before heading north up rue Montorgueil. Check in at either Le Repaire de Bacchus or Nysa, both open on Sundays.

Go international for lunch 

It’s worth seeking out the Marché des Enfants Rouges off rue de Bretagne in the Upper Marais: this old, covered market houses a mix of international cuisines, including North African, Italian, and Caribbean food. Check out Chez Alain, where patience is rewarded with phenomenal crepes and sandwiches. 

... or go for lunch with a view 

Have a light lunch (maybe one of the excellent croque monsieurs) on top of the museum at Georges, soaking up the magnificent views of the city. You can take the external escalator -- akin to a hamster tube -- all the way to the top, where both indoor and outdoor seating is possible.

Spend the day people-watching 

In the afternoon, avoid the tourist traps and live the life Parisian: if it’s a lazy day, stroll the Canal Saint-Martin, and sample coffee at Ten Belles or Radiodays. Or give French coffee a break, and try the Portuguese offerings at the brand-new Donantonia pastry shop, including a custard-filled pastel de nada.   

Definitely stock up on pastries 

If there’s time, pick up a few eclairs or other pastries from Stohrer, the city’s oldest existing patisserie. Try the baba au rhum, which was created in the store, as well as its award-winning eclairs. See if you can make them last the entire Eurostar journey back, though it’s pretty likely they’ll be gone by the time you exit the tunnel on the UK side.


Raising my daughters to make mistakes

London Child.jpeg

From Coffee Work Sleep Repeat

You might think that that’s a rather odd thing to say, that I’m telling my daughters that it’s okay to make mistakes. Of course I want them to do the right thing and be ‘successful’ but what I want them realise that sometimes we fail before we succeed. That so often things take time and mistakes are all part of the learning process. I can say, hand on heart, that I have learnt more from my business mistakes than from any business book.

As a child I was very aware that I had to work hard, do the ‘right thing’ and be careful. When everyone else was climbing the tree I was at the bottom wringing my hands and telling them all to be careful. I don’t think I’ve ever even tried to climb a tree. It got the point that I was scared of trying new things. I was scared of making a fool of myself, of getting it wrong and ultimately failing. I’d tied up my self esteem with being seen as successful and good, with being careful and not making mistakes. I’d be scared of trying a new activity just in case I either wasn’t very good at it or I messed up while learning.

I can see the same traits in my girls that plagued me as child and then even still as an adult. They give up before really even trying, they write themselves off as a failure before they’ve even begun. It hurts my heart to see my littlest girl realising that she’s not as good as her sister at something so she sits down and then refuses to try again.

Thinking back to my own childhood I can remember as a child praising my mum’s drawings and creativity and asking why she didn’t do more and why she didn’t pursue art. She told me that when she was at school there were other people better than her in her art class so she gave up. Rather than recognising her own talent and creativity she compared herself to others and stopped doing something she so clearly loved and had a talent for. How sad is that? Perhaps it’s a female generational thing in our family? Something innate in us, or maybe it’s down to parenting? While I don’t have the exact answer I do know that we are not alone in this, it seems to be a girl thing.

..the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to give up

I read a study by Carol S Dweck from the 1980s recently, it studied a group of 5th grade children. She found that bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up–and the higher the girls’ IQ, the more likely they were to give up. Bizarrely, it was the straight-A girls that showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts, rather than give up.

Girls seem to believe that they need to be innately good at something to achieve and succeed, whereas boys generally put in more effort and reapply themselves (if motivated). There’s something to be said for watching the way we praise our children. 

We need to be teaching our girls bravery NOT perfection

We love the film Zootropolis, for those that don’t know it’s a kids film where the main story centres around a young female rabbit that wants to become a police officer, yet there has never been any rabbit police offices in fact it’s just not seen as a job for small animals. She faces so much negativity and opposition, even inadvertently from her own parents yet she never gives up on her dream. She digs deep and works hard, she makes mistakes but she picks herself up and keeps trying. It’s such a fantastic message for children (and adults!) and even the albeit, very annoying, soundtrack has some great lines –

I messed up tonight
I lost another fight
I still mess up but I’ll just start again
I keep falling down
I keep on hitting the ground
I always get up now to see what’s next
Birds don’t just fly
They fall down and get up
Nobody learns without getting it won

I won’t give up, no I won’t give in
Till I reach the end
And then I’ll start again
Though I’m on the lead
I wanna try everything
I wanna try even though I could fail

How fantastic are they? I often remind my girls of this song when they are struggling with something or just want to give up – (I’m sure I’m very annoying to them!)

So going forward I am focusing on praising my girls’ efforts, positively reinforcing them when they try something new or put in the extra work, and when they pick themselves up and try again, so to speak! I don’t want them to have a fear of failure that stops them even trying, think how many opportunities can be missed when we have that kind of mindset. The sense of satisfaction that you get when you dig deep and be brave and then achieve is priceless isn’t it? I want that for my girls.

Can hypnobirthing help you have a pain-free labour?


By Gillian for TalkMum

I'm currently pregnant with my second child, and as I near the third trimester my thoughts are turning to the big event that's coming soon. Yes, I'm talking about labour.

Despite having, on paper, a relatively quick and easy first birth as a result of a planned induction, due to the circumstances that surrounded it - busy hospital, no delivery rooms, back-to-back contractions and a lot of pain - It's fair to say I'm not looking forward to it again.

However, this time, I'm determined to investigate other options that may help me feel more in control and potentially reduce the amount of pain I'm in, no matter what the circumstances are. One suggestion that keeps coming up is hypnobirthing, or hypnotherapy for childbirth.

So what is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing involves simple self-hypnosis, relaxation techniques and breathing methods to be used by the mother - possibly with the help of a birthing partner - in the run-up to and during labour. Different language is used; contractions are 'surges' rather than negative language such as 'pain', for example.

Advocates say it can help you relax, feel more in control, and release the fear and tension that exists around childbirth - in turn helping you feel less discomfort.

Although various methods are now practised, hypnobirthing is based on the work of Dr Grantly Dick-Read, an advocate of natural childbirth, whose principles also provided the foundations of the NCT. In his book Childbirth Without Fear, published in 1933, he outlined that he believed it's fear and tension that cause pain in around 95% of women who give birth.

Hypnobirthing is very much NOT the stereotyped hypnosis that you see on TV shows. There's absolutely no 'you are feeling very sleeeepy' and the accompanying ridiculous antics.

So how do you train yourself to have a hypnobirth?

Most people either have one-to-one or specialist group sessions with a qualified hypnotherapist, read a book or listen to a CD (or a combination of all three).

Various types of hypnobirthing courses are available, and it can often be incorporated into other techniques, such as pregnancy yoga.

Who tried hypnobirthing and did it help with labour?

TalkMum blogger Eleanor from The Bristol Parent took a course of Lazy Daisy classes, which are a cross between pregnancy yoga and hypnobirthing. Eleanor says 'I loved taking the classes and really enjoyed them. I only got to use the breathing for a few hours before I needed intervention and then an emergency c-section, but it really helped. I think active birth is the way forward, and it all made a lot of sense to me.'

Fritha, who writes the blog Tigerlilly Quinn says 'I bought a hypnobirthing CD and listened to it in the last month or so at bedtime and when I was doing yoga in the morning in the last two weeks. I played it during labour and was totally chilled. It definitely helped (my partner said he was seriously sick of the sound of it though!)'

Jessica from Along Came Cherry is also a big advocate of hypnobirthing, especially for second-time mums: 'I would 100% recommend it! I went from having a horrible hospital birth with all the drugs to a home birth with no pain relief at all. I used the Maggie Howell Natal Hypnotherapy CD and read the book to go with it. I listened to the CD most nights for the last few months. I found I was able to stay calm and control the entire time when first time round I had totally freaked out by the time I was 3 cm dilated.'

'I'm 100% sold on hypnobirthing. It made all the difference to my second birth,' says Adele from Circus Queen. 'I even find the techniques helpful in day to day life. I did it with Katharine Graves at The Hypnobirthing Centre and want to train with her to become a teacher at some point. I really rate the techniques but especially rate her. She's written a book so even if you just got the book and listened to the CD that would help.'

So what do I think?

From research and speaking to other mums who have tried hypnobirthing, it does seems there's something in it and I'm really keen to investigate further. Although I'm not entirely sure it can get rid of all the pain I think it can't hurt to try, even if it helps me not go into the birth with a negative mindset. And anything that will help even a little bit is worth it, surely?

The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the blog and to describe best generally accepted current practices we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given.

Our 10 Rules For Using Tech As A Family

By Alison for Not Another Mummy Blog

It was when I bought and downloaded an app for my ten month old baby that I first realised that we were firmly in the parents who embrace tech camp. Unlike many people who had a strict ‘no tech’ rule for their babies (those poor mites who were being deprived of Mr Tumble!) we – rightly or wrongly – introduced our little one to CBeebies on the telly and a cutesy Fisher Price app on my phone, before she even turned one.

But then, considering Mr P and I have always been quite into tech ourselves – from buying cutting edge gaming equipment to getting the latest smart phones and getting excited over buying a smart TV – it’s no surprise that we would embrace it as parents too.

And of course, with that decision comes huge responsibility. We’re the first generation of parents whose children are surrounded by tech in such a big way (the worst my parents had to worry about was me spending too long playing Tetris). So rather than blindly embracing it, I think it’s important to have boundaries and rules in place.

  1. Get some balance. While we don’t have a set time that we allow our seven-year-old to watch TV or use her tablet, we do monitor it and if we think she’s been glued to tech too long, we’ll ask her to do something else like read or play, or we’ll head outdoors.
  2. Always know what your child is watching and playing. We play every game before deciding whether the seven-year-old can have it on her tablet, and we keep an eye on all of the TV shows and YouTube videos she’s watching to make sure they’re suitable. Which is made easier because she only uses tech in the kitchen or living room…
  3. No screens in the kiddo’s bedroom. This might change when she’s older but right now, we don’t allow her to watch TV or user her tablet in her bedroom.
  4. Only age-appropriate games are allowed. We’ve almost come a cropper with this one, because there are quite a few games that seem suitable for the seven-year-old but on closer inspection, we realise they have a chat facility where strangers can play with you and message you.
  5. Use parental controls. As well as using safer apps like YouTube Kids, which has filtered content, we only allow the seven-year-old access to certain apps, which means she can’t surf the web on her tablet or message anyone. Also, within certain TV apps, she can only watch U-rated content unless we type in a password.
  6. Set a good example. There’s no point in telling your child that they should have a balanced approach to tech if you’re then glued to your phone or tablet. Sure, we need to use them for organising LIFE STUFF, and we shouldn’t feel bad about that, but popping your phone away from time to time shows that it doesn’t have to be a permanently attached to your hand. Which means…
  7. No screens during family meals. This is a really popular rule, amongst families, and it’s one that’s really good to implement early. Meals can be a time where you catch up on the day and talk to each other, rather than a time for being interrupted by notifications or deadlines.
  8. Make tech a reward. We used to fall into the trap of taking away our daughter’s tablet as a punishment, but now we try to use it as a reward – so we offer an extra 10 minutes of tablet time if she tidies her bedroom. Some of my friends have a tech reward chart for their kids, where they earn their tablet time every day, which I really like (but haven’t been organised to sort out yet).
  9. No password access. At this stage, we don’t give the seven-year-old any password access, and if she needs a password (to watch a PG film, on her tablet for example), then we type it in for her.
  10. No mobile phone/social media until the appropriate age. She keeps asking me when she’ll be old enough for a mobile phone, and I tell her that when she’s walking to and from school on her own, we’ll probably give her a basic phone with no bells and whistles (and no social media) to allow her to phone us if she needs to. But right now, she’s too young for a phone.

5 things parents should never do in front of their nannies


By Amy Daire for Insider

Being a nanny — and having one — can be a great experience. Not only do nannies get to care for a sweet, adorable child, they also get to inspire and teach a developing mind. When you find a great nanny, sometimes they start to feel like family. 

I've been a nanny on and off over the past five years, and I've gotten very close to the families I have worked for. However, it's important to remember that no matter how much we might  feellike family, we actually aren't. That means there are lines you shouldn't cross, discussions you shouldn't have, and very clear definitions of what is and isn't appropriate. 

To ensure that you aren't pushing boundaries and making your nanny uncomfortable, here are five things you should never do in front of your nanny. 

1. Talk about your finances

If you're struggling financially, try not to bring it up casually in front of your nanny, or any other employee for that matter. It will make them think they should be charging less or they might lose their job. If you do need them to take a pay cut or let them go, that should be discussed in an established meeting. 

On the other hand, if you happen to be rolling in it, make sure you aren't saying too much on that matter either. Your nanny might think you're underpaying her, which won't end well for anyone. 

2. Fight with your partner or talk badly of them

This should go without saying, but sometimes nannies become so familiar that you might not realize they're even around. It's best, however, to make sure that your private matters are kept private. 

Unless your nanny is also your best friend, try not to air your dirty laundry with them when they still have to work professionally with your other half. It might ruin any relationship or respect they've built up with your partner and it can be uncomfortable for your nanny. 

3. Complain about your last nanny

It's one thing to be constructive and let your nanny know what you'd like done that the last nanny might not have accomplished. It's another to talk harshly about their style, looks, or interests. Talking down about these things will make your current nanny feel like that could be said about them as well. 

As a nanny who's been through this, I can tell you that it's very distracting. Would you rather have me concerned about how I'm sitting, speaking, or dressing, or would you like my attention to be on your kids? 

4. Belittle them

Parents can say things that make nannies feel bad about themselves — even if they don't realize it. 

It's best to give your nanny specific instructions on how you want things done in advance. If your nanny handles a situation differently than you would have, do not berate them for it. Just explain how you want things done. 

I have had a parent tell me that it's "common sense" to do things that are very, very far from "common sense." There's no one set way to handle child rearing and everyone has their own methods. 

Also be mindful of how you voice your opinions about politics and general topics that might affect your nanny. I once worked for a parent who often said that people from Florida were dumb and that public school educations were terrible clearly without knowing that I am both from Florida and went to public school. 

Your nanny might agree with you, but stay on the safe side and word things carefully. 

5. Try to convince or bribe them into staying with your family

If your nanny decides to leave their position and you  really want them to stay, express it up front. You can tell them that you'd love for them to remain apart of the family or offer them a raise after they've told you of their plans, but once they've made their decision, do your best to respect it. 

When I was leaving a job to start writing I had parents say "that doesn't pay very much," or "being a nanny is so much more rewarding." I have been offered free room and board, and a friend of mine was offered a shopping spree as a bribe for staying on as a nanny. These tactics will only make your nanny happier that they're leaving, and it will make them think twice before recommending the newly open job to their peers.

The very best private day nurseries in London and the UK


By Teddy Wolstenholme, Celia Thursfield and Alice Rose for Tatler

Congratulations. You have your bundle of gorgeousness in your arms (or, if you’re really organised, two blue lines on the test stick) – and now, the fun starts. Or should we say: ‘fun’. Let’s be realistic here. You are not looking for a nursery to fast-track your sproglet to Harvard. You are looking for somewhere warm, welcoming, stimulating and safe where s/he can learn the dark arts of fingerpainting, triangle-bashing and how to sit still for two minutes without fidgeting. Nursery proprietors are universally charming, but the chances are that you will be hauled in front of them at some point because your little angel has bitten Jeremiah AGAIN. But that’s OK.

The Willcocks Nursery


Fees: From £1,130 a term. 
Ages: From 2

We know describing a good school in Kensington as a 'hidden gem' is an oxymoron, but the Willcocks Nursery is just that. It has a loyal following - a mix of old English families and chic foreigners - but flies under the radar. It's all quite understated. Yes, you should register at birth and yes, there are waiting lists, but fab head Lavinia Taylor says: 'We try our best not to disappoint.' A mother describes it as 'gentle, which is what you want for young ones' - so no wonder Princess Charlotte is starting here in January 2018. They're just by the Royal Albert Hall, so expect jaunts to the museums and the park, as well as captivating talks on things like Shackleton, archaeology or the environment to keep things lively and fun. Kindness is evident everywhere, plus the nursery is a cooperative, so you know staff are in it for the long haul.

The Butterfly Preschool


Fees: From £900 a term
Age: From 2

Boutique-lined Northcote Road is the epicentre of Nappy Valley, so it’s fitting that the Butterfly, tucked just behind, started life as a ‘drop and shop’ crèche for frazzled mothers. Five years later, it’s upped the ante to offer morning, afternoon and some full-day sessions, but numbers have been kept teeny-tiny (max 16 per session) and the vibe ‘wonderfully unpretentious’. Places are highly sought after, but don’t panic: ‘It’s never too late to call.’ Head Mrs Charlotte is an ex-scientist, so expect imaginative messy time; specialist yoga and music teachers are shipped in weekly. Energy is ingested via the scrummy food from the très chic French café next door, then expended through regular runarounds on Wandsworth Common and Friday Forest School: wellies essential. Happily, little ones get a solid grounding in their Ps and Qs – ‘proper handwashing and table manners too’, confirms a mother – before winning coveted places at Eaton House the Manor and Thomas’s. 

Iverna Gardens Montessori


Fees: From £2,565 a term
Age: From 2

‘So many strengths that I really don’t know where to start,’ says a mother. Head Felicity Marrian and her daughter Emily lead a ‘remarkable’ team at Iverna Gardens and its sister nursery on Victoria Road – both Ofsted Outstanding. The Iverna Gardens classroom is airy and calm but full of activity – bread-making, construction, sewing, writing, making ‘volcanoes’, poring over books in the reading village – and there’s a large outside space. A yoga teacher visits, they do French on Tuesdays and there’s a tremendously popular Forest School club. Register at birth for a place on the waiting list: this is Kensington... ‘I am going to be three for a long time,’ one small pupil announced to her parents. We know what she means – we wouldn’t want to leave either.

Little Forest Folk

SW6, SW13, SW18, SW19, SW20, W4 

Fees: From £68 a day
Age: From 2 

Wouldn’t we all secretly like to be Little Forest Folk? To put on head-to-foot waterproofs and burn off energy running amok (under careful supervision) in the woods, climbing trees, building dens, cooking up a storm in the mud kitchen? As a father says: ‘There’s plenty of time for my daughter to be stuck in a classroom.’ These are full-time outdoor nurseries for two- to five-year-olds, with sites in Chiswick, Wimbledon, Barnes and now – in response to huge demand – Fulham and Wandsworth too. They follow the core Early Years curriculum and have a huge amount of fun doing so, rain or shine. Register this very second – their waiting lists are as long as Mr Tickle’s arms. Parents are, says one, a ‘real mix: hippies in organic outdoorsy outfits, corporates off to work in their suits, stay-at-home mums in wellies and lipstick’. A father reports that his daughter comes home full of good advice, such as ‘no picking, no licking’. Useful rules for life, those.

Marmalade Owl


Fees: From £1,200 a term
Age: From 2 

They’re a bit of a SW London institution, the Marmalade Schools. First came the Cat (‘the cream of Clapham nurseries,’ says a local mother) and now, three Outstanding Ofsted-rated nurseries later, sparky principal Miss Rozzy has opened the Owl. It’s set in a sunny, modern church hall, and head Miss Linda (who’s hopped over from the Cat; there’s a reassuringly low staff turnover) runs a ‘ship-shape but hugely creative’ school. The vibe is hardworking but ‘not pushy’, our spies tell us. There are daily doses of fresh air and one-on-one focus time to hone the three Rs; Miss Rozzy trained in special needs, so the support network is ‘incredible’. She’s also dizzyingly clued up on prep schools; lots of parents praise her ‘straight-shooting yet supportive guidance’, which reaps rewards: most go on to Thomas’s, Broomwood and James Allen’s Preparatory School. We love that the parents’ events are such a hoot that one still makes the two-hour round trip for book club, years after her children have moved on. 

Marylebone Village Nursery School


Fees: From £276 a week full-time
Age: From 9 months 

We don’t know many nurseries with Latin mottoes, and we suspect Locus Laetus Discere goes slightly over the head of the small pupils at Marylebone Village Nursery School, but its message (‘a happy place to learn’) certainly rings true. Get your child’s name on the waiting list pronto, especially if you’d like them to start before they’re two. They have oodles of space (6,500 child-friendly square feet, under St James’s Church) and are happy to take children for a short time, which suits the international W1 clientele. There’s an inside garden and a stage for school plays; outside, children squelch in the mud kitchen, race round on trikes or frolic on the Astroturf. Organic lunches and trips to the Wallace Collection followed by babyccinos in a local café complete the perfect picture. Manager Miss Veronica has a masters in education, so children leave here well prepared for Big School, which might be Queen’s College Prep or Wetherby. 

The Minors Nursery School


Fees: £3,390 a term
Age: From 2½ 

‘We have been utterly spoilt by the Minors,’ beams one mother. Headmistress Viv Thompson is the star of the show and she ‘understands the guilt’, say parents – being a working mother herself, she is happy to make allowances. Alma mater of Princes William and Harry, who attended in the Eighties, the nursery is now part of the Alpha Plus stable, so relationships with Notting Hill neighbours Wetherby and Pembridge Hall are tickety-boo. Registration is from birth and a visit is essential – ‘You have to go with your gut instinct,’ encourages Ms Thompson. Places are then offered on a first-come, first-served basis with an even spread of birthdays (top tip: get your paperwork in, pronto). It’s all about a ‘have a go’ attitude here, and the little ones bumble around the airy (but cosy) classrooms and get grubby in the mud kitchen and sandpit. ‘My daughter insists on wearing her hair like the teacher,’ says one mother. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Miss Daisy’s Nursery

SW3, SW1 

Fees: From £4,500 per term
Age: From 2½ 

Miss Daisy’s nurseries in Belgravia, Chelsea and Knightsbridge are the smart, old-money choice – rather like White’s, but with a younger membership and a more balanced boy/girl ratio. ‘Very British values and principles,’ says a mother, approvingly. It’s reassuringly hard to get in: register at birth – not before – with the nursery closest to you (they like families to be able to walk to school), hand over your (non-refundable) cheque for £150 and cross your fingers. They only offer a September intake, and you’ll hear whether you’ve bagged a place a year in advance. Children start with morning sessions, building up to full days as school approaches. There’s a nice balance between formal learning and play and lots of trips to, for example, the Natural History Museum or Buckingham Palace, at no extra cost. Miss Daisy’s alumni hop on to all the smartest preps in the Royal Borough and beyond – nursery heads have one-to-one meetings with parents to give bespoke advice on schools. NB: Children need to be potty-trained before they start.

Miss Delaney’s


Fees: £3,200 per term
Age: From 2 

This Notting Hill favourite has been educating the children of W11 for 21 years and has now set up home in a pristine three-storey lodge house in leafy Avondale Park. There’s stacks of space to roam around in (including the park) and tidy rows of planting beds – we love their ‘garden to fork’ philosophy. Miss Delaney is a big fan of the great outdoors (‘Sharp edges are not my cup of tea,’ she says), so Forest School, hatching chicks and cocooning caterpillars are all squeezed into the timetable. Registration is at birth and a phone call on the day will suffice, but that doesn’t stop frazzled fathers turning up from the maternity ward. There is nohothousing here, and children skip off to Norland Place, Thomas’s Kensington and Glendower equipped with a wide range of skills by their teachers. ‘We’re a local school with local children,’ says head Nina Firkin, and parents just can’t get enough of the quintessential British feel.

Pangbourne House Nursery


Fees: From £1,820 a term
Age: From 2½ 

Though this North Ken Montessori gem may be newish (it opened in September 2015, so be snappy before waiting lists get too chocka), head Sophia Russell-Cobb is anything but: she’s racked up over 30 years’ experience at former stomping ground Ladbroke Square. ‘It’s a slice of magic,’ emails a mother, with heaps of dancing, singing, and muddy knees from all the den building and creepy-crawly hunting; breezy classrooms have a direct passageway through to Kensington Memorial Park. Much-adored school dogs Liffey and Mojo get a starring role in the Nativity and parents praise the ‘warmth and welcome’; ‘There’s no shovelling out the door,’ one assures us. Make sure you give @pangbournehouse a follow, not least for the joyous shots of hatching chicks and mud pies. One mother told us that sending her children to Pangbourne House is ‘the best gift I have given, and will probably ever give, them’. 

Phileas Fox Nursery School


Fees: From £3,500 per term
Age: From 2

Today’s children are tomorrow’s ‘global citizens’ – no pressure, Mummy, but if your child is monolingual, they’ll be at a disadvantage when they pitch up at the Job Interview of the Future. If you’re already behind the curve on this one, you need Phileas Fox. Children spend half their time here learning in English, the other half in Mandarin, French or Russian, through a gentle combination of structured activities and free play. The setting is a gorgeous standalone building in Little Venice – ‘beautiful, warm and welcoming’, says a mother – with high ceilings, natural light and a lovely outside play area, and hooray, it’s all ‘spotlessly clean’ too. Families are, we’re told, ‘elegant, educated, upper-middle class’, but also ‘friendly and engaged – everyone says hello/bonjour etc at drop-off and there was a good turn-out for Christmas drinks.’ Alumni hop on to the Hall, Wetherby and Pembridge Hall, among others. Register ASAP (but not before birth) – the waiting list is growing as you read this. 

Pippa Pop-ins

SW6, W8 

Fees: From £51 a half day
Age: From 1

There are now four delightfully spruce nurseries under the Pop-ins umbrella, all kitted out with bunny aprons and Beatrix Potter wallpaper. ‘Walking into Pippa Pop-ins is like walking into a dolls’ house,’ says principal Miss Rachel. Each one is housed in a lovely townhouse with a garden and its own chef (the food is yummy – think beef casserole with dumplings and goat’s cheese tatin). The staff are ‘truly fantastic’ says a mother, and tend to stick around for years. The little ones learn in small classes and are clued up on computing and French before they head off to the likes of Thomas’s and Wetherby. Expectant couples can register before birth, but parents ‘must feel comfortable in doing so’, explains the nursery – there is a waitlist and places are offered on availability of sessions (mornings are the most popular). Children are kept busy with football, yoga and tennis, and very grown-up trips to the Science and Natural History museums, the London Eye and Fulham Palace. Sports day must ‘be seen to be believed’, says a parent.

Pooh Corner

W8, W14, SW7 

Fees: From £2,750 a term for five afternoons a week
Age: From 2

Carol Evelegh’s Kindergartens group is the Volvo XC90 of the London nurseries scene: smart, dependable and ubiquitous. This year, we’re shining the spotlight on Pooh Corner SW7, based in a large, airy church hall with a lovely garden, not far from Kensington High Street. They run morning and afternoon sessions – ‘Morning spaces are like gold dust so it is advisable to stress your preference early,’ advises a mother. They have specialist teachers for music, dance, sport, science, drama and even construction. Best of all, they head off to Wimbledon Common once a week for Forest School. Mrs Evelegh has 33 years’ experience on the London prep-school scene and gives invaluable Future Schools talks: pupils go on to all the best preps. Families are very Kensington – Europeans, Americans, Brits – but a parent assures us that ‘everyone is very friendly and unpretentious – I’ve made lifelong friends.’ 

Ready Steady Go

NW1, NW3, NW8 

Fees: From £2,735 a term
Age: From 27 months

Register your future offspring for Ready Steady Go at conception, ‘or even on your first date’, says principal Jennifer Silverton. We think she’s joking... They guarantee that a child registered at birth will be given a place at one of their four nurseries (two in Primrose Hill, one each in Camden Town and St John’s Wood). They’re all Ofsted Outstanding, with plenty of outdoor space, so children spend a good part of each day doing vital stuff like digging, riding bikes and cooking in the mud kitchen. Or listening to their hearts with stethoscopes, sprinting to the top of Primrose Hill and listening again – how brilliant is that? For younger children, accompanied by a parent, there are baby and beginners’ sessions. ‘RSG educates parents to parent,’ says a grateful mother. ‘I had no idea that pine cones could be toys.’

The Willow Nursery


Fees: From £2,050 a term
Age: From 2½

‘We do things the Willow way,’ reports a mother. ‘Good manners and kindness at all times.’ We wholeheartedly approve. Home is a ginormous church hall in leafy Grafton Square (with a proper stage; ‘infinitely creative’ heads Caroline and Virge write the Nativity from scratch each year), and there’s a small Astro out back for bursts of (non-muddy) fresh air. There’s a tip-top balance of proper messy fun (lots of sticky handprints when we visited) and serious nurture: this is the first nursery in the country to run the US-led RULER programme, which encourages children to talk about their emotions using colour. Praise abounds for its ability to tame the most devilish toddler. It’s mornings only, and it helps to register at birth but, reassuringly, ‘not before the child is born!’ Most come through word of mouth, and parents are ‘an eclectic bunch’ of bankers and creative types. Says one parent: ‘My son has learnt the most important lesson of all: a love of school.’ Newsflash: Willow on the Farm opens in the Cotswolds this term, promising plenty of mud rolling and tractor rides.

The Woodentops Nurseries 

SW12, SW4 

Fees: £1,525 a month
Age: From 6 months

Family-owned and -run, Woodentops nurseries are an SW staple. The original is nestled right by their own prep school: the White House in SW12, a Grade II-listed villa designed by Thomas Cubitt with half an acre of gardens. The newest member is in SW4, a stone’s throw from Abbeville Road and the Tube. Days are jam-packed at both nurseries and it’s 8am-6pm only. There is stacks of messy play, and we love the sound of the fairy gardens and mini-beast hotels. Parents are viewed as ‘partners’ and praise the ‘friendly but firm’ staff; any tears from bereft mummies are banished with a comforting hug in the nursery office. ‘Teachers have gone above and beyond to get to know my son and his funny little ways,’ says one mother. Registration is at birth and there are 15 applications for every place – be ready with your forms, it’s first come, first served. Woodentops, pretty please will you open a third nursery?

Bonnington House Nursery


Fees: From £27 a half day
Age: From 3 months

Parents can pop their babes into Bonnington House at just 12 weeks, but nervous mummies needn’t panic: one tells us it’s ‘just like leaving your child with old friends’. Old friends with a huge Georgian pad, that is, set on the edge of Victoria Park, with a forest for frolicking, treehouses for climbing and even a river. It’s every bit as lovely as it sounds. Inside, sunny rooms are split by age group, each child has their own dedicated mentor and staff ‘demonstrably love their job’. There are waiting lists; places for under twos are in highest demand, so it’s worth registering early. Lunch is harvested from the veg patch and the 8am-6pm hours are a godsend for frantic working parents (who rave about the sparky social scene). ‘We’ve been totally wowed,’ says a mother.

Filkins Nursery

Lechlade, Gloucestershire 

Fees: From £47.50 a day
Age: From 3 months

This is one of seven nurseries in childcare guru Sarah Steel’s Old Station Nursery group. Walk through Filkins’ wooden gate and you are greeted by guinea pigs Tom and Jerry, quails and chickens (names unknown). ‘I couldn’t believe I’d found such a fabulous nursery for my daughter,’ says a mother. It’s in a lovely rural setting, with a summer house for story-reading and a big field. Every week, whatever the weather, children wrap up and head outside for scavenger hunts, bulb-planting sessions or forays in search of mini-beasts – there was even a bear hunt (they didn’t find one). We love the sound of the daily ‘dough disco’ finger-gym sessions, which build strength in little digits to help with pencil grip. Parents are kept up to speed via an online learning journal – ‘It’s lovely sitting at your desk at work and getting a notification of what they’re up to,’ says one.

Rocking Horse Nursery

Godalming, Surrey

Fees: From £55 per day
Age: From 3 months

Every mother’s dream: a nursery that is open 51 weeks of the year, 8am until 6pm, for children from three months to eight years old, with an after-school club and ad hoc sessions available during the long school holidays – and no waiting list. ‘The flexibility is amazing,’ says one parent. ‘As soon as we walked through the door, we knew it was the place for our daughter.’ The long-serving staff are ‘priceless’ – one small pupil we spoke to calls them her ‘girls’. Children move between five age-related rooms, which are lovely, light and big (‘especially after London nurseries’, one mother comments) and there’s a ‘brilliant’ garden with bikes for pedal practice and a mud kitchen. Three- and four-year-olds learn Spanish, and there are lots of music and dance sessions, as well as trips to local parks to feed the ducks, to nearby farms and to the library. ‘My children are happy when I drop them off, and happy when I pick them up,’ says a mother. 

Sunflower Montessori Nursery School

Frome, Somerset 

Fees: From £5 an hour
Age: From 2¾ years

‘The best nursery in the world, without exception,’ says a mother. Frome is smart Somerset, with plenty of relocated Londoners and speciality coffee shops. Sunflower has a great local reputation and a calm, nurturing vibe; children love the gentle, local outings to the greengrocer to buy and pay for their favourite piece of fruit. Owner Rachael Emmett is a hit with her small pupils and has good relationships with all the local primary schools, smoothing the transition from nursery to Big School. Register ASAP to get your child’s name on the waiting list; there’s a second branch in nearby Horningsham. We asked one girl for her views. The response: ‘I love my nursery!’ 

Sunflowers Childcare

Boxford, Suffolk 

Fees: From £10 per session
Age: From 2

‘Boxford is the sort of village where the local pub does a London-standard cafe latte,’ says a Battersea exile. The vibe here is as sunny as the name suggests – 
a charming little nursery school, walls papered in imaginative art works, with cheerful, articulate, enthusiastic staff, next to a smashing primary school with an Ofsted Outstanding rating. (The Friends of Boxford raised enough money to build the primary school an indoor swimming pool.) There’s a lovely garden where children plant vegetables, a huge sandpit and water-play area, and a well-equipped kitchen – ‘Messy play is positively encouraged.’ And hurray, say working parents, they also run a breakfast club from 7.30am and after-school club until 6pm. Most children hop across to the primary school – when it’s this good, why wouldn’t you?