Nana’s Knickers – Book Review

It was early one morning, eyes still blurry and my first dose of caffeine not quite rushing through my bloodstream, when I came across an email in my inbox inviting me to review Nana’s Knickers. It took me a little longer than normal to understand what lay in my inbox but when it clicked, I was absolutely delighted. It was an invitation from Blue Fluff Books and author Nico Russell, asking me to take a look at their new children’s book, the tale of a rather frantic Nana and her search for her beloved pair of spotty knickers.


It took no time at all from the book’s arrival, for my eldest to demand we sit down and read. I was also quite eager myself to discover the story that we held, with such an intriguing title.

Right from the start, this book reads with a beautiful pace and rhythm. The plight for the missing bloomers captured my 3yr olds imagination immediately and we quickly devoured each page. This book could easily appeal to an older audience of children than my son, with its impressive use of vocabulary that would test and develop new readers. In fact since reading Nana’s Knickers, it has introduced a selection of words to my toddler that he has been charmingly popping into sentences ever since.


It wasn’t long before I found myself warming to Nana and her clear joie de vivre. This grandma is not spending her golden years doing crosswords, but doing the fandango with Mr McGurt, having tea and scones with the vicar and my personal favourite, quaffing bubbles and croissants for breakfast. My son connected with Nana on an emotional level (it was only that morning we had misplaced a favourite toy train) and he was keen to see a happy ending, which did not disappoint.

The illustrations by Charlie Meyer are absolutely delightful, full of bright colours and intriguing details. We would often find ourselves stopping to catch and point out specific parts of the drawings throughout the story.


It was on our 3rd read of the book that my son discovered a particular element of the story and images that he absolutely adored. On one page was the mention of a mouse trap, which in turn made him spot that throughout the story a cheeky little mouse can be found hiding amongst the house. This was a brilliant addition that I found added excitement and interaction to the book.

We are now on our umpteenth read of the book, having read it most days since it hit our doormat and I can safely say I’ve not yet tired of reading the same words aloud again and again with my toddler happily sat on my lap.

We loved Nana’s Knickers and I was shocked to discover it was Nico Russell’s first steps in to the world of children’s fiction after a successful and award winning poetry background. The book read with the depth of character and witty humour shown by many more experienced children’s authors and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I think Nico’s is a name that we will be seeing a lot more of in the literary world. The last page held a teasing introduction to the next book ‘A camel, a king and some carrots’ – a story that my family will be eagerly anticipating to see on the shelves.

With kind thanks to Blue Fluff Publishing, Nico Russell and Charlie Meyer for allowing Mumsnet Reading sample and review their impressive work. If you would like to buy a copy, head over to to get yours today.


Setting New Relationships with Food

Youngest is not long on her weaning journey and once again, my Husband and I are treading the tricky path of setting up a child with a healthy attitude to food.

When we first took this task on 2 and a half years ago with our son, we both discussed our associations and feelings towards food and what we wanted to achieve from weaning for our kids. I am absolutely hands down an emotional eater. Feeling crappy lets make (and scoff!) cakes. Feeling happy, let’s celebrate by eating out. Feeling bored, you can find me nit picking around the snack cupboard. This of course is largely my own doing but the foundations for this were definitely laid in my childhood, as my parents definitely fit the same positive reward mould when it comes to food.

My Husband whilst a very healthy trim weight admits he comes from a ‘finish your plate’ household. He feels uneasy if his plate holds leftovers and will eat past the feeling of comfortable to finish his serving.

These were two profiles that we were keen not to replicate for our children and so we decided on a few ground rules for ourselves on our food parenting ethos:

  • Never say no. We wanted to teach our children that no food was off the table. We weren’t going to banish chocolate, jam or raisins, instead we set out to teach that these foods are OK, in moderation.
  • Leaving food when you’re full is fine. Tummy full up, then just say and we wouldn’t force the rest of the plate to be eaten. However you stay at the table till all members of the family are finished.
  • Don’t prejudge on what they will or won’t like. If Eldest overhears us discussing whether we should serve up a particular vegetable or item on his plate, pondering if he’ll like it, it is almost a guarantee that he won’t try it. He will lock his lips and refuse point blank to budge on giving the food a good go. Now all items are offered openly (we were gobsmacked when he absolutely loved curly kale!) and if something does cause him some hesitation, we ask him to lick it a few times and that usually gets him feeling more confident that he will or won’t like it.
  • Pudding isn’t a treat or a special occasion thing. Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. More often than not, it’s fruit, like his beloved pineapple or strawberries, sometimes it’s yogurt and occasionally it’s custard, rice pudding or mousse.

Touch wood, all these rules have worked well for us. We’ve lucked out with a little eater who adores vegetables, scoffs fruit and if full will leave chocolate mousse or ice cream quite happily in his bowl. Phew. Now we just have to achieve it all over again with Youngest! What are you’re top weaning tips for healthy, happy eaters?

Youngest May 2014 IMG_1231 IMG_2853 Eldest Nov 2011

5 After-School Activities A Bit Different To The Norm

A kick around the park not exciting your kids anymore? Football and dancing worn off it’s appeal? Then take a look at our round up of the best after-school action packed classes for preschoolers through to teenagers in our comprehensive list of things a little different from the norm.

Skiplex Indoor Ski Academy

Do your kids get a thrill from speed? Get them confident on the slopes in 6 weeks with Skiplex’s qualified instructors, who help children to progress through a curriculum of learning, integrated with ability specific games and tasks.


Adventure Dolphin

Climbing, canoeing and marathon paddling. You name the adrenaline sport and Adventure Dolphin seem to train and coach youth and young adults in it. A fantastic charity working along with Activity Team West Berkshire based in Pangbourne.


Reading Climbing Centre

Is your little one forever climbing the sofa, walls and furniture? Why not get that energy burnt in a slightly more productive manner and get them climbing the walls at Reading Climbing Centre. Teaching children from as young as 5, it’s never too early to get them up and giving this fun sport a go.


Reading Rockets Basketball

How about teaching your little one to slam dunk? A team sport not too common in the UK, Reading Rockets are bringing basketball lessons and coaching to the local community. With venues from John Madjeski Stadium and Loddon Valley centre, there really is a destination to suit most.


Kwik Cricket

Have you got a mini Freddie Flintoff on your hands? Then this after school activity could be just the thing for your kids. Based in the lovely Woodford Leisure Centre in Woodley, this is a perfect tea time activity to burn off the last of the children’s energy before bed!


Flying with kids

We’re gearing up for our Summer Holidays over at Mumsnet Reading HQ and whilst the thrill of a holiday fills me with excitement, two things are lurching in my stomach with dread. 1, the dreaded baring the body in a swimming costume and 2. The flight. With kids. For 3 hours. Acch.

So in preparation I’ve googled, searched and asked about for the top tips other parents have for travelling with little ones and these were the top 5 I could find:

  • The first is a preparation one, the first passport. We’ve had no end of a nightmare getting my Youngest’s first passport organised. We did check and send with over the double time allocation and still we found ourselves 10 days before travel, ringing and pleading to get on the fast track service as they hadn’t even examined the documents after having the paperwork in their office for 8 weeks. Many stressful calls and finally a call directly with the Durham office and we are sorted. Phew. So if you can, put in for the first passport the day you even consider booking a holiday, they are backed up to the max in the passport office currently it seems.


  • The tip of packing a selection of activities is a well known one, but one I hadn’t heard before was to pack a cheap packet of window gel stickers. Since they launched a few years ago, these are now easily picked up in discount/£1 stores. Eldest was in love with these last Christmas so I hope they hold some entertainment come mid-flight.

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  • Getting through the airport, allow time, time and more time. You know how your toddlers need to pee right when you don’t have time to whizz them to the loo? Or when they want to do something all by themselves and heaven forbid if you stop them? That’ll all probably come in to play and more at the airport, so allow a whole heap of extra time to get you through and to the gate.


  • One of our favourite tips from asking our social media fans was to keep beakers empty until you’re through the security checks. A full beaker is a lot to guzzle at the check through just to keep hold of those favourite cups and what goes in, must come out, meaning even more pit stops.


  • Plan ahead some small light activities just incase you get held up in the airport in delays or queues. A quick search online finds some ‘Airplane Bingo’ and ‘Airplane Wordsearch’ printables that are easy to pop in your bag in preparation. One of favourites was this one from Mummy and the Munchkins, here.


Our Pick of Picnic Spots

We’ve had a few glimmers of sunshine this year and nothing says Summer to us like a picnic. So in preparation for the big warm up, we thought we would round up some of our favourite picnic spots in Reading.

Forbury Gardens

A renowned pretty green space in the middle of the thriving town centre. Free entry and easily accessible. Plenty of nearby facilities with town only a stones throw away so no problem if someone forgets the cocktail sausages!

Caversham Court Gardens

A beautiful Thames riverside spot on the outskirts of Caversham. Not just a beautiful location but also some beautiful horticultural work from the ‘Friends of Caversham Court Gardens’ and also a fascinating floor plan to the original 12th century house. There is a tea kiosk open at selected hours.

Basildon Park

A magnificent Georgian House in some spectacular gardens. Being an National Trust property, this is a paid entrance facility but there is lots to keep the kids and adults alike entertained.

Christchurch Meadows

Located along the riverside between Caversham and Reading Train station, this beautiful green space houses a huge play area suitable for ages 1-early teens. Alongside the play park, in the warmer months the small paddling lido is open for all, just get there early to reserve a pool side spot! All this and a newly opened tea kiosk has arrived for the summer months.

Balmore Walk

Another Caversham choice, but this steep grassy bank is a perfect spot to look out over the views of Reading, you can see all the way to Earley and Prospect Park from this high top verge and it makes a pretty picnic spot to stop and admire our wonderful town.

Prospect Park

A huge expanse of green space in Tilehurst’s borders. This pretty parkland is perfect for a picnic and to give little legs a large amount of space to run around. After they’ve worn themselves out they could check out the miniature railway!

Woodford Park

A lovely park alongside the leisure centre. With a lake and various sports facilities, this picnic can be as relaxed or as energetic as you’d like it to be!



For directions to any of these parks, each title acts as a link through to the Mumsnet Reading Local site page for each park space. Each with full postcode.