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Monday, 29 July 2013

Editor's week: Reviews are rolling in ...

We’re coming now to the exciting part of the book's production cycle – well, I suppose actually getting it to the printers is the most exciting part, technically, if you thrive on mind-numbing stress … Well then, perhaps we’re coming to the most enjoyable part. In April we started assigned a bunch of venues to our intrepid researchers – a set of wonderful parents and carers, currently numbering 63, who have kindly volunteered to visit venues and try activities for us and write about their experiences. Now the reviews are starting to come in at a steady pace. At first it was a trickle of about two a week, but now we’re getting around four a day.

We now have 50 reviews (out of around 600 we’re hoping to get), and I’m starting to read them, which is the best fun. The tone of the reviews varies from a business-like few sentences, through a chatty couple of paragraphs, to a complete story-telling narrative of all the details of what went on during a day out. Although we provide editorial guidelines, we want the parents’ and carers’ voices to come through in their reviews so that each is like a personal recommendation from a friend or from someone you’ve just got chatting to at a toddler group. This edition we’ve added a ‘Top Tips’ section on the review forms so that researchers can record little quirky details or things to consider for other parents and carers following in their footsteps – from ‘Wellies are useful!!’ (Craigie's Farm) to ‘Interactive rock pool displays are worth a look’ (Deep Sea World, North Queensferry), you heard it here first!

These reviews will now be edited, put in an order that makes some sort of sense, laid out in designed pages, proofread and sent off to the printer, to be launched as the new book next May. It’s a busy time, but it’s brilliant to know that we’re capturing the really interesting and useful information that parents and carers need − to decide what to do on a particular day, to check details of places they’ve heard about, or (and this is where Edinburgh for Under Fives always does the most good I think) to act as an incentive to just get out of the house and go exploring.  

We're still looking for researchers (we never really stop!), so do get in touch if you're interested, at


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Children's menus - food for thought

A report out this week from the Soil Association and Organix has a lot to say about the standards of children's menus in UK restaurants. More than half of the 21 restaurant chains surveyed had a children's menu that had an overriding emphasis on burgers and sausages. More than a third did not include vegetables or salad in the majority of children's main meals, and around half didn't include fruit in any of their children's puddings. Where the food was sourced was also a mystery in around half of the restaurants. Only four out of 21 made and cooked the majority of children's food in their own kitchens.

Top of the league of restaurant chains that feed children well are Jamie's Italian, Wagamama and Wetherspoons. All of these names will appear in the new edition of Edinburgh for Under Fives, out next year. They're not in the current edition (as they're relatively new to Edinburgh), but what we do have is a list of much smaller cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh and its surrounds that do manage to feed children tasty yet healthy food, some of it (as with Craigie's Farm Cafe for example) locally sourced. Vittoria's (in Leith and on George IV Bridge) serves yummy pasta dishes with a side salad. The 'Make up your own lunchbox' option, which puts you in control of what ends up on your child's plate, can be found in and around the city, including at the Botanics' Terrace Cafe, the National Museum's Balcony Cafe and Dobbies Garden World near Dalkeith. North Berwick's Cake Cafe serves little fruit and veg pots for wee ones that are part of a wider children's menu that is fresh and interesting.

Remember, you can always ask about getting smaller portions of what's available for adults, too, if you're faced with nothing but burgers and bangers when it comes to the children's menu. It's all out there - it's just about being informed. Which is hopefully where we can help.

Have you found any cafes that have a brilliant children's menu? Email me at and spill the beans!


Monday, 15 July 2013

Editor's week - sun, sea and snaps

Well! It's been such a lovely week, weather-wise! Ironically the effect strong sunshine has on me is to make me want to stay close to home with the wee ones so we can be sure of shelter (my ideal weather for getting out with the buggy is cloudy - no rain, maybe a slight breeze ...) so we hung around the garden for a lot of the week. However, on Thursday the day began overcast so we decided to go to the beach!

It turned out that the clouds were only positioned just over our house. By the time we were 10 minutes into our journey to North Berwick it was blazing sunshine. Once we got there, it was nothing but glorious scenes of the UK seaside - families swimming and paddling in the shallow inland pool on the beach, a Luca's ice cream van doing a brisk trade, people wandering around in swimsuits. It was lovely. Our little girl had to make do with paddling in a skirt where a swimsuit would have been clearly preferable, but she didn't seem to mind. Then off for refreshment to Cake Cafe in the High Street, of which I'd heard good things. It was on my list for review so I was interested to find out what it had to offer.

Cake didn't let us down. We arrived hot, tired, hungry and thirsty, covered in sand, a bit noisy, but they dealt with our visit admirably, mopping up a spilt milkshake, providing lovely food for the wee ones from their extensive children's menu, putting up with a shrieking, messy baby, keeping our 3 year old entertained with their great play area. It was just what we needed and we left happy and ready for the journey home. (They get an extra star, too, for their nappy changing station, which even had wipes!).

On Sunday it was the EFUF 'Snack and Snap' in Princes St Gardens West. Our fab photographer, Susan Heaton of Clear Photography, a mum of two, turned up with her very impressive looking camera and took pictures of the children of committee members and researchers enjoying the play area in the shadow of the castle. There was a real holiday atmosphere and I'm hopeful we've got our Edition 14 cover shot (which, with its sunny scene, would be a contrast to last time, taken in the freezing weather of February 2012). Thanks to all those researchers and their families who came along, and most of all, to the unflappable Susan, who was a complete star throughout.

Who knows what this week will bring? Overcast today ... no, hang on, there seems to be a tiny cloud positioned just above my house ...

Monday, 8 July 2013

So, summer 2013 starts here ...

There really is no getting away from it. The sun is actually shining, quite strongly. The wee ones are off nurseries, playgroups and toddler groups until August sometime. Wimbledon is done, and won by a Scotsman. Scotland really doesn't get much more summery than this.

It's also researching season for those of us that work on Edinburgh for Under Fives. We currently have a group of around 50 brave parents, out and about with their pens poised, recording details about the best child-friendly places that Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife have to offer. We are so grateful to these brilliant people - we simply couldn't produce our book without them.

As editor, I'll be posting about various bits and pieces to do with Edinburgh for Under Fives in the next few weeks - including how I'm getting on with my own research! With a three year old and a seven month old, there's rarely a dull moment ...

If you want to blog about any aspect of being a parent in Edinburgh, or if you're interested in doing some research for us, contact me on - we'd love to hear from you.

Catch you soon!