Monday, 14 October 2013

Our Big Day Out - why we're making a bit of an exhibition of ourselves.

So, the Big Day Out is on at the Corn Exchange this coming weekend (19/20 October) and we’ll be there, complete with books, flyers, stickers, balloons – and voting slips! For there will be the chance to let us know which, in your view, are the best venues and activities for under 5s in Edinburgh and its surrounding areas.

The idea behind the vote is that a lot of the event’s value to us will be as an information-gathering exercise. We want to get you talking to us. All of the Edinburgh for Under Fives committee members move within their own circles and bring information back to each monthly meeting, but even as a committee our scope is limited to our individual experiences. Our lovely researchers keep in touch with us and let us know about things that they've found out during the research phase of the book, but they're all busy people and after their research is over they usually get on with other stuff, which is completely fair enough. I keep up with my Twitter feeds when I can, read family-friendly magazines and surf the relevant websites, but there’s nothing like just chatting to a wide range of other parents and carers for finding out the most useful nuggets of information – especially about what’s just closed (after all, it’s easy to spot an ad for a new place but a closure is much less trumpeted affair).

As a book that's published every two years, Edinburgh for Under Fives is never going to be the most up-to-date source of information that’s out there, we realise that. But we strongly believe that there’s a place (a bookshelf, hopefully, or, even better, a pram bag) for a printed book that contains the sort of first-hand information from other parents that inspires you to get out of the door on a chilly day with the buggy or hop in the car and go exploring. We can give you updates on our website and through Twitter and Facebook, and we’re working on making sure that these become great sources of up-to-date information. But for this we do need your help to know exactly what’s going on out there.

And we'd really like to find which of Edinburgh’s family-friendly activities and venues has found a place in your hearts, and those of your wee ones. We might have our own ideas about what might be the best things to do and places to go, but I’ll bet there’ll be some surprises when the votes are counted.

So if you’re at the Big Day Out, come and tell us what you know, and cast your vote for the best places and activities for young children in and around our brilliant city. If you’re not coming along, you can still vote. Just email me and find out how. In any case, please do keep in touch and make sure we’re informed about what’s going on. We’d be really grateful, as would all the other parents and carers who your information would help. Email me at

Until next time, happy exploring!



Monday, 7 October 2013

Holidays and how to survive them

Last week I went on my holidays. For the first time in a long time it was just our little family, with no grandparents to help – me, my husband, our three year old daughter and our 10 month old son. We went to a cottage in Mull – a little place on a farm, just near Tobermory (or Balamory, as it will always be to my daughter!). The weather was mostly lovely, the views were incredible, the cake was served in massive slabs with steaming hot tea. Marvellous.

My goodness, but it was hard work. And it made me think a bit about people that must visit Edinburgh with their children – is the information we give them useful and accessible? How easy do we make it for them to visit our city as a family?

Mull is really geared to tourism and there were some great resources in the Tobermory tourist information centre, including a Balamory trail and a list of ideas for things to do in Mull. We went to a castle one day, Iona another. One day we had a walk in a forest which had adventure equipment for children to play on. At Calgary Bay they had an amazing Art in Nature trail that you could follow in a wood, with fantastic sculptures made from natural materials – that really was a highlight.

But I must confess that after a visit to the great Harbour Visitor Centre in Tobermory, when our three year old threw a screaming tantrum after being dragged away from an interesting computer game about the sea, it was the new soft play that had just opened in the middle of town that saved our bacon. Spotlessly clean, just the right size for our daughter, with nice plastic toys for our son to chew on too, it was a brilliant distraction. Tea and coffee were served for the parents, healthy snacks for the kids. We visited it twice and were very grateful for it. After all, cafes are great, but can be expensive (we should know – we visited three on one wet day!) and not always the most relaxing with two little ones. Our cottage was beautiful but had a stone floor, which was actually quite stressful with one child deciding that this was the week he would start to pull himself up onto the furniture. And as the same child really dislikes the car and screams unless ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ is sung loudly and continuously to him during a drive, we couldn’t just cruise around and enjoy the scenery for long, either.

Our holiday made me realise that parents and carers who are away from home and trying to enjoy themselves need to know about the places that they can go to and just let the children run free a bit before all heading off together for the next worthy outing. Otherwise it all gets just a little bit much! I’m sure Edinburgh for Under Fives has a part to play here. I’m not saying we should ask tourists with young children to buy the whole book, but maybe we can produce a helpful digest for them – from one set of parents and carers to another. Let me know your thoughts by emailing me at

Until next time!