The interactive children’s book club, Uh-Oh Books is launching the first book in their environmental, educational and interactive kids series on May 6th! To celebrate the launch of the “Uh-Oh!” Said Flo Crowdfunder, Uh-Oh Books have organised a virtual funday launch event.
A whole day of educational, fun, creative and active sessions to keep kids entertained, learning and occupied, hosted by Uh-Oh Books and a range of fantastic activity providers.
The Uh-Oh Books & Friends virtual funday will be free to join all day with back to back sessions you can join live or on replay. Join the event here:
To celebrate the launch and Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary, Uh-Oh Books have also created more than 60 free printable activities, colouring and educational resources you can download until May 6th! To get your free downloads simply sign up to the mailing list at www.uhohbooks.com
We were recently lucky enough to be invited to a free 90 minute taster class of the new online Role Models course in Online Leadership (for 8 to 11 years). It gave me the idea to start a review series of West London Kids Tried and Tested online classes for children to keep them educated, happy, entertained and healthy during this Coronavirus pandemic isolation experience.
I was excited to get this invitation for my children to try out a very interesting and beneficial life-skills course. I had heard of Role Models, but only through the networking group I run for activity providers and we didn’t know much about the company, nor their workshops. I loved the sound of it straight away and the West London Kids – who are always pretty game for trying out new things. They didn’t really understand how it would work, but they were keen to give it a go! Personally I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time for children to be learning new life skills than during this time with schools closed and more time to think.
Role Models was established in 2014 and grew its offering rapidly to provide a range of in-person course (normally taking place at Chelsea Academy School in Kensington), parent workshops, boarding course and more. The popularity of the courses quickly soared and they now offering online courses to children around the world, in countries as diverse as China, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Italy and Mexico. So it was a relatively easy
Role Models courses usually take pace teach the essential skills that children need to thrive in the world today. They coach children to communicate well, think creatively, contribute brilliantly to teams and bounce back from disappointment. Employers and educational institutions are increasingly demanding these skills today and they have been proven to increase children’s well-being, as well as improving their academic results.
The lesson was conducted via Zoom with clear instructions emailed beforehand. I set my children up on the dining table with the laptop and pens and notepads at the ready. The teacher, Louise, was wonderful at putting the children at ease and keeping their attention. She used a great ice-breaker to get things going where the children introduced themselves and had to say two truths about themselves and one lie for the others to guess. My son made it very easy for the rest of the class by adding ‘I have a sister’ (which he was sat right next to!) as one of his, much to his sister’s amusement but they all had a few laughs and any initial shyness in the group of around eight children
I stayed nearby to be on hand for any technical issues (although these days my children are more likely to be able to sort out I.T. problems than me!) or other reasons but I was able to get on with some work for at least an hour of the 90 minute class and that was a bonus! The children played several games, discussed some leadership and confidence related topics, watched short video clips to talk about afterwards and thought about things together as a group.
I thought it was a wonderful class and would consider enrolling my children for a full course, but it is quite expensive if you have more than one child as the sibling discount isn’t that much. Would love to though and will have a think about it as I think both my children could gain a lot from either completing the full leadership course or one of the other children’s lifeskills courses. There are a range of different courses to choose from on the Role Models website for children aged between 5 and 14 years old. The courses aren’t the cheapest you’ll find for sure but they are very high quality and there is 25% off at the moment with the code ONLINE25. Highly recommended – makes a great addition to your family’s COVID-19 homeschooling timetable. Find out more on their website: www.rolemodels.me
Full transparency: I was offered a free taster class on this course for both my children. The only agreement in place was that I would share some information about it on the West London Kids instagram page. I decided to write this review to tell West London parents (well parents anywhere really, it’s online and doesn’t matter where you are located) about the course and was under no obligation to do so. I hope you have found it helpful. There will be an instagram grid post to promote this blog so please feel free to add any questions on there.
Dina Maktabi is the founder of Kensington Mums, a parent network established in 2011 with the aim of sharing knowledge and experiences to help fellow Kensington mums learn from one another. Today the network command an audience of London based mothers, many of whom live outside of the Kensington area but tap into the community for its blend of events, advice and connectivity
What inspired you to start your business?
I set up Kensington Mums over 8 years ago as a way to connect with other like minded mothers with the aim of sharing knowledge and experiences to help fellow mums learn from one another. What inspired me I would say would be my experience, I went through periods of loneliness and isolation not being around my family for the support that I needed. I was also the first one from my group of friends to have children. Kensington Mums was created as a way to meet and mingle with other mothers but also while working flexibly around my children and by providing solid information on our platform to help empower and inspire other mothers.
What is your favourite West London park? Hands down this would be Holland Park as I grew up there playing with my friends after school and on weekends. There was a huge adventure playground that we used to play in for many hours. Hidden inside Holland Park is a gem, known as Kyoto Gardens, that’s one of my favourite hang-outs. I then enjoyed going there with my kids so it brings lots of great memories, as a little girl and now as a mother.
When did you first realize you wanted to run your own business? It’s not something I envisaged doing, it’s something that developed naturally when my second child was born. I felt there was a need at the time to create a platform for mothers.
What were the most difficult obstacles you faced starting up?
I had no clue or skill set in place to run a website or online magazine. It took a lot of training and workshops and meeting different people with various backgrounds with whom I worked on the identity of the brand and what I wanted it to represent: a platform run for mothers by mothers, providing them with solid information by experts and keeping them in the loop with the local scoop.
What activities do you enjoy doing as a family? (Update: this was written in non Coronavirus times!) We love to go to the park and discover our local museums. They have lots to offer including free workshops, tours and hands on activities. But most of all, we all enjoy eating, be at home or outside and watching Netflix!
What motivates you to run your business, what is your ‘why’? I love to connect mothers. We have lots of international and expat mothers and many of them have met via our online platform, events and meets up. This brings joy to my heart and something I am truly passionate about, because its important for mothers to find their tribe no matter where they are in the world. Motherhood is a wonderful and life-changing experience that comes with abundant joy but also many different challenges, and finding someone you can rely to is something very important.
What are your main business/ self-development goals for the next few years? To grow organically and find the balance from within whilst juggling work, life, kids, house, husband and still keep my sanity.
Do you have any advice for a parent thinking of starting their own business? My 3 top tips on anyone wanting to start their business would be: do it with passion or not at all, do your research and outsource when you can. Its not easy, and it all requires loads of multitasking and time management skills.
What is your proudest achievement in your business? My proudest achievement in my business is growing organically and reaching out and connecting with local mums, international mothers, celebrities and royal family members too. This gives me great joy and also to all the friends I have made along the way, who have pushed me and inspired me along the way.
Where can people find you? We have a website which you can subscribe to our newsletter here. Connect with Kensington Mums on Instagram, and download our app for free on itunes and Google Play. Check out their upcoming events and meet ups going on in February at Sweaty Betty and in March in time for Mothers day.
Hello Natalie I’m delighted to be featuring you as I love the illustrations and message of your books and we featured your books in the Christmas Gift Ideas special for West London Kids. I would love you to answer a few questions about your book(s)/ business and your background.
So to start with … Where about in West London do you live and how long have you been there? I live in Barnes – also known as the village on the river – I’ve lived here 8 years now.
How do you find being a parent in West London? What are the main advantages and disadvantages? Barnes particularly is full of families – the majority of which I’d say (if I’m not wrong) have young children. Its great to walk out and always know people and there always be children for the children to play with. We are lucky to have a lovely green around Barnes pond and the river along side so there is always a good opportunity to explore nature. We are also not far at all from central London with its host of things to do! Parenting in SW London is definitely helped by the number of other parents that there are, which means lots of groups, support and simply people in similar positions to share with.
What inspired you to start your first business/ write your first book? Why did you choose to write for children? I have always written since I was a child – and in fact my first book was not actually for children, more young adult/millennial. It was when my children went to school though and I saw how hard it can be for all these children taking such a big step and not necessarily knowing how to deal or manage all of it, that I began to write for young children. I wanted to do what I could to show young children the importance and benefits of being kind to each other and how easy it is to do.
Where do you prefer to work/ write? At home at them moment – though I am going to start going out to do it – I am a member at the Olympic members club in Barnes which is a vibrant inspiring place to be either socially or workwise and I plan to start spending a bit more time getting creative in there.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer? When I look through my many years of diaries, which I have written since I was just 13, it shows me intending to write a book of my life from my early twenties. So, I guess a general focus on writing as a career has been a long time coming.
How did you come up with the main characters in your books? I wanted to create simple but appealing characters that personified the message they were giving – so hearts seemed the natural answer – it all happened quite organically to be honest – they just came to me.
What activities do you enjoy doing as a family? We love eating out together and holidaying in different countries. The kids love swimming which is always fun too. We try to spend a lot of time with family that are dotted around London at weekends, whenever possible and at home we enjoy spending time playing in the garden, cooking, doing puzzles, playing family games and whatever else the children come up with. We try to let them lead the decision for free time usually. Our aim is to start involving more sports together and getting more active as a family.
What’s your favourite West London restaurant to eat out as a family?Gosh that’s a difficult one – it would have to be Benihana in Kings road for special occasions, OKA in Barnes for sushi (the kids love it) or Riva our local family Italian, which is also incredibly good.
What was your favourite book as a child? The Secret Garden. I’ve always loved a little (a lot) of escapism.
What are your main writing goals for the next few years? To publish the entire series of Henry & Henrietta Heartbeat and begin building the brand in a more encompassing way, branching out beyond books alone.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? I actually wanted to be a TV Presenter – but my parents were a little hostile in my narrowing down my opportunities so precisely, plus I’m not actually sure how well I would have had handled all the behind the scenes issues there as I do believe it’s a bit cut throat…. Other than that I wanted to be a buyer, basically because I love shopping and travelling. I ended up doing neither!
Do you have any advice for would-be new authors? Follow your dream. If you can dream it – you can do it! Don’t give up at the tricky hurdles – today more than ever there are an infinite number of ways to get your story written and out there in the hands of the public.
Do you think living in West London hinders or helps your writing? Is there a particular London spot that inspires you to write?
Barnes itself can be a bit of a bubble, I have to say – a strength and weakness – but it works with kids and the vicinity of everything allows more time to work as most things are close. As I mentioned though, I do feel the need to get out now and take my work elsewhere for a while. I am not so familiar with the rest of south west London as I actually grew up in North London, however having lived in central London for a period I would say the diversity, multi-culture and inspiration of the bustling centre provides great stimulus for any creative!
Natalie’s books are wonderfully positive and help to teach young children about important things such as empathy and kindness. Highly recommended! You can find out more about Henry and Henrietta Heartbeat and buy the books on the website: www.henryandhenriettaheartbeat.com The books can also be purchased on Amazon in paperback, hardback and Kindle versions.
Ealing 135 is a fabulous membership club for families with children under 5 in the London borough of Ealing. I made lots of long-lasting friendships via the network and have lots to thank it for. I even saw the advert for the nanny agency franchise that I went on to buy in their newsletter and that was the beginning of my journey as a business owner. So I thought I’d share the details of their event coming up this Friday 21st of February. 1pm – 4pm at the Northfields Community Centre.
Ealing 135 has invited many wonderful partners to their new LOVE YOURSELF event, to ensure it will be a special occasion for children and their parents, where they can enjoy a variety of free children’s activities and creative workshops.
Activities on offer include origami, finger paint mandala, sand art and mobile making. For grown-ups there will be a chance to have a go at yoga or to enjoy a meditation snap session, talk with a personal trainer, a woman’s empowerment coach and a sleep coach. There will also be the opportunity to try some organic products and grab some free samples, try a facial or shoulder match whilst you are there too. The children can prepare their own healthy snacks whilst you relax. This event is about feeling good and looking after ourselves, finding the right balance between being a parent and everything else we want to be!
The event will be wrapped up with a wriggle and a giggle for our little ones by Ealing 135’s in house entertainment: Wriggle with Rae.
In the second of the West London Kids interviews with Founders of child-orientated businesses in West London, I speak to Cristin Bullock, Principal of Masquerade Theatre Arts. My daughter absolutely loves her Saturday classes with Masquerade and both my children usually attend the holiday workshops as well and have lots of fun whilst gaining confidence and lots other transferable skills. So I was keen to interview Cristin to find out more about her background and Masquerade’s background story.
Hi Cristin, I am really pleased to be featuring you on West London Kids as a West London business owner that I have long admired. So my first question is, Where about in London do you live and how long have you been there?
I currently live in Strawberry Hill, South West London and have done so for the past 3 years. I lived in Ealing West London for over 10 years previously.
How do you find being a parent in London? What are the main advantages and disadvantages in your opinion?
I love being a parent in London, living somewhere like Strawberry Hill which is nestled between Teddington and Twickenham means we have so much natural beauty on our door step. We have beautiful river walks into Richmond and Bushy park is just down the road, whilst only being 20 minutes on the fast train into Central London. It’s great knowing you can pop into town easily to the theatre (very important to me), museums and restaurants but escape the hustle and bustle at the end of the day. The main disadvantage of living in London is space. Having grown up in Ireland I’m still getting used to having less living space but it’s worth it when you have a city full of wonderful things to see and do as your home.
What inspired you to start your business?
I graduated from the London College of Music and went straight into performing in musicals. I taught singing lessons alongside this and over time became more and more passionate about teaching. I taught for many stage schools through out London and grew a dream of having one of my own one day. I wanted to create a school that saw each child as individual whilst offering top quality training in singing, drama and dance. A meeting with Oaklands Primary School, Ealing, West London and a lot of hard work later and Masquerade was born.
What is your favourite London park?
Bushy park is my favourite South West London park but I adore Hyde Park too.
Where do you prefer to work?
Most of my teaching is in schools and universities however if doing admin for my business then I love a local coffee shop.
When did you first realize you wanted to run your own business?
I worked for a wonderful theatre school in Primrose Hill where I was given the opportunity of overseeing the school alongside delivering singing tuition. This was a new challenge for me as I had only ever performed or taught. I relished the opportunity but it sparked a drive in me to have my own school one day.
What were the most difficult obstacles you faced starting up?
Initially the most difficult obstacle was competing with longer established schools. Once we became established ourselves it was and still is important to retain your standards and individuality.
What activities do you enjoy doing as a family?
We love river walks into Richmond with our 15 month old. She’s too young for the theatre just yet but we’re looking forward to being able to take her to see some shows once she is older.
What’s your favourite West London/ London restaurant to eat out as a family?
Our favourite restaurant is Treviso Italian restaurant in Richmond. It’s a very small family run restaurant and has the most delish Italian food. They are always so welcoming and friendly and have the best customer service I’ve seen.
Any family holiday plans made for the next year yet?
We haven’t made any plans just yet, but it’s on our to do list. We holidayed in the Algarve Portugal with our little one last year which was lovely.
What was your favourite book as a child?Have you included any of your childhood favourites in Masquerade course themes?
I adored The Twits by Roald Dahl. We often feature Roald Dahl in our courses. This February half-term we are doing a 2-day Roald Dahl celebration for children aged 7+. The children will explore scenes from The Twits (of course!) but also BFG, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and more. Roald Dahl has a timeless popularity with children and we always get a full house when we feature Roald Dahl classics in our workshops.
What are your main business goals for the next few years?
We have started offering some extra performance classes at our schools. I’d love to develop these further in the coming years.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a performer and to teach singing.
Do you have any advice for a parent thinking of starting a business?
Do it! Although it can sometimes be tricky juggling home life and a business; the rewards you get for doing something you love and the flexibility it offers out weighs this.
How do you pick yourself up if you have a spell when things aren’t going perfectly?
My Dad always says “Keep doing the right things.” If something goes wrong I just do my very best to make things right and try to stay positive. If you have a passion for your business and it’s something you love, this will shine through and things eventually get solved one way or another.
Some great advice there Cristin, I really enjoyed learning more about your business story. Wishing you lots of future success with your wonderful drama school.
To find out more about Masquerade’s term-time drama classes and holiday theatre workshops in Kingston-upon-Thames and Ealing, visit their website: www.masqueradearts.com