Happy New Year and welcome to the first blog of 2017!
What better way to start the year than to give you a taste on how to Toddle With Two?
The Toddler and The Baby are 2.5 years and 8 months old. Getting about with one child is no mean feat in itself never mind two -add that they are both under 5 and all of the baggage the comes along with them and it’s nothing short of a military operation.
Part of the preparation for The Toddler’s arrival was, of course, to decide on a pram. Me and The Husband are quite simple folk when it comes to things like this (read: if it does the job then we’re sold/clueless on this stuff). We managed to avoid a lot of unnecessary gumpf that is pushed on unsuspecting parents to be by deciding to get the very basics and pick up other stuff as we go along if we needed it but one essential that was determined to make things complicated was the pram. Anyone who has had the privilege of choosing a pram will probably tell you that buying what is basically a seat on wheels to get your baby from A to B is akin to buying a new car. The upsale, the features, the colour, the style, the brand, added extras, sales people, little racing tracks on shop floors for you to test drive the latest model…mind boggling. Add in a cocktail of hormones and it’s enough to make you burst into tears next to the bulkbuy packs of nappies over whether you’re going to be a terrible mother if you opt for the basic model without additional footmuff, cupholder, or MP3 plugin.
We ended up choosing a travel system online through a Bounty deal as it had everything we needed at a reasonable price. We went for the Hauck Apollo 4 (not that this is going to be a pram review) and it has works well for us, and I can get it on the bus. It only carries one child so when you have two you then need to make the decision on whether you really need a tandem or double pram to get around. I don’t drive so I either bus or walk everywhere so being able to get out and about easily with the kids is a priority and even with the hope at the beginning of my pregnancy that The Toddler would cope with walking or at least use the buggy board, it became more than likely we’d need to reconsider our options.
Being well aware that single prams can run up into the hundreds, we knew that double would be at the higher end of what we could afford and whilst not being completely sure how long we’d need it for we ended up buying a second hand Hauck Free Rider Travel System (I don’t work for Hauck, they just happened to do a low cost tandem that worked for 2 different aged kids) for £100 hardly used. Sorted. We were ready to Toddle With Two.
(I actually will recommend if you are going to get a tandem/double pram for a toddler and baby set up to get a decent second hand one as you never really know how long or how much use you will get out of it. Ours was with us for 4 months before selling it on for what we paid. Try Facebook selling pages, eBay, gumtree etc.)
In all truth, we have bought the tandem to ensure we could get about with two and it was fine in the early days with help but it soon became cumbersome and in a way, isolating. It was hard to get on the bus with it, difficult to get into shops, and it was heavy to push both a toddler and a baby. I ended up walking longer and further with the new pram which made it difficult to get to playgroups and events that started early in the day. I reached out to another mum who also had similar ages children to find out what she did to get about. The answer: sling, sharing a single pram, buggy board, walking.
This is now how I Toddle With Two. I had a Mei Tai sling I used occasionally with The Toddler and then with The Baby so I tried a few short trips with The Toddler in the pram and The Baby in the sling. It was a revelation. I could get on the bus, walk around the local Co-Op without feeling like I am going to take out the special offer display, and I got my massive pram shopping basket back. We decided to sell the tandem and invest in a quality sling.
We have a buggy board already so we just clip that on, put the Toddler in the pram, strap The Baby on, and we’re ready to go. I usually travel with The Toddler in the pram and then he gets out and walks/buggy board at our destination and The Baby goes in the pram or I’ll keep her in the sling and park the pram. I do use reins when The Toddler is walking and you can think what you like about them -love them/hate them but my child is a bolter and will not hold hands no matter what we do so it’s a needs must for us. We also have invested in a XXS Pockit Stroller now that The Toddler wants to walk more and is excellent for carrying on public transport and places such as restaurants -plus you get cool looks when you fold it!
Of course baby wearing isn’t always going to be a practical solution for everyone but it’s one that works for us. If you are going to buy a sling or carrier it can very much feel like you are going down the same route as buying a pram with all the different types and jargon that goes with. They can also seem like they are shockingly expensive when you can buy a small stroller for near to the same price but they are an investment. If you would spend the same on a decent pram you feel comfortable with, you should apply that same logic to baby wearing. You want something that is safe to use, practical, and comfortable. My Mei Tai sling wasn’t the best quality but okay for short term use but I could feel the difference between that and the Connecta instantly in terms of quality and comfort for me and The Baby. I also like that you can breastfeed in a sling easily so that makes things easier for us when out and about. If you are thinking about baby wearing or would like to find out more, look for a Sling Library near you where you can try out the different types available, learn how to wear safely, and what will suit your needs best. You can even borrow Online.
Another thing that makes Toddling With Two easier is thinking about your necessities that you need to bring with you. I am not going to give you an exhaustive list of what we take with us as everyone is different. I will say just take what you know you will need, downsize and streamline things, and plan your day. If you know you are going to a museum for example, what facilities do they have that could allow you to cut back on what you bring with you? We have a Pink Lining Yummy Mummy Changing Bag that I love because it has a pocket for everything and then some but it isn’t exactly small so we have now downgraded our changing bag to a small backpack with a Nappy Roll which I use for everything. I also limit the amount of stuff going in and regularly clean it out so it doesn’t feel like its weighing me down. You can get backpack style changing bags if you wanted something made for the job. Packing it the night before and laying out clothes for the next day also helps (not that it always happens!)
If there is one thing that is more important than prams, slings, bags, and that is planning. It sounds so obvious but it really does help to alleviate some of the stress. Simple things like Planning your journey including looking at stepfree and accessible routes, especially if it just you with your children, deciding whether you can get your toddler to walk for some of it or if you can negotiate small steps with the pram with help, and how long it will take you. I really recommend giving yourself a bit more time than you think you’ll need to factor in that sometimes accessible routes may take longer or be less direct, also you can never rely on your little entourage to not hold you up with feed/nappy/tantrum/general destruction scenarios or that on the day you might need to change your route so it helps to have time on your side if you can. We spent about 15 minutes looking for the lift down to the Underground at Waterloo once nevermind trying to find the stepfree entrance to the station from the street as it was so badly sign posted. Westminster is another one where finding the right lift to the right place is like cracking some kind of code.
As I said earlier, checking out the website, googling, or ringing ahead to your destination will give you an indication of how pram friendly or what facilities they have. Most places will list whether they have a lift, cafe, pram park, baby change etc on their website so you can decide if it will be somewhere you can manage easily with the demands of little ones.
If you have a smartphone, apps can also help you Toddle With Two, as well as having Maps and Google to hand. I highly recommend NCT Babychange which shows the nearest changing facilities to you, and Hoop which show you child friendly activities near you. I also (probably a rather luxurious recommendation) use Gett occasionally which is like Uber but for licensed Black Cabs. I cannot tell you how much I love Black Cabs with kids. Yes, it can be pricey but sometimes when you have been out and about all day and you’re all knackered and just want to go home, the convenience and joy of being able to wheel in your pram and get from A to B without hassle is AMAZING. Gett allows you to pay a fixed price through your phone and summon or prebook a ride from your location. As we have mentioned it, I have used Uber as well but more so for short journeys (of course with mini Cabs, use a car seat if you can). Here is the current UK law regarding child car seats and taxis/cabs (Correct as of Jan 2017)
One final word on Toddling With Two: be kind to yourself. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry no matter how organised you are or how much help you have. There will be days where trains are delayed, the lift is out of order, it rains, your toddler will hate everything, and everyone will have a spectacular meltdown at the worst possible time but it’s okay, it happens. Just take a deep breath and remember you will have some great days out even if not every adventure goes to plan. It can be frustrating at times.
Well, that’s my mahoosive, long blog post on how we Toddle With Two and I hope this year we will be able to share more of our adventures and inspire you to make a few adventures of your own.