Meet Dad James living in Wiltshire the UK
What kind of house do you live in – are you and the kids happy here or is there anything you find lacking or would like to change?
We live in Wiltshire in the English countryside. It’s proper ‘Wind in the Willows’ country with lots of oak trees, lazy riverbanks and very ‘olde’ pubs. When the kids were born we were living in London and decided to move out. We don’t regret it at all despite the fact that it means I’m commuting every week!
What is it you like best about living here?
Definitely the outdoor space. When I’m at home, if the kids are awake, I’m with them, playing, crafting or adventuring outdoors. Before we go on an adventure Emily always makes sure everyone is clear what game we’re playing and who each of us is going to be. She’ll say, “OK Daddy you choose the movie and I’ll choose the characters, OK? Just last week the kids watched My Neighbour Totoro for the first time. It’s a Japanese animated classic about a family who move to a new house and befriend magical creatures living in the woods. Emily and Joe absolutely love it as we recently moved to the house and have become friends with the woods too!
Do you like to spend time on decorating your home and the children’s room?
A little bit but seeing as we don’t own the house we’re in we tend to be a lot less adventurous with the décor. We kept our house in London and rented so interior ‘projects’ tend to be limited to posters, vinyl graphics and LOTS of art and craft projects! Betsy recently had the genius idea of buying whiteboard markers and letting the kids draw on our fridge. It was just a bog standard plain white fridge… now it’s a 3D doodle board!
Do you keep your children’s play areas very separate or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?
Well you know what it’s like trying to ‘contain’ kiddy debris. The children have an element of play in pretty much every room. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s sensible to have certain areas or rooms that are for the grown-ups exclusively but I’ve yet to find one in our house.
Where do you look for interior inspiration, favorite magazines, websites, blogs?
Other than Bloesem Kids? It’s a very difficult question but I have to say that Ted is one of my favourite sites on the web. It’s not about interior design but it is inspirational. From it’s concept to design and content. It basically serves up loads of interesting talks by interesting people from all over the world. Each talk is never more than 20 minutes so it’s a great site for dipping in and out when you feel like something a bit different.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
Hmm. By far the single item that gets the most use is probably the trampoline in the garden. They are on that thing every day pretty much regardless of weather. I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that the TV and computer don’t get a fair bit of use as well. We don’t actually have regular TV hooked up at all we just use Apple TV, which is amazing by the way. We get TV shows and movies from iTunes and Apple TV just streams them to the TV. I think like most people the biggest problem I have with kids TV is the ads. On the whole they’re pretty ghastly.
Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?
Most of the time, yes. At the end of the day after they’ve had their dinner we have a ritual called ‘Spooky time’. Basically we go to the living room, Emily closes the curtains and Joe turns off all the lights. In the failing light we invent all kinds of stories and epic tales that we act out. The deal is however, that there is no ‘Spooky Time’ until all the toys and books are back in their boxes. It works… mostly.
What places in your new neighborhood do you like to go to for shopping?
The local farm shop is amazing! It has everything. A playground and woods for the kids. A great café and restaurant for the grown-ups and an incredible food shop that sources all kinds of goodies from the area. I suppose being involved in a start-up myself means I have enormous respect for small businesses that manage to excel because they have a passion for what they do. The farm shop might not be as convenient or cheap as the local Tesco’s but they compete in the only way they can. By loving it. You can always tell when you come across a product that was made by people that really LOVE what they do. I hope that’s what our products feel like too.
General and upbringing:
Who do you consider is a good example for your children?
Their Mum. Which is largely why I think our children are so awesome.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
A few weeks ago we went to a local Arboretum. Prior to that I didn’t really know what an Arboretum was other than that it was probably Latin and has something to do with trees. It was amazing. Basically it’s a huge forest that has been deliberately planted with all kinds of different species of trees. When we drove through the entrance we entered field after field of cars. There were so many it was ridiculous. We had a nasty feeling that the whole place would be overcrowded but as soon as we plunged into the woods along one of the many paths the crowds vanished. We spent a bright and blustery autumn day lost in the woods. I’d struggle to come up with something more perfect than that. There’s something really magical and important about getting lost. I recently read Michael Chabon’s ‘Manhood for Amateurs’, which is an absolute must for Dads and Mums. It’s basically a series of short essays, each one covering a different humorous observation on being a husband, father and a son. One of the chapters is called ‘The Wilderness of Childhood’ and it stresses the importance of allowing children to play outwith the confines of parental supervision. If you don’t fancy buying the book you can read that particular chapter here –
Tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made.
“Daddy? Can I have a little sister? Little brothers are SO boring.”
Any tips for keeping the house clean when crafting?
Big plastic tablecloths and rolls of paper (Betsy uses old wallpaper scraps for this which is cool). There’s something great about being able to draw or paint on a really large surface as opposed to a sheet of A4. Interestingly I was talking to a nursery teacher recently who said that a recent study showed that boys in particular are more likely to engage with painting and drawing on larger surfaces. If the experience feels ‘contained’ by a small bit of paper or is ‘fiddly’ in any way they are far less likely to be engaged whereas girls seem to enjoy it. That seems to be true of our two as well.
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
I do like a bit of crafting here and there but I have to go with a pretty solid ‘no’ on the DIY front. I do enjoy it every now and then but I’m a bit of a dawdler and things usually get done well enough despite me being very very slow. Betsy is the crafty queen in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone quite so obsessed with crafting and making things. It’s amazing she always makes Christmas / Wedding / Birthdays gifts that are incredible. If someone gave you a present and said ‘I made this by the way’, you’d probably smile and think to yourself, ‘Oh no’. Betsy recently made a Flower Press from scratch for some friends of ours who were getting married. At the end of the wedding night she collected flowers from around the venue and put them in the press before giving it to them. It may well be years before they open it up but when they do they’ll have a stunning set of pressed flowers from their wedding. How cool is that?
Books, websites, local shops you can recommend to get tips and ideas for kids crafting?
Well I really have to mention our blog at this point. We put free craft activities on there every week. Check it out! We’re also big fans of MadebyJoel as well. He was actually interviewed on BloesemKids as well and is a truly lovely bloke. We’re collaborating with him to design our upcoming range of wooden toys.
What do you do with all the projects your children make at home or in school?
We put them all up on the walls. Like a gallery they have a certain ‘run’ and then they‘re taken down. If it’s an absolute corker then it will be archived in the memory box but otherwise it is carefully explained that it goes to crafty heaven in the recycling so that it can be re-born as someone else’s masterpiece.
What are all time favorite books for the children?
Wow this is a hard one. I recently introduced Emily and Joe to The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein which I adored when I was small. It’s such a beautiful little story. Others that are current favourites in our house are the Katie Morag Stories by Mairi Hedderwick and The Sea Mice and the Stars by Kenneth C. Steven and all the Frog & Toad books by Arnold Lobel.
How do you get your books? Bookstores? Online? Do they go to the library?
We absolutely love picture books. I think that’s why I’m so excited about the imminent release of our first picture books from The Land of Me. However we get a lot of books from the library. Bets and the kids will go down every few weeks and refresh the batch to keep things new and interesting. Libraries are amazing places to take children. You probably know this already but I never realised until quite recently.
Do your children read books online?
Not yet, but maybe because they’re too young. I definitely see them reading books with the iPad though. I think there will be some interesting stuff happening for children with the whole touch-screen tablet boom.
What are nice activities you can do with children in your place and what could you recommend when people are visiting?
The kids actually spend a fair amount of time in the garden. Betsy has green fingers and loves the garden. As someone who’s definitely not a gardening ‘nut’ you forget just how cool it is for kids to be able to harvest the seeds from various flowers or vegetables, dry them out, plant them and watch something grow. The best ones are those can be eaten at the end. You really see how much time and effort goes into getting that lettuce leaf onto your plate!
What movies do your children like to watch, is there one from your childhood you would love to show them too?
There are so many films from my childhood I have enjoyed sharing with the kids. They were such a powerful influence on me growing up I am in no doubt that they informed the person I am and the work we’re now doing. I can’t even bring myself to try and list them but a few classics you must watch again (please don’t say you haven’t seen them) are… The Jungle Book, Dumbo, The Secret of Nimh, Peter Pan, The Fox and the Hound, The Water Babies, The Sword in the Stone, The Iron Giant, My Neighbour Totoro… I could literally go on and on. Sorry.
Are you a ‘cook’ or ‘food lover’ or both?
Yes I absolutely love cooking. I’m definitely what you’d call a passionate amateur though. I love the experience of cooking as much as the final result – I definitely consider it relaxation time. I like to think the food I make tastes good, just don’t expect it to happen too quickly, I tend to ‘dilly-dally’.
Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?
Absolutely. Destroying the kitchen with the kids is one of my favourite things to do. They really get into it and enjoy having their own little jobs. I love that sense of pride they have when it comes to eating our creation. Joe is particularly find of helping out in the kitchen.
Anything you’d like to promote?
Well if you don’t mind I would like to mention The Land of Me. As one reviewer so wonderfully put it… ‘Imagine a classic picture book married a computer. The Land of Me would be their lovechild.” We’ve been working with incredible professors, teachers, parents, artists and developers for the last 18 months to create a collection of creative games and activities for children aged 2-6. The Land of Me has been designed to nurture creativity, language and early literacy and includes loads of printable activities so that the experience continues away from the screen. Our goal was to create something that children and adults would be able to do together. As a Dad I struggled to anything interactive that was designed for the children and me. So we thought we’d have a go!
OK phew… that’s my sell. In all honesty we’ve poured our hearts into making something we think is a bit special so if you’re curious and would like to see for yourself you can download the first chapter (there are 6 altogether) for free! Nice right?