10 reasons I’m delighted my daughter cut all her hair off

19 January, 2017

My children have a very beautiful relationship with creativity. At Christmas I made some dough and got out the festive cookie cutters and before I could say Jingle Bells the girls were on the table pressing their toes into the squidgy mass with joy. We get the paints out and they carefully and lovingly dabble a bit on the paper, and a bit on their face, a bit on the paper and a bit on their hair, their bellies, their knees.

“Show me your painting Juno!”👌 (Are kids the ultimate teachers of abandoning ourselves to the moment or what?) 😆

A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on

Early on I learnt to bite my lip; I didn’t want them to feel controlled by my arbitrary ideas about what counts as “art” and what counts as “mess”. Who am I to judge their own creations?

Whenever we get scissors out to cut shapes or paper people, they do the same thing; a snip of the paper, a snip of their fringe, a snip of a magazine and a great big walloping chunk out of the middle of their forehead. A few weeks ago I came in and they were surrounded by felt tips, shreds of paper and hair. Ramona had cut Juno’s hair down to one inch all over. It looked amazing. In a bald-patches kinda way. And they were both utterly stoked. They had a vision for their art, hair, whatever, and they made it happen. They did a little dance together, sang a song about being hair twins.

Ramona had cut all her own hair off a short while before. Well, she cut almost all of it. She left a 15 inch long plait at the base of her neck. Technically, it’s a ratstail. Hairstyle of the rebellious teenage boy in 1992. But to Ramona it is simply “her long bit” – the bit that means she has the best of both worlds.

My children love cutting hair so much they want to share it around. My mum and dad are visiting us from the UK next month and we wrote a big list of all the things we would like to do with them while they are here. Number seven is “Give Nana a hair cut”…I just know she is going to be SO EXCITED about that!


When my children cut their hair I usually have one reaction – to fetch them sharper scissors. No-ones got time for a haircut executed with those tiny yellow giraffe schnizzors.

You see, when my kids cut their hair, I delight in it. For me it as a chance to send an important message to my daughters.

And it’s a chance that MANY parents get. Almost every child I know has picked up a pair of scissors and had (or tried to have) a little snippitysnip or a big chunkycrunk at their hair. My sister and I did it – she chopped off one of my pigtails. One kid I know experimented with an electric razor. Jeepers. Even if your child doesn’t give themselves a jazzy new style, there is still the same opportunity whenever they visit the hairdresser.

And in every instance we are invited to share a lesson with our kids about consent and body autonomy.She cut off all her hair, and her sister's. Here's why I'm glad.

So here we go- ten reasons I am happy about my daughter cutting all her hair off:

1- It is her body. She is the boss of it. She gets to say what happens to it. Either I mean this, or I don’t. If I do mean it this involves stepping back and watching her cut all her hair into a ratstail two weeks before a family wedding – even if she has been asked to be a bridesmaid.

2- It is her body. Nobody gets a say in what she does with it. I want her to continue in this vein for her whole life; giving Zero Effs to what other people expect her to do with her hair, face, or body.

3- It is her body. She does not belong to me. No child is the possession of their parents. We are here to guide them through this tricky world, not treat them like they are ours.

4- It is her body. It is her human right to have autonomy over her body. I’m not being dramatic.Body autonomy is one of our most basic human rights and forcing a kid to have a hair cut, or not have a hair cut is a violation of that right. Everyday we can choose to not infringe on rights of children in our homes.

5- It is her body. When I stand back now and let her do what she wants with her body, she learns a lesson that will serve her for the rest of her life.

6- It is her body. My daughter’s experience of body autonomy through my response to hair cutting will form a part of her ability to say a clear no to unwelcome touch, and is a key part of protecting her from sexual abuse.

7- It is her body. My daughter is at the start of her identity journey and getting to know herself, and love herself, and expressing herself with her body is something only she can do.

8- It is her body. No one should ever force anyone to do something, or not do something, with their own body. This is one of the fundamentals of dismantling the rape culture we live in.

9- It is her body. Giving herself a haircut and not coercing or manipulating her to do something more “socially acceptable” creates a culture of consent in our home. One of the greatest wishes I have for this world my girls are growing up in, is that our rape culture will be replaced by a culture of consent.

10- One last reason; It is her body.

I have a load more reasons in my head, just so we are clear. For example, wanting to save my children from the knowledge that society judges people by their looks. If I don’t blink when they do something dramatic to their appearance whilst they are young, perhaps that will provide a buffer of sorts to the stark fact that we can be a shallow, judgemental bunch. I could also have spoken about gender stereotypes and the good message that is given when I am not precious about her long hair. I could also have made a point about how practical and unknotty short hair is- quite frankly, it is mindbogglingly amazing.

But all of these pale in significance to the one clear truth that my child’s body is her body and she can do what she wants with it.

I want my children’s relationship with their body to be like the one they have with art; expressive and loving and fully autonomous.


(Forgive these capital letters, melodramatic titles, it’s kinda the way Youtube works… meh.)

PS- I write with almost all the privilege there is and want to recognise that body autonomy looks different for those without the same privilege. I enjoyed this article about how to support a child who needs blood tests whilst upholding their body autonomy.  I would love to hear from others, to hear of how you support your child’s body autonomy whilst not being healthy or wealthy or white.  A little while ago my children got sick with something the internet told me was an illness that impacts mostly poverty stricken households. We were in a bad space for a few different reasons and I was feeling really nervous about taking them to the Dr, with their dreaded hair and felt tip all over their bodies and this Thing. I was worried they might ask questions, dig deeper. I scrubbed up, I put on the smartest clothes I had, and put my shoulders back and acted as if I hadn’t a care in the world. It was an awful, tragic glimpse of how lucky I was that I could do that. It was one of my first insights into how privilege works, and how my privilege is related to all these parenting choices. This radical, rights-upholding, respectful parenting is being done by a huge, diverse array of parents… but we must acknowledge the role of privilege.


One of the scariest and best things I’ve ever done

10 January, 2017

You might have gathered that our dog Zoe had puppies ten days ago. Ramona was cuddling one of those tiny little things, just one day old, and she had such a look of love on her face I thought I might explode. I said “Is this the cutest thing that has ever happened to you?” and she said “Nope. It’s the second cutest thing that has ever happened to me” and I said “Oh! What’s the first cutest?” and she said “I don’t know. It hasn’t happened yet.”

Tim and I caught each other’s eye. We’d been talking a lot over Christmas about personality types, exploring the Enneagram. I am a blatant Number Seven. A huge enthusiast, but someone who is very much future focused, who can be doing something awesome in the present, but still pretty certain there’s always something better around the corner.

I had an inkling Ramona was a bit like me. That “second cutest” answer was about as seven-ish as you get!

But right here, right now, I can absolutely definitely say that this last weekend involved one of the scariest and best things I’ve ever done.  * and **

We had over a hundred unschoolers come to our farm for an off grid summer camp. (What is unschooling?) And I was QUITE nervous beforehand. I was worried that I had got our farm (me and my husband and the family we live with) in a little over our heads with my extravagant enthusiasm and gun ho-ness. I mean, who does that? Lives a rickety, bare-bones life on a bit of land for a year and then invites every unschooler in New Zealand for a sleepover?

Three days away from camp and we had no loos, no hot water, no kitchen. It was pouring with rain, our 28 ducks were wandering around quacking their HEADS OFF at 5am and the meadow that we were meant to be camping in was a construction site. I was quite terrified (you can see it in my eyes at the start of the video.) I don’t think it was fear of failing – I’ve tried really hard to give up on that fear since having children. I think I was anxious that we might end up letting a whole load of families down. Ruin their holidays.

I guess you might want to see how it turned out?


Before we all moved onto our land, we all knew that we wanted to share it. It was ours, but ours for sharing. Having this camp was probably the first major thing we’ve done along these lines and it went so well. The whole thing was pretty much one humoungous Site of Mutual Fulfilment and I think one of my aims in life is to create more and more SMFs.

I was sitting at the solar disco (oh, not sitting for long, don’t worry! Just a few seconds. All the other hours were completely occupied with cutting shapes. These days my style is almost entirely Hardcore Interpretive) looking around and I was feeling SO FULL. So, so, full.

Full of admiration of all these parents who have chosen a pretty radical life with their children, full of a sense of privilege that we get to live with people who are visionary and resourceful enough to pull this off with us, and full of the potential of dreaming and daring.

And I guess that’s what happens, a little dreaming and daring actually makes you MORE able to dream and dare.

What are your plans for 2017? I would love to hear what you are hoping and dreaming of.

Read more:
Why we began to unschool
Seven things you oughta know about unschooling
Our application to the government to get the official stamp on our unschooling- an exemption.

*Erm, but can I also say that I believe that our “best” is something that can keep blooming and growing? So I still think there are some best things ahead in the future?!

** It’s possible that giving up jobs and moving to New Zealand with a few bags of luggage ranked up here too.

PS Just so you don’t think our life is all blue skies and sitting at solar parties feeling fulfilled- my last day of camp was spent in bed spewing forth my guts. Sickest I’ve been in ten years, maybe a mixture of a tummy bug and exhaustion. Ugh! Is that the yang?

A couple of extra photos (thanks to the beautiful nomads from The Bus who took these!)

off grid unschooling camp New Zealand

unschooled camp new zealand nz off grid unschooled camp new zealand nz off grid

Featured, yurt life

15 seconds

20 December, 2016

I’m way too early for New Years Resolutions, but I am sharing one of mine now as I believe it might be handy over the coming few days.

We’ve experienced some huge changes over the last few years. My husband and I handed in our notice, we sold our house in London, and most of the stuff in it, and we packed ourselves into a campervan and travelled around Europe with our kids. We ended up in New Zealand.  Not only in New Zealand, but off grid, in a yurt, in a forest, in New Zealand.

And one of the things I have learnt over this time is… don’t laugh… happiness comes from the inside out.

A campervan can’t bring you happiness. A yurt can’t bring you happiness. A forest can’t bring you happiness.

(A caveat: I speak about happiness here from a very privileged position, as a white, wealthy, healthy, person. I recognise that what I have to say does not apply to everyone and that other people will have vastly different experiences of happiness to me. And I’d love for you to be a part of this conversation. Another caveat: whilst I think working on our own happiness framework is a good thing, I think this goes alongside activism, kindness in action; supporting our neighbours, raising kids with empathy, sending funds to good people who can help Aleppo, campaigning for socially just policies and more.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Campervans and yurts gave us great adventure. Buying a farm with others brings us community. Living amongst nature means we can do things like new moon women’s circles and family forest play; dreams of mine come true.  All of these things were like little bricks for my Happy House. Everyone’s bricks are different.But the house can’t stand, the bricks mean nothing lasting AT ALL, without the mortar. You just got a pile of bricks. They meant something once, but now they are just dusty and have bugs crawling in and out of them.

What I’m trying to say is that we did all these exciting things, but the single biggest factor in my happiness came only this year, when I figured out that the mortar is, and I decided to do the internal work towards happiness.

And I want to share one of these processes as I think there is a huge opportunity for mixing up our happiness mortar over this coming holiday period…

15 seconds to happiness

The concept

So, in normal life, happiness touches us fleetingly. We eat a delicious burger with friends and we get a bubble of joy and a second later it’s gone. What we need to do, what we need to work on, is savouring the moment, in order for it to add to our overall happiness.

Happiness isn’t how many happy moments you have in your life, but how deeply you allow happy moments to penetrate your life. 

I first became aware of this concept during my Endorphin Experiment  (still ongoing! See Endorphin Experiment Week 1, Endorphin Experiment Week 2, Endorphin Experiment Week 6) which I began as a result of reading William Bloom’s Endorphin Effect.

And then, as if to really strike home how much I needed to do it this Christmas, I was listening to a podcast this week that mentioned it again. (My new favourite thing! Doing dishes or jobs or anything, as long as the kids are occupied, I just listen away and it is so nice! Tell me your favourites.)

A neuro psychologist was talking about the human brain’s negativity bias. How bad thoughts act like velcro in the mind – clinging to one another and building up – whereas good thoughts are more like teflon, very slippery and harder to make stick, long term.

One of the secrets to happiness is the ability to make those positive thoughts stickier.

15 seconds to happiness

To make positive thoughts stickier we need to hold on to them longer. You know those nice little warm fuzzies you sometimes get, say, when your children are playing together (together!! and not fighting!) and you think “oh, my goodness, lovely children!” or if you get the chance to see a glorious sun setting over a majestic mountain, or when you are sitting with your ancient Nana, and she is holding your hand and you are singing a carol together.

Don’t let that warmth of happiness touch you for a second and move on. Hold on to it, let the warmth move through your body, close your eyes and savour the experience of your harmonious children, the majestic mountain, sweet joy of being with your Nana. Hang on to it for fifteen seconds! It shows your brain you want to keep this moment, and it then weaves that good thought into an overall picture of well being. Slowly, slowly we rewire our brains for happiness.

In the podcast the Neuroscience of Happiness, neuro psychologist, Rick Hanson, says

“The first step is to turn positive events into positive experiences. All kinds of good things happen in our daily life that we hardly notice at all, and if we do, we don’t feel it. Someone pays us a compliment, we hardly pay attention to it, or we deflect it. So instead of that, you turn positive events into positive experiences.

Second, really savor it. In other words, the way to remember something is to make it intense, felt in the body, and lasting. That’s how we give those neurons lots and lots time to fire together so they start wiring together. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it. Relish it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.

The third step is to sense and intend that this positive experience is sinking into you and becoming a part of you. In other words, it’s becoming woven into the fabric of your brain and yourself.”

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Solstice or nothing at all, these holidays often mean family gatherings and potential for these special moments. Remember the 15 second rule and harvest from these next few days a stack of good moments that will build up your overall happiness.

Halfway through this winter we began a forest play session for local home schoolers. It is a magical time, something we’ve dreamed of since visiting the Forest Kindergarten in Germany. We build huts, make soup, learn some primal skills. During our first session we sat around and talked about how to light a fire. “What can you start a fire with?” we asked the children. “Paper” “Twigs” “Cardboard” said some of them. “You can put a candle under the curtains” said another.


Happiness doesn’t come by doing something extreme like going off grid in New Zealand. It can very much come through the smaller stuff too.

Start with lighting your paper, before you set your curtains on fire.

Fifteen seconds to savour the goodness and spark your neurons for happiness.


So yeah, in an ideal setting Christmas is  a chance to build the framework for our happiness. And, also, sometimes with family gatherings, it’s, well, kind of the opposite! Tension can rise, particularly if you are parenting in a way that is different to others. My parents and my in laws are both respectful of the way we parent, even though they might not fully agree, but at different times over the last few years we have had people close to us make it clear that they don’t like what we are doing.

I have put some thought into how I can keep grounded, keep parenting the way I feel is right for us, all the way through the mayhem of Christmas. They ended up being 5 mantras which I share here. (YIKES I wish there was a better word than mantra! It just sounds so… so worthy. Ach. Who am I kidding? This whole post is worthy. Forgive me, I am obviously feeling very seriouspants today! I should at least call these Womantras.)

I would love to hear if you have any womantras (c’mon, let’s do it. Let’s literally just add WO to everything that starts with Man. Harhahahah.) Anyway, sorry, tell me what things help you stay strong and calm.

I just want to take a second too, to say THANK YOU HEAPS AND HEAPS for reading this year. I count it a complete privilege that I get to write and make videos and that people stick around to be a part of the conversation. Thank you x x x


An ethical Christmas gift guide for parents and children

14 December, 2016

We are celebrating Christmas with Tim’s extended family this year, and we’ve decided to do a Secret Santa pressie giving thing to take the pressure of having to buy for seventeen million people. So we all get a name and we buy for that person only. It has all been meticulously organised by my amazing sister in law, and part of it included doing a wish list so that the presents were actually valued and appreciated, rather then spending, collectively, hundreds of dollars on jokey gifts or those wire scalp massagers. (Every year!!! They are pretty lush though. In a weird way.)

I have never made a Christmas wish list as an adult. And we’ve never done them with the girls either. We’ve always just been super chill about pressies and bought for each other almost entirely from second hand shops or the local Fair Trade market.

Doing this year’s wish list made me realise that we are not normal in this regard, and that actually it is WAY better getting people stuff they actually WANT!! Especially if it is ethical in origin.

So here’s some ethical gift ideas for parents and children. This is all stuff that we have had in the past and appreciated, or stuff that we would proudly buy, and many of them link to affiliate ethical companies that I am working with, so if you click through from here I get a percentage. (Thank you so much for all your support of this blog by doing that. I feel like it is win win for all three of us, me, you and the ethical company, and I hope you feel that too, rather than any exploitative thing. I wouldn’t link to anyone I wouldn’t personally buy from, promise. Aye Carumba, sorry, enough analysis!!)

If you don’t feel the the need for any more gifts on your list, please stop reading and go and enjoy something else!! Like this rendition of Oh Holy Night. The last thing I want to do is make people hanker for something. Happiness is on the inside, not what’s in your stocking etc etc. (Unless there are birdprint leggings in that stocking. I don’t care what you say. Happiness. Harhahahaha. )Ethical gift guide

Ethical gifts for parents

1- A subscription to the Green Parent Magazine, the most amazing magazine that I write for. If you use the code LULAST they will give you £5 off – that is a whopping third off the price! Click here for that.  This gift idea is one available all over the world, not just UK.
Green Parent Subscription Discount code

2- Imagine a pair of shoes that met an intensely high standard of ethical and was completely and utterly out of this world BEAUTIFUL?! Can I introduce Po Zu? I am *so* excited at the prospect of slipping my smelly old feet into a pair of these stunners. They have men and women’s shoes, boots and sandals. And they are completely gorgeous. Also available worldwide.
ethical guide guide

3- I love the range of clothes at Spirit of Nature – many are fair trade or handmade in Britain. I can’t get over these BIRD PRINT LEGGINGS – HELLO! – and this poppy dress. Too beautiful.bird print leggings ethical gift guideethical gift guide

4- When Tim did his Christmas Wish List he wrote “Socks”…
ethical gift guide

Behold the most beautiful collection of ethical socks! Buy them all!

5- You can’t beat a nice pampery lot of body stuff either aye? There is a great mens’s range at Green People. See all the goodies in here.

ethical gift guide for men

6- Make Up, sweet Make Up. This here is the tinted Burt’s Bees lippy which I have worn since forever and LOVE. But there is also an enormous range of eye popping red colours, and smouldery eye shizzle and foundation and it is all cruelty free, often organic and often free from the harshest chemicals. Check it all out here.

ethical gif guide

7 – LOOK. Organic clutch. And all the clutches on there. Oh my golly.ethical gift guide

8- You can’t go wrong with a brilliant book, can you? The non fiction I absolutely loved reading this year includes Holly McNish’s Nobody Told Me, Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, Bloom’s Endorphin Effect and Amy Bank’s Four Ways to Click. I recommend them all HIGHLY! I might not agree with every single word, but they all gave me an awful lot to think about and improved my life in a number of ways. (That’s a whole other post, I think!)

Ethical gifts for children

9 – I love the stuff from Green Science – like this solar plane! Amazing.ethical gift guide

10 – Ramona is so into organs at the moment. This week Tim went to the butcher and asked for an eyeball. “Why?” said the butcher “for my daughter. she just, you know, wants an eyeball.” They bought home two pig eyeballs. First she put it in her mouth to see what it felt like. Then she drew it. Then she dissected it.

In lieu of this hands on experience, perhaps a Human Organs science kit would suffice?! Ha.
ethical gift guide

11 – This cute little farm made out of recycled plastic. I love this toy brand for doing this. I love them. I really do.  It is such a great effort when humankind has such a problem with plastic. Ugh. Click here for this.ethical gift guide

12 – Gorgeous sustainable balance bike. In my experience balance bikes are the IDEAL vehicle for non biking kids. They can whip along with the big kids and have so much fun. There is a big range of colours here.
ethical gift guide

13 – In my list of non-toy great gift ideas for kids I mention how much someone enjoyed getting a green house when they were a kid, and then her Grandad taught her how to grow veggies. How amazing is that? Well, here is a little mini green house plus all you need to get your own seedlings on the go.
ethical gift guide

14- One of the books I think should be on every family’s shelf is A is for Activist. Such a great way to introduce important world changing social movement vocabulary to our children! You can get it here.
ethical gift guide

15 – Here is something. My children LOVE nail polish. I don’t wear it and to be honest wouldn’t want to draw attention to my worried-down nails. In an ideal world I wouldn’t have it in this household where we try and monitor our use of unhealthy chemicals and minimise the emphasis we put on beautifying our bodies, but alas and alack my children can not get enough.  So I am super stoked to find this selection of nail polishes that are cruelty free, and free from the harshest chemicals. Click here to check them out.
ethical gift guide

So there we go.

My theory is that Christmas is all about love, so if we can buy stuff that shows we care for the people who get the gift AND the people that made the gift AND for the planet then we are doing really well!! 

Would love to hear what is on your list x x

yurt life

An off grid Christmas in a yurt in New Zealand

7 December, 2016

I’m sitting on the sofa with a redbush tea and a bar of chocolate, feeling completely shattered, creaky boned weary.

Do you ever feel like life just bites you on the bum sometimes? When decisions that you know are right end up being tough ones?

We aren’t busy with the normal festive stuff, the bustling about with shopping and Christmas prep, but we are overwhelmed by the rush of summer and new farm animals and building infrastructure and other elements of off grid life.

In fact, I’d say this month has been one of the hardest since going off grid. The work has just felt absolutely relentless. Our new animals have been escaping, and we’ve put in a new bit of driveway so people can more easily visit (Tim borrowed a digger), as well as trying to put together the fanciest AirBNB yurt ever.

I had also set myself the challenge of Nanowrimo – a first draft of a novel in one month. In a way writing my 50,000 words late at night and in stolen corners of the day meant I had something to look forward to each day, but it also put on a lot of unnecessary pressure! When I look back on this last stressful month I’m like – why in the blazes did I keep doing nanowrimo?!?!?!?!?! The truth is, it felt important to me, to prioritise something that I get a lot out of. Does that make sense? Sometimes self-care looks like going to bed at 10pm and getting enough sleep and sometimes it means googling “how to write fiction” at 1am.

One of the factors has been how we accidentally ended up with a million more farm animals this month. It is all exactly the right thing for our farm, and it has all worked out in a totally serendipitous way. But it has been SO FULL ON. Watch our new video to meet these mysterious, slightly scary, creatures. Also Ramona’s first bash at beekeeping:

(This video was filmed on our first day with the animals, I am used to them now and we are on far better terms…eeep!)

It’s always funny approaching Christmas being a Brit in NZ.

Last Christmas we stayed on the farm and had our own little meal. We had no oven so we built a campfire and cooked a roast chicken in a cauldron. It was nice. And smokey. Ha.

This year we are having all of Tim’s family over for Christmas. And we are also ovenless- that’s because our yurt oven is woodfired which we shut down over summer; if we were to stoke it up our yurt would become a sauna. So we will build a spit for a lamb. We will camp and swim and have barbecues and salads. Salads for Christmas lunch! I’m serious. Bringing you the hard truth, right here, my friends.

Home away from home 😆

A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on

It is beautiful, having time together under the sun, swimming in the river and going on long evening walks. But, do you know what? Christmas is when I miss London the absolute most. I never feel properly festive here. I decorate the yurt like I think it’s the Christmas window display at Fortnum and Masons. (It would be really beautiful apart from that anything with a face – the nativity set, angels, Santa tree decorations etc- gets spirited away in carrier bags to different parts of the farm as playthings.)

I listen to ALL THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC. All day.

We do all the little advent rituals. (Some of them taken from Sacraparental’s epic list of advent ideas.)We are into our fourth year with our homemade pocket advent calendar, the girls are SO excited about seeing what is in every pocket. I have to do it each night otherwise they would have opened all 25 on the first day. I’ve only forgotten to put the thing in once… or twice. Ay ay ay, it is only the seventh of December!!! This morning they got little Santa candles in their advent pockets (stretching the concept of advent a bit, whatever) which they really enjoyed until Santa’s head melted completely away and Juno cried.

Despite all this I never really feel that buzz of December, that feeling that even though it is sludgy and dark and my nose and toes are constantly cold, there is this magical day coming up, this glimmer of shining hope to look forward to.Pocket Advent Calendar

It’s also when I miss my family the most. Christmas with my family is always so, so, so random. All the family and then several friends of friends, or neighbour’s cousins, or complete strangers. One year we met someone at the Christmas Ever service and she was going to be in London on her own the next day, so instead she came to us for Christmas. She went on to become a really cool friend. Hehe.

I try really hard to not get sentimental about being in NZ when all of my family is in London, but I really wish I could be with my folks and my sister and my nephews and niece at a cute little German market wearing wooly hats and eating churros that cost ten pounds.Off grid christmas in the summer

Luckily the swimming and the camping and the roadtrips balance out the homesickness a tiny bit.

What are you up to this Christmas? Are you feeling okay? Have you seen Mel’s 5 permissions, to help you look after yourself a bit? Have you seen my alternative, non-toy gift ideas for kids?

Hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, life isn’t biting you on the bum… x x


20 Ways to a Better Bedtime

29 November, 2016

There is a huge amount of myth and mysticism surrounding bedtime and children’s sleep. For eight long months I kept up a rigid set of bedtime routines with my first daughter Ramona based on other people’s opinions dressed up as sleep science. They were depressing and anxious times. Then I had a set of revelations – mostly involving the idea that it is actually not my job to make my children sleep. (Read more about the changes in my approach that led to happier sleep for my daughter.)

From a pretty cursory look this morning it seems as if an enormous amount of the information we have on children’s bedtime is based on studies done with people who are experiencing serious sleep disorders. This is pretty sad news for our children. It is a mistake to take tips on life from those experiencing the very sharp edge of it.

An example of this is the idea that if we get bedtime wrong, ie, wait until the child is sleepy, this will then make them overtired, which will then release cortisol into their system, making it impossible for them to go to sleep.

Is this fact or myth? I know that sometimes my older child does seem to get a bit wired before bedtime, and then takes a while to go to sleep. It may happen a couple of times a month. I could interpret this as us “failing” because we let her choose her own bedtime. Or I could just see it as part of her learning about her body, her body’s cues and her body’s response.

Many children around the world are given freedom around their bedtime and they get it right, for themselves, 90% of the time. Recognising their sleepiness and asking to go to bed. They do not head into cortisol zone (as even the most gentle of parenting advocates suggest they will).

If we are so concerned about the release of stress hormones at bedtime, why isn’t there more talk of making bedtime a pleasant, connecting time, when children can trust that their parents will continue to meet their needs? As opposed to suggesting that once in their bed there shall be no play, no talk, no more drinks or food (basic needs!) – all of this could release cortisol and adrenalin, every single night. (I love Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s work most of the time, but beleive she has disregarded the importance of child rights in the home in these articles on sleep.)

What if the “playing up” so commonly spoken of at bedtime is because our children are not tired enough for bed? Or because they feel worked up because they are heading into the one time in the day where their parent’s stop meeting their needs? Where their fears are not validated, their worries not given chance to be worked out?

What is our aim at bedtime? To make sure our child gets enough sleep? Or to stay connected to our child, to nurture our relationship with them?

In an ideal world it would be both, of course. If any part of your bedtime routine is causing a disconnect with your child, then it needs to be tackled. And I see so often, in conversation, in magazine articles, in gentle parenting forums, that bedtime is always a battle of wills.

This post absolutely isn’t about making anyone feel guilty, and there’s absolutely no judgement. I recognise that everybody’s bedtime is different and each family has unique needs that i could never possibly understand. This is no “my way is the way” kind of post! I Twenty Ideas for a better bedtime

I simply want to advocate that bedtime becomes a place of connection, rather than power struggles.

As I tried to pull my thoughts together about children’s sleep I realised that bedtime is one area where we don’t trust our instincts. We don’t apply the same respectful or gentle principles to bedtime as we do to the rest of the day/ our child’s behaviour.

I guess that is because we are afraid. We’ve heard so much about the cortisol and overtired thing. We’ve heard that all childhood problems come down to a lack of sleep (or screentime! Hehe.) and that not getting bedtime right leads to a life long set of troubles.

Considering there are *so* many sleep issues with my generation, and the older generations, who likely had VERY strict boundaries around bedtime, I think this is a load of BS.

Now I don’t have the answers. We live in an unschooling bubble where our kids can fully yield to their own natural sleep rhythms because we don’t have a schedule to stick to. In many ways this counts me out of having advice for all parents!


This way may not work for you, I totally get that!

But I do want to start a conversation on it, where people from a range of situations can ask themselves, and answer (here, in the comments, if you can) these questions. These are four questions that I beleive if they were asked by parents and parenting gurus, would help make bedtime better for children:

What does bedtime look like for children where:
1- keeping the connection between parent and child is an utmost priority
2- letting our children tune in to their body’s needs and respond to it is a priority
3- a child’s rights are observed (i.e – not coerced to do something with their body that they don’t want to do)
4- a child’s needs are met (i.e – they aren’t forced to go without connection, to face fears of the dark alone, forced to forgo food and drink)

I’m going to share my ideas on that, in the hope that you will share yours, particularly if you come from a very different place.

So what does it look like? I think there is a lot of talking and playing in the hour before sleep. It is one of the key moments in the day, an hour where children get to process the days events and get to connect with mum and dad / mum/ mum and mum/ dad and dad (you get me.) There is plenty of discussion around a child’s feelings of tiredness and the parent’s opinion of how much sleep they need. The child gets to taste the freedom of choosing a later bedtime, and possibly suffering the consequences – say having to get up when they are not ready. They are encouraged to do something nice in their bed, so they want to be there rather than forced to be there, such as audio books. They have supper before bed and a water bottle by their bed. Their parent stays with them, reading a novel or listening to podcasts until they feel safe.

Those are some ideas of mine. Dashed out as a quick response to my questions. (Our own home is actually far more liberal than this. We tend to all rock into bed within an hour of each other, quite late, my husband is out like a light and Ramona pokes him awake to keep reading her story and I breastfeed Juno and then I read for another couple of hours. And, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bed of roses. Sometimes we have grumpy evenings but by and large it is a time of connection.)

I would love to hear your ideas. I beleive we can carve out a new vision of bedtime for our children.

I do actually want to be helpful though, rather than giving a list of questions! So here are some of the ways I think we can build a better sleep environment at bedtime.

Many of these are based on the idea that, rather than bedtime needing to be a somber affair, laughter and active play are actually vital for helping a child move through the day’s anxiety. What if daddy’s instinct to wrestle with the kids on the bed before storytime is actually a sound one? There is evidence to suggest it is really important.

Processing anxiety before bedtime through play
Roughhousing or wrestling on the bed is a great way of helping kids work through feelings of powerless leftover from the day. (Can’t recommend the book The Art of Roughhousing enough!)
A game of freeplay, where your children direct who you are, what your role is, what happens. Just go with the flow and observe what they might be trying to work through. This is another way that children process what has gone on for them. (Read more about this in the book Playful Parenting.)

Processing anxiety before bedtime through talking
Have a sharing circle. Light a candle and each family member answers the questions
What was your worst part of the day?
Favourite part of the day?
Something you are thankful for.

Play something one to one – in my experience my six year old opens up far more when we are playing something together, either a card game or one of her ipad games.

Meditation at bedtime

One beautiful way Ramona and I have discovered is using a meditation. It was suggested by Tim’s Uncle and Ramona loves it. She lies down and closes here eyes. I describe a butterfly landing on her nose and waiting there a while, and then it moved onto all the different points of her body and each time it lands she feels warmth and joy and heaviness spread through. We go real slow, with big pauses, and by the time I am at her toes her whole body has sunk in to the mattress and she is fast asleep.

If you aren’t confident to lead a meditation yourself check out the many available online.

Unpacking the day rituals

We all know the bedtime stories and the bedtime bath and they are great for some kids. But other’s might enjoy something more hands on, or something different from day to day.

We try and keep up a nature table for each of the seasons. How about placing the treasures you’ve found from the day onto the table and talking about how they make you feel? (We would do this if we were more on to it!)

How about using some worry dolls together? To pass on to each tiny figure some of the problems of the day?

Creative rituals for bedtime

One reason I enjoy my children’s later bedtimes (between 8:30 – 9:45pm) is because there seems to be some sort of magical creative zone that happens after dinner. They begin crafting up and making these wonderful worlds with their colouring pens or lego or whatever. Something feels different about it.

Sing songs together – ask the kids to make up the lyrics

Work on a watercolour painting together

Make some paper dolls and treat them like worry dolls, ask the kids to colour or draw in each of their worries on a doll.

A lovely way for children to transition to sleep is using music. You possibly already have a cd that gets them sleepy – utilise it! Or have a look for some music especially made to help children relax. (Ideas welcome, please!)

Dream Talk Bedtime
I used to absolutely hate going to bed. I’m sure it is because my natural rhythm is a late one. My ideal sleeping hours are 11pm to 8am. And I think even when I was a kid I was a night owl. But my favourite bedtime was the one where my mum used to lay with me and describe the dreams I could have. She’d depict me doing something awesome, like going to the funfair, and I would go to sleep with these images in my mind.

Letting go of the bad parts of the evening/ bedtime
Kid’s don’t need a daily bath. My children love them so it’s all good. But so many parents cling to the nightly bath even though their children hate it.
Forget the homework. If it is making a kid anxious don’t force it. There is an emerging body of evidence against it.
Sometimes bedtime has become such a battle of wills that even just starting the bedtime routine causes a kid to be thrown into anxiety. Press the rest button. Go for a long walk together in the evening and then come back and do one of the above little rituals.

Making sure the body gets what it needs at bedtime
Magnesium helps us sleep. That’s pretty much a fact. Do your kids have enough of it? Take either through food, an epsom salts bath or a supplement.
It’s also suggested that a spoon of honey helps us sleep. The jury is more out on that one, but why not? So much other good shizz in a spoon of honey too!
Even wackier is the idea of banana water. Ha. Hard to write that without a little giggle, but *so* many people reckon that boiling a banana and drinking the potassium and magnesium filled tea helps you drop like a stone.

As ever would LOVE to hear your suggestions for alternative ways to make bedtime easier. I will add them in to the post so it can become a truly helpful resource.