Search results for

nappy free

Nappyfree

7 Elimination Communication Tips you need for your nappy free baby!

1 May, 2012

Here’s a little story and seven elimination communication tips

I have had a couple of interesting emails this week. The first came from a close relative who was just expressing some gratitude for getting her started with Elimination Communication (EC or Nappy Free for something that sounds less Willy Wonkery.) I didn’t mean to get her started, it is just that one time a few months ago I heard her little 4 month old lad do huge trump. Knowing it was approaching the time he normally filled his pants, I whipped of his nappy and he proceeded to do two wees and an implausibly large dump.

Now, I am well aware this makes me seem AWFUL! Imposing my parenting way onto another. I swear, I have only done it a couple of times, once to my nephew and once to my neice, both times when their mothers weren’t around, and I would never do it to YOUR baby.

Yeah, it still makes me sound awful, eh. I’m sorry.

Anyway, while he was taking his dump, his mama came in. It was, er, a little awkward.

But she emailed this week, saying how since then he has done all of his poos in the potty – THREE A DAY!!- and it has changed their lives. He used to really struggle, poor chap, and turns out  The  Hold helps it all along.

HURRAH!

Then on the other hand, the second email. It was a friend also doing EC. Her 13 month old has turned Anti-Potty. It is a common low in this rollercoaster of EC and I really felt some of her disappointment. Those two emails really encapsulate the good and bad of Nappy Free, I reckon.

We began when Ramona was 3 months old, primarily out of curiosity but partly because I felt there must be something in it. Within days we discovered there was and we quickly hit a rhythm, catching 80% of her shizzle.

With every month that passes it is becoming less unusual that Ramona is Nappy Free. Sitting a baby on the potty at three months is ridiculous by almost everyone’s standard, sitting a toddler on the potty is pretty normal. This is a nice feeling – it is hard feeling as if you have to constantly explain yourself, particularly when people can be really quite hostile about it (for example, people “explaining” that it is physiologically impossible for babies to hold their wees in – if this is the case, how comes Ramona has held her wees since she was about 6 months?)

But with her growing up there also comes a sense that perhaps we should be further along the “potty trained” journey by now- since we have been doing it for 15 months!! Of course, it isn’t training. It is communication. And in the communication stakes we are doing superbly- oh yes. She ALWAYS tells us as she is doing a wee, even if it IS on the new carpet.

There is something brilliant about Ramona saying “POO”, walking up to the potty, sitting down and doing her business. She has been doing that since she was about 15 months old, it blew our minds the first time, and even now gives us a huge smile to see the communication effort paying off. Other signs she needs to go include grabbing her bum, patting the potty, looking very serious indeed, and pausing. (Yeah, she really doesn’t pause for any other reason!) In fact, there is a particuarly style of Serious Pause which usually means she already has a turtlehead.

With this big leap in communication comes a tiny bit of disappointment too, when it doesn’t go to plan. Until now it has been quite easy to be breezy about the misses, but now, because we know she can communicate  effectively and even sit her self down on the potty, it is a challenge not to let manipulative language in, or show signs of frustration. The last thing we want is hang ups over taking a dump.

We have by no means nailed this but still I thought this would be a nice opportunity to share…

Elimination Communication Tips:

1- The Baby Bjorn Potty Chair – when Ramona was tiny we had a little Baby Bjorn Potty, it was gorgeous but fell out of my bag on to some train tracks when we were going camping last summer. To replace it I got the BB potty chair, for £1 from Ebay. It is MAHUSIVE and I was gutted at first. But, because it is so sturdy, it means she can climb on and off and has been brilliant in fostering some independence about it all

2- Keeping the potty in the same, visible place everyday, so Ramona knows exactly where to find it.

3- The Born Ready website– a totally honest, warm community of people doing Nappy Free with their little ones. It has been such an encouragement. Also the lively Facebook group found by searching EC UK.

4- Keeping on communicating. When she has a miss we routinely say “OH! It’s a wee, wee wee goes in the potty!” and then sitting her on the potty for a little bit. We hold back any negativity. It is lovely when she grabs a rag too, and helps clean up her pee.

5- Putting nappies on. This is controversial as some wonderful ECers suggest not to. But putting nappies on every so often when we REALLY don’t want a puddle has helped us to relax and being relaxed is probably one of the most important attributes in all of this.  Little ones pick up our cues so perfectly.

6- Commitment to noises like PSST. It is remarkable how doing the PSST cue encourages Ramona to take a whizz. If she is a bit distracted doing PSST just seems to help her release her bladder.

7- High entertainment. There are certain times of the day that sitting on the potty is obviously just the perfect activity – namely upon waking. However sometimes she is so into her playing it just seems mean to interrupt. Instead we incorporate potty time- putting the potty in front of the Superhero Base (otherwise known as the Dolls House) or getting out all the best books. (I am editing this a few years later and I am not sure about this tip! I actually think that a child’s autonomy should let them do what they want with their bodies and if they don’t want to sit on the potty we shouldn’t try and manipulate that.)

Elimination Communication Tips

Ramona finding a tree to wee by

I have earlier on this blog suggested that elimination communication isn’t necessarily for everyone. But I think I might backtrack now. Not because I think  parents need anymore pressure put on them – to add cleaning up rogue wees and chasing nakey crawlers around the lounge, or any more burdens of “Eek, I should be doing this” to shoulder.

But because I think a form of elimination communication is accessible to every parent and will often times even EASE the strain of parenting. It is simply a case of adding in a bit more talk when you observe them doing their business – expressing from a tiny age exactly what is going on with their bodily functions, or, if you see your baby pushing out a wee turd, whipping of the nappy, holding them over a loo. A tiny wipe and clean up is done, nappy saved. For some babies, like the little guy mentioned earlier, getting help with the elimination could eliminate a whole lot of angst.

It seems such a shame that Nappy Free is seen as going all out- when it is essentially just about communication, something every parent is already doing.

Are you doing normal potty training, or a form of elimination communication? Have you found anything particularly ace/ hard?

PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!

PIN FOR LATER:elimination communication tips

Nappyfree, Parenting

Potty training from birth?! Our nappy-free newborn

13 April, 2017

Updated! Here is a video all about why we chose the Nappy-Free Newborn route.

And here is my original post – written two weeks after Juno was born.

Our little Juno has been on the outside for almost two weeks and what a magnificent little poppet she is. She stoically snoozes through Ramona’s loving cuddles and smooches and gives us smiles (WHATEVER! NEWBORNS DO SMILE!) and makes the cutest little sleep growls.

Breastfeeding has been a breeze until the last couple of days – suddenly I am dealing with MASSIVE oversupply meaning Juno veers from being like a deliriously happy drunk to acting like she has dined on razor blades- until that huge burp makes an appearance. It has actually made for a few stressful nursing times, which has knocked me for six a bit. Being more diligent with positioning and just waiting for my milk to regulate should fix it.

Ramona meanwhile, is being a total star about the big change, continuing to be a complete hoot (she has taken to using my languishing breastpads like a mobile phone, chattering away to her friends. I mean, really, how much more comfy for your ear? Mobile phone creators could take some inspiration from this, I tell you) and taking it all in her stride.

One thing we are doing quite differently with Juno compared to Ramona’s early days is Elimination Communication- this is the idea that babies are born ready to communicate about when they need to go to the toilet. We did do this with Ramona (read all about that here) but began when she was around 12 weeks old. Doing it with a newborn is BONKERS!Potty training from birth?! Nappyfree newborn

Nappy-free newborn: the first addictive catch
Juno had only been out of the womb for a few hours, we were all tucked up in bed, but she was a little unsettled and wouldn’t latch on properly. I suggested we might hold her over the potty and Tim duly did so. Out burst a joyous wee, glowing with freedom, and Juno instantly shut her eyes and nodded off. Tim and I just looked at each other in flabbergastedment and cracked the heck up.

We are by no means catching everything, maybe only 60% of poos and wees, but it is an incredibly helpful parenting tool for newborns. So, SO, often – even more pronounced at night- Juno will be grunting and squiriming and complaining, a little hold over the pot soon sees her releasing all that caramelly poop and she will immediately be happier. It really seems as if at least a third of her cries are to do with the sensation of needing to go. The experience is convincing me that newborns come out with the ability to tell us about three needs- tiredness, hunger, and elimination. I think “The Hold” (see pictures!) is really comfortable for them- often Juno will just begin a nap inbetween her poo and wee- and allows them to really empty their system.

Nappy-free Newborn Practicalities
We tend to sit her on a cloth nappy, tucked in the sling, or on my lap, and then we chuck them in the wash if she does her business on there. We still get alot of stealthy wees and poos so are easily going through the same amount of washes (10 nappies a dayish) compared to normal cloth nappying, so we are yet to see any laundry benefits from EC (that comes a bit later.) We have cartons and bowls and potties tucked around the house so that we can whip one under Juno if we sense a Number coming on. It doesn’t feel like more work than normal nappy changing, and I feel it is really helping Juno’s comfort levels.elimination communication with a newborn baby

Ramona is a big help- when Juno is wriggling she’ll ask her “Ooh, do you need to do a Number, Juno?” and while we hold her over the potty Ramona will sing the “Come on poo” song (What, you don’t have a poo song?!) and will even empty it down the toilet for us.

So, there you go – elimination communication with a new born baby! In some ways a typical two weeks in the life of a newborn; milk, sleep, poos and wees, and in other ways, well, just a little bit mindboggling!

PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!
Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips

Pin for later:
elimination communication with a newborn baby

Nappyfree

Elimination Communication at 3 months old: Nappyfree Bliss

9 August, 2013

This is our second nappy free baby  – here is an update of elimination communication at three months old!

I was trying to nurse Juno in bed, it felt a little bit too early to wake fully so I was hoping to keep her asleep. She was having none of it, popping on and off, shouting, wriggling her body. “Ohhh, I know” – even after 3 months of doing this with her it can still take me a few moments to respond. I sat up, grabbed the potty and held her over it. There was an instant explosion and she released a whole night of breastmilk. Her tiny (okay, enormously plump) body immediately lost all its tension, she breathed a content sigh and we snuggled back down.

We have reached that blissful period of an Elimination Communication journey, the stage where you can’t believe more parents don’t do this! Juno has a bit more of a rhythm to her life, is sleeping a lot less (so doing less dream wees) and it feels like we are incredibly in sync, catching 75% of wees and poos. We found this with Ramona too – between the ages of 3 and 6 months we were considering just putting her in pants, as if she was almost potty trained.
20130809-120735.jpg
At this stage babies are communicating perfectly; fussing at the breast, grunting, crying out. They are as yet not distracted by the need to try and crawl/ walk/ run/ jump/ play. And they are still very much in arms, so the parents are able to pick up on the more subtle cues (like farts!)

Doing nappyfree a second time round, I guess like almost all the aspects of parenting, is SO much easier. Primarily because I think I am a lot less bound up in it emotionally. With Ramona I felt quite engaged with how well we were doing – if we had a really in sync day I felt awesome, but felt equally bad if we had loads of misses. This time round I feel tons more relaxed about it, not judging myself or our days on how “successful” our EC has been. My expectations are probably more accurate too. Some days EC won’t have ANY effect on how much laundry you have to do. EC is not a linear thing- it doesn’t get increasingly better until they are independent. It just goes up and down month by month and then, Oh! You realise you don’t miss anymore. And then, you say it outloud and they have a great big accident in front of everyone. It’s the way. elimination communication at three months old
So, I know this stage won’t last. Once Juno gets crawling she’ll have too much on her mind to communicate every little wee she has to do. But for the mean time I am reminded, without a shadow of a doubt, that babies are born ready. That they are able, from the youngest age to communicate with you about their EVERY need, even their elimination ones.

Nice one, babies! *high fives Juno*

Read more about Elimination Communication right here:

PS Read all my post on elimination communication:

Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!

PIN FOR LATER:

elimination communication at three months old

Attachment parenting, Nappyfree, Parenting

Elimination communication with a one year old: the highs and lows of a nappyfree baby

23 November, 2011

Elimination communication with a one year old!

Oh me, oh my. I just wandered into the spare bedroom to find Ramona sitting on the bed with poo smudged around her, a huge turd sitting atop the box she used to climb up.

Now seems to be the perfect moment for a 9 month summary of Elimination Communication (EC). The highs. The lows.

Clearly, crap on the bed is a low.

Three wee’s on the floor in the lounge within the first day of having new carpet put in. Also a low.

A wee on my lap on the bus. Hmmm, probably a low. A poo in her trousers in the park. I’d go a low.

As you can see being on a nappy free journey with a tiny tot isn’t a ride free of bumps, we get quite a few bumps. But there are some great, even exhilirating, times too.

When we go a whole day with everything in the potty. When she points to the toilet when she needs to go or when she grabs her baby girl bits before she needs to go. It is nice not having to clear smeary nappy poo up each day. Even clearing it up from a bed or other non-loo (these misses happen around once a month)  seems to be less work than changing a nappy (Pick up sheet, bung in washing machine). And even though we have some tricky times (most commonly if she is teething, as if she looses sense of her bowel movements- that is when we get rogue poos) they really seem just a minor part in the whole scheme of it. And if those lows I mentioned above happened more commonly than once a month I think I would struggle! But keeping her in touch with her bodily functions from babyhood through EC  just seems kind of natural to me.

I appreciate it is not for everyone though, certainly not for the faint hearted. You have to have a certain un-fazed-ness to whip your babies trousers down in public to give her a wee opportunity in a bush, or to laugh off a sneaky public shart in the trousers.  And doing it with more than one child on the scene would be a bit of a challenge, although one I think we’ll probably have a bash at, as millions of big families manage in this way in other places.

I guess, back in the day, or in the villages of rural China, adults would all be keeping an eye on the whipper snappers, not leaving it just for Mum to watch out for baby’s toilet need signalling. The other day we were all up in London at the Occupy protest having a big fun family day- Tim and I were caught up doing games with some of the big kids. My mum was there and spotted Ramona’s “wee face”- and took her outside for a successful tree pee. It made me think how much our small, isolated lives make this kind of natural parenting a lot trickier. The more we head along this journey the more I realise how lives have moved on from that tribal parenting, and how lifethese days is just set up harder to do these kinds of things with your baby.

So there we go. Nakey bum at one, a short review. NOT a “Woohoo!! Everyone should do this!!!” parenting post. In fact, it probably made some of you vomit in your mouth a little. Sorry about that.

PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!

Nappyfree, Parenting

Elimination communication is stress free potty training

23 April, 2015

Let me bend your ear for a few hundred words about how Elimination Communication sounds quite fierce but is truly one of the most gentle potty training methods out there.

We have done elimination communication for over five years now and this week something momentous happened. I packed up our cloth nappies and gave them away. Oh, how I relished that. I was like “LATER LOSERS!” Actually, I hope never to clap mine eyes on them ever again. I don’t hate our cloth nappies, in fact they have been IDEAL for what we have done with our little ones…. but they seem to be everywhere I look at all times, in the laundry, on the line, in piles. And we barely use them at all! The reason is that we have opted for no nappies, most of the time.

I also experienced that special sigh of relief reserved for parents whose child has become toilet trained. This realisation has come slowly over the last couple of months.Just last week my husband said “Hey, Juno’s pretty much potty trained now, eh?”  Ah. Yes, yes, she is. In fact, we were along time noticing properly (or wanting to say the words aloud) sine around 21 months she was getting her wees and poos on target the majority of the time.

See, we have been practicing the most gentle, stress-free, quiet way to potty train ever: Nappy Free – ness. Hmm. Nappy Free -dom. Or just… Nappy- Free babies. It truly is attachment parenting potty training, beginning from newborn, if you like. Read our new born elimination communication story here and our three month old baby elimination communication story here. Elimination communication is stress free potty training!

I don’t even really know what you mean by Nappy-Free. It sounds kinda dangerous
If you think “Nappy-free” sounds dangerous try “elimination communication” HA! That sounds like we are raising talkative assassins. The best term for this kind of potty-training is “Born Ready” – I love it as it captures the fundamental belief that no living thing wants to lay a cable on themselves.

We witnessed this first hand when we tried to save a baby bird, fallen from the tree. It was a tiny, weeny speck of a thing, but even so after it had munched on a quarter of a teaspoon’s glob of food it would shuffle over, put its butt over the edge of the nest we had made for it, and squirt out a Number Two. Our children are born communicating with us about all of their needs- their need for touch, food, and their need to release their bladder. They will shuffle and squirm and squark, and if we respond they continue to communicate about it long after you’ve packed up the cloth nappies- until they are grown ups! (If they are anything like me, that is, for I do love a good poo story.)

How is Nappy Free gentle potty training?
People who practice Nappy Free just accept that regular visits to the loo/ holds over the potty are a part of everyday life. There is no song or dance to be made of it. It is something as common as drinking or eating. There are no bribes or reward charts, no punishments for accidents or shaming. This shaming thing is something I see all the time (no judgement, I know it can be frustrating when our children pee their pants and you’ve run out of spares and it was in a neighbour’s house and it was already a rubbish day) – an almost accepted part of teaching our children that weeing in their pants isn’t acceptable. Mu understanding of the culture within Nappy Free families is an unconditional style of parenting – no shame allowed, ever. Nappy Free families just do trips to the loo when it seems needed and don’t make a fuss when the wires of communication are a bit tangled and a poo ends up in a shoe. Families take it at the child’s own pace, listening to them and helping them until they are ready to be entirely toilet-independant.

It could be more respectful
Elimination communication is stress free, gentle potty training however I think it could be even even more respectful. It is common practice with Nappy-Free world to simply feel “in tune” with a baby and whip off their pants and urge them on if we are sure they need to go. I don’t think this is right. I think we need to potty our children with the utmost care and respectful touch and we need to allow a lot more space for consent. I think Nappy Free families could aim to always ask their babies, even newborns, if we can help them go, and if they clearly show they don’t want to we should leave them be- even if that ends up as wet pants. We need to prioritise them receiving the knowledge that they, not us, are the boss’s of their own body.

Is Nappy Free for everyone?
I’m not in the business of telling people what to do. I like to share stories of what we do but I believe each family needs to weigh things up and consider their family’s own delicate dance of needs and then decide! I do think there are principles of nappy free that will make for a much, much less stressful potty training for everyone. Things such as acknowledging when a baby is clearly doing a number – keep up the communication, respectfully. Don’t let them forget what it feels like to relieve themselves.  (It seems to be the case that children can lose the sensation.)  Give children a go when it seems like they want to but need some help. Model toilet use. Be child led. Avoid forcing and coercive tactics.

Take it off
But how does one begin such a thing! You know what they say: a journey of a thousand poos begins with one poo. Begin that journey today! It can begin with Day 1 for a newborn or with toddlers even. I have written a whole post on how to get started with elimination communication, but here are a few tips:

  • Give your baby a go on the loo whenever you go. You modelling toilet use is the number one way they’ll pick it up!
  • This also makes a bit of a regular rhythm, and you will soon pick up their rhythm.
  • Create little points in the day that they can become used to going – before meals, after meals, before the car, after the car, before the buggy/wrap one getting out of the buggy/wrap.
  • Create a little sign that you begin doing whenever you talk about the potty.
  • Have potties lying around the house – sometimes the sign is them patting or going to the potty.
  • Thumbs up for “tree wees” – it is my experience that it is very natural for kids to wee outside. It might feel like an accident, but they might have gone outside just to wee!
  • Don’t get too into it. Hehe. Just relax. You’ll have heaps of us and downs, really awesome in-sync days and them days where teething pain interrupts the brain-bladder signalling and, well, you know: wee. Spend loads of time outside where misses don’t count.
  • Put nappies on if it helps you relax in between. We always had nappies on hand for when we were at someone elses house as we dodn’t want to be super stressing about getting wee on someone elses carpet. You’d think this would make for mix messages but it didn’t seem to. Both our girls were fine with or without nappies.

Do check out my friend Jenn’s new online classes, of Born Ready. The Born Ready website was basically my homepage when I first got into this!  She is the absolute GURU of nappy free and offers loads and loads of advice.  She also sells flaparaps– the perfect nappy/pants inbetweener for babies.

Real Nappies and Nappy-Free are mates
It is Real Nappy week this week and I wanted to take a moment to encourage all the cloth-bummed baby mammas and pappas to consider this gentle form of potty training. I know you, you and your gorgeous stash of nappy covers in every crazy pattern, your ever-so-slight addiction to animal print cloth nappies. Real Nappy lovers and Nappy-free lovers are cut from the same cloth – we care for our babies bums and our earth. And we are not afraid of poo.

Go for it, go on. Take it off and liberate your baby’s butt! Nappy Free = Stress Free Potty Training.

PS Read all my posts on elimination communication:

Beginning Elimination Communication
Ten signs your baby needs to go to the toilet
Elimination Communication with a newborn baby
Elimination communication at three months old
Elimination Communication at one – the highs and lows
Elimination communication at one –  (a poo in a shoe!)
Elimination Communication at 17 months old plus seven elimination communication tips
Elimination Communication is stress free potty training!

Family Travel, writing, yurt life

How to travel Europe with your family

18 May, 2015

So, you want to travel Europe with your family? Perhaps in a campervan? Or camping?

Good luck with that!

Hahaha. Oooh, I jest, I jest.

Two years ago we sold our house in London, and most of our possessions. We packed up our troubles in an old kitbag, and hooned off in a cool little VW campervan called Betty, to bury them beneath the sea. (Ideally the Adriatic sea… off the coast of Croatia.) After an agonising wait for our baby’s first passport and other hiccups, we were finally on the road. The woes of being very unorganised people. How we get through every day, let alone go on epic adventures, is QUITE a mystery.

These days we live in a yurt in New Zealand, where I write and we farm and go on adventures. For more inspiration about helping your family connect with their wild side please check out my little (*ahem* bestselling) book of daily readings, 30 Days of Rewilding.

I can hand on heart say that those months travelling around Europe with my husband, a three year old called Ramona and a baby called Juno held some of the most special, universe-exploding-with-joy moments I have ever encountered in my thirty years.Family Travel Camping Europe

(It also induced several poke-my-eyes-out-with-my-toothbrush moments of stress and agony too, but more about that later. Some troubles just won’t be buried.)

Our adventure sent us through France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Spain…. ending up in a flight to New Zealand to begin a different sort of life as farmers. (Yeah, weird eh. We actually bought a cow yesterday. I don’t so much do the farming as writing about it and eating the food that grows.)

I have been writing this post in my head since the day that trip ended. I wanted to put together something really useful, to help people take this dream of travelling around Europe with their family, and make it a reality. So this is pretty long, and pretty comprehensive. Here are practical tips, links to much more detail, websites we relied on, and our ultimate trip highlights.How to plan a family adventure around europe

So, you want to travel Europe with your family? This is for you.

Things you will need to travel Europe:

Money.
(yeah, I know. duh.) It says a lot that the cost of our first night camping in our campervan on our Great Journey blew our brains. £25! We tossed and turned all night wondering how one earth we were going to manage £25 everyday for accommodation for 5 months! How little research we did before we left! Laughable really. So, if you are going to camp in campsites, plan in a good wack for accommodation. And have masses of money. For us, we decided to free camp. And that decision led to almost entirely free accommodation for 5 months and lots of adventure.

Time.
We spent our first 3 weeks on a total mish- buzzing from place to place “Having An Adventure, Really, Arent We?!” and almost went insane. Aim to spend lots of time in places, meandering, getting to know little villages and rivers, and it will be a lot more pleasant for all of you! Especially for the children. Family Travel Camping Europe

Loose ethics (1) – wifi at Mcdonalds. We were so surprised that there wasn’t wifi all over Europe. You could get it at £25 a night campsites… but there was none free anywhere else. Apart from Mcdonalds. I had successfully avoided Maccas for two decades before we went to Europe. But when we discovered their free and fast wifi, we were sucked in. With a side order of fries. Once we got to Spain we managed to get our heads around buying a SIM card and having a special short term deal. We genuinely couldn’t work this out in the other places!

Loose ethics (2) – compromising on food ethics/ health. When we are settled we try and eat mostly organic. We found this really hard to do whilst we were travelling. In France they had good, obvious “bio” options, but we struggled to maintain our commitment to that, and also general awesome nutrition, over the five months. It could be done though, with much more effort put in to the food side of things. But we didn’t prioritise it. I do regret this a little, as I think Juno’s dental health was impacted by me mostly eating bread and foraged figs whilst breastfeeding. But I raise it in order to say that there are some things, whilst constantly on the move, that are tricky to work out. And there does need to be a little compromise, I think.

Fearlessness – or exceptional organizational skills. Our courage increased as we went. We became better and better at turning up at place expecting to find somewhere good to sleep. We tried hard to always arrive at a place in the daytime so we could suss everything out well once we were there. Alternatively, you could plan ahead. We are not good planners at the best of times, and when it required so much time in Old Macdonald using up there wifi, we basically stopped planning anything.

An open heart. The absolute best thing about travelling is the random things you end up doing. But you do need to have an open heart for this. I guess if you are planning a trip of this kind, then you have it. Say yes when an old granny offers you some cherries, invite another family on the campsite up to the café for chips, ask locals for the good swimming spots and ALWAYS skinny dip at the Playas Nudista. After taking a punt and asking another family out for dinner they became our fast and firm friends and we met up with them several times over our adventure- we celebrated two birthdays with them.

Suspended hygiene. The truth is, if you are doing a lot of swimming, you don’t need to shower. And if you are free camping, showering and doing laundry and all those things can be a bit tricky. RELISH the freedom of being a bit smelly and read up on all the reasons a bit of bacteria is so good for us. Hehe. Honestly though, we were probably swimming two times a day, for most of the trip. If you are not a big swimming family – you might need to suck it up and stay at camp sites more often. (But do also read this post: Do Children Need a Daily Bath- 8 Reasons To Stop Washing So Much.)

Family Travel Camping EuropeA hobby. Because travelling is best done at a snail’s pace it is really nice to have a little hobby to turn to. Sketching or writing poetry or taking photographs – these can help you see a place through a different lens. And they can pass the hours while your children bury each other endlessly in the sand. I learnt the ukulele while we were travelling around Europe and now I play and sing everyday.

A purpose
Before we left I did a bit of a shout out on my blog, asking for people’s suggestions of where to go. We decided to visit a few projects around the place that people had pointed us towards. Such as the Forest Kindegarten in Germany – read about their knives and stuff, if you like, and the Sunseed Eco Village in Spain (read about the hippy that laid a golden poo there.) We also did as much of the Wild Swimming France book as we could. This just adds a bit of a fun dynamic.

Amazing Insurance/ Breakdown Cover. Because if you have this, you CAN be a little bit fearless. And, you know, you might break down. Really seriously. Twice. *Ahem*Family Travel Camping Europe

Baby Wipes
They can clean ANYTHING! I’m not gonna lie to you, at least 3 times I did a day’s worth of dishes with a few baby wipes.

Audiotapes or mixtapes your friends make you for the journey. We tried to make the journeying quite pleasant, so rarely did more than 100 miles in a day. But you still clock up a lot of time on the road and having stories and new music from our friends was really cool.

Be prepared for:

All the emotions (1) – From your children
For the most part, our children were buzzing out on our own good vibes of freedom and happiness. However, our three year old did express a lot of emotion quite often. Sing goodbye as a ritual (we used to name each of the things we loved in each place, as I strummed away on the Uke) Give lots of time for goodbyes (oh- I have an AMAZING Guide to Helping Children Say Goodbye RIGHT HERE!) Find ways to incorporate your children’s wishes and aims – one of the families we travelled with had a family meeting every morning where everyone said what they wanted to do that day, and everyone’s ideas were respected equally. This could be quite a disempowering time for your little ones, unless you support a better alternative for them.

All the emotions (2) – From you
The highs! The lows! There is something about travelling that rips open your heart. At 4:30pm you’ll be sitting by a river with tears in your eyes because you are JUST SO HAPPY look at our angelic children and my dashing husband we are all perfectly content and we love each other so much! And then, inexplicably at 4:50pm, you’ll be like F*CK THIS SH*T WHAT ARE WE DOING LET’S GO HOME YOU B*STARDS

I think that having a lot of empty time makes you more attuned to your feelings. Emotions that you’ve perhaps tucked away neatly in order to carry out an orderly, systematic breakfast/work/mortgage/ dinner sort of life are suddenly given some space to pop out and yell BOO in your face.

Be prepared for it. And get good at mindfulness. Hehe. True though. We downloaded the app Yoga Studio and it SAVED THE DAY! (Tim and I aren’t naturally yoga-y, although we would like to be, we would rather eat chocolate and read Jack Reacher. But when you have lots of extra time it is quite do-able to fit in some mindfulness practice and did really help us.)

Country Guide
Here is a little whiz around the countries we went to, with particular reference to the camping situ….

France – France introduced us to wildcamping.  Staying by lakes and rivers, also almost every town has a free motorhome car park. We met lots of beautiful people doing this, all very respectful of the spots. France was such a breeze, a really wonderful intro to camping around Europe. In fact, we could easily spend three months in France alone.

Switzerland– the odd bit of free camping and absolute gobsmacking beauty. The stunning buildings and clear lakes and mountains. We fell in love with Bern all over again…. but pushed through quite quickly as everything was so dear and we did feel like we were chancing the free camping a lot. One night we accidentally stayed over in a Graveyard. We arrived in the dark thinking we had found a wonderful peaceful spot and in the morning realised it was a cemetery. OH! We zipped out of their pretty fast. Read more about our campervan bustling around France and Switzerland.

Germany– There was the odd bit of freecamping to be had in Germany, but not in the touristy spots – probably rightly so that the Black Forest should be protected by rangers. We did some cool things here in Germany and it is very easy to travel around with only your one pathetic language under your belt. Bit of a warning though, the German elderly are completely and utterly OBSESSED with your babies being cold. I am talking stopped-in-the-street-on-boiling-hot-days-every-single-day OBSESSED. Be prepared for them waking your baby by squeezing their bare feet and sternly saying KALT!KALT!

Italy – we stayed in campsites in Italy (mostly because we were broken down but also because we heard it was slightly unsafe) And we blew our budget somewhat on the incredible pizzas and pasta – this was absolutely the culinary highlight. It was an absolutely lovely place to be for the children – people literally call across the street “CIAO BELLA!” just to be kind and jolly to the children. If you do Venice- stay at the campsite over the water and get the boat in. Far cheaper and lovely way to do it. Read about how to do Italy and Venice hear. Also, another breakdown story. Eep.

Family Travel Camping Europe

Croatia– Be warned, there is NO FREE CAMPING there. As a result of landmines in the past, they are very strict about not wandering/driving off the beaten path. Croatia was surprisingly expensive, not the tuppence-a-day place people remember it as, and there was a sort of tourist-weariness amongst the people there, they are still quite clearly recovering from a very tragic conflict. It still made it into our highlights, though. (Read on.)

Spain – if a lover of France is a Francophille is a lover of Spain a Spancophille? Sounds totally wrong, if you ask me. But I am now one! The freecamping around Spain was PERFECT. A real community. Read all about campervanning around Spain with your family, and a surboad and a caterpillar here.

Handy Websites to travel Europe with:

There were two sites that we referred to on a weekly basis.
Wildcamping Forum – this was very important to us – so much good advice for travelling around the Uk and Europe in a campervan. Their Spain Forum was so helpful.

Trip Advisor – we had some lovely house-stays in Spain as a result of Trip Advisor. (Courtesy of our breakdown insurance….) If you stay 3+ nights in a place it can be super cheap. We relied on Trip Advisor a lot for restaurants and hotels and ideas for things to do. It has to be one of the most helpful sites for accomodation and activities to travel Europe with.Family Travel Camping Europe

Travel Highlights of Europe:

The national parks in Croatia were incredible, despite being very touristy. Well worth the visit. And the completely astonishing Croatian shoreline, azure ocean and islands. We didn’t really enjoy the vibe there (got to make your own fun, for the most part) or the food available to buy (don’t hate me, I am just being honest) but we loved foraging walnuts and figs all over the country and we fell head over heels with Dubrovnic and Split. In Love. Wouldn’t have missed them for the world. Read about flea markets in Split here.

Seville in December. What a wonderful place! We loved the cafes, the culture, the street art, the late night churros and hot chocolate, the general vibe. In fact- Spain. It is amazing! We LOVED how much they cherish children there, and how involved in all of life. We adooooooored being out on the town at midnight with all the children having fun!

The Black Forest, Germany. We were fortunate enough to make wonderful new friends in Frieberg and perhaps this tinted our time there. But we loved the wildness of the Black Forest, picking millions of tiny wild blueberries on walks to little lakes and buying smoked fish outside the Cathedral and chasing paper boats along the mini waterways.

Wild Swimming and the Children’s Festival in France. Some of the river swimming in the mountainous areas of France is out of this world. Shockingly cold but, injects YEARS of life into the weary bones of parents! We also went to Le Grand Bornand Bonheur des Mômes festival in the Alps –the biggest kids festival in Europe and what an inspiration! So much fun – an acre of wooden train set to build and a whole pasture filled with massive musical instruments made from random recycled rubbish – La Jardin Musicale.

Frequently asked questions about how to travel Europe:

How did the kids cope? Generally, I reckon if parents are happy, than kids are happy. We were all carried along in a spirit of nomadic freedom.  We prioritised their needs, planned travelling around sleeps and tried to park in places that they would thrive in. They LOVED having both parents around and the unstructured time.

What about stuff? We took waaaay too much stuff. Could have chucked half of it.  Pack your bags and then take half of it away! We also didn’t plan places for everything. The other family we roadtripped for a while with had a perfect place for everything. Do this, would you? It will help with the madness. 
Family Travel Camping Europe
What about baby paraphernalia? We didn’t have too much. We cosleep, so that was easy, and just had slings. And we are nappy free so Juno didn’t even have stacks of that. At night time she used to wear a Tena, hehehehehe… we rescued a massive stash of unused adult incontinence pads for the trip….

Argh, recalling everything is giving me a fluttering in my chest, and ants in my pants, and a desire to fling my clothes off and pretend my local seaside is a Playas Nudista.

What about your budget? When I say we were thrifty, I mean we were like, super cheapskate. We freecamped. We cooked almost EVERY MEAL apart from birthdays and special occasions with friends. (Well, apart from completely not resisting Italian carbs and Mcdonalds chips. Wifries.) A ferry trip, cover price to the Alhambra, and entry to Croatian national parks were probably the only activities that weren’t free. We chose walking and swimming and dossing over actual activities. We don’t feel we missed out at all- in my opinion theme parks look the same the world over. We lived on less than we lived on whilst in London, and made do on a mixture of savings and a tiny bit of income from my writing. Petrol and groceries were our two big costs.

Embrace the fear, race your kids along the shore, scrabble over the cliff to a waterfall, dig out your inner nomad and have a family adventure that will set your heart aflutter for a lifetime.

PS I hope that was helpful! If you have any other questions, please ask them in the comments and I imagine I will edit the extra questions and answers into this mahoosive post.Family Travel Camping Europe

And for more inspiration you probably need to download my ebook, 30 Days of Rewilding, The Telegraph called it “a manifesto for life lived in nature” – there is one with your name on it!

Keep in touch with our off grid yurt living here in NZ on my Youtube Channel: