Information, Local Baby Services

Interview with Juliete, from Sing & Sign Ashford

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Juliete Harpur, who runs Ashford’s Sing & Sign classes

  

Juliete first got into Sing & Sign about 5 years ago, when her eldest was just 3 months old. She was interested in getting involved with learning something useful and something that challenged her mind.

She originally set up her business in Belfast, and had a large client base, however due to personal circumstances, she relocated to Ashford with her family, and had to start from scratch. It’s been a tough journey, filled with lots of challenges. I really admire her persistence and determination, and hope to be able to help her build up her client base once again!

Q: Tell me more about Sing & Sign! 
J: Sing & Sign is part of a franchise, and we have groups all over the country. We use sign language to help adults and children (0-2 years old) start their signing journey. We teach signs as well as the associated verbals, and find that this helps babies to develop speech even quicker.

We find that babies can also recognise facial expressions – they can tell when Mummy or Daddy is sad, angry, or happy. For them to be able to connect a facial expression to a sign or a verbal, helps them connect with the world and understand it a bit more.

The important thing, as well, is to get them learning things that are relevant to their age. Our younger babies (up to 6 months) mainly learn signs for nappy change, milk, tickle, body parts.
Most 0-6 month old babies’ worlds is all to do with Mum, Dad, the family unit; then they progress to the outside world.

Q: Some families don’t really get into baby signing until their second or third child – do your classes cater for older children as well, so they can learn to sign with their younger siblings?
J: Absolutely! We usually welcome siblings 3-4 and older, so that Mums aren’t too distracted during class. We find that families learn best together, as a unit, and there are always members that are new to signing (grandparents, siblings, etc.). A lot signs are learnt in class, but then they are practised at home too, and that’s where a lot of it is picked up by the other siblings.
We find that kids learn from kids a lot quicker, because they’ve got a connection in terms of similar interests. So if an older sibling signs, the baby will copy their big sister or brother.
We also find that if a child learnt to sign as a baby, but then stopped signing as their communication developed, they’re still able to remember the signs that have been ‘banked’ in their minds when a younger sibling comes along. All the information they once knew comes to the forefront of their mind quickly and easily, especially the ‘No!’ sign!

Q: How long are the workshops?
J: Each term is 10 weeks, and depending on the needs of the baby, most families attend 1-2 terms per age category.

Q: What’s your funniest/most embarrassing moment?
J: I think the most common is when I accidentally do the wrong sign, and one of my babies corrects me! I think ‘Oh well, at least I’m doing something right! They know the signs well enough to spot a mistake!”

Q: Any other memorable moments?
J: The most heartbreaking bit is watching your babies grow up and move on. The Mums in my classes are pretty good at keeping in touch and keep me updated on their baby’s progress!
One of my proudest moments involved a family that had been involved in a terrible car accident. Their little one girl was only 2, and ended up in hospital, but was able to sign to her parents even though she wasn’t quite sure what was going on.
The classes are fantastic for children with special needs as well. One of my babies started out terrified of the class and other babies, and by the end of term, he was the one holding the basket giving out musical instruments to all the other children!

Juliet’s classes are very popular, and fill up incredibly quickly!
If you are interested in trying it out, get in touch with Juliet and she’ll be able to sign you up for a class!

 

 

Information, Local Baby Services

Interview with Maria, from Kent Cloth Nappy Library

Hi everyone, meet Maria! She runs the Ashford Cloth Nappy Library, which is part of the UK Nappy Network.

  

Maria is a volunteer for the UK Nappy Network, a free service that loans out reusable nappies for families to try out and discover what type of nappies work best for them. She does not sell reusable nappies, but acts as a point of contact for families interested in making the move from disposable nappies. She operates a “try before you buy” scheme, and her kits contain lots of different types of nappies for families to try.

Maria has 12 trial kits available for families to hire, and each kit has 25 nappies.
Short term loans can be as affordable as £10 for 8 weeks, and long term loans are free.

When she first had her little boy, Maria’s decision to use reusable nappies was more for economic reasons, rather than environmental.
The average baby gets through 4,000 disposable nappies by the time they’re potty-trained, costing families £400 a year and creating the equivalent of half a tonne of carbon dioxide.

It was not until later when she started to learn how much more beneficial reusable nappies are for the environment.
Every year, the UK produces 31 million tonnes per year, equivalent to the weight of three and a half million double-decker buses, a queue of which would go around the world two and a half times.
Experts claim disposable nappies take up to 500 years to break down.
It’s estimated that by using cloth nappies for just one child, parents could divert as much as 874kg from landfill and reduce their carbon footprint by up to 40 per cent compared with using disposables.

Some parents might be a bit apprehensive about trying reusable nappies, but Maria is on hand for advice!
She said some of the most common questions she gets is how to wash the nappies, and “don’t you end up with poo in your washing machine?” to which she replies saying that modern day washing machines and detergents are more than capable of washing reusable nappies on a 60° cycle. She adds that most washing machines are periodically put through a cycle wash, and this helps keep the washing machine well maintained.

On a personal level, Maria hopes to work more with food banks and Ashford Borough Council’s VCS & waste management team, as this is where her passion lies.

Since the broadcast of Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet on BBC1, the Cloth Nappy Network has seen a massive surge in waiting lists, and they are always looking for volunteers! So if you’d like to do your bit for our planet, why not give reusable nappies a go?


Programme Name: Blue Planet II – TX: n/a – Episode: n/a (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: Sir David Attenborough – (C) – – Photographer: 

Sources:
https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/jul/04/nappies-which-best-disposables-reusables-cost-ethics
https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a559767/choosing-reusable-nappies
https://www.cbenvironmental.co.uk

 

 

Information, Local Baby Services

Interview with Puddle Ducks, East Kent

A few weeks ago I met some of the Puddle Ducks’ team at a Hello Baby event in Ashford!

After some correspondence with Haidee in the marketing department, I was granted the pleasure of interviewing her boss, Victoria.

Victoria first joined the team in 2013. She started out as a customer, then became a teacher and now runs Puddle Ducks East Kent with her business partner, Caroline.

Puddle Ducks was first started in 2002, and teaches baby, toddler and child swimming lessons, as well as Aquanatal classes for expectant Mums.

Not only do their swimming lessons teach invaluable swimming skills, but they also cover personal survival skills too – as well as lots of games and songs! They are incredibly fun, so much so that children don’t even realise they are learning all the time! 

Q: What age range do you cater for?
We offer swimming lessons from birth, all the way through to children aged up to 10 years old.  We also run Aquanatal classes for expectant Mums. Our classes cover the majority of Kent, and we teach 7 days a week!

Q: What sort of benefits are there to learning to swim from such a young age?
Learning to swim at any age is so important, and water is a natural environment for a baby, as they have spent months in fluid during pregnancy. Babies are born with lots of natural reflexes that, if caught early enough, can really help aid the transition to swimming.
Benefits of swimming extend to outside of classes, too, including social, physical and mental benefits. It’s brilliant exercise and is wonderful for strengthening joints and muscles.

Q: What are some of you funniest/most embarrassing moments?
Our funniest moments often tend to centre around Puddle – our 7 foot tall, bright yellow, duck mascot! He always brings so much joy and laughter to the children, and I love watching children’s faces light up when they meet him!

Q: What is your/Puddle Ducks’ proudest achievement so far?
Although it sounds very cliché, every single day I am so proud! Our swimmers are always reaching new milestones, and the team of people we have are all brilliant!

One of the moments that always comes to my attention, is when one of my swimmers fell into Singleton Lake, in Ashford, when out with her parents one day. She was fully-clothed, something we had practiced in our termly pyjama party weeks, and managed to kick her legs to raise her body to the surface of the water. After, she turned her body and held on to the side of the lake!
In what felt like a lifetime for her parents, this was all completed in a few seconds, and at the time she was only 14 months old! This was an incredible achievement for her, in what could have been a potentially very scary, and tragic, story. When the parents told me at her next lesson, I was so happy that she had remembered the skills we practice all the time in classes. This has always been one of my proudest achievements.

As well as this, we have children as young as 2 years old swimming their 5 metres, beautifully, week after week. Every time this happens, I get very emotional, too!

Q:What are your/Puddle Ducks’ goals for the future?
Our goals will always remain the same; to help babies and children to love swimming, learn to swim beautifully, and respect the water.

Q:If someone was interested in signing up for classes with you, how would they go about it?
You can book in online at www.puddleducks.com or contact our Office directly by calling 01622 236111 or emailing us on eastkent@puddleducks.com

Events, Information, Local Baby Services

Interview with Deborah from Tiny Talk

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Hart of Tiny Talk.

Tiny Talk is a baby signing and toddler talking group which offers classes from birth up to 3 years old. They teach BSL, which is the official sign language deaf people use in the UK. The sessions usually last an hour, and includes half an hour of learning, and half an hour of playtime/social development.

Baby signing helps ease frustration in babies, as it enables to them to communicate their wants and needs to their parents long before their speech develops. It aids speech development, and helps babies develop essential social skills.

Deborah has been working with Tiny Talk for over 7 years, and in that time has recruited 6 other teachers to cover most of Kent. They offer classes in Ashford, Canterbury, Faversham, Whitstable, Medway, Maidstone, Barham, Meopham and Thanet.

Q: How did you first discover Tiny Talk?
Deb: I first discovered baby signing when my son was about 5 months old. I was keen to do something different with him, and I loved the thought of getting my baby brain back into shape by learning a new skill! We made a 60 mile round trip each week to attend our nearest TinyTalk class, and before long Nico was starting to pick up the signs. He first signed back to me at about 9 months, and at his peak used over 70 signs regularly! I really believe it eased the frustrations of being a small toddler; we were able to communicate long before he could talk.

Q: How does signing help babies?
Deb: It follows on from babies being able to do simple gestures such as clapping and pointing, and just adds in additional gestures to help them express their needs and interests, such as ‘milk’, ‘food’ (once they’re on solid food), and ‘bath’. It helps ease frustration and confusion between babies and their parents. There’s a lot of guesswork in those early days, parents don’t know why their baby is crying, so the ability to sign is a real godsend.
Additionally, it helps babies express their interests. Babies love animals, and being able to tell Mummy “I saw a bird in the garden today” or “I hear a dog!” means they can have conversations with their parents before they’re even a year old!
It also helps with speech development. Every time we sign, we say the words as well, so the babies learn to associate the action with the word, and attempt to imitate the sound we’re making when we do the sign.

Q: What are the classes like? 
Deb: We do a different theme each week, such as ‘In the garden’, where babies learn about different animals and the sounds they make.
The classes are around an hour long, we have half an hour of learning time, and half an hour of playtime, where babies learn important social skills, such as waiting their turn for a toy, and sharing with other babies.

Q: Why is Tiny Talk so important to new parents?
Deb: Tiny Talk isn’t just a learning space for baby signing, it’s also a community for new parents. Before having children, you’re generally very secure in who you are, what you do, and what your strengths are. Once you’ve had a baby, life is thrown upside down, and new parents can feel lost after having had a baby, and lose track of who they are.
Tiny Talk helps new parents find themselves again by giving them a new purpose, and helps keep post-natal depression at bay. I love seeing new friendships form, both between babies and the parents that bring them to the classes.

Q: What’s your proudest achievement so far?
Deb: I think my proudest moment is every time I see a baby sign, and seeing that it works! I mean, I know it works, I’ve seen it with my own children, I’ve taught thousands of families over the years, so I know it works; but seeing it each time with a new baby; seeing the wonder in the parents’ eyes that their baby is communicating with them; it helps me relive that moment over and over again.
I love seeing new the new friendships form within the class, and hearing mums plan their jobs around their Tiny Talk classes when they decide to go back to work.
I am so thankful I’m able to give back while earning a living, it’s one of the most rewarding things about this job.

Q: What was your most embarrassing moment?
Deb: Oh, I think it was the usual “calling someone by a different name” whoopsie!

Q: What are your goals for the future?
Deb: We’ve got some exciting stuff happening right now! We’ve just launched our Newborn classes, which are aimed at babies aged 0-3 months.
We’ve launched in Ashford, and will be spreading across the nation, so keep an eye out!
We also have some outdoor events coming up in the summer! We have a couple of dates in August for Whitstable and Barham, we’re really looking forward to those!
We are also looking to recruit more teachers to fill in the gaps around Kent, I still have mums travelling miles and miles to get to our classes!

 

If you would like to know more about Tiny Talk’s classes, visit Deb’s website here. You can also find her on Facebook!

Information, Maternity Shoots, Newborn shoots

How much are your photos?

I get a lot of new enquiries that go something along the lines of:
“Hi, I’m interested in a newborn shoot. How much are your photos?”

I struggle with questions like this because:

You wouldn’t walk into a car dealership and go “I’d like to buy a car. How much are your cars?”

Answer: it depends on what YOU want and what YOUR needs are.

The car salesman would probably inquire as to whether you want a family car, a personal car, or a company car. He would ask if you want 3 doors, or 5 doors. He would ask if you’re planning on using this car for social or commuting. He’d also ask how much power you’re after – would you want a 1.0L, 1.6L or 3.0L engine? Do you need lots of space for child car seats? Or are you an eligible bachelor looking to draw everyone’s eye?

The same goes for photography: I can’t charge one flat rate for every client that walks in through the door.

First I have a pre-shoot consultation with you: I sit down with you, either in person over a cup of coffee, or over the phone. I find out what your needs are, which images from my portfolio you love, where you would like to display your portraits, what colour schemes you have in your home, and so on. No two clients are the same, and no two shoots are the same.

Throughout our session my husband Simon and I will get to know you and your story – how you met your partner, how you found out you were pregnant, what you do for a living, etc. We build up a relationship with you to further understand what your passions are.

At the viewing, we present your portraits to you in a beautiful slideshow. We help you decide what products you want, and make every effort to ensure the decision-making process is as easy as possible. We don’t overwhelm you with 100+ photos and rush you into making a purchase!

When you book a session with me, you become part of my family. The session fees are simply retainers to guarantee you a slot in my diary.

Get in touch now if you would like to join our little family!

Information

FAQs

Q: How much do you charge?
A: It depends on what type of portrait session you would like. A full list of my session prices can be found here.

Q: What’s included in the session fee?
A: The session fee acts as a retainer, and simply secures you a place in my diary. It covers use of the studio and all its equipment – i.e. professional lighting, a variety of backdrops, props, wraps, and outfits for you and your little ones. Your session fee also pays for our time and expertise (newborn shoots can last up to 4 hours, and post-processing can take up to 3 hours). It does not include any products – these are purchased separately at the viewing session.

Q: How much are your digitals?/How much for all the digitals on a CD? 
A: I cringe when I hear this question. I don’t sell digitals, I sell portraits. Digitals is such a crass word, used to describe photos that are stored on a media device (phone/CD/memory stick) and are never looked at. Can you remember the last time you went through your camera roll on your phone? When you have guests round, do you crack out the laptop/tablet to show them photos that you took a few months ago? CDs and memory sticks eventually end up on a shelf or in a drawer gathering dust, fading from memory.
I create portraits designed to be shown off – on the wall, in a presentation box, or in an album. Nothing beats turning the pages and hearing the gasps of wonder from your nearest and dearest when you show off your pride and joy.
For this reason, I only sell digitals as back-ups to accompany a product purchase. So when you buy an album or presentation box, you are provided with a complimentary memory stick that matches the design.

Q: When should I book a session? 
A: As soon as possible! My diary fills up quick, so leaving your booking till you’ve had your baby may not guarantee you a session. I usually pencil you into my diary a week or so after your due date; if your baby arrives earlier/later than expected, we can always shuffle your session date around – it’s easier to shuffle a provisional date around than to book an entirely new date in.

Q: Do you only photograph the baby?
A: Certainly not! Although the new arrival steals everyone’s attention for the first few weeks/months/years, the rest of the family is so important as well. I always encourage parents and siblings to join in as well. Mum and Dad will take dozens of photos as the little one grows up, but how often will they be in the shot? A portrait session is one of the rare occasions where the whole family will be in the shot together.

Q: How do I book a session?
A: Simple, just get in touch, and I’ll take care of the rest!

Events, Information, Local Baby Services

Hello Baby Event at Singleton Village Hall

Wow what a whirlwind of a day!

Simon and I spent yesterday at Hello Baby’s open afternoon at the Singleton Village Hall, and BOY, did we enjoy it!

This was my first exhibiting event, so I was a little nervous at first! I’m not normally comfortable meeting new people in environments as busy as this one, but the organisers and other vendors were so lovely and easy to talk to, I soon came out of my shell!

I’m still buzzing from meeting so many people! New parents, parents-to-be, and not to mention all the other lovely vendors that were exhibiting there as well!

There were baby massage services, baby swimming groups, baby slings, baby sign groups, and so many more!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be interviewing as many of these businesses I can, and posting about them RIGHT HERE so you can learn all about local baby services for you and your family!

Be sure to follow my page and blog for all the latest updates!

 

P.S. Rumour has it…there’s going to be another Hello Baby event in the next couple of months! Watch this space!

Information, Newborn shoots

Your Studio Experience (Newborn portrait session)

When you book a newborn portrait session with Baby Elephant Portraits, you are guaranteed a top-notch service.

From the pre-shoot consultation, right up to the delivery of your products, you are treated like part of the family. Every client that walks through our doors is well looked after, and given a personal service. We get to know our clients and their stories – how they met, what they do for a living, what they’re passionate about.

Those first few weeks are a cloud of haze for most new parents. They’re still riding that high of having brought a brand new baby into the world, and BOY, are they tired!

For a few hours, you’ll be able to clock off. Both Simon and I are fully trained in newborn handling and safety, and will look after your precious baby while you relax and take a break.

Refreshments are provided at every session (Baby needs to eat, and so do YOU!).

Throughout the session, we will (bottle) feed them, burp them, clean up after them, rock and soothe them, and photograph them.

This is probably one of the few opportunities Mum and Dad will get in the next few months to be waited on hand and foot, and have every need taken care of.

No two shoots are ever the same – every baby settles differently, every parent has a different story to tell.

Let us get to know you and help tell your story. We will capture memories in portraits that you and your family will treasure forever.

Events, Information

The Newborn Photography Show

Last week I drove up to Coventry to attend the Newborn Photography Show at the Heart of England Conference & Events Centre.

This annual event is a big hullabaloo in the newborn photography world, as both photographers and vendors from all over the country gather together under one roof in the heart of the beautiful countryside in Coventry.

Once inside, I was greeted by stand upon stand of vendors and suppliers, all showcasing beautiful products; I couldn’t decide which direction to turn first!

I spent what felt like ages walking round all the stalls, admiring all the different products on display:
Props, wraps, baby outfits, maternity dresses, accessories….

I saw a few familiar faces; all the top-end printing labs were in attendance, as well as other companies such as website providers, customer management partners, photography associations, and even a couple of charity organisations.

Of course, one cannot attend an event like this and not spend money.
I left the conference with my purse considerably lighter, and my arms full of goodie bags!

It’s a good thing I left the hubbie at home for this one, otherwise I probably would have spent even more money!

Information, Newborn shoots

Your Investment

All too often, I receive inquiries that go along the lines of something like this:

“Hi, I came across your website, and I really like your photos. How much do you charge for 10 digitals?”

I get it, there are a LOT of photographers out there, and you need a way to compare them.

Most people use the price of a product to compare photographers, like you would a plumber or mechanic.

But let me tell you why this method of comparison is unreliable:

Different photographers have different levels of skill and ability.

There are those of us that have invested time and money into our art. As our skill set grows, so does our self worth and self value. We come to understand that our time is money, and charge appropriately.
We learn that when it comes to selling photographs, it’s not the paper and the ink that our clients are paying for, it’s the images that we produce.

Allow me to share a quote by Seth Godin that I live by:

This rings true especially for photographers – we don’t just click a shutter on a camera, we capture memories, moments, and details that disappear in the blink of an eye.

We spend years fine-tuning our skills. There is so much more to photography than just our cameras.

I have spent over £1000 in newborn photography training, and my photos reflect this.
When it comes to photographing your precious newborn baby, I’m one of the best out there.

So allow me to finish with this:

“If you’re choosing a photographer based on price alone, I can’t compete. There are plenty of other photographers out there who are cheaper than me, without a doubt. 

But if you want the best in service and artistry; if you want to be completely taken care of every step of the way, and actually see your portraits printed beautifully on your walls, I’m your girl!

There’s no one comparable”

— Gaby Chung