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!

 

 

boudior, fashion shoot, Maternity Shoots, models, photography, portrait shoot, training

Training day at Click HQ!

Last week Simon and I had a super fun training day up in Watford – Keeping It Fresh with Charlie Kauffman

We spent the day photographing a variety of models – from a superbly talented 16 year old who’s already been scouted by 3 agencies, to a young lady in her mid 20’s who’d never been in front of a camera before!

We also had the pleasure of photographing Charlie’s son Leo, who has most probably been photographed his whole life, and is an expert at posing for the camera!

Charlie was a fantastic trainer – he taught us how to pose our models to get a massive variety of images, and how to expertly light them to flaunt their assets.

Charlie demonstrated how different types of light outputs create different effects, and how small gestures elicit a different range of emotions.

For instance, lifting the chin up makes a subject look more confident, whilst tilting the chin down makes them look more alluring and vulnerable.

Paige was such a sport! She was very nervous as she had never had a professional portrait shoot before, but Charlie soon put her at ease with his easy-going humour.

My favourite part of the training was the last shoot of the day: we had the gorgeous Aimee come in for a boudior shoot, and she absolutely rocked it! I honestly had so much fun capturing her beauty, and I can’t wait to do it again!

Doesn’t she look fantastic? She nearly inspired me to book a boudior shoot myself! 

If I can just find the clients brave enough, I’d love to offer boudoir maternity shoots! I think it would really give mums a boost when they’re probably not feeling very photogenic.

I 100% believe that women GLOW when they’re pregnant, and I wish they could see what I see! Maybe by offering this style of photo shoot, they’d be able to see themselves in a different light, and it would give them that boost in confidence to come away from the “ugh I feel so fat/ugly/miserable/hormonal” mindset and allow them to enjoy this fleeting moment of pregnancy.

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

 

 

Maternity Shoots, Newborn shoots

Go big or go home!

In the words of Steve Jobs: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Sure, he may have been talking about the iPhone, but I find this statement to be true in so many aspects of life.

Even when I go food shopping, Simon will ask me: “What do we need?”, and all too often, my response is “I don’t know! I’ll know when I see it.” As in, I’ll walk down an aisle, see something, and go “Ooh! Yes, we need one of those!”

Bearing this in mind, I took the plunge a few weeks ago to order a HUGE metallic print from my lab in Germany. When I say I took the plunge, I mean it. I paid the same amount I make from one newborn session for just ONE studio sample – that’s an expensive sample!

But, oh my, it was WORTH it!

Now, every client that walks through my doors has their breath taken away just like mine was when I first took this photo. And they all say the same thing: “Wow, I wish I had that hanging on my wall!”

Good news! You can! All you have to do is book a portrait session with me, and you can soon have your beautiful portraits hanging on the wall, just like this one!

Newborn shoots

Baby B’s newborn portrait session

Hello everyone! Meet Baby B, who came for his newborn portrait session at just 9 days old!

He absolutely ROCKED his shoot, it’s not often I get a baby as sleepy as Baby B, so I made the most of it!

If I had to pick a favourite colour, I would have to choose this colour scheme: these traditional browns and wooden textures perfectly portray that warm, fuzzy feeling of family and love.

I cannot express how much I love this timeless shot!  Those three perfect profiles just make my heart melt every time I capture it.

Look at this Mamma! Just look at her! Isn’t she gorgeous?? How can someone give birth to a BABY and look this fantastic just a week later?

This signature shot is LOVED by every single parent I’ve done a portrait session for. There’s just something so classic about the scale of the picture, and you just know that as their baby grows up, Mum & Dad will look at this photo and go “Look! Look how small you used to be! Your whole body could fit in between my arms.”

This was my HOT SHOT from Baby B’s session – this portrait now hangs in my studio as a whopping 60×40 inch metallic print, perfectly positioned to take the breath away of everyone who walks into the studio!

Newborn shoots

Baby T’s newborn portrait session

Everyone, meet Baby T!

This gorgeous girl came through my studio for her newborn portrait session, and I was super excited because I was able to make use of some of my props for the first time!

The beautiful doll in the photo is hand-made by Welsh business Cwtchi Coo, who use locally sourced wool. They make incredible props and textiles, I can’t get enough of them!

Baby T didn’t come alone to her shoot! Her big sister joined in and we got some adorable shots of the two of them together.

Baby T was a perfect model, and pretty much slept right through her whole session!

I had such a wonderful time capturing these beautiful portraits for her Mum, who spent ages agonising over which portraits to purchase (can’t say I blame her, it took me ages to whittle the final selection down to 25!)

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

Charity work, Events, Fundraising

Running for Bliss!

On October 14th, Simon and I will be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon in aid of Bliss.

Bliss is a fantastic charity that does an incredible job supporting the families of babies born premature or sick.

Some of my clients owe so much to Bliss, and after hearing their stories on how much Bliss has helped them through difficult times, we decided to support Bliss as much as we can.

To help raise funds for Bliss, Simon and I have signed up for the Royal Park Half Marathon in October.

The 13.1 mile route takes runners through the capital’s world-famous landmarks and four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park, and Kensington Gardens.

This will be my first every half marathon, so I’m feeling a tad nervous! Luckily Simon has run a half marathon before, so he knows the drill!
He will be running alongside me, so that we can cross the finish line together.

 

Here’s the best bit:

We have spoken to our suppliers (more like twisted their arm!), and they have generously agreed to help with our fundraising efforts. SO……(drum roll please)

Anyone who donates £20 or more to our cause will be entered into a lucky draw to win a 30×20″ Canvas Wall Art! (worth £529)

Shortly after we cross the finish line, we will do a Facebook Live broadcast from Hyde Park. Team Bliss will draw a name out of a hat, and the lucky winner will be contacted.

So be sure to like and follow our page on Facebook , and keep an eye out on the 14th of October to be the first to know who the lucky winner is!

If you would like to make a donations please follow this link.

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!

Uncategorized

Click Conference 2018

Every year around the end of June, Click Connection Corporation hold their annual Bump to Baby conference, and this year it was held at the Hilton in Watford.

It was an awesome day packed with amazing speakers, including my favourite photographer in the whole wide world – Elli Cassidy!

An impromptu live demonstration just before the start of the conference meant we started off a bit late, but no one was complaining!

Click invited some fantastic speakers onstage including Barrett & Co., Gary Hill, James Carter, and Elli. Their talks were very informative, I learnt loads!

All attendees were treated to a gorgeous buffet lunch, courtesy of the sponsored partners.

As always, we were joined by some great vendors who were offering special discounts on their products: printing labs, lighting professionals, SONY, and of course, Click themselves were there promoting their props and courses.

 

(vendor images courtesy of Click Props)