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How can we make Britain more family-friendly?

(180 Posts)
Carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 31-Aug-10 16:15:13

Mumsnet are launching an initiative to try and make Britain the most family-friendly country in Europe (well...the world actually, but we thought we'd start small smile) Ambitious plan? Just a bit, but we think long overdue. We want to challenge companies - and we're talking everyone from travel firms to supermarkets, restaurants to mobile phone merchants - to join our programme and find out - from Mumsnetters - how they could make their industry more family-friendly. We're going to look at every aspect of how a company operates from how they market their goods to the welcome and facilities they provide to families. And then we want to encourage them to do business in a way that makes life easier for families not more difficult, and ultimately give Mumsnet Family-friendly awards to the ones that do it well.

Obviously we'll need lots of help and input from the folks who know most about all this - ie you. So before we really get going, we want to know what you think. What does family-friendly mean to you and what criteria should we use to judge whether a company is family-friendly or not? What do you love about what some companies are already doing and - just as important - what do you think they should stop doing? Is it the way companies try to sell products to you or your children that makes you cross or is it the fact that you can never squeeze your buggy down the aisle at your local coffee shop? Or both, or neither? If you could pick three things you'd change about any industry to make it more family friendly - what would they be?

Lots of questions but we'd love to hear your thoughts so please, post 'em here

Thanks

MNHQ

There needs to be a lot more Child friendly Cafes/coffee Shops, our local ones are all full of trendy students who tut and sigh at children making noise or daring to run around.

Somewhere that was aimed at Parents with little ones with staff that had children would be good, wit places inside these cafes for the children to play, maybe a corner with a bookshelf or a table and colours for drawing?

Also in restraunts you find Kids meals and Junior meals but never toddler sized portions, my toddler can't eat 3 fish fingers or 2 Sausages and a huge plate of Chips/Beans/Peas.

I love Cinemas family mornings with the £1 tickets where littlies are encouraged so i think there should be more of them.

Also just a general tolerance of young children would be nice, i hate getting tutted at or sighed at because my son is making noise or daring to touch things.

I will think of more because a lotof Places in England are not family friendly at all.

fryalot Tue 31-Aug-10 16:22:44

I love the fact that places like McDonalds let you use their toilets without insisting that you buy something - great for when you're out and about with toddlers who can't always wait.

I hate it when there's a massive queue and nothing to occupy bored children and then you get people tutting or giving dirty looks when they act up a bit.

I like that some supermarkets (asda especially) not only allow you to feed your children the things you're buying them before you get to the checkout but actively encourage you to do so (obviously I pay for the empty packaging when I get to the checkout)

(1) Toilets
(2) Food
(3) Access.

That's about it really. I can't go to certain places because I can't get into the loo with two urchins in tow. A lot of cafes and even restaurants have totally unrealistic ideas of what kids eat - our fave cafe used to do toast soldiers half marmite, half cheese and it was fab. Now we have indifferent chocolate brownies at M&S. Also, frankly I object to paying £5 per child for chicken nuggets which they won't eat. Please acknowledge that the under fours often will eat four chips and one pea and size meals appropriately (also make them edible - that'd be nice, DD tried to eat the toy in the McDonalds happy meal and declared it nicer than the 'yellow thing' (I think it was chicken).

Finally access - it's not just about buggy access but about buildings which are, quite frankly very unfriendly to everyone but single people. Two or more small children to get down two flights of stairs - what fun! hmm

MmeLindt Tue 31-Aug-10 16:23:59

Cafes and Restaurants - very obvious one here, but it costs next to nothing to have some colouring in pencils (No felt tips!) and fun paper placemats for the children. DO NOT put up TVs or Nintendos in the booths, we want to interact with our children not have them ignore us. A small play area is good, but only if cared for, broken toys and filthy carpets do not make me want to linger. Also heating facilities for babyfood, small portions of DECENT food, not just fish fingers / chicken nuggets / sausages and chips. Most DC like pasta, or roast chicken.

Shops and Shopping Centres - decent changing rooms for babies, not combined with disabled loos and do not combine loos with feeding rooms for babies. That is disgusting. Electric doors for easy access with pushchairs. And put the children's shoes/clothes dept on the ground floor unless you have a massive lift. (Marks and Spencer and Clarks - are you listening?)

Travel Firms Stop bumping up prices during school holidays. Young families already have to scrimpt and save and it is infuriating to see the price of holidays shoot up during the summer months.

I could probably go on and on.

Tbh, I have lived in both Switzerland and Germany and I find UK to be pretty family friendly already. Certainly in comparison to Germany.

compo Tue 31-Aug-10 16:24:55

I hate changing room facilities or changing table inside the ladies loo

useless for dh to use

bluewater is a good model has lovely changing rooms and breastfeeding facilities

I do quite like those shops which have a little table and chairs so the kids can colour in while you are having a mooch.

I dislike intensely any shop which gives my child a fecking balloon. First of all DS is allergic to latex, second on the way home I can't see in my rear view and thirdly I have the 'my balloon has popped, the world has come to an end and I will spend the remaining time wailing loudly' experience hmm FGS a sticker is much better if you must bribe them!

At the risk of being the world's whingiest mum - I would also add - restaurants who feck off when you want to pay - look, I've had my kids sit quietly and push their food around eat for an hour, now we'd like to pay and go, do not hide now FFS! angry

nikki1978 Tue 31-Aug-10 16:27:23

Definitely more restaurants to have a kids corner (the packs they sometimes give you are ok but don't keep them entertained for long).

I think the family friendly thing needs to be made more obvious anyway. They may have a tiny sticker in a window which is barely noticable. If people were more aware that it was family friendly - even if only at set times - then maybe people would be more accommodating of the children (or wouldn't go in that particular restaurant). Nothing worse than feeling stressed and uncomfortable when eating out.

Pubs to bring back play areas also please!

Anyway of making it easier to shop with kids would be appreciated!

MmeLindt Tue 31-Aug-10 16:28:18

We like to go to this Cafe in Perth for example. They have a children's play area, their kid's meal has fruit, carrots, sultanas, a small sandwhich and a couple of crisps.

I wish there was a cafe like that in every town.

You see this is why we go to IKEA so much, I know they can get food they like - it's good value and they have a fab play area in the cafe so I can sit and have a (free) cup of coffee while they run off some energy and are more willing to hunker down in the trolley afterwards so I can buy stuff. And it works for IKEA, we probably go once a month.

I don't actually care about P&T parking though as I can park appropriately wink

I like the 'pick 5 things for £x' idea that some places do for kids food, then i can choose DS's a combo and don't have to have what ever is on the menu.

strandedatsea Tue 31-Aug-10 16:32:06

I think we're already very family friendly, especially compared to where I live at the moment (Caribbean island).

But if there was one thing I would love to see it would be more hotels with "suites" a-la-the States. Two rooms for almost the price of one. Brilliant!

And whomovedmychocolate - we had a balloon incident the other day after visiting Frankie and Bennies (not my first choice but we needed to find somewhere quick!). Dd2 (2) let her's go after leaving and was inconsolable. We have been "spotting" it ever since though!

I did like those little Car trolleys Tesco used to have, they stopped doing them now and only ever had about 3, they were a pita to push but it kept DS entertained all the way round Tesco.

nikki1978 Tue 31-Aug-10 16:35:19

Are you cussing Frankie and Bennys strandedatsea? That is our favourite family friendly restaurant grin

I'll echo what MmeLindt said - it is unconscionable the hike in holiday prices in school holidays. This should be made an unacceptable trading practice.

CerealOffender Tue 31-Aug-10 16:37:18

i think it is friendly enough. personally i loathe 'family friendly' places and avoid them at all costs. i have raised dd to behave like a civilised member of society instead

The hike in Summer Holiday prices for places is ridiculous, its not making people want to keep their kids in school during term time believe me!
Especially places like Butlins, we think they are great for a Family Friendly holiday but let themselves down when they triple the prices during July/Aug/Sept its ridiculous.

strandedatsea - what you mean your balloon went to save a fairy whose wings had broken and needed a ride home? wink

I flipping loathe F&Bs - it's an abomination IMHO.

strandedatsea Tue 31-Aug-10 16:38:48

nikki - great for the dd's, I just didn't like my food very much grin...

Which could bring me to....restaurants which do good children's menus but also decent adult food.

Can I add: supermarkets should have more than one trolley for two toddlers or choose not to place glass items below three feet. hmm

scrappydappydoo Tue 31-Aug-10 16:41:07

Agree about the toilets - if you are a store that sells baby items - please try and have a customer loo (mothercare/boots are you listening?)
Also the putting the baby/child stuff on a different floor with no decent lift.

Motorway/road services are my bugbear (moto being a slight exception but they're not perfect). I know space is a premium and you need to make money but when you have been stuck in a car for a couple of hours with kids everyone needs space to stretch legs without being bombarded by fast food and retail 'opportunities'. The french aires are fantastic - loos and space and more often than not a small playground.

I don't think we're too bad but overall I think a little care and thought goes a long way.

I think Ikea do pretty well on the family friendly front. Stuff I like that they do that I think more companies could offer are:
1. Toilets - some child friendly toilets with small toilets, potties, baby changing along with a normal size toilet
2. Those trolleys for your trays in the restaurant - really handy when you've got a few plates/mugs etc and a couple of kids

I think as a minimum places with toilets should have a unisex baby changing room/toilet. There's plenty of times dh takes the kids out on his own or dd1 insists on daddy taking her to the loo.

Wider aisles are needed in lots of shops. Strangely it's often kids shops where the stuff is crushed together (yes ELC, I mean you wink)

Oh yes don't give balloons out (helloooo pumpkin patch are you listening?). Have you ever tried walking round a crowded shopping centre with a 3 year old with a balloon. She invariably sticks it in front of people, who then tut and eventually I get the thing to carry when she gets fed up of people told to be careful with it.

Stop putting kids stuff in the most inconvenient place possible. If I have kids with me I don't want to have to trek to the 4th floor with them. If I have the pram I don't want to have to wait 10 minutes for your lift to arrive.

Another vote for baby/toddler sized portions or cheaper kids meals.

strandedatsea Tue 31-Aug-10 16:53:15

More of these sort of things car shaped shopping trolley

booyhoo Tue 31-Aug-10 17:01:45

clean public toilets, well located and easily accessible for everyone.

eating out, whether taht be day or evening. it would be good to have healthy restaurants were my children were welcome for an evening meal and not looked upon as a nuisance.

accessible public transport. met a single mum teh other day with a 3,2 and 1 year old. 1 and 2 year old in double buggy. she cannot drive, we have no train network, buses are her only option. she has never been helped onto teh bus with her buggy and children.

I'm Italian and I lived in the Uk for quite a long time before going back to Italy.
I think that the UK is extremely family friendly.
The most family friendly thing that should be tackled is more affordable childcare.

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