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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

Miggsie Tue 31-Aug-10 18:51:49

I think we are getting better about young children but we are crap crap crap at providing facilities for 12-16 year olds.

Yes, child care that is affordable and not the make or break item on whether to go back to work. Better holiday play schemes that is not dependent on where you live would be nice too.

Even better, make parliament and schools work without massive great holidays all over the place, this academic school year is based on the medieval agricultural calendar and has no relevance to modern life! Then parents wouldn't be eking out their leave and bargaining their kids with friends or paying a fortune for holiday camps on a regular basis.

Can we build more decent sized family homes with gardens as well? Not 400 "luxury flats" in a space where they used to be 5 family homes with gardens.

Make any new development of homes illegal unless the devlopers and council can prove that the 100 extra households will be matched by a similar increase in school, play parks, doctor and dentist provision. So parents don't scrabble for school places and affordable dentistry. Then children and families will be the centre of planning and community decisions.

Todays vexing question: Why does the local hairdressers put up its prices during half term? It shouldn't be allowed, pure profiteering.

mollyroger Tue 31-Aug-10 19:05:43

agree about child prices.
for example - some places charge full price at 12.
In our town, full price on buses is over 10
(on trains it is over 16)

some restaurants child meals only go up to 10 but my 11 year old can't eat an adult portion (and isn't that keen on confit of olives in a fou fou sauce, either)

some festivals charge full prices for over 12s.

when is a child not a child? When we can screw a few more quid out of parents, that's when.

ChippyMinton Tue 31-Aug-10 19:09:30

A good starting point would be to compile a list of places that are family-friendly, and identify what makes them so.

For example, today at a National Trust property the staff (volunteers all) couldn't have been more helpful, offering to fill the DC's drink bottles with tap water, offering advice on which woodland walk was buggy-friendly etc.

Restaurants like Pizza Express and Nando's offer a good food, quick service, crayons etc, but still maintain a grown-up ambience.

There are wider social issues though, like childcare (especially for primary-school age children, before and after school and holiday care), which need to be tackled as a priority.

babster Tue 31-Aug-10 19:14:03

I would love hotels to realise that some families have 3... yes 3! children and please could they provide a family room which will accommodate us all. Sofabeds/bunkbeds are fine, we don't mind that... just don't make us take two double rooms 'cos then we probably can't afford to take the trip.

clippityclop Tue 31-Aug-10 19:20:22

Agree with ChippyMinton and how about a Mumsnet award for the best? Catergories could include shops, cafe, pub, retail holiday company etc as highlighted in earlier posts. Tour and holiday in the UK about twice a year with DCx2 under 10 and rarely have problems. Do have 'mummy's pencil case' in bag though with own supply of crayons and puzzle books! Chance of comimg across playgrounds in UK while travelling etc is higher than in other countries we've visited.

Public toilets should always have a child-height sink. I am sick to death of visiting service stations etc where I've had to stand on one leg and raise the other knee up to try and sit my child on it so that they can reach the sink.

MmeLindt Tue 31-Aug-10 19:32:10

I like the idea of an "MN Family Friendly Establishment Award".

Just thought of something else that I love about Switzerland. The council organize and part-fund extra curricular activities for children. I have signed my DC up for a weekly pottery course. They also do weekly ski lessons.

When I was young we went to the local community center. Have they died off? Haven't heard any one mention them for ages. They were great for giving pre-teens and teenagers something to do.

IMoveTheStars Tue 31-Aug-10 19:37:49

Ikea have the right idea with the restaurant/child friendly areas. John Lewis has got it right with baby changing /feeding facilities. Most other companies could make life easier for many parents by simply following their example.

bronze Tue 31-Aug-10 19:43:43

trains like the norwegian ones

I also love John Lewis's parents room with separate toilet with a mummy loo and a child loo and a potty. All three of us sit in a row peeing and it's fab! <wonders why DH refuses to come shopping with us!>

pernickety Tue 31-Aug-10 19:50:26

More family rooms or at least adjoining rooms in hotels.

One thing we recently noticed on holiday in France, waiting staff were very good at bringing out the children's food first.

Reduced cost. Everything is so expensive: swimming, cinema, entrance fees to visitor attractions. A child-price should be at least half the adult entrance like it used to be. Now you find the child price is just a pound or fifty pence less than the adult price. pointless reduction.

I'd quite like not to have to pay for swimming at all when I am taking my not-able-to-swim child to the swimming pool. It's not like I get to do any swimming.

Ditto with the cinema. An independent cinema in my town would let parents pay the child price if they were accompanying a child to a child-rated film.

CMOTdibbler Tue 31-Aug-10 20:16:29

I'm not really bothered by childrens menus - but I like to be offered half portions of the normal menu, or to order a starter with a half portion of a side dish. If there is a childrens menu, then pictures of the food is really helpful to non readers/those liable to throw a strop if the food doesn't look like they expect.

I don't like childrens areas in restaurants - I want ds to sit at the table, not be agitating to go off to that. Childrens size cutlery is much appreciated, as are booster seats and clean highchairs, especially those that actually pull up to the table.

Nice toilets with a parent and child cubicle, and a potty are fab.

Of course, I'd also like more truly accessible toilets for those disabled people who can't transfer - with changing tables etc, you should be able to get round
d any shop with a pram or wheelchair, and indeed actually get into those buildings. Its annoying as a parent to not access places easily, but they can carry children - a disabled person has no choice

Alibabaandthe40nappies Tue 31-Aug-10 20:24:16

I agree about highchairs. Nothing more annoying, or more likely to lead to a noisy toddler, than a highchair with one of those massive trays on it which mean that your toddler is sitting 2 foot back from the table. Drives me mad.

Birdly Tue 31-Aug-10 20:29:08

Agree re cost of cinema. I took our 2 DC to see Toy Story 3, and the price of 3 tickets (no child discount, kids pay same price as adults), plus booking fee, plus medium popcorn and bag of Aero chocs was about £25!!!!

Agree also re cost of days out to family attractions. Ridiculous. Thank goodness for Tesco Clubcard! grin

Lilyloo Tue 31-Aug-10 20:33:14

Why are the kids clothing sections always placed on higher floors so you have to join the massive lift queue.

We have one really good pub near us that has a play area behind a glass screen , we can have a meal watch the kids play , great !!

Merrylegs Tue 31-Aug-10 20:48:28

Clarks shoe shop in Norwich. Why do you have the kids shoes on the first floor?

maxmissie Tue 31-Aug-10 21:07:30

Family friendly to me means accessible, affordable and welcoming, hopefully all three together!

tbh pretty much agree with all comments/suggestions made so far but some of my bugbears:

Better choice/size of kids' food - should be able to offer two different size portions easily enough - quite often what my dd gets would be way too small for an older child, i.e. one sausage and small portion of beans, when menu was for upto 10 years old and sometimes can be too much for younger children. Also not sure why there has to be a separate menu for kids, why not offer smaller portions of adult meals? If kids menu is being offered then at least make it healthy and interesting - i.e. Ikea, Pizza Express and not just the same old nuggets etc.

Better baby changing facilities - they are often quite grim places which don't ever appear to see a cleaner, and why is there never a toilet in there, unless it's a disabled one? Would be so much easier to change nappy and go to loo myself or take dd then go to one cubicle and then another where have to leave ds in buggy outside whilst me/dd uses the loo. Only place I can remember finding a 'normal' loo in baby change is John Lewis. Ikea does at least have large loos you can fit in with a buggy.

Cheaper prices for kids - as already said before, often kids prices are not much less than the adults. Might visit more places if could actually afford it! One idea would be more cinema screenings for young children, i know some cinema chains do discounts for young kids on Sat morning but not one anywhere near us!

Babies/toddlers don't disappear over school holidays - pretty much anything aimed at babies/toddlers stops during summer hols etc - can understand why playgroups etc stop if run by mums with older kids and other helpers need a break at some point but why are the only things offered to entertain kids over the holidays by councils, attractions etc only ever for for older children? Can't see why some stuff for younger kids can't be put on as well, especially as the usual places i'd take them are crazy/busy with older kids. Not moaning about older kids needing entertainment but not sure why is always at expense of younger ones.

Some of the most family friendly places I have come across - John Lewis (friendly and sympathetic staff, good baby change facilities), Ikea (good and cheap food, generally geared up for kids), Pizza Express (good kids menu, welcoming to kids), sure there must be some more but can't think of them at the mo!

Think the idea for an award for most family friendly place is a good one.

Attenborough Tue 31-Aug-10 21:08:45

Like Franca and Birdly, this seems to me to be rather piddling stuff when the biggest issues with a lack of family-friendliness in this country could only be solved by:

1) sorting out workplace discrimination against parents and women of childbearing age;

2) making housing and quality childcare genuinely affordable.

I realise that Mumsnet's powers are finite, but raising the profile of those problems would be very welcome.

MsHighwater Tue 31-Aug-10 21:29:00

Save us from chicken nuggets, indifferent macaroni cheese, etc. I, too, would prefer to see child sized portions of the main menu dishes rather than, necessarily, having a separate kids menu. Of course there have to be things on the main menu that will scale down and that won't be too spicy, etc.

SirBoobAlot Tue 31-Aug-10 21:43:02

- Accessibility for buggies and wheelchairs. Some shops aisles are so close together you can't get down them.

- Changing facilities. Ideally, not just in disabled toilets, not combined with feeding rooms, and cleaned / nappy bins emptied on a regular basis. Because otherwise they stink. And especially if you're feeding your child in there too, its not pleasant. Also lowering / changing the design so they can be used by people in wheelchairs too.

- Recognise children as children when it comes to cost. On public transport, on days out, at local attractions...

- More help when feeding a baby in public. I know there are regulations meaning that smaller cafe's can't heat milk / food up for you any more, but the ones who have been happy to provide hot water / free baby food are the ones I / other friends with children certainly aim for.

- Better facilities for tweens / teens during the evenings and holidays. Anything to unplug them from the XBox grin

- Practical organising of shops. Children's areas that are on the ground floor are the most helpful, and worth going to, especially if there is only one lift in the shopping centre hmm

Bramshott Tue 31-Aug-10 21:49:03

Picnic spots with loos on the motorway like the French "Aires" - make travelling as a family SO much nicer than when the only place to stop is a consumer-fest service station and they only come every 60 miles.

SpeedyGonzalez Tue 31-Aug-10 22:00:01

I agree about toddler portions. How about half and quarter sized meal options? And while you're at it, rather than a separate kids' menu (or as well as), I'd like to see child-sized equivalents of some of the adults' meals.

Also plastic cups and straws in eateries.

UnquietDad Tue 31-Aug-10 22:02:00

Also, why are concert tickets for kids the same price as those for adults? Even when I took DD to see Miley - a child-friendly entertainer, you'd think - it was the same ticket price for both of us.

I know a seat is a seat, regardless of who occupies it, but if theatres and cinemas can do reduced children's tickets...

hotpotmama Tue 31-Aug-10 22:05:09

Having just come back from a holiday in Germany/ Austria, I think they know how to do the family friendly better than we do.

So many restaurants/ cafes over there have playgrounds for the kids. All have kids menus. You go up the top of a mountain and there is so much for kids to do its untrue.

The swimming pools are clean/ have got great slides/ baby pools and don't cost the earth.

I love the UK but it did seem a bit like the poor relation of Europe when we came home (especially as it was raining).

MmeLindt Tue 31-Aug-10 22:06:41

<awards UQD a medal of honor for surviving Miley concert>

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