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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



UnquietDad Tue 31-Aug-10 17:12:51

Cafes and restaurants... Yes, healthy and inexpensive restaurants where children are welcome. No dispiriting mass-produced chicken nugget shit. No awful "play" areas consisting of a shabby pissy corner with a blackboard, some broken chalk and some chewed giant Lego. (I am not exaggerating. And this was in a good pub.)

Smaller toilets labelled Boys and Girls in family pubs as well as Gents and Ladies. Unisex baby changing room or changing facilities in both Gents and Ladies.

But a lot is about changing people's attitudes, which I sadly feel won't happen. Those who want to see children as an annoyance and an irritant are not going to change... Oh, let's be honest - some of us see other people's children as an an irritant! I know I do! My heart sinks if I have to take my screaming children into a cafe full of screaming children. And therein lies the problem. Could we have cafes where you are only allowed in if your child speaks nicely, does not dribble and will sit nicely and play with a jigsaw puzzle while drinking organic milk? wink

swallowedAfly Tue 31-Aug-10 17:12:59

Message withdrawn

UnquietDad Tue 31-Aug-10 17:21:10

When DW presents me with a moan, or a seemingly insoluble family problem, I always ask first: "What do other people do?" Of course, it often turns out to be a version of that joke about the yokel being asked for directions who says "I wouldn't start from here."

Yes, the price of overseas holidays during the school holidays is absolutely bloody CRIMINAL. They get away with it because they can. I just don't see how anyone can stop them. It's so depressing.

Childcare is a bloody ripoff. I am trying to work out how it simultaneously manages to be one of the poorest-paid professions for women and yet also one of the biggest expenses for parents. The two factors should not be able to co-exist in the same universe. Childminders and nurseries should be showering in gold-dust, the amount we have shelled out for them over the years... It needs to be flexible - but, of course, this means the employees need to be flexible. And a good few of them are going to be parents too, using their own childcare. (They can't all be Granny "I childmind 24 hours and even take bloody DOGS, WTF is that all about?" Murray from Riversea-wossname.) The implications are obvious.

This question perhaps needs to be our first port of call with a lot of these problems. How do other countries manage? And what do they have to put this in place that we do not? Even if the answer turns out to be "I wouldn't start from here."

Sorry, I've gone on a bit.

PussinJimmyChoos Tue 31-Aug-10 17:21:22

I think the UK is already pretty family friendly in terms of eating out and changing facilities. Also buggy friendly buses and pavements. Have tried strolling with DS in his buggy in Damascus and it is not easy - high pavements, people parking on them etc

I have visited other countries and not seen the same facilities offered that we have here in the UK

Having said that, the attitude towards children in other countries is what makes it more child friendly. Have been to Syria, Spain, Dubai and Italy and children are welcomed and seen as part of the fabric of life, rather than tutted at with eye rolling if they make a noise

On the plane trips to Syria, DS has been met with nothing but coos and smiles and if babies cry on the flights, there is sympathy all around and in one instance, one of the men, who was a Dr, was reassuring the parents and taking a turn walking the aisle to try and quiet the baby down!

Bonsoir Tue 31-Aug-10 17:24:57

I find England very child-friendly. Perhaps even too tolerant of badly behaved children. Please don't make this a campaign that encourages parents to be even more lenient towards their children in public places.

swallowedAfly Tue 31-Aug-10 17:27:29

Message withdrawn

CerealOffender Tue 31-Aug-10 17:29:38

i think most people are child friendly, its the god awful parents that annoy everyone

mollyroger Tue 31-Aug-10 17:31:22

more play areas.
And parks catering for older children too.

Including at service stations

CerealOffender Tue 31-Aug-10 17:44:17

service stations aren't even people friendly though.

mollyroger Tue 31-Aug-10 17:47:25

ha, you're right. But we'd all feel a little more chilled if the children could let off a little steam on a humungous journey. And it would be siuch a small thing to do.

There is one on the way to Exeter which has a water feature which the kids all adore, (but are not supposed to play in, naturally..)

MmeLindt Tue 31-Aug-10 17:58:40

Actually having done a fair bit of travelling around Europe this summer I would say more play parks would be great.

Here in Switzerland the school playgrounds are left open after school finishes so that the children have some place to play. And there are often play parks very close to city centres so you can go shopping or sightseeing the let the kids let off steam. Or the other way around. Play parks with cafes are even better.

mollyroger Tue 31-Aug-10 18:04:59

yy, when i was in amsterdam last, I noticed , there seemed to be green spaces almost at the end of every street, often with a couple of swings. Adults would sit out at the almost-always adjoining cafe/bar and the children would all be playing.

strandedatsea Tue 31-Aug-10 18:11:52

Everyone will have their own opinions on this, but I think people go on holiday and everyone makes a fuss of their children in the restaurants and hotels and they think "wow what a wonderful, child-friendly place this is". No, they just want a tip. Just like how people think everyone in the Caribbean are so wonderful and friendly. No, they are as grumpy as the rest of us - it's just that most people you meet work in the hospitality industry and know how to make you feel good - so you tip them/recommend them/come back.

When I was home in the UK this summer, the one thing that really struck me was how many parents (mostly women, but men, too) were actually playing with their children in the playparks - not just allowing them to run around un-supervised. I don't think we hate children at all. I think we care about them a great deal - sometimes too much (helicopter parenting et al). We just show it in a different way. Yes, you see loads of children running around until all hours in Mediterranean restaurants - but they are usually extended families with lots of grannies and aunts to help out. And because it is warmer, there is more room for them to run around outside.

Sorry must stop ranting!

strandedatsea Tue 31-Aug-10 18:13:19

There's loads of playparks in the UK! And brilliant ones too.

(Sorry I am a victim of living on a small island with one playpark for too long).....

expatinscotland Tue 31-Aug-10 18:14:08

What whomoved wrote! LOVE IKEA for all the reasons she outlined.

gigglewitch Tue 31-Aug-10 18:18:24

have read the op and a few other posts, sorry haven't time to read the whole thread just now.

What would make it family-friendly from my pov would be to reduce the cost of so-called "family tickets". To get into anything from the safari park, to the zoo, to the cinema, for me, dh and our three primary aged children it costs over £40. Which we simply don't have.

(I do however have national trust and English Heritage membership, which are very family friendly, so we go there instead grin)

Francagoestohollywood Tue 31-Aug-10 18:19:34

Unquiet, I see we are the only ones mentioning child care...
In Italy nurseries are state funded. But I know that state funded childcare is a controversial topic on MN.

Apart from (on average good) state funded nursery schools and old people's cooing over pretty babies, Italy is NOT that child/family friendly.

Yes, children are more or less tolerated in restaurants (it depends on the restaurant) but we lack baby changing facilities, clean toilets, parks, our (very good) maternity leave legislation means that women over 30 rarely get a permanent contract, the new reform of the school system means that the state school sector has been left languishing until its death etc etc etc.

It is much better in the UK, where at least there is a project, and a more diffuse sense of respect of childhood.

gigglewitch Tue 31-Aug-10 18:20:21

BTW I agree with the others who have said there's a huge amount of catching up to do with the rest of Europe - decent cycle tracks, lots of clean parks, cafés which overlook the parks.... ohhh I could go on (and on and on)

PosieParker Tue 31-Aug-10 18:25:32

Firstly we need to export about 50% of the adult population who no longer have small children, or never had them.

Accept BF, if we can feed our babies well in public perhaps they'll be allowed to feed when they're a little older!!

Better public transport.

Children free for longer, I don't want to pay loads of money to go in places because my dcs are over three.

Better food and tolerance in restaurants. My dcs want a half portion of decent food not a shite menu.

Maybe set days where children can eat out in certain restaurants...then their parents can go back another time!!

swallowedAfly Tue 31-Aug-10 18:28:35

Message withdrawn

whomovedmychocolate Tue 31-Aug-10 18:34:57

Actually if you want to get this right you need to look at what does work. I would say Centerparcs is so good because they have thought about it from a kids PoV - all the restaurants have somewhere to play, intercourse snacks at some places (e.g. Bella Italia) and soft play or toys in most eating places.

gigglewitch Tue 31-Aug-10 18:38:26

wmmc ... intercourse snacks grin interesting

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Tue 31-Aug-10 18:44:16

What do you mean by family friendly?

Lots of places have great facilities for kids...problem is people don't like children around, look at that campaign for segregating families on flights. IMO we need a change in attitude - if people in the UK were more relaxed about kids in general then the rest of the stuff would just flow.

There was someone on the radio the other day organising a campaign to prevent the building of a new playpark in a local field FFS

Birdly Tue 31-Aug-10 18:46:13

Personally, I'd love to see some sort of loud bang and puff of smoke, then come out the other side of it into a world where I could find well-paid work that suits me and also fits around school hours and holidays. Flying pig, anyone? grin

whomovedmychocolate Tue 31-Aug-10 18:48:17

gigglewitch - mind out of the gutter please grin - crudites and breadsticks are the norm.

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