March 9, 2014
#SilentSunday One photo, no words
This is a guest post by Chris Jamieson, founder of Planbino, a new website to help parents discover and book fun things to do with their children.
“The press is full of technology news, praising young, energetic companies for their innovations, and sometimes sky-high valuations. These companies are often started by young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs who believe that you should solve a problem which you have direct experience of, because it can help ensure they create a product people actually want.
Sometimes it seems certain audiences are being ignored, as young technologists either make things for trendy audiences (e.g. young urbanites, teens), or chase the financial promise of business-to-business software. I want to ask: who’s looking after the parents?
There is no lack of technology products for children like CodeKingdoms, a game that teaches 5-13 year olds how to program), and there are some parent-centric apps, including Jen Corlew’s Gobaby app. But generally, East-London entrepreneurs seem to forget that people grow up and have children, and that becoming a parent completely changes your life.
Not long ago, I became aware of this myself. I was chatting with a friend about her experience of becoming a mum. She explained that shortly after her son’s birth, she felt scared (he was doing things she didn’t understand), bored (she was at home all day for the first time in her life), and lonely (her friends were at work during the day). She really looked forward to her weekly “mums and babies” group, because she got to leave the house, have fun with her son and meet other friendly parents.
When she looked for other things to get out and do, however, she found it difficult. All the kids events and activities were scattered across the web on hundreds of venues and listings websites. Once she found something she liked, booking it was usually slow and annoying, as she couldn’t remember if she had an account on a particular website, and usually forgot her password too. Trawling the internet searching for things to do became even more time-consuming as her son grew older and became harder to entertain. She told me it wasn’t unusual to spend up to 10 hours every week planning and booking things to do with him.
I’m a web developer, so I decided to build my friend a simple online tool to help make her life easier. It drew together child-friendly events listings from her favourite venues (such as The Southbank Centre, Chickenshed Theatre and The Unicorn Theatre), and (using a little technology magic) helped her book tickets with just two clicks.
She loved it so much she encouraged me to release it publicly, so she could share it with her friends. A few weeks ago, I decided to do just that, and Planbino was born.
Planbino is an online tool built to make parents’ lives easier. I’d love for you to check out Planbino, your feedback will help me create something really useful for parents like you. Hopefully together we can stop mums and dads from wasting hours trawling the internet, when they should be getting out and enjoying spending time with their wonderful children.
I’m a big believer in the power of technology to make people’s lives easier, but I think that kids aren’t the only ones who need looking after – parents do too! I hope that with this first small step, we’ve begun putting parents at the heart of the immense and exciting technological change occurring in London and around the world today.”
Confession. I scolded someone else’s toddler in the playground sandpit. But he really deserved it. I’d been watching him, both fascinated and appalled, as he pushed babies face-first into the sand and screamed when other children tried to play nearby or eyed his bucket. I tried to keep my toddler a safe distance away, but suddenly they were together, out of my reach on a wooden platform over the sandpit. He hit my son in the face with a plastic spade almost immediately.
So I told him off. Quietly but firmly. But the sudden hush across the playground was palatable, all eyes on me. I felt embarrassed. Yes, I’m the adult and should control my behaviour, but no one hits my child’s face with a spade without consequences. And why weren’t his parents watching him? I’m sure my futile reprimand won’t alter his behaviour indefinitely but hopefully I’m not alone in this modern parenting faux pas, unlike my parents’ generation when children seemingly belonged to everyone. “It takes a village” and all that.
On to the next hurdle – what are the playground rules for the slide? If my toddler accidentally slides down into another child who is climbing up the slide the wrong way, we’re in the clear, right? It’s hard to say. On some days it feels like uncharted waters. But to be on the safe side, I’ll be ready with apologies all round and extra biscuits next time.
I always get a bit excited when going to IKEA, because it usually signals an important life change, like a new flat, better paycheck, new baby, etc. But these days, heading to IKEA with a toddler in tow is like planning an epic journey, fraught with unknown dangers and a minefield of tantrums. By the time I had stuffed his bag full with every toddler tool in my arsenal (books, crayons, diapers, wipes, snacks, teddy, stickers, cookies) it took up most of the trolley that we hoped to fill with great kit for our new home.
Here is a snapshot of our IKEA journey in numbers:
TEN near arguments with my husband whilst in the textiles area of the “I love this rug” answered with “No, it’s absolutely minging” variety.
NINE episodes of Peppa Pig watched by our toddler on daddy’s iPhone to stop him running off, again.
EIGHT missed text messages on said phone during the shopping trip when our toddler refused to release the iPhone while watching Peppa.
SEVEN sofas on the display floor lounged on, to maintain our stamina.
SIX new wine glasses purchased (hurrah!)
FIVE delicious IKEA meatballs eaten by toddler.
FOUR new toys that he wanted, carried with him around the store, and subsequently abandoned goodness knows where before the checkout.
THREE toddler head bumps from minor collisions with low-level furniture and glassware.
TWO shopping carts needed to fit the baby bag, the toddler, AND the new items.
ONE extremely tired boy who fell fast asleep on the car journey home.