Bringing Up Baby – Family Life in FOlkestone
Anyone starting a family wants the best for their baby, and the regeneration of Folkestone is being built around it being a great place to bring up kids. There’s so much on offer in the town, from sports clubs and family-friendly restaurants, to great schools and clubs. When you’re ‘bringing up baby’ you also want a good support network around you. Every new parent needs people they can call up, message and join for a day out. Folkelife has talked to just a few of the great parents supporting new parents in Folkestone.
Katy is mum to three children under 6. She’s a PR consultant and someone who knows the need to connect with other parents. “I grew up here but moved to London for a while. We’re back now and have three children with us! We’re a real beach family, so being so close to the sea works for us. There are so many places that are great for kids, and I can’t wait to see more Coastal Schools starting up to take advantage of the beach-life we have. They’re along the lines of a Forest School; learning happens in and about the environment in which we live. It’s really important in understanding and respecting the sea.
“What’s good about Folkestone is you have the Coastal Park. So you can do the beach, play at the park, and get a good coffee hit for parents! There are really nice buggy walks around too which works if you’re out for daily exercise, and if you’re able to meet up with others.”
“I’m a self-employed marketing and PR person. As part of my job, I work with a lot of – mainly mums – who’ve started their own businesses that work around having children. There are so many that are really useful for young parents. I’m on Instagram and it’s great to connect other parents with what’s going on. I run ‘Meet Ups’ where parents are able to get together at a yoga session, or in Moo Like A Monkey’s. I really like the idea though of getting small businesses together and giving them a platform to showcase their services. It’s a community networking event. The businesses get something out of it, the parents have a shared experience and hopefully meet some new friends too.”
Family friendly places
“I did a poll via my blog to ask where the best places were to take children and got loads of engagement. The landslide winner for favourite places to eat with the kids was Lubens, followed by Market Square, Steep Street, Loaf in Sandgate and the Eleto Chocolate Café.
“The best baby/toddler groups were An Invitation To Play, Little Olympians at Three Hills, Hawkinge Children’s Centre Groups, Led by the Wild Forest School and Harbour Tots.
“If you’re looking for a family day out then try Wingham Wildlife Park, Folkestone’s Coastal Park, Dymchurch beach and amusements, the Rare Breeds Centre and Port Lympne Safari Park. If you like castles then Walmer and Leeds Castle are worth a visit. Samphire Hoe is great for walking by the sea and getting to know the wildlife. Kearsney Abbey is a wonderful place for a picnic.
An Invitation to play
Sarah is mum to a 6 year old and also an Early Years teacher who runs creative toddler activities in Folkestone. “There are lots of baby groups, but when it came to entertain my daughter as she became more mobile, there wasn’t much around. There are parks and soft play areas but I wanted something else. I’m trained in Early Years learning and looking around I thought I could offer something, so I started An Invitation To Play. I had a few criteria; I didn’t want to be based in a tired-looking village hall, there needed to be free parking, decent toilets with decent changing facilities. It’s important if you’re a parent getting out of the house, to go somewhere with your child where you both are going to enjoy yourself, feel comfortable and relaxed!
“The group runs from The Grand Hotel which gives us all of these things. But it also makes me feel like we’re part of a community. On a Friday morning there are lots of older guests there who love seeing the children. The staff at The Grand are great too, because they remark on how the children are growing. It just feels as though we’re part of a bigger family community.”
“I run a series of workshops across a 6 week period. People can pay for the lot or just pop in for a session or two. I try to theme them to the news, popular books or things happening around the town. We have had a Greta Thumberg week for example. There’s craft and play around these topics; toddlers are very keen to be involved and aware of what’s going on. It’s also not forced, if someone doesn’t want to do the activity, then that’s fine!
“Being environmentally aware is important too. I use a lot of recycled products, less glitter and more petals, that sort of thing. I don’t want to have much waste so I spend a lot of time before hand making things so as not to throw much away. Using glass jars for paint pots and brushes is something I don’t shy away from. If parents come to my groups and see they can do these things at home, then that’s good!”
“There’s lots of support online which helps if you can’t get out for some reason. Via my Facebook and Instagram pages I share activities you can do at home. There are a lot of plastic toys out there which just have one aim. Toddlers can get easily bored, so try to think of an activity with a goal such as pouring things into different containers, or moving something from one place to the next. It doesn’t matter if they don’t do it, if the child is touching and feeling the materials you are using then they’re getting a sensory experience. All is good!
“I have done pop-up events across town, and they work well too. It’s nice to have different locations and inputs to the group.”
Becoming Mumma T
Becoming a parent is daunting, especially if it’s for the first time. Having twins is an added challenge. Tanya and her wife, Steff, moved to Folkestone in 2017. They’d got married and were discussing starting a family, but didn’t want to bring up their children in London. “We were looking at coastal towns, and Folkestone was at the end of the trainline I used to catch. Our first visit to the town was on the first Folkestone Pride day and it just felt like coming home. Folkestone is obviously somewhere we we could bring up our children and not be considered unusual.
“We did our research and there are good schools here, and a good family environment, so we moved down. In the summer of 2019 we discovered we were pregnant, and then had the surprising, but really happy news, that it was twins! Hearing two heartbeats at our first scan was just amazing. They were born at the William Harvey, who were brilliant, and we came out of hospital into Lockdown – so they had never really known anything different.”
“At the beginning of 2020, we’d been to a few places where we’d met new parents, or parents-to-be, but Lockdown did mean that we didn’t get that networking as we’d have done in ‘normal times’. I’d set up an Instagram @becomingmummat which was really to document the girls growing up, but it’s turned into a life-line! All our networking has been virtual! It is great to have a place where you can ask ‘is this normal?’!
“There’s a Whatsapp group that’s great too. Anyone who meets a new parent with twins (or more) adds them to the group so you can get to meet more families with multiple children. Meet The Wildes have been so supportive too. They have two sets of twins and Vita too, I’m not quite sure how they do it! Now we’ve been able to meet in person, but it’s great to have this community online and we have our support network.”
“I’d initially joined Instagram to find out about adoption routes. We were interested in doing that, but hadn’t seen many same-sex couples adopting children. Then, when we’d decided to go down the IVF route, so many people came out of the woodwork to give advice and support. It kind of snowballed from there! And when we announced it was twins, we got more people joining who had twins too! I felt I needed to update people with what was going on. That really became important when one of our girls had a really serious allergic reaction and I had to stay in hospital with her for a week.
“Because of the Covid situation, I was in hospital breastfeeding Hazel and expressing milk for my mother-in-law to take back to my wife and Emberly. I was so lonely, scared and anxious. Breastfeeding became difficult because of the stress we were under, and not knowing what was making Hazel ill was really scary. But the messages of support I got from everyone was…well, it felt like they were giving me this great big hug. It meant the world to me and just really made it possible for me to hold myself together while I was in hospital for a week with Hazel.”
folkestone has the best changing facilities
“We’ve been going out more now, and have discovered the best changing facilities in Planet Earth Kitchen! My wife went in with one of our daughters and came back buzzing ‘I have to change them both!’ she said. It’s just really well laid out, and has places to hang things out of the way of the children, but still so you can use them. Really practical and well thought out.
“We love going to see Charlotte at Moo Like A Monkey. She’s the only one outside our family who can tell the girls apart! We’ve bought lots of stuff from her, apart from the fact it’s great stuff, it’s local too!
“There’s a great baby room in Boots too. I go there a lot to feed the twins. Breastfeeding in public is fine, but you do tend to get a lot of attention if there are twins. It’s always clean in there and quiet, and it’s just nice to be peaceful too! We went on a garage safari the other day and I needed to feed the girls; this man was so sweet, he let me sit down and popped inside to get me a cup of tea and biscuits too! I feel that people really look out for you here. We definitely made the right decision in moving to Folkestone, it’s the best place for us to bring up our family.”