THINGS TO DO

Baby friendly Newham

East Ham is a haven for new families; good primary schools, an abundance of parks and relatively low house prices (for London) are all good reasons for newbie parents to make the journey further east and become E6 explorers. This and the fact that East Ham has an utterly amazing kiddie friendly community of parents, volunteers and council led schemes that provide a wonderful local support network. Yep, East Ham is a winner when it comes to small people; from council led Children’s Centres and NCT meet ups, to a 250 strong What’sApp group of mums chatting parenting, babies, boobs and the state of the UK. All that, topped off with a few solid family friendly cafes means East Ham has everything you need to bring a new tiny human into the world.

With this in mind, we’ve rounded up our favourite top tips and need to knows for the newly sleep deprived …

1. USE YOUR LOCAL CHILDREN’S CENTRE

Children’s Centres are like the fight clubs of the parental world. Before you become a parent, you have no idea that they exist, where they are or why you need them but once your 8lb bundle of joy arrives, you suddenly rely on them for everything from Health visitor drop ins and parenting workshops to Mum and Baby yoga and breastfeeding support groups. There is something for everyone, every day of the week and the good news is, it is all free. You will also be pleased to hear that Newham’s Children’s Centres are outstanding. Many of them are tagged on to Ofsted endorsed nursery and primary schools so you know you are in good hands.

If you are a Newham parent you can access any of the centre’s as long as you have your ‘members card’ (your health visitor will give this to you shortly after your baby is born).

A list of Newham Children’s Centres is below. It is worth noting that some Children’s centres don’t keep their schedules up to date, so it can be hard to find online information but most have a handy handout to give you if you pop by:-

Edith Kerrison Children’s Centre, Beckton

Keir Hardie Children’s Centre, Canning Town

Altmore Children’s Centre, East Ham South

Oliver Thomas Children’s Centre, East Ham South

Kay Rowe Children’s Centre, Forest Gate

Maryland Children’s Centre, Stratford

St Stephens Children’s Centre, East Ham Central

Manor Park Children’s Centre, Manor Park

Plaistow Children’s Centre, Plaistow

Rebecca Cheetham Children’s Centre, Stratford / West Ham

Ellen Wilkinson Children’s Centre, Beckton

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2. CATCH A MOVIE (yes really) AT A NEARBY BABY CINEMA

We ‘heart’ baby cinema. Aptly named the ‘screamer’ sessions, there are a few local cinema’s offering parent and baby friendly screenings. They play all the usual releases but keep the lights low (so you can see your little monkey dribbling down your arm if needs be) and the sound slightly muted (so they don’t wake up with a jump every time Iron Man blows something up). Many of them offer a cake or coffee or both included in the price of the ticket (sugar and caffeine, CHECK!) and some of them even show the film in the luxury screen so you can bag yourself and your bubba a sofa to relax on!

Our fave sprog friendly cinema’s are below:-

Genesis, Whitechapel: Parent & Baby – The session is every Thursday and starts around 11am. Tickets are £8 and include a free coffee. Buggies need to be left outside, but films are shown in the luxurious Screen 5, complete with sofa’s, cushions, footstools and blankets. If you are lucky you might even find an arthouse movie or two showing here.

Everyman Canary Wharf: Baby Club – The session is usually a Tuesday morning but times vary, so check their website before you visit. Tickets are £14 and include a hot drink and a cake. All the big blockbusters are shown here, and the screens have plush sofas and cushions.

Stratford Picture house: The Big Scream – The session is every Tuesday morning, times vary (usually 11am start). Tickets are £5.50 (NB, Picture House has classic cinema seating, not sofa’s, so well seasoned movie mums bag the seats at the front so they can lay the babies on a blanket to kick about during the film).

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3. CONNECT WITH LOCAL PARENTS (AKA THE LEGENDARY WHATSAPP GROUP)

East Ham has a secret parent club. Ok, actually it’s not very secret. In fact most of you reading this will already be on it, or have heard about it… We are of course talking about the famous (infamous?) WhatsApp community…

Once upon a time, before EastBlam was a twinkle in it’s authors eye, a mum set up a whats app group to link together a few other mums and chat about parenting stuff. Several years later, the group is still going and is now around 250 strong. There are splinter groups for all manner of useful parenting information; there’s a Mums group (Newham Babies), a Dads group (The Dad’s Lads), a swap shop (Mumtree) and many more. Here all things parentish and a good deal of things not parentish are chucked about on a daily basis, bringing together parents across the ward. They talk babies, boobs, the state of the uk, share recommendations, discounts and tell each other about any local happenings but most importantly, they share the experience of being a parent in East Ham. In real time.

Warning / disclaimer. If you join this group, your phone will bing relentlessly throughout the day and night, so don’t forget to put it on silent while you are trying to put the precious bundle of joy to bed. To get in on the action, ask another local mum or dad for a referral or email us.

4. FIND SOME BABY FRIENDLY YOGA AND FITNESS SESSIONS

For fit as a fiddle folks, there are loads of options for you and (or) baby. So many that we have categorised them:-

Yoga & Wellness

Parent and Baby Yoga usually offers a bit of yoga for you (with helpful ways to keep baby happy while you get your downward dog on), a bit of stretching for baby (yep even tiny limbs need to limber up) and some fun games or songs thrown in for good measure. It’s a good and gentle way to rebalance mind and body…

Our picks are Space East, in Forest Gate and YogaTherapyLondon in Stratford and Canary Wharf. For an adventure further afield, you can try Mummy & Me Yoga in Leytonstone (they have parking if you are car bound). You can also find some great free classes running at your local children’s centre.

East Ham’s Bonny Downs Centre offers a great yoga class on a Thursday morning which is 100% freeeeeeee, and while the yoga class is for grown ups, babes in arms and toddlers are welcome to attend. The babies hang out with you on the mat during the class and tots can potter on a play mat while you find some zen.

Fitness classes

For more active fitness (you know, the sweaty, get your core muscles back, using your baby as weights kind) try Fitness Fox & Cubs, in West Ham and Forest Gate, run by a local mum. Also John Lewis have been known to run a Mum and Baby friendly class or two:- their current class Mother & baby fitness option is run by Hex (instructions on how to find them are on their website).

If you are a runner, Greenwich park hosts a buggy run on Tuesdays & Thursdays – its much further away but a beautiful location (we haven’t found a local one yet, but if you know of any, tell us about it here…)

Fitness options with Creche facilities

If you have the kind of baby who simply ain’t gonna sit still for no joint fitness class (yo, mum & dad, I am the centre of attention here!), then somewhere with a creche is the way forward.

East Ham Leisure centre’s creche staff are excellent, and usage is free for members. Off peak membership is only £24 per month and with a wide variety of fitness classes and swimming options as well as the gym, this really is not to be sneezed at. They also have a steam room and sauna, so even if you can’t face the gym, you can simply hit showers for some R&R while someone else watches your little monster cherub for a wee while.

Similarly, Stratford’s London Aquatic Centre of 2012 Olympics fame has a 50m pool and the creche facility is a measly £3.50 per hour per child for non members (it is free to members) – be warned, priority is given to members and there are only 7 places so competition can be pretty fierce. Luckily, if you want to swim regularly, they have a range of membership options to choose from. They also have a car park and a cafe on site so you have easy access and space for a quick pitstop before you leave! #mumgoals

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5. GET OUTSIDE

They say everyone has to eat a bucket of dirt before they die, so starting your wee ones early is a good thing – getting the kids outside helps build up their immune system, and gets them lots of fresh air to help them sleep… Our picks for Newham are:-

Tots go Wild – a wonderful weekly outdoor sensory play session held (whatever the weather) at Flanders Field community centre (hosted by the Bonny Downs Community association). Its run by NCT volunteers and is great for babies and tots on the move. Find out more here.  Also worth noting that Bonny Downs Community association also host a Monday, indoor play and learn session which is just as much fun but not always as messy!)

WoodChips – A monthly playgroup / meet up run by Newham Woodcraft Folk, a group that promotes outdoor activities from cradle to grave and runs play sessions for babies and kids in and around Newham. For more information, check out their facebook page.

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7. GRAB A COFFEE

Ah, an essential part of looking after a tiny one. C.O.F.F.E.E . More the better if it is combined with cake, a comfy chair and a good baby changing facillity / loo! Yep, these are the things you need to survive any daily outing. Luckily, we have a few great spots in Newham.

The Ernstwhile Parrot – Newbie on the coffee shop block, you can read more about it here but this little Green Street Gem is fab for families. They serve good coffee, light lunches and have a great baby change as well as some toys available. NB – it is not a huge cafe so buggy space can get a bit tight on a busy day.

The Larder – These cafe’s are sprinkled liberally around East Ham nowadays… There is a Larder in East Ham Library, Plashet Park and Central Park so you have a few to choose from. As a rule, the coffee is good, the cake is great. The Central park cafe is huge, with plenty of space for buggies and babies, great sofas and a children’s play area at the back but unfortunately they don’t have toilet facilities inside or a baby change so plan ahead (there is a public toilet in the park, open intermittently). The Larder at the Library is cosy and friendly. It makes a great pitstop as the library offers a wide range of regular kiddie and baby activities as well as having a huge selection of wonderful baby books (get ’em reading early, folks!).

AppleCart CafeUpton Park / Plaistow cafe run out of the AppleCart Community theatre, this place is great for babies with plenty of space for them to crawl around inside and some enclosed outdoor space if the weather is nice. The coffee is great, and always served with a smile. They also run a Parent & Baby coffee morning every Tuesday from 11-1pm.

Signorelli’s – One of many great spots in the East Village, but this is our current favourite. Situated right next to the canal, they have shady benches outside for when it is hot and comfy sofa’s inside for when it is not. Their sandwiches and sourdough bakes are excellent (artisan bakery, don’t you know), as is the coffee and they have a great baby changing space. Find out more on their website.

John Lewis Cafe – commercial but safe, the JL cafe in {East}Westfield should be on every parents pit stop list. If you are in Stratford, this is the gold standard of family friendly, with changing and feeding spaces, high chairs, oodles of space for buggies. The best thing is that every other mum in stratford is in there too, so even if you are blessed with a screamer, no one will mind!

Vinarius on the Roman, Bow – Ok its neither Newham nor coffee, but for a daytime activity, why not try Parent and Baby wine tasting… No, coochi-coo cannot drink the wine, but you can! It’s baby friendly and something to remind you of the good ole days before your life revolved around a tiny dictator  bundle of joy. It’s £10 the session lasts 2 hours, and you get a few nibbles to boot (prepared by our own East-Hammer, Sophie Downer-Hill – check out her story here). Find out more or book a session via their website.

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6. GET ON THE NCT MAILING LIST

Most of you will be familiar with NCT. From parenting classes to online advice, The National Childbirth Trust have been supporting families across the country in some form or another since the 1950’s and Newham is no exception. NCT Newham run tons of free (yes FREEEE, NCT is not only for paid-for parenting classes, you know!) activities in and around East Ham from weekly Bumps and Babies meet ups, to toddlers and tots groups, Nearly New sales and Baby Raves (!).

They also train local peer to peer volunteers who offer support on Breastfeeding, Mental Health Issues and much more. You don’t have to be a paid up member to get involved, just sign up to their weekly newsletter (email them here) and they will send you a list of what is on. They are always recruiting for volunteers, so you can also get involved in organising events, host a home based bumps and babies session or train to be a peer to peer supporter.

7. GET SOME HELP

Being a new parent isn’t always easy. If you are finding it tough and need a sympathetic ear, there are a few services great services available to you:-

Parents in mind – A peer to peer talking session where an NCT Mental Health peer supporter (and usually a local mum) in your area will make you a cuppa and listen to any parental anxieties that you need to get off your chest. There are three friendly support groups available in Newham (Forest Gate, Manor Park and East Ham) – for more information email Parents In Mind here.

Talking Therapies – If you need a bit more than a chat, you can be refered to Newham’s Talking Therapies service, where after an initial consultation, the NHS can offer you a wide range of mental health support options to suit your needs. To self refer, click here.

Birth Reflections Service – If the big day didn’t go quite as smoothly (all mums laugh here… Birth, smooth?! mwahahahaha) as you had imagined, you can get in touch with the NHS Birth Reflections Service. A consultant midwife will take you through your birth and medical notes, to help you process the event now that the adrenaline of bringing a tiny human into the world has worn off. It can be cathartic and help you to understand your postnatal care and aftercare. To find out more, or arrange an appointment, you can email them here.

Maternity Voices Partnership – Finally, if you feel like using your birth or pre / post natal experiences to help improve NHS services in the future, you can join the Maternity Voices Partnership, a group which brings together women and healthcare professionals to work on improving maternity care in Newham. You can find more information on their facebook page.

So that’s all. Well don’t complain, we warned you there was A LOT! If you have read all the way to the bottom, you get a gold star because you have just doubled EastBlam’s page dwell time on Google Analytics. More importantly, you are now fully clued up on how to be a parent in Newham.

So what are you waiting for… If you don’t have a baby, we suggest you make one pronto. And if you do, you had better get your ducks in a row because your days just got BUSY!

Disclaimer: We have to point out that this is really only the tip of the baby-berg so we had to prioritise the most useful bits for you… If you discover something so babylicious that you think we were criminal for not including, please stick the info in the comments below so other Ham-tastic parents can find it. They will love you forever.

Happy Maternity / Paternity leave, ya’ll.

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