The Toughest Job

It is often said that parenting is the toughest job and at times it can feel that way, but I love my salary of hugs and "I Love You Mum"s.

The generation of children left in misery by cotton wool parenting


A study found that children are increasingly unhappy and fearful about the future because parents dominate their lives too much, and can leave them ill-equipped to deal with adult life.

The generation of children left in misery by cotton wool parenting

Hip hop for tots

'Dr Octopus' and children's laureate star at half-term festival

Hip hop for tots
Posted by at Monday, February 28, 2011 10:07 PM

My child is not a monster. He is autistic


More than half a million people in the UK now have autism, a lifelong developmental condition which affects the way they relate to the world.

My child is not a monster. He is autistic

Posted by at Sunday, September 19, 2010 9:23 AM

Autism drug that eases symptoms successfully tested on patients


The drug Arbaclofen improved the social skills of people with the condition, helped them make eye contact more frequently, and reduced irritability and tantrums.

Autism drug that eases symptoms successfully tested on patients

Posted by at Sunday, September 19, 2010 9:01 AM

Motherly love 'breeds confidence'

Babies whose mothers shower them with affection are better at coping with stress when they get older, researchers say.

Motherly love 'breeds confidence'

Autistic babies can be identified by the sounds they make


Research has shown that the babbling of infants with the disorder is not the same as that of children without.

Autistic babies can be identified by the sounds they make

LORRAINE CANDY: My face painting at the school fair was a load of Jackson Pollocks


when the list went up for school fair volunteers, I thought 'why not?' If I was a more organised working mother I'd help the school out more, but I'm not, so this was the least I could do wasn't it?

LORRAINE CANDY: My face painting at the school fair was a load of Jackson Pollocks

Learning difficulties: Three mothers talk about the challenges they and their children face


At 18 a child is usually on the threshold of independence; but what if they have learning disabilities? We talk to three mothers about the issues they and their children face.

Learning difficulties: Three mothers talk about the challenges they and their children face

TOM UTLEY: I dreaded my kid's parties. But at least we didn't host the one where the cat savaged the magician's


Children’s birthday parties have come a very long way since the fish paste sandwiches and musical bumps affairs I remember from my own childhood in the post-war austerity years of the Fifties.

TOM UTLEY: I dreaded my kid's parties. But at least we didn't host the one where the cat savaged the magician's rabbit

Hang Out The Home Made Bunting


Brighten up your garden for a bank holiday barbecue with a classic string of bunting. Perri Lewis shows you how to make it

The last thing anyone wants to do on a sunny, sticky weekend is to elbow their way around B&Q, trying desperately to stock up on stuff to spruce up the garden. But how do you brighten the place up for (fingers crossed, touch wood and all that jazz) next weekend's big summer barbecue if you can't take the heat of the superstore?

The sweet little tin can lanterns that Sally Cameron Griffiths showed us how to make this time last year are a brilliant place to start, and, of course, there's the Guardian's own gardening blog for all kinds of green-fingered ideas. But once you've managed all that, then perhaps you can have a go at a quintessential British garden decoration: a classic string of bunting. Easy-peasy to make and hang up, it's an excellent way to brighten up even the most dreary of back yards.

But do remember - it's a bank holiday next weekend. Perhaps we should hold off cracking out the barbecue and the sewing box for a few more days. No one wants to jinx anything …

What you need

Pencil/tailors' chalk
Scissors (for cutting card)
Pinking scissors or scissors suitable for cutting fabric
Needle and thread/sewing machine
2m ribbon (wider than 2cm to make it easiest)

Step one: Make a template

To make sure all the triangles are the same size, cut a template from card to draw around. I reckon long triangles are better than short stubby ones.

Step two: Draw the triangles

Draw around the template on to your fabric using a pencil or piece of tailors' chalk. Remember to rotate the template each time you draw another triangle so you can get as many pieces as you can from your fabric.

Step three: Cut out the pieces

Use pinking scissors to cut around the triangles - this gives them a zigzag edge and stops the fabric from fraying. If you don't fancy investing in any new tools, use normal scissors to cut out and:

a) Put up with the fraying (really, this isn't ideal).

b) Use felt - which doesn't fray - or strong upholstery material

c) Overlock around the edges with a sewing machine

Step four: Attach the triangles

Take a long piece of ribbon and fold it in half, lengthways, so it is just as long but half as wide. Iron to keep the fold in place (this makes the next bit easier). Pin the fabric triangles on to the ribbon at equal distances from each other.

Step four: Sewing up

With the triangles pinned in place, sew all the way along the ribbon, at least 1cm from the edge, making that sure when you stitch, the needle goes through the triangle and both sides of the ribbon. A sewing machine makes this easy, but if you don't have one, hand-sew using a backstitch.

Alternatively …

• Make double-sided bunting. The easiest way to do this is to buy double-sided fabric. If that's too pricey or difficult to track down, use fusible webbing to stick two pieces of fabric together before step two, then cut triangles out with pinking shears. Another way - which is more time-consuming - is to cut out triangles with normal scissors, pin two together with the right sides facing, sew together along two sides 1cm from the edge, turn inside out, then iron flat, all before proceeding to step four.

• Mix it up and use contrasting fabric triangles: not everything has to match, y'know.

• Make triangles from coloured paper instead of fabric, and attach them to a long length of ribbon using a stapler: it's not waterproof, but it never rains on a bank holiday, right? This is a good project for older children.

• Perri writes about making stuff at © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Hang out the homemade bunting

Neurotic? No, I'm just hypersensitive: How one in five is us are overwhelmed by the stresses of modern living

I wonder how much this behaviour prompts ASD labelling!

According to a new book, some people are born with a more sensitive nervous system - and are more easily stimulated to panic, intolerance and general over-reaction to modern living.

Neurotic? No, I'm just hypersensitive: How one in five is us are overwhelmed by the stresses of modern living

Mothers Can't Resist Competing Over Parties

Mothers are very competitive and like to throw the best birthday parties and dress their children in the smartest clothes, a survey suggests.

Mothers 'can't resist competing over parties'

The family that bakes together …


Baking together – and especially making our own bread – brings us all closer, says the French baker Richard Bertinet

Richard Bertinet's three children know all about real bread. Jack, nine, Tom, six, and Lola Maude, three, can tell a decent sandwich from the filled layers of pappy, additive-laced squares sold in most shops. If you ask them, they will tell you that they prefer sourdough to sliced white, which many parents would say makes them fairly unusual.

But their father, who is French, believes that all children would say the same if they were given the choice between real bread and what he calls the "bread-type product" with which we fill our supermarket trolleys. For millennia, bread has been the most fundamental basic of the human diet and if we get our bread right, Bertinet believes, the rest will follow. He even believes that it can bring parents closer to troublesome teenagers.

Born in Brittany, the son of a gendarme, Bertinet was introduced to the joys of baking by his grandmother. "She used to make wonderful doughnuts. She had a massive bowl of dough rising on the table and I used to hide beneath and steal little bits. The smell, the first bite of the doughnut ... it's my first memory as a child."

After he left school, Bertinet did shifts at a local bakery before his national service, then continued his training as a baker in Paris. He came to the UK in the late 1980s, made his reputation as a chef in London and then moved to Bath six years ago with his wife, Jo, and their young family, to set up a cookery school.

He is angry at the way in which bread that is barely nutritious is marketed to parents and children in this country. During the one-day introductory bread-making course at the Bertinet Kitchen, a pass-the- parcel-style game is played.

Bertinet gets learner bakers to read aloud the ingredients off the bag of a cheap white sliced loaf, one by one. It's quite fun, horribly revealing and takes a good few minutes, not least because some of the preservatives are almost unpronounceable. His point, of course, is that it should take only a moment to recite "flour, yeast, salt, water".

"We've created a culture of convenience," he says. "If you go shopping once a week, bread has to last a week. But there's no excuse for buying bad bread for your family. Read the packaging – you can buy good bread in the supermarket. Even better, find and support your local artisan baker."

If his evangelistic zeal makes Bertinet sound over serious, he is actually very warm and funny, too. He has the "safe pair of hands" quality that a good teacher (and baker) needs, and the charisma and patience to convey and encourage new skills. His books and DVDs demonstrate a revolutionary (to me, anyway) method of working dough, which involves less desperate flour-dusting and more deft, controlled flinging. The first two books, Dough and Crust, are all about bread; his new one, Cook, is a complete cookery helpmate, full of simple, delicious recipes and judicious advice on the basics.

The surest way to learn about nutritious bread, Bertinet says, is to make your own. He's talking about getting your hands doughy, not turning blindly to a bread machine: "Those bricks can be as bad for you as white sliced." And he is a huge enthusiast for kitchen activity en famille. "If your children are uncommunicative, baking together breaks the ice. It changes the routine. And to make and eat your own home-made pizza or breadsticks – it's not a chore, but really positive."

Bertinet suggests that many people who believe that they have problems digesting wheat (victims of bloating, rather than diagnosed coeliacs) might notice a difference if they chose bread made with natural ingredients. As an ambassador for the Real Bread Campaign, part of the Sustain alliance for better food and farming, he champions bread that benefits health, local community and the environment. 

And as a Frenchman, he understands the aesthetic pleasures of a chewy-crusted, properly fermented sourdough. But he refuses to encourage knee-jerk rejection of the sliced stuff. "We need to work with the big bakeries," he says. "We've created this culture of convenience and we need to change it. Cheap bread is the last bastion of poor eating. Look for good bread and support your local baker. And always read the packaging."

Richard's recipes

Basic white dough

10g yeast (fresh, if possible)

500g strong white flour

10g salt

350g water

Rub the yeast into the flour using your fingertips, as if making a crumble. Add the salt and water. Hold the bowl with one hand and mix the ingredients with the other for two to three minutes, till the dough starts to form. Lift it on to your work surface. Do not add flour! Begin to work the dough by sliding your fingers under it like a pair of forks, thumbs on top, swing it upwards, then slap it back down away from you. It will be almost too sticky to lift at this point. Stretch it towards you, lift it back over itself to trap air, tuck in the edges, and repeat the sequence. After a few minutes it should begin to feel alive and elastic in your hands. Keep on working it until it comes cleanly away from the work surface. Now you can flour the worktop and form the dough into a ball by folding each edge in turn into the centre and pressing down well with your thumb, rotating the ball as you go. Now you're ready to attempt all manner of white loaves.

Olive, herb and cheese breadsticks

Makes about 12

White dough, rested for one hour

(half the above quantity)

100g purple olives, such as

Kalamata, stones in

50g grated pecorino or parmesan

5g good herbes de Provence

Maize flour for dusting

Stone the olives and cut each roughly into three, then mix with the cheese and herbs in a bowl. Turn your dough out on to a lightly dusted surface, then flatten into a rectangle, about 2cm thick. Sprinkle the olive and cheese mixture on to it and press into the dough with your fingertips. As if you're folding an A4 letter to put into an envelope, fold one third into the middle, pressing it down to work the olives in, then do the same on the opposite side. Cut the dough widthways into 10 or 12 x 1cm strips. Flour the work surface, then twist and roll each strip to stretch it to the length of your baking tray (non-stick, or covered in greaseproof paper). Place them on the tray, leaving a good gap between each one. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated oven (as hot as it will go) for 10–12 minutes. Lift the breadsticks carefully on to a wire rack to cool.

Richard Bertinet's books Dough (£19.99), Crust (£15.99) and Cook (£19.99) are published by Kyle Cathie. For details of breadmaking classes, go to Join the Real Bread Campaign at © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

The family that bakes together …

Autism blood test could be available in three years


The kit would use a few drops of blood to help doctors decide if a child has the devastating condition, speeding up diagnosis and allowing life-altering treatment to start earlier.

Autism blood test could be available in three years

MMR Vaccine Scare Doctor To Learn His Fate

And once again, the article mentions the rise in measles cases from 1998 to last year (56 to 1144) and report it in a way that indicates it is due to the decline in MMR vaccination rates. No mention of the immigrant population explosion (the majority of which are unprotected), no mention of the number of adults who contracted the disease and no mention of the uptake rate on the individual vaccinations.
The doctor who sparked the worldwide scare over the MMR vaccine will hear today whether he will be punished by the medical regulator.

MMR Vaccine Scare Doctor To Learn His Fate

'Working mothers are to blame if their children misbehave' says a leading psychologist


Oliver James has controversially suggested that mothers of toddlers should stay at home.

'Working mothers are to blame if their children misbehave' says a leading psychologist

Common pesticides linked to ADHD in children


Children exposed to chemicals used on crops and in household products could have a higher risk of attention-deficit disorder, according to U.S research.

Common pesticides linked to ADHD in children

'Long-term harm' of toddlers' TV

The amount of television watched by toddlers is linked adversely to their future performance at school, researchers warn.

'Long-term harm' of toddlers' TV

Crying-it-out 'harms baby brains'

A parenting expert says leaving young babies to "cry-it-out" for long periods can harm their developing brains.

Crying-it-out 'harms baby brains'

How much TV should a child watch?

Parents should not berate themselves when they resort to putting their children in front of the television.

How much TV should a child watch?