about the Internet – the dangers, the disasters. I know – I’ve been involved in the campaigns to improve online safety and privacy, leading up to the Digital Economy Act 2017 and beyond. And one of the things I’ve learned is that while politicians and vested interests move at glacial speed to make the digital world a safer place, our kids are growing up fast. So I was chuffed to bits when that brilliant BBC producer John Leagas gave me the opportunity to help children learn a few survival techniques.
And just so you don’t miss one, here they are individually-
Don’t worry, they’re not worthy, preachy or teachy – this is me writing them! Waggy dogs and lazy uncles… Globe-trotting grannies… And a cat who knows where it’s app. Have a listen and enjoy exploring the online world with your little ones in these
This week it’s all runny noses in my #allergies story. You can hear about Shaniqua’s #hayfever with #DrRanj at
Why doesn’t her twin sister get it?
And what’s the top tennis tip?
Is there a top tennis tip? You’ll have to listen to find out. Carefully or you’ll miss it.
You missed it didn’t you.
Never mind. The story isn’t aimed at you reading this – I suspect you are much older than six. All of these allergy podcasts are written to help younger children. Alongside the stories, children talk about their own allergies and Dr Ranj Singh gives helpful advice. I hope that your little ones find them useful and of course enjoyable.
Children and parents and, well anyone else, can listen to my story and find out what happens when a boy brings the school guinea pigs home in Bohdan’s Beastly Allergy . OK so the title has given away a bit about what happens but, look it’s got guinea pigs! And pigeons. And a little boy who desperately loves animals and cuddles. And did I mention guinea pigs?
This was possibly my favourite story in this series because the research involved guinea pigs and learning a new technical term: ‘pet dander’. Jayne’s top tip: if dander ain’t dandy, then keep tissues handy… Dr Ranj has proper top tips for sufferers of pet allergies at the end of the podcast. But they don’t rhyme.
Sporty Imogen refuses to let her asthma get in the way of her having fun in this story. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/imogen-takes-the-plunge
This story draws on some of my experiences teaching kayaking to school children. There always seemed to be at least one child with an inhaler in the class and if they were not reticent about trying something that might make them out of breath and/or falling in the river, their teachers often were.
In this story, I wanted to show that, as long as the right precautions are taken, there is no reason why a child with asthma can’t do fun stuff or go on to make their dreams come true. I was greatly inspired by stories of Olympic athletes like Rebecca Adlington OBE and hope that children listening to this story will be too and will go on to do amazing things.
Oh and thanks to the great people at my local sports centre #Dursleypool for explaining why we should shower before rather than after swimming and why widdling in the pool is such a really bad idea…
#DrRanj reads my story Jamil’s Food Challenge and shares top tips on what to do if you or someone you know has a #foodallergy https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/jamils-food-challenge
It’s not much fun not being able to share the same food as your friends and it’s not much fun having to spend your birthday in the hospital allergy clinic. But when the usual allergy tests suggest his body can now cope with eggs, Jamil has to decide whether to stay safe and only eat the food he already trusts or, with the help of his specialist nurse, expand his diet. Knowing how poorly eggs have made him in the past, it is a scary notion and Jamil has to be very brave. But maybe, just maybe, this year he won’t have to blow out the candles on a pretend birthday cake made of cardboard but will be able to have his first ever ‘proper’ birthday cake, and share it with all his friends!
Having known children with very restrictive diets, I have been in awe of their patience and resilience. From a distance, it can be easy to condemn them as ‘picky’ and to think they’re just being difficult. But often these children are incredibly brave, having to guard themselves against things the rest of us take for granted.
My thanks to #CBeebiesRadio for helping with the child testimonies and medical research. In the spirit of good public service broadcasting, I was happy to undertake the necessary research into birthday cakes and bouncy castles.
I’m so glad to have written the stories for this fantastic series helping kids across the UK who have allergies, while making others aware of how they can help. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio
Starting from 10th Jan with a new show every Wednesday until 7th February , this cracking series about allergies is not to be sniffed at.
I’ll stop right there with the puns because allergies are only funny until you have one yourself. Then it can be tiresome, disruptive, frightening, especially when you’re not yet even six. To be the odd one out, with special food, special gloves, special medicine, when you’re feeling poorly, doesn’t feel very special at all.
This series of five audio downloads explores different chronic conditions that some children may suffer: asthma, allergies to pet dander, nuts, dairy, pollen… what’s it like to suddenly react badly to something? What’s it like when it happens to your friend? What’s it like to have to guard what you eat or drink or touch? What’s it like to not be able to eat your own birthday cake?
When you put it like that, it’s all a bit grim.
So I didn’t put it like that.
After all, these stories are for CBeebies and CBeebies is never grim. So expect fun stories with nutty detectives, cub scouts, tennis aces, guinea pigs and pigeons, all read beautifully by the wonderfully reassuring Dr Ranj.
Of course the stories answer all of those questions above: I based them on patient testimony and the expertise of a specialist nurse. You can hear some of the children talking about their conditions in each episode as well. My lovely producers were pleased with the result. I hope that you and your little ones will be too.
Had to abandon several plans this summer because those lovely people at CBeebies Radio asked me to to write some stories and poems for them sharpish. Hopefully my friends, real and imaginary, didn’t feel too neglected and they, especially if they’re under six years old, will enjoy the results. You can hear them from today on the BBC iplayer radio app, just look for the Cbeebies bug! Then from next Monday 6th November you can download my story The Paintpots from the CBeebies website
The following Monday your little ones will be able to hear all about a quite magnificent Sock Drawer!
And in between listen out for poems about the sounds of colours – how do they sound to you?
Developing and writing these was a blast and an education. Here are some of the key things I learnt during this project:
– Yellow is an existential colour
– D.H. Lawrence has a lot to answer for
– Snail snot should never be underestimated
None of these conclusions found their way into the CBeebies material, you’ll no doubt be happy to learn. Instead, your preschoolers will enjoy discovering, for example that:
The colour yellow is a primary colour
But it’s a great mixer and go between.
If blue gets all flustered, yellow really cuts the mustard,
Shouting, “Bananas in custard!
Hey look: we’ve made green!”
“Bufo Bufo” said the lusting toad
“I want some love action, I must cross the road”
“Bufo Bufo” said the toad, full of lust,
“To get to the love pond, cross the road I must.”
You’ve heard of the Great Migration across the plains of Africa? Well this is a little closer to home but no less magnificent given the scale of the creatures involved. Every year common toads come out from under the rocks, mud and compost heaps where they’ve spent the winter and take the long march to the Ancestral Pond. It might be only up the road or across a couple of fields to you and me but then we’re not 2-3 centimetres high.
Then a motorcar sped down the road
Heart full of desire, out stepped the toad
Out stepped the toad, heart full of desire,
“Glitch” went the toad, between tarmac and tyre.
Another toad crossing said “Oh bother and f**k it”
If only someone had a big plastic bucket.
If someone had a big plastic bucket
To the pond I’d go safely, find another toad and…
Thanks to the less than wintry weather here, the toads started moving very early this spring. January. We saw the first squashed one in January. As these animals are declining in numbers, our crack team of patrollers have been out every night to lift them to safety on the pond side of the road. Some nights are just too cold and only the hardiest, lustiest toads make a move. But other nights when the conditions are just right, warm and damp, we’ve been collecting them by the bucketful.
Ever wondered what 40 toads looks like?
The collective noun is a ‘knot’.
I like that.
The sun is just setting, I am waiting for the last blackbird to shut up and go to sleep and then I’m off again, armed with bucket and torch to zigzag my way up and down the lane so that fewer toads look like this:
And more look like this:
And just so’s you know: they don’t croak – frogs croak.
Well, if your instincts promised a pond full of passion, wouldn’t you?
Very pleased to have been invited to this last week. Not least because the magnificent Geena Davis was giving the keynote. If I wasn’t me, I’d like to be her. You can read more about her brilliant Geena Davis Institute here and its research into women and girls in film, or rather the lack of women and girls in film. You can also see their excellent See Jane Video which is far more eloquent than me.
Many of my fellow delegates were interested in the lack of women in the film industry but the research and campaign goes further to show the lack of women and girls in the films themselves. Don’t girls and women matter? Is it really true that boys won’t watch girl protagonists but that girls are ok with watching boys? Really? Why do girls have to be the ones that give way on this? What damage have we done, shoehorning our youngsters into gender roles? I’ve always wanted more from life than fashion and boyfriends and I can’t understand why women continue to punish their bodies with high heels and uncomfortable corsetry.
I got the feeling that the majority of the audience at the symposium would agree that women and girls deserve more from the media and from their lives. I love the motto, “If she can see it, she can be it”. It was generally felt that this starts right back in the early years, in kids’ media. I totally agree and hope that there will be a major shift in kids’ content away from girls being bossy big sisters, the sensible ones and the sidekick/love interests. I hope there will be an even split of protagonists and sidekicks and antagonists across the genders. But what I hope most, is that the big profitable organisations (public, private, multinational… broadcasters, film companies, internet providers…) that were represented at the symposium will not just say there needs to be change, but will pay for it: someone has to. There were some wealthy players attending and applauding the See Jane campaign – I charmingly asked a couple about putting their money where their mouths were. They fixed their smiles and moved on. Obviously they didn’t see this Jane.
If you don’t know Tee and Mo, they are a delightful monkey mother and son combo who get up to all sorts of collaborative fun in the forest. They collaborate together and also with you, the preschool child/care-giver in their Bafta nominated games (also found on the Cbeebies website).
Narrated by BBC6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Tee and Mo is the brainchild of Plug-In’s creative director Dominic Minns. I love the way he and the other clever people at Plug-in have devised the games to encourage children and their adults to play the games together, to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
Who Did the Footprints is my first interactive story. I want to say very clever things about extending the reading experience and kinesthetic learning but that would sound terribly dull and I’d much rather you and your Cbeebie went together and gave your Cbeebies Storytime app-watching device a good shake (You’ll understand once you’ve downloaded the story) so I’ll just say that it was enormous fun writing it and I hope that you have enormous fun reading it.