Choose The Lightest Childcare Equipment

Posted on: 03 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Gloucestershire grandmother Fran Yorke has set up a website of tried and tested baby products that are light, easy to assemble and simple to store.

Sixty five percent of grandparents play an active part in caring for their grandchildren. A staggering one in five devote more than forty hours a week to them. If you are one of the thousands of hands-on grandparents, like me you have probably tussled with some of today’s baby equipment.

Four years ago, when my first grandchild was born, baby care was a distant memory. It was over twenty five years since I last had to fold a pushchair, put up a travel cot or carry a baby on my hip.

I was quietly confident that the pram, cot and high chair that I had sentimentally and frugally stowed away in the attic could be brought back into service. My daughter had other views. Hopelessly old fashioned, unhygienic, positively dangerous. If I was going to be caring for my granddaughter, I would have to get my head, and my hands around the new kit.

I struggled to open and worse still close the pushchair - should I try to jam it open or should I abandon the car and walk home? The travel cot - a ‘travel’ item only in the sense that a cabin trunk was a travel item - was permanently installed in the spare room because I couldn’t work out how to collapse it.  With more grandchildren on the way - and I now have five - I knew that I was going to have to find some better solutions.

I wanted an easy to use buggy that I could keep in the car, and some lightweight equipment to keep at home for visiting grandchildren, equipment that could be folded up and tucked away tidily between visits.  And it wasn’t just the kit that I was finding heavy and unwieldy, it was the babies themselves and I had to accept that granny’s back and knees could do with a bit of help!

Given the ever-increasing number of hands-on grandparents, I didn’t think it would be hard to find what I was looking for, but how wrong I was! I asked my friends. They had all had the same problems, but few of them had found the answers. The range of baby and child equipment available is vast and growing. It’s a huge market place and few grandparents have the time or the energy to explore it. So for the most part we make do.

A year ago, with the encouragement of one of my sons-in-law, he - not entirely selflessly since he is the father of two of my grandchildren - and I decided that having found some of the items that I needed, we would look further and bring together a range of products that would meet the needs of other grandparents as well.

A preliminary questionnaire, which elicited an astonishing 70 percent response, revealed that pushchairs, cots and highchairs were at the top of the list for ‘items owned’, so that was where we started. In July this year we launched our online store with over sixty products, all tried and tested by grandparents and approved by parents.

We knew from our questionnaire that while ‘ease of use’ rated most highly, ‘ease of storage’ and ‘price’ ran a close second and third, not forgetting ‘appearance’.  If you can’t put the high-chair away, let it be easy on the eye!

We have tried to cater for a wide range of needs. Some lucky grandparents can give over a room to their grandchildren, whilst others, like me, must squeeze everything into a cupboard under the stairs or beneath a bed.  Whilst others want things that will go in a drawer.

For the last group, we have a squashable fabric ‘high chair’, a ‘cot’ that pops up out of a small bag, microwave sterilizer bags and disposable changing mats.  A travel cot that is really easy to put up and down, a smart folding booster seat that fits on any kitchen or dining chair, and a folding baby bath will all fit easily under a bed.

Those with more space should like our folding wooden cot - which is still slim enough to slip under a single bed, an adjustable wooden highchair and a playpen that doubles as a room divider and turns into a playtent.

We have included a range of pushchairs from the no-frills Baby Bug at under £20 to the high tech Zia Stroller at £110 - a bit pricey but it’s light, it’s a dream to push and it stands up on its own when its folded, so there's no need to bend down.

The great back-saver is the Hipseat - a supporting belt with a padded foam seat that lets you carry a sturdy baby or toddler on your hip without straining your back. Magic!

And we haven’t forgotten play! My own favourite is the Radio Flyer: a small red trailer that holds two delighted children, plus a picnic or a puppy - and when the grandchildren go home, it doubles up as a useful transporter for garden chairs, logs or plants. Grandparents have lives too!

Take a look at Fran's website, the online store which caters to the needs of hands-on grandparents. Visit

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