She’s one of Britain’s craftiest mums (and Cath Kidston’s cousin don’t you know?), and just how on earth she has room for all that stuff she makes will probably forever remain a mystery.
But this summer Kirstie Allsopp is asking the nation to make something other than pretty cushion covers and découpage; she’s trying to encourage families to make more time.
She’s partnered with HouseTrip.com, the global rental website for family holidays, to provide inspiration to families when spending quality time together. HouseTrip offers over 300,000 properties across 20,000 locations worldwide and you can book a whole home for less than the cost of a hotel room!
We caught up with Kirstie to talk being a mum (to four boys no less!), the craft she couldn’t live without and how she spends quality time with her family…
goodtoknow: Why do you think spending family time together is more important than ever?
Kirstie: Research from HouseTrip has shown that on average, British families are managing to spend less than three hours a week together as quality time (that’s 169mins).
I think spending family time together is more important than ever because, as a result of modern forms of communication iPad laptop mobile, many people never truly leave the office/work. It’s all too easy to be a 24/7 worker. I believe that to develop the habit of actively switching off and spending time with my family is very important.
How would you describe your parenting style?
Learning – all the time. It seems to me that boys require a level of energy…. and sometimes it’s hectic, but I am learning all the time.
What’s your perfect way to spend a family day?
Anything that involves water, so by the sea, around a pool, on the banks of a river. Accompanied by outdoor eating. When you are outside, you are away from the house and so the temptation to be busy around the home and get tasks done is removed. You get the chance to focus on each other.
Kirstie with her sons, Bay and Oscar. She’s also stepmum to two boys from her husband’s previous relationship, Hall and Orion.
Do you have a failsafe craft that you know will always keep the kids entertained?
Tie-dying! You don’t need to buy things to tie-dye either, I let them tie-dye their own pants and vests.
Being a busy working mum, how do you make time for your kids?
I am always keen to stress the fact that how I do things is just not possible for a lot of working mums. I am extraordinarily blessed in that I don’t have to work weekends or school holidays. I know very few people who get to have jobs that have that degree of flexibility and who are fortunate to have quite as much fun in their day job as I do.
‘At the risk of sounding a bit cliché, I think we celebrate Father’s Day every day.’
What are your family holiday travel essentials?
When you have young boys you need eyes in the back of your head! So we’ll usually travel with at least two changes of clothes for the kids in our hand luggage, just in case. As well as some Coca-Cola. In case someone feels sick, or jet lagged, or has low blood sugar level – half a can of Coke will work wonders!
Any tips for holidaying with a young family?
One of the reasons I am working with HouseTrip (the website where you can rent whole properties for a holiday) is that when you are travelling with a young family, having a whole home gives you the ability to do a bottle in the middle of the night.
Tie-dye: the number one craft Kirstie can’t live without.
You have a proper kitchen, a fridge, a separate bathroom. You can watch television in one room whilst the kids play in the other. As a family we just can’t do that in one hotel room. In a home rental you can holiday how you like and use the space however you need or choose. Also, if the weather is not the best, there’s always fun to be had in a house! Not so much if you are all bundled into one hotel room…
‘Camp-making, painting and summer crafts give kids the freedom to get messy and have some fun.’
What’s the most essential thing in your handbag?
I always have total sunblock in my bag, for me and for the children. And my iPad mini. I believe the internet has entirely changed how we all travel. It’s amazing to have the information on how to get to where you need to be, right at your fingertips.
Do you have some craft suggestions for mums looking to keep their kids busy over the summer?
The key to successful crafting is to find a mental or physical space where you don’t mind about mess. It’s very important to let them experiment. With children, any summer craft which is possible to do outside, such as camp-making, painting and so on, should hopefully give them the freedom to get messy and have some fun.
What was the last thing you did with your kids?
Yesterday we went to a skate park in West London, one of the boys was on roller blades and the other on his scooter.
What will you do to celebrate Father’s Day in June?
I think it’s difficult to answer parenting questions without sounding smug. As a woman in a family of four boys and a dad – we are very dad-centred! And at the risk sounding a bit cliché, I think we celebrate Father’s Day every day.
What’s the secret to being a great mum?
I wouldn’t know the answer to that question – but if someone out there can tell me I’d love to know!
Where to next?
How to make knitted bunting – so pretty!