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If you take your girls to see one film this year, make it Moana

27 February 2017 -


The title is a bold statement given that it is only February and we are just around the corner from the release of the hotly awaited Beauty and the Beast remake. As much as I am excited by Emma Watson's Belle, I have already fallen in love this year with a feisty Polynesian teenager, and I don't think even the brains and bravery of Hermoine are going to impress me more. 

So what is to love? This film has so much delight and exceeded expectations in it, I am not sure where to start. But I'll try.  Here's my top 12 things to celebrate about Moana.


Valentine's Day Competition

09 February 2017 -

Hello gorgeous people. I can't hold off anymore. If I don't do an After Alice competition soon I will possibly explode (I have a very giving nature).

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and we have a beautiful handblown marble to celebrate the fact. For your chance to win the most fabulous handful of marbles I suspect you will ever hold in your sweaty little paw, please read on.

You need to tell us three things you love about your Alice (or Alex). Serious, silly, or anything in between. It can be your child, your grandchild, your niece, your godchild, your ungodly child . . . we don't mind. I am going to judge the winner and it will be whatever response moves me, makes me laugh, surprises me etc etc.


The winner will be decided on 14th February 2017 just after 8pm (or whenever I manage to get a quiet moment after the rugrats are in bed). Good luck.

Our marbles are not suitable for children under 3 year olds (or young children that might decide they look delicious - they do). They are totally suitable for adults, in case you can't bear to give them away. There will be at least 5 handmade marbles in the selection. If you have any favourites please mention at the end of your comment. Otherwise I will make a random selection. We have ones that look like eyeballs (for fans of the Twits!), ones that glow in the dark, and even one with the whole world on it. So do take a look! Good luck!

Starting from just 10p each, marbelous individual, bags, boxes and tubs of marbles are available at our online store

They make fab party favours and are a great reward incentive for children who need a visual way to mark their progress. Plus getting down on the floor and thrashing your offspring at marble games is still one of my favourite Sunday afternoon pursuits.

Lessons in losing : slippery adventures in parenting

08 February 2017 -



Of late, my most important conversations happen in the bath. Sometimes I find a magic window in my busy household and enjoy 20 minutes of uninterrupted bliss, immersed in Epsom salts, lavender oil and bicarbonate of soda. This combination is supposed to release toxins. I have no idea if this actually works. I emerge from the water, wrinkled as a prune. Happy as clam. Totally reinvigorated.

On other occasions, my ‘alone time’ seems to attract more company than one would think possible. My daughters, if not otherwise distracted, will seek me out and share my bath time in more ways than one. My youngest can disrobe startlingly quickly (this is in amusing contrast to the sloth-like pace at which she gets dressed in school uniform every week day morning, especially when we are running disastrously late). She is so silent and adept at this practise that the first I am aware of my bath time interruptus is her ninja like descent. Tom Daly would be stunned at the lack of splash. A sudden slippery seal pup squealing her delight at surprising mummy. I love these times. Top and tailed in our too small tub, and fashioning foamy hairstyles with gravity defying aplomb. We also have some very serious chats.

Today’s discussion was all about Daddy. And competition. And how much it sucks to lose.

I recently bought a surprisingly pristine copy of the board game ‘Battleships’ from our local charity shop. I do love a bargain. I also love my girls playing with toys and games that are not particularly ‘intended’ for them. Games that involve strategy and logic. Pursuits that work and grow their brains, and challenge their minds. There are only so many times you can play Uno, let’s face it.

But now, my eldest  was in a deep funk and close to tears.

I had left my little family earlier with at least one of them enjoying Dad’s introduction to this childhood classic. Sunday late morning, kids entertained, husband dutifully doting, lunch quietly roasting, I wasn’t needed! I had a window – I could slip away unnoticed and bathe.

Even by my standards it was a wonderfully long bath. I was just topping up the hot water for the nth time and had almost finished my book when the little knock at the door came. I soon found out, in tear sobbing, rambling outpour that Daddy, in all his wonderful Daddy wisdom had completely trounced my first born at Battleships. He hadn’t won a bit. He’d won A LOT.

(Husband would like to point out that the game was actually far from lost when daughter started wobbling bottom lip. Note to self – further discussions needed about luck versus skill and keeping your pecker up, especially if the fat lady is yet to sing). But this was revealed later. Back to the story.

Now, I will admit, I am torn on this one. The ethics of parenting. Part of me thinks your job as a parent is to handicap your own skills and abilities at times, to allow your child to feel they at least have a moderate chance of sometimes coming out on top. No one runs full pelt in a race against a wobbly 2 year old. Or unleashes their full might on the tennis ball when their offspring is gingerly standing across the net having just mastered the basics of the game. Do they?! My husband is a competitive man. But interestingly until now, he has not been a competitive dad. We have both tried to give our girls the ‘right’ level of challenge, just enough to keep them motivated, not too much to dishearten and outrage.

Apparently that all changed today. Battleships connected with some primeval need, deep down in him to survive, and annihilate all challengers. Even if that challenger was his sweet little daughter who had never even heard of the game before we opened the box.

In this painful encounter she had learnt several lessons. The first, overwhelming one was that Daddy got a bit mean when playing this game. She doesn’t see that side of him much. She was pretty stunned by this. Another lesson was, that it is quite shocking to lose, and to lose so completely. No soft soaping. No rose tinted spin. Straight up, punch to the nose ‘You’re a loser baby’. And it feels bad to lose.

I was feeling at peace. I was blissed out and wrinkly and before the knock was getting a bit bored of being submerged, but was just too lazy to do anything about it. So me and my child had a good old chat. I dissected things for her. ‘Let’s get this straight. A man, very experienced at all kinds of games, 34 years your senior, and with a ruthless approach to play, completely whopped your ass?’ ‘Yes mummy’. ‘And you are feeling pretty bad about that right now?’ ‘Yes mummy. I never want to play that game ever again in my whole life, mummy.’ ‘Okay. So if you went downstairs and played the same game straight away with your 6 year old sister, who do you think would win?’  ‘I think I would mummy. I’d be more experienced and I play chess a bit and she doesn’t so I would probably be better.’ ‘I agree, darling. And you are only 2 years older than her. But already you can see how age and experience usually swings things in your favour. Should your little sister feel bad if she lost under those circumstances?’ ‘No mummy. Especially if she’d never played before.’

And then she smiles. She gets the point. She leaves the bathroom indignant and mollified. I also tell her another little nugget because I am in such a supremely good mood, and love my sometimes-very-annoying husband deeply. ‘Daddy may have annoyed you today with his game playing, but it does show he respects you. He didn’t treat you like a baby or someone to play half-as-well-as-you- can against. He treated you like a worthy opponent. One to be feared and to bring your A Game with. So it is annoying and upsetting today, but if you don’t give up, if you keep playing and learn all the strategies that Daddy employs, think how amazing it is going to feel on that day when you beat him. When you totally whop his ass’.

She smiles broadly. A grin as big as a Cheshire Cat. She closes her lovely eyes and imagines this wonderful future scene. I can see the glee and delight play across her face, on that longed for day when she finally and deservedly bests him (and knowing my girl this will happen sooner rather than later).

And I think what a great gift her Dad gave her today. An appetite to win. A thirst to excel. How as a parent it is too easy to aim too low, to expect too little. She was totally ready for this challenge. The gauntlet has been thrown down (unbeknownst to Dad until he reads this). And there are exciting days ahead.

This is a guest post by Martine Lambourne. This November, after a lot of research, review and sleepless nights, Martine and her husband launched After Alice Ltd, an online toyshop inspired by girls that seeks to go beyond the restraints and lazy stereotypes of the pink aisle. The result is a carefully curated collection of toys, games and books for children from 3 years to teens – a host of wonderful games to excite, challenge (and beat your Dad at).

Show our girls they can, and they just might.

27 January 2017 -

An article in the Guardian today makes gloomy if predictable reading. 'Girls believe brilliance is a male trait, research into gender stereotypes shows. Study highlights how children as young as six can be influenced by stereotypes such as the idea that brilliance or giftedness is more common in men.' The Guardian, Friday 27th January 2017. 

To my mind this is the result of so many things. We need that growth mindset permeating teaching throughout our primary and secondary schools - 'I can work at this and improve'. 'It doesn't get easier, I just get better'. We all benefit from that positivity and work ethic. 

And as parents we need to check our language, our prejudices and our expectations for our girls. Take away the boundaries and the limits and see how far your girl can go. If she thinks she can, if she hears she may, if she sees older role models showing the way, she just might.

Historically, we need to recognise the devastating legacy of the Matilda Effect where all the amazing women who have contributed to where we stand now, in so many diverse fields, have not been properly celebrated and promoted. Otherwise we will miss our next Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Helen Sharman, Ellen McArthur, Paula Radcliffe, Beth Tweddle, Jo Cox, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Zaha Hadid, Athene Donald, Temple Grandin, Helen Mirren, Judy Dench, JK Rowling, Helena Kennedy, Davina McColl, Adele, Tracy Emin, Wendy Cope, Elizabeth Blackwell, Mary Anning, Elizabeth Fry, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Carol Vorderman, Michelle Obama ... and we will only have ourselves to blame. All of society misses out when half of our population are not properly motivated, educated and supported.

“If we are to facilitate a gender-balanced workforce of engineers, mathematicians and physicists in the future it is clear interventions at secondary school just aren’t going to be sufficient. Parents, teachers and the media need to work much harder eradicating gender stereotypes in the way they talk about adults to children of all ages.” Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at the University of Cambridge.

For our part? At After Alice we think playtime is hugely important. It is where you start working out who you are, what you are good at, what you like to do, and what you might be. For a great selection of toys, games and pursuits that do not stereotype or restrict, please take a look at our site. 

Girls in space. ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’

23 December 2016 -

“I never went into physics or the astronaut corps to become a role model. But after my first flight, it became clear to me that I was one. And I began to understand the importance of that to people. Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.” Sally Ride. Read more...


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