Even I draw the line at talking PJs

Ellen's daughter with a Roald Dahl book - and non-interactive pyjamas

Ellen's daughter with a Roald Dahl book - and non-interactive pyjamas - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country

Once upon a time… parents read their children bedtime stories. Now this is a job you can delegate to technology.

Yes, it’s true. Some clever clogs has unveiled the latest in outsourcing parental responsibility – a pair of interactive pyjamas covered with barcodes which, when scanned with a camera phone, can read, sing and soothe a child to sleep.

Usually I’m one of the people shouting the loudest in praise of modern gadgets and gizmos. I love my laptop, couldn’t live without my Smartphone, both my kids have iPods complete with a host of games and I am not one of those parents who limits TV time. But this? This is where I draw the line.

I am quite certain that this new device can only appeal to the most apathetic parents on the planet – those that find even the most pleasant parts of child-rearing a dreadful waste of their time and energy.

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Well here’s a news flash for them – if they hope for a peaceful, easy ride at bedtime thanks to these PJs they might get a rude awakening.

According to new research, using a tablet or smartphone before bed actually keeps you awake at night.

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The study found that exposure to backlit devices suppresses the production of melatonin – a chemical which promotes sleep.

So if you ask me, the pyjamas can join the ranks of the most ludicrous inventions ever to grace the mother and baby market. And there are quite a few.

Let me start with ways to make your baby more beautiful.

Bet you didn’t know you could purchase transfer tattoos for baby’s delicate skin, did you? Imagine it. Your baby could have “love” and “hate” emblazoned on each set of knuckles.

And how about Baby Bangs? If your child is born bald, there is help at hand. Someone has gone to the trouble of creating a range of hair bands – each one attached to a toupee to create an instant head of curls.

Safety and comfort are also issues to tackle when you have a young child. But now you can buy slip proof Baby Knee Pads, designed to protect the delicate skin of the knees during crawling.

You can also get a Wipes Warmer which heats a baby wipe to the most pleasing temperature for a baby’s backside. Or a Baby Bum Fan, a cooling portable device to be aimed at the nether regions thus relieving nappy rash.

If you love your children so much you want to smell like them too, you might like the new Play Doh Cologne. This is a perfume the makers claim is the perfect fragrance “for highly-creative people who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of childhood”.

I’m not finished yet. There is also a toddler urinal on the market to help little boys understand the concept of point and shoot. And for those little ones who are not quite ready for potty training, there’s the Peepee Teepee, a triangular shaped bit of cloth to cover a baby boy’s bits during a nappy change and prevent mum or dad getting wet.

For every pointless bit of equipment on the market today there is another which succeeds at making parenting easier of course.

Washable crayons, disposable nappies and plastic bibs spring to mind. And then there is the collapsible folding buggy, brainchild of British inventor Owen Maclaren.

My daughter has been rather keen on coming up with her own invention since I read her George’s Marvellous Medicine.

Roald Dahl is one of our favourite bedtime storytellers and one whose tales certainly won’t be found on any interactive PJs.

My daughter’s far-fetched ideas might have to be reined in a little (she tried making her own marvellous medicine using curry powder and colour-enhancing shampoo last week) but I see no reason why she should not be encouraged.

After all, there have been many occasions where a child’s ingenuity has produced something extraordinary.

It was a 15-year-old gymnast who invented the trampoline, an 11-year-old who came up with the frozen lollipop and Louis Braille, at age 14, who created the raised, imprinted dots used to help blind people read.

It is the magic behind inventions like these which help me pinpoint exactly why I think story-telling pyjamas are such a dreadful idea.

Roald Dahl knew better than most that the key to unleashing a child’s imagination was through literature.

If this is the case, how can a computer chip – which can’t answer questions, offer context, match enthusiasm or provide a shared experience – replace the pages of a good story read by someone you love? It just can’t.

“That first love affair between the young child and the young book will lead to other loves for other books and when that happens the battle is won,” said Dahl. “The child will have found a crock of gold.”

What parent wouldn’t want to play a part in that discovery?

n By the way, while I’m on the subject of discoveries, I visited the Suffolk Punch Trust for the first time this week. I was invited there to celebrate the 70th birthday of a wonderful woman who has been heavily involved in fundraising for the charity. I was so busy quaffing champagne I didn’t get the chance to explore the place as thoroughly as I would have liked but I have to say the venue is really quite wonderful. The trust is dedicated to the preservation of the extremely rare Suffolk Punch horse which played a crucial role in the development of farming throughout the British colonies. The site is also home to rabbits, pigs, goats and sheep and an impressive playground so I highly recommend it if you are looking for somewhere to take kids this half-term holiday.

Please email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.

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