At Parentdish we like to keep you up-to-date with the latest in the world of baby gear. With this in mind, we recently headed to the UK's biggest annual nursery trade fair in the lovely Yorkshire town of Harrogate. All the big names were there - Maxi-Cosi, Bugaboo, iCandy, Silver Cross, Britax - plus a few smaller companies keen to introduce themselves to store buyers and the media.
As well as bringing back a mountain of brochures and some handy free promotional biros, we got the scoop on all the newest launches...
Chicco's team were proudly demonstrating their i-Move pushchair – it's a bit like a Mothercare Spin or Graco Symbio, in that you can turn the seat 360 degrees with a quick spin of one hand. The seat is unusually upright which could be good for curious toddlers (it reclines fully too for naps). Due in shops in June, if you want to see more, check out this quirky Youtube vid.
Also on their stand was a twin version of the new Echo at £189.99, worth a look if you need a reasonably-priced set of wheels for two. www.chicco.co.uk
Parents after a bargain buggy for one, could consider the OBaby Fisher-Price range, starting at just £38.88 for their basic model, the Escape, which is suitable from six months. For newborns there's the 'Safe Voyage' model for £66.66 – an incredibly low price for a 'from birth' pushchair. Both should be available in August. The company doesn't have any product images yet but keep an eye on their website to find out more soon www.obaby.co.uk
Maxi-Cosi had their new Noa pushchair (£150) on display. We had a bit of a push and found it nicely manoeuvrable, plus it can be folded very easily with one hand. At 7kg, it's lovely and light but still feels sturdy, although the seat is only suitable from three months and it doesn't collapse down as compactly as many umbrella fold pushchairs do. www.maxi-cosi.com
Out'n'About's updated versions of the popular Nipper all-terrain range were looking good, thanks to a raft of 23 improvements over the old models, from adjustable handles to wider tyres and bumper bars. All models can also now be used with a Maxi-Cosi infant carrier to form a travel system. www.outnabout.com
Mountain Buggy's main addition was the Duette side-by-side double. At 63cm across, it's no wider than some of the brand's singles, and is one of the few true all-terrain twin options on the market.
We absolutely loved their FreeRider (£80) too – a buggy board which cleverly doubles as a toddler scooter – at the moment it only fits on Mountain Buggy models but there's a version for sister brand, Phil&Ted's pushchairs due in 2012. www.mountainbuggy.co.uk
Talking of Phil&Teds the latest of their inlines is the Verve – the first you can fold without having to remove the doubles kit. Another change is that the brake is on the handle. www.philandteds.co.uk
We're sure we aren't the only ones coveting iCandy's special edition Cherry. It comes as a complete package so you get the carrycot, chassis, seat unit, changing bag, footmuff and parasol all in at an RRP £780. The changing bag is especially gorgeous with a very 'of the moment' union jack design.
Bigger news still for iCandy fans will be the launch of their Strawberry model which costs £450 for the stroller and £95 for a carrycot. Its impressive memory feature means the seat clicks straight back into the last used position when you unfold it – especially useful for public transport. It seems a good birth to toddlerhood option as it can take a carrycot and car seat but weights just 7.5kg so you won't need to trade it in for a lightweight buggy later on. www.icandyuk.com
Jane have been working hard designing the smart 'Trider' which they describe as their 'next generation all-terrain pushchair'. The pushchair seat is reversible plus you can add either a standard Group 0+ Jane car seat or a lie-flat model. The pushchair only costs £469.99 or you can buy it as a travel system package including a car seat from £589.99. www.johnstonprams.co.uk
Micralite's team had been squirreling away too, updating the super-cool Toro. It's always been a winner with us, thanks to its lightness and ability to cope with town and country terrain alike. It's looking even better with a shiny new carrycot, more 'finished' feel and other improvements. The carrycot also now fits on the Superlite buggy (just over 6kg) making this a viable option for a newborn (previously it was only suitable from three months as the pushchair seat doesn't recline flat enough). www.micralite.com
The Joolz Earth Collection caught our attention with absolutely gorgeous colours teamed with luxurious leather handles. Available from July, the pushchair/ carrycot/ changing bag set will cost £749. www.my-joolz.com
Purveyors of pretty changing bags Pink Lining were showing off their latest designs.
Parents of more than one little one will appreciate the expandable new shape (£75) which has plenty of capacity when you need it but squashes down smaller when you don't. Another attraction was a cool 'dad bag' which can double as a laptop carrier when papa is not on fathering duties. www.pinklining.co.uk
The company's new 'Rosebud London' sub-brand is reasonablably priced at £40 to £45 and sold via Mothercare (www.mothercare.com).
Over at Miracle Bag, there was a handy 'Baby Essentials Organiser' which lets you keep key gear such as nappies and wipes, phone and purse in one waterproof sack. You can then transfer this between bags - no more worrying that you've left something terribly important at the bottom of your other bag!
Until recently we've struggled to find many stylish changing bags for under £40, so their 'City Bag' caught our eye, coming in at £39.95. It's made from practical coated cotton, comes with a padded large change mat and is nice and roomy. www.themiraclebox.co.uk
We love the recently launched ranges from OXO Tot and were happy to see more from them, including practical 'divided' plates and other high quality, colourful toddler tableware. It all goes to show kids' crockery doesn't have to be garish. http://www.oxo.com/c-159-baby-toddler.aspx
Traykit have come a long way since they appeared on Dragon's Den with their 'bag which turns into a play tray', and now have a wider range of children's travel products. Passport holders and a lovely kids' travel journal set with pencils, match in with the original bag designs. They aren't exactly essential but they're fun accessories and priced sensibly, for example, £9.99 for the journal. www.traykit.co.uk
We swooned at Organic Zoo's gorgeous baby bodysuit designs. At £15 to £20 each they're a bit expensive for everyday wear but would make a lovely gift for a newborn. www.organiczoo.co.uk
Kub had a stylish new nursery furniture set called Elita on show, with cream painted cupboards and small metal handles and door knobs. No prices yet but we're expecting them to be in line with Kub's other range. www.kubnursery.com
We loved what we saw on the P'kolino stand, particularly the gorgeous child's desk with removable blackboard over a storage section in the middle (£99.99). Stockists include Nubie: http://www.nubie.co.uk/content/pkolino-chalk-play-table-2-chairs
For those with a little bit of cash to splash, there were new models from super-chic feeding chair company Olli Ella. An enormous leap in design terms away from traditional nursing 'glider' chairs (those which look like they belong in an old people's home) - even the most style-conscious parent would surely be happy to have one of these around the house. From £825. www.olliella.com
We've always wondered why there aren't more ISOFIX options for older kids' car seats. In the past parents who've been used to the extra security and ease of installation of an ISOFIX system for the Group 0+ and 1 stages, have had to switch to a seat held in by the adult seatbelt. The good news is we're now starting to see ISOFIX group 2/3 seats creep onto the market.
The first one we viewed was at German company, Kiddy's stand. Available from May, it will cost £139.99 (www.kiddy.de). The other was at Maxi-Cosi – the FeroFix - with a recommended retail price of £175.
Sitting quietly in a corner of the Maxi-Cosi area was their new play tray – worth checking out if you've a toddler who uses a Group 1 Maxi-Cosi seat and want to add the fun factor to journeys (£30). www.maxi-cosi.com
Another car seat trend is for 'rear-facing for longer' options – a hot topic since the recent recommendation by The American Academy for Paediatrics that children are safer travelling rear facing up to the age of two. The problem for UK parents who'd like to go down this route is that there have been very few seats allowing them to do this available here.
That's now beginning to change and we spotted the Safety 1st Primeofix at the show. Suitable from birth to 18kg, it offers much more legroom to keep older babies happier. When they really can't take any more staring at the back seat and are old enough to face forward, parents can simply install it forward facing instead. The price tag of £180 isn't too bad for a seat which will last from birth to around age 3.5 years. http://www.dorel.co.uk/safety-1st/
Concord's sturdy and stylish child seats are among our favourites but they are expensive, so we were pleased to see them responding to this, with new products coming in at lower price points. The Group 2/3 Transformer T model is already in the shops and is a variation on the more expensive Transformer XT (£220) but a fair bit cheaper at £179.99. The only significant difference we could spot was that the T doesn't recline – not really a problem for most children at this stage who won't often doze off in the car. Other additions to their range are the Group 1 Absorber XT with ISOFIX and recline, hitting shops in June and the ultra-light but still very protective Group 0+ Air due in 2012. www.concord.de
Gorgeously zingy smells were emanating from the Naturally Cool Kids stand where this start-up company showed us their children's toiletries range. With a million and one baby bath and skincare ranges around, and obviously plenty for grown-ups, they're looking to fill the gap in the middle for natural products with plenty of kid appeal. Top of our shopping list will be the Lavender and Mandarin Body Wash at £8.45 www.naturallycoolkids.com - it's definitely going to get stolen by the grown-ups.