Busy TV presenter and campaigner Katie Piper is mum to Belle, two-and-a-half, with husband Richard.
Here, Katie, who’s a fan of healthy living, shares her thoughts on diet, sugar, teeth cleaning, Peppa Pig and more.
When it comes to the food Belle eats, I try to aim for a balance, just like in my own choices. I would never want to restrict her completely though.
Like most little girls she socialises and goes to parties. She has discovered cake and was a little ‘where has this been all my life?’, which was funny. The best thing we’ve found is to get her involved in the kitchen, sit her on a chair and help us to cook and bake.
We make healthy eating fun rather than a ‘diet’
It’s about learning to replace white flour with wholemeal, using fruit rather than sugar and small steps like that. We make healthy eating fun rather than a ‘diet’, because there are so many negative messages associated with that.
It’s so interesting to see Belle’s personality developing. She talks all the time and has her own opinions: she’s at such a gorgeous age. It’s lovely when we spend the day together and have all sorts of conversations.
When she was a baby I used to wonder what she’d be like, how her voice would sound, which one of us she’d be most like so it’s fascinating when you start to see glimmers start to emerge of the person she’ll become.
You have to be so careful with language around a toddler. I noticed that when I say ‘oh my god!’ she runs around saying it over and over and so now I’ve switched to saying ‘oh my gosh!’ It makes you realise that suddenly you have to watch what you say. It’s good though, I think, because it stops you from saying negative or miserable things.
Belle’s a very active, practical child. She goes to lots of clubs and she loves Tumble Tots, which is sweet because I used to go to those classes myself in the Eighties. She also loves ballet and swimming and she likes being out and about as much as she can. We live near a forest so we’re always exploring, and Belle likes to ride her bike there.
The days of taking a stack of books to read over two weeks and drinking sangria in the daytime are long gone
Holidays are very different now we are parents. The days of taking a stack of books to read over two weeks and drinking sangria in the daytime are long gone. Now it’s all about family and that’s fine by me.
We just went to Spain with my husband’s family and it was lovely for Belle to holiday with grandparents and uncles. They enjoyed helping out with her and as she’s potty training at the moment it’s handy to have extra help. We booked an apartment and in the evenings we’d put her to bed then relax on the balcony which suited us fine because we were too tired to go out anyway.
One of the best things about becoming a mum is seeing your family enjoying your child.
It’s been especially poignant for me because my mum and dad have had some not so great years with me and things that I’ve been through [Katie suffered an horrendous attack when she was 24, in which she was raped and had sulphuric acid thrown in her face, resulting in numerous intensive burns surgeries and treatments], so it’s wonderful to give them something back that, in a way, cancels out those bad times. Belle is the first grandchild for my parents so she’s very cherished by everybody.
Katie Piper on teaching her daughter about tooth brushing
Belle has nearly all her milk teeth, with just three more to come through. She’s had two trips to the dentist so far and dental hygiene is something we feel strongly about.
Teaching her to brush properly morning and night can be quite difficult, though: you want to get her to bed on time, and she’s tired but teeth cleaning is so important and it’s best to get it right when they’re tiny.
I recently filmed the Channel 4 series Never Seen a Doctor and some of the stories were shocking. We met people who had never sought treatment before, from a GP or specialist. It’s hard to understand but the things that hold people back are usually embarrassment, fear or a lack of money.
Two people we featured had never seen a dentist because of the cost involved but the toll it took on their general health, diet and life was terrible: one of them sadly died during filming.
We took Belle shopping to let her choose her toothbrush and paste. As soon as she had enough teeth, we wanted to make it a fun project for her. We went to Ikea and she chose a little step with flowers on it so she could reach the sink.
She’s a massive Peppa Pig fan – we both know all the words to the songs – and loves George who has a dinosaur as his favourite toy. So our trick is to get Belle to roar like Mr Dinosaur so she opens her mouth for teeth cleaning.
Katie Piper on the great sugar debate
We talk to Belle about sugar and we really don’t want her to become addicted to it. The national debate about sugar tends to concentrate on obesity but it’s about tooth decay too. It can happen so quickly in kids’ teeth. I’d like Belle to grow up without fillings, if she can.
I try to educate her about healthy snacks, because there’s so much hidden sugar in foods aimed at children. I make time in the supermarket to read the packaging, looking for sugar, syrup and fructose.
Motherhood makes you reassess your life
Motherhood makes you reassess your life. It makes you ask the big questions: why are you here and what are you doing everything for? Suddenly, you’re existing for someone else and you want to look after yourself better so that you’re always there for your child.
I’ve also found that being a mum has made me more efficient with my time: I don’t waste it on unimportant things now. Motherhood will make even the most unorganised person manage their life better, because you just have to. There’s no doubt it’s life-changing, but motherhood is wonderful.
Watch: how to brush your teeth:
Katie has teamed up with Denplan on its Big Summer Brush Up campaign to offer parents tips and techniques to help their children brush their teeth over the summer holidays. Visit www.bigsummerbrushup.co.uk for brushing charts, healthy snack ideas and more.
Photo: Adam Gerrard