Lisa Salmon looks at the weird, wonderful and sometimes weary world of parenting.

News for parents :: Green mums and dads who are toilet training their child now have an eco-friendly potty option.

Made from rice husks - a waste product of rice farming - the Becopotty is 100% sustainable and biodegradable.

The potty looks similar to its conventional plastic counterpart, the main difference being that unlike the 17 million potties that are sent to landfill around the world every year, the Becopotty will break down naturally when thrown out.

Its maker Becothings says they will last as long as average potties "but parents can be sure that they are also planet lovers when they throw the Becopotty away".

Costing £7.99, it is available at JoJo Maman Bebe stores and will be sold at John Lewis outlets from 2010.

:: Knowing the early symptoms of childhood diseases is critical to getting fast and effective treatment.

Yet new Department of Health research has found that more than one in 10 British parents are unsure of the symptoms of measles, and over a third (38%) don't know the effects of rubella.

The poll, which follows a recent rise in childhood illnesses such as measles, also reveals that one in 10 parents don't think there's anything they can do to ward off serious health complaints - despite the availability of vaccines such as MMR.

To help parents recognise the symptoms of childhood illnesses, a new free guide by best-selling author Kaz Cooke has been published. The Rough Guide To Childhood Illnesses was developed in association with the Department of Health, and is designed as a reference point for parents to recognise and treat childhood illnesses.

It also contains information about vaccination.

Parents can get copies of the guide through the DH orderline on 0300 123 1002, or by visiting

:: Education Secretary Ed Balls has said that the practice of friends looking after each other's children should not be officially regulated.

Balls told MPs that he had written to Ofsted to make clear that the law should not interfere with reciprocal childcare arrangements between parents.

His comments came weeks after two policewomen were told they were breaking the law by sharing the childcare of their daughters.

"Reciprocal childcare arrangements between parents where there is no payment involved should not be a matter for regulation," Balls said.

"I have agreed with Ofsted that with immediate effect, this will be beyond the scope of their childcare inspections."

The two police officers had a reciprocal agreement that one would go to work while the other looked after their children.

But an Ofsted inspector told them the arrangement was illegal and must end immediately.

Regulations require compulsory registration for anyone who baby-sits for another person's child for more than two hours at a time or on more than 14 days per year if they receive a 'reward', which can include money or simply free baby-sitting in return.

:: Employers are left to bear the brunt of "woefully low" standards in schools, claims Tesco's chief executive.

Sir Terry Leahy said money pumped into the education system had produced no improvement.

"Sadly, despite all the money that has been spent, standards are still woefully low in too many schools. Employers like us are often left to pick up the pieces," he told a meeting of grocers.

He said the system was crippled by bureaucracy, which distracted teachers from the primary purpose of their jobs.

At the same event, Asda's chief operating officer Andy Clarke added: "No-one can deny that Britain has spawned a generation of young people who struggle to read, write or do simple maths.

"That's why we're finding packs of nappies discarded in the booze aisle as the last few pounds are spent on alcohol rather than childcare."

Ask the expert

Q: "My 14-year-old daughter thinks she's fat and refuses to eat breakfast and isn't eating much lunch at school. She's not fat at all, so how can I persuade her to stop skipping meals?"

A: Charlotte Allinson, Young Peoples' Participation Manager for the eating disorders charity Beat (, says: "The Schools Health Education Unit has recently released information about how young girls are skipping up to two meals a day, and this news is concerning.

"It's important to talk to your daughter about why she feels fat. Often feeling fat isn't anything to do with body shape, it's a way of expressing feeling self-conscious, unhappy, misunderstood, stressed or having low self-esteem.

"A young person may use controlling food as a way of trying to control or cope with aspects of their life that they are finding difficult. Also consider the impact of puberty - some young people may find this an exciting time and others can find it very difficult.

"There is support available for young people skipping meals. Let your daughter know about Beat's youthline (0845 634 7650) and email service ( The team are there to talk through how she feels and offer help and suggestions.

"Beat also has safe moderated message boards where young people can gain support from others in a similar situation."

Website of the week: Organix, the organic baby food brand, has launched Organix Natter, an online community where parents can sign up to get advice, share weaning experiences, download recipes and collect rewards.

New members receive a free welcome pack and vouchers, and the Natter Chatter forum gives parents the chance to discuss baby issues. They can also set up their own advocacy group where they can share advice, comments and recipes among mums they've chosen to be in their group.

Three ways to... stop your toddler running off

1. Show him where he's allowed to run, so he understands that running is fine as long as it's in the right place.

2. Engage him, perhaps by getting him to 'help' you push his pram, or to hold your hand by telling him you might get lost if he doesn't help you.

3. Turn it into a game of catch by shouting "Chase me!" before moving just a few steps in the opposite direction as he (hopefully) runs towards you.

Reader tip :: Teach children to listen by doing things like gently touching them before you talk, saying their name, and speaking in a quiet voice so they won't hear unless they listen.