This one simple trick could improve your family’s quality time forever

There’s a saboteur threatening to wreck the precious time you spend with your family. It’s about three by five inches and lives in your pocket. But there’s one way to defeat it – put it to sleep…

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We’re on a mission. A mission to help families reclaim precious quality time together. Over the last few months, we’ve been bringing you ideas for activities, crafts and recipes to try as a family. But we can’t ignore it any longer – there’s an interloper in modern life that always seems to get in the way when we should be giving each other their undivided attention.

Mobile phones.

Research we carried out this year named mobile phones as the single biggest culprit in distracting families from one another. So how do we get around it? How do we learn to ignore the buzzing and the beeping and the flurry of notifications once and for all?

Put them to sleep.

We’ve been testing out a mobile phone sleeping bag. Pop your pesky phone in one of these silky cocoons and use it as an excuse to switch off, literally and metaphorically. When the phone’s in the sleeping bag, it’s not to be touched.

A very limited number have been made exclusively for us, and will be given to selected families enjoying Center Parcs breaks over Christmas and New Year to help them give themselves and their mobile phone a break, leaving more space for family time.

The Gibson family were the first to use the phone sleeping bags while taking a short break at the Sherwood Forest. Before heading off for a family bike ride, Dad Pete said:

“They’re such a great idea. I did peek inside my phone’s bag a couple of times to start with – just to check for signal. But soon I forgot I even had my phone with me. It’s really helped us spend better quality time together as a family. We’ll be taking them home with us too.”

We caught up with Lou Clark, the local seamstress who has handmade each one from scratch, to find out how she did it.

How did you come to be hand-stitching 50 sleeping bags for mobile phones?
I was approached about making a prototype mobile phone sleeping bag. It was definitely an unusual request! But one of the aspects I love about this work is the challenge of making something out of the ordinary. Earlier this year I had a commission to make a hat that looked like a willow pattern plate, and I’ve also been asked to make a hat with a ‘vintage circus’ theme. So I’m used to trying to find innovative solutions to make a unique idea come to life. Once the prototype was approved, it was time to start making the next 49.

How are they made? What’s your process?
First I created a pattern – this is like a template or outline to follow in sewing. I cut the material accordingly; 50 fronts and 50 backs of the lining, the padding and the outer fabric. Then I sew the outer fabric to the padding with a quilted effect, and attach the outer to the lining. Finally, I add the cord and toggle so you can pull it tight like a real sleeping bag.

What materials have you chosen?
I’m using a dress lining fabric for the outside which is a very light silky material – it gives the effect of a sleeping bag without the thickness of nylon which would be too bulky over such a small scale. The inside is made of a fleece fabric, so it’s genuinely cosy like a real sleeping bag.

When you aren’t sewing sleeping bags, what are you working on?
I make all sorts of soft furnishings such as cushions and lampshades from vintage fabric. I also make and sell children’s clothes and my latest venture is making hats. I sell everything I make online here and here.

What about the message behind the sleeping bags – do you think technology makes it harder for us to spend time together as a family?
I think technology is a real double-edged sword. It can be helpful for keeping in touch with loved ones who are far away, but with family members who are in the same room it can put distance between you. Everyone is absorbed in their own little world of their phone or tablet. It’s definitely a good idea to remember to put our phones to sleep occasionally. Hopefully the sleeping bags with help people do that.

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Maddy Potts

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Maddy Potts

As Marketing Executive at Center Parcs, I’m lucky enough to hear all the amazing stories that come from our guests, our Villages and the wider travel industry. I’ll blog about the best ones, bring you some fantastic competitions and update you on all the exciting new activities and goings on at Center Parcs.