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A number's game

By Heather Large | Lifestyle | Published:

With news of royal baby number three on the way for Kate and Wills growing families is hitting the headlines.

Big brood – a growing family has its pros and cons

Having a large family is not always easy and definitely takes a lot of work but there are said to be many benefits that certainly make it all worthwhile.

Britain is now home to some of the biggest families it has had in 40 years with the number of couples with four or more children steadily rising.

Latest figures show that in 2013, nine-and-a-half per cent of babies born in the UK had three or more siblings – the highest level since 1970 and up from 5.3 per cent in 2009.

Although, it comes as the average family size is getting smaller with a general trend of women having fewer children, some are choosing to continue increasing their brood.

While there are also many celebrities going beyond the once average 2.4 children such as David and Victoria Beckham, who have three sons and a daughter, and Jamie and Jools Oliver, who have three daughters and two sons.

A five-year study by Edith Cowan University in Australia found that parents with four or more children are more satisfied than those with fewer offspring because they enjoy the chaos of a large family.

One thing that's true is that children from large families are blessed with plenty of playmates. Having many siblings means they will never be short of company.

Whatever activity they want to do, there is always likely be someone who wants to do it too. And a knock-on effect is that they learn the art of sharing, and more than likely compromise, from an early age as well.

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While as they grow older, they are there to support one another through whatever life throws at them with ready-made lifelong friends to get them through the ups and downs.

They also learn team work skills which will prove vital later in life. With a large family comes more responsibility from a younger age to get chores and other household jobs done because many hands make light work.

Also, they will be well equipped to get along well with their peers when they start nursery or school. While spending time with older siblings at home will also help them to mix with other year groups.

For parents, there is little opportunity to feel lonely. As older children start flying the nest, there will be younger ones still around filling the house with noise and laughter.

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But, as with any-size family, there are still challenges. As the number of youngsters goes up, a bigger house and bigger car will be a must which may put pressure on your wallet.

Childcare can also prove costly especially when you have more than one pre-school child. Grocery bills will obviously be higher but utilities shouldn't rise at the same rate as your family grows.

Also, there are plenty of ways costs can be kept down such as handing down clothes from sibling to sibling when they still have plenty of wear left in them rather than always buying new ones.

Menu planning and bulk buying can also help keep bills from mounting up.

But sadly, there is no stopping the laundry pile from growing – let's face it children like getting messy!

Whether you have two or eight children, getting everyone out the door on time for nursery or school will involve having to be organised.

Parents have to ensure every member of the family gets the attention they need from reading at bedtime to help with homework.

It may never be possible to give your kids equal amounts of your attention in a single day but you can make sure no one is feeling left out.

Many find that creating a routine can help because it will be bring structure to the days and weeks and keep everything on track.

You will know what needs to be done and when as well as who has football practice on a Tuesday and who goes to Brownies on a Thursday.

When your children get older, holding family meetings can help to iron out any difficulties or sibling rivalries - give everyone the chance to say what's on their mind.

Nursery nurse Mandi Morrison lives in Norfolk with her husband Asa and their seven children aged three to 19.

Her top three tips for making everything run smoothly are:

*A sense of humour is compulsory with more than four children, there is a high chance of things not going according to plan with that amount of people involved and if you get too stressed then it just doesn't work!

*Organisation is quite important for things like school uniform. I have a designated wardrobe for all their school uniforms, and a family planner or a huge calendar to keep track of all the family's activities.

*A very large oven! Cooking for nine every night means that I use lots of pots and pans, every shelf of the oven is in use and every space on the hob is taken up. Although the actual meal has to be pretty flexible as not all of the nine eat the same, especially when one of the teens is a vegetarian.

*Mandi writes at Hex Mum Plus 1 (www.hexmumblog.com) about the day to day life of a family with seven children and Big Family Little Adventures, a days out and family travel blog for the larger than average family.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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