Actress and presenter Gemma Atkinson is using her professional skills, and those of being mum to a 2-year-old, in her latest TV job. Gemma is co-hosting The Toddler Club on CBeebies on alternate days and swaps presenting duties with Nigel Clarke. Gemma is also known for her drivetime show on Hits Radio. She lives in Manchester with partner Gorka Marquez (professional dancer and Strictly Come Dancing star) and their daughter Mia.
Have you always wanted to work on kids’ TV?
When the offer came round, it felt daunting, but it turned out to be one of the best things I’ve done: it was brilliant! When we filmed it, the first few days the toddlers were a bit wary of me. But by day three they gave me hugs and there were tears at home time because they didn’t want to leave.
You had a baby under one when the pandemic began. Was CBeebies a useful resource then?
The Baby Club got me through lockdown. I’d had Mia and we only went to two sensory classes before the world shut down. When the first lockdown happened, I was a first-time mum and really nervous. I didn’t know if not seeing other children would affect Mia, how I’d be without interaction with other mums. Then we stumbled across The Baby Club on TV, and it was brilliant! Mia loved it – it was like a sensory class at home so to now be a part of the team is incredible.
I always say that The Toddler Cub is guilt-free TV time: the children are learning things. We’ve done episodes about crossing the road, having manners, things being big and small. There’s a lovely one about becoming more confident if you’re shy. The tidy up song has been a game changer for us at home, too – Mia now enjoys tidying up. It’s not just a show that’s fun, it’s educational.
Has being a mum helped you with presenting on The Toddler Club?
I have just tried to be as I would be with Mia. You treat the children as little people, listen to them, speak to them as normally as possible and let them have lots of fun. I showed Mia one of the episodes and she loved it – she was a little bit jealous of one of the little girls. I took her down to the set before we started filming so Mia could be a little guinea pig. She loves dancing – obviously that’s from her dad – but when music comes on, she’ll have a bop.
Was it good to try something new workwise?
The challenge with this was presenting, leading the parents and children in the studio and then thinking about person down the camera as well. I’d love to do more working with children, I learnt a lot doing The Toddler Club. It’s nice to have a new challenge as a mum. We started filming in January and I’m a sucker for a routine and it’s the only way to get things done in our house, especially with my partner working away a lot. I would get up at 5am then have until to 6.30 to train and get my breakfast, I’d leave for the studio at 6.30. It sounds manic but it was so doable with a routine.
Do you have any tips for M&B readers who want to start exercising more?
I didn’t do any exercising until Mia was about 16 weeks. She got to 12 weeks, and I was still in a bubble of pyjamas and dry shampoo and my mum kept saying to me “You won’t get this time back, don’t rush.” I’m so glad she gave me that advice; I didn’t put pressure on myself.
When Mia was 16 weeks I started walking with the pram. It was a really hot summer so I would walk to the supermarket and do my big shop and I used to think pushing the shopping was like doing weights.
We turned our garage into a gym so we can exercise at home. I always say having a gym at home doesn’t make the training easier, but it makes getting there easier! I like being up early. Mia gets up about 7am so I have a window to either sit and have a coffee or do some exercise. I don’t do more than 45 minutes or an hour, I think I’d just be bored! But it’s good for me to get a little sweat on. Some days I’ll just do 20 minutes of yoga. When Mia was a baby, I wasn’t getting much sleep, but yoga gave a chance to stretch and switch off for a few minutes and that made such a difference.
Gemma Atkinson is co-presenting The Toddler Club on CBeebies from 4th April and on CBeebies iPlayer.
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