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Helen Skelton opens up about family life and her lively toddler Ernie

2 November 2016
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Helen Skelton got glowing reviews from fans when she stood in for Lorraine on her ITV breakfast show last week.

The TV favourite originally came to our attention as a presenter on Blue Peter and has since made a name for herself completing gruelling challenges, including becoming the first person to cycle to the South Pole, and kayaking 2,000 miles down the Amazon, both to raise money for Sport Relief.

She's an occasional host on Countryfile and was a hit presenting at the Rio Olympics this summer, too. No wonder she's in high demand.

The 33-year-old, who is based in the South of France with her rugby league player husband Richie Myler and their 16-month-old son Ernie, is encouraging families to get creative this Christmas to raise money for children's charity Barnardo's…

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Helen with her husband Richie and their son Ernie

Helen, how's life in France?

Really good. We had a nice summer, although obviously I was away for quite a while for the Olympics. But we're very lucky. We've moved house now and we're in a villa-type thing with a pool. Which is lovely, apart from the fact that we have a fearless child! We have to put him in armbands the minute he wakes up.

Is Ernie learning to speak French?

He makes lots of noises. He copies what we do and he laughs at "Ooh la la". But he's not talking really. He says "mama", "dada"… he's chirping away and making noises.

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"He says "mama", "dada"… he's chirping away and making noises," said the proud mum

How do you find travelling back and forth from the UK with a toddler?

It's definitely more challenging now he can run around. He's realised there are people on the other side of the seats on the plane and he likes to stand on my knee and tap them on the head so they acknowledge him, so that's entertaining.

How's your husband Richie?

He's good. He's ready for the season to start again. He thinks daddy day care is harder than running head-first into 15-stone blokes, which I would agree with.

What was your highlight of the Olympics?

For me, it was getting to see the people who won medals. Things that go down in history. I was lucky to be there on the front row, like for Adam Peaty's gold medal and world record for swimming. He destroyed the field! These are the moments I'll remember when I'm an old lady. The Olympics are a bit like Disneyland for sport and Team GB did so well. I'm a sports fan and this will probably never happen again in my lifetime.

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"He thinks daddy day care is harder than running head-first into 15-stone blokes," said Helen

Much was made in the press about the length of your skirts. Were you shocked by that?

The thing is, I didn't really know it was going on – so I couldn't be shocked. We didn't get British papers over there and I'm not in the habit of Googling myself. It's not something that's even on my radar.

How did you get involved with Baubles for Barnardo's?

This was a really obvious thing for me to support. The kits are only £1.99 in Aldi, all the profits go to the charity and you can make Christmas baubles with your kids, nieces and nephews or godchildren. I put Ernie's little fingerprints on the baubles and made them into reindeer noses. It's a chance to make some personalised Christmas presents. Ernie helped… although it was more a case of me chasing him around the kitchen trying to get his fingerprints. It was messy but fun nevertheless!

What are you doing for Christmas?

Rich and I are both close to our families and we're determined to get back this year, even if it's just for the day. My brother and his wife have just had a baby boy so we're really keen to be around them. We missed everyone too much last year. We were at the beach and we had a really nice experience and it's something we'll never forget for our little boy's first Christmas. But I think it made us realise that for us Christmas is about family. All the aunties and uncles you think you don't want to see and all the annoying party games you think you don't want to play – actually, that is Christmas for us. We miss the snowballs and the party games and the arguments over the remote.

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The family plan to spend Christmas in the UK this year

Will Ernie be aware of it this year?

Oh, yes. On his birthday he just loved the paper – we bought him loads of presents but he just wanted to rip the paper and scrunch it up. But he's into the lights. He won't understand the concept of Father Christmas though. He's bright, but he's not a genius!

Helen Skelton is encouraging families to get creative this Christmas with Aldi's Paint Your Own Ceramic Baubles kits. They come in two varieties (round and heart-shaped), £1.99 for six, and 100 per cent of profits go to Barnardo's to help the UK's most vulnerable children. Available now in store.

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