We’re used to seeing Tess Daly light up our screens on a Saturday night as the glamorous presenter of Strictly Come Dancing. But during the week, you’re more likely to find the mum-of-2 fretting over homework or trying to prise her make-up out of her daughters’ hands.
But don’t be mistaken, Tess, 45, and husband Vernon Kay, 40, run a tight ship. In an exclusive chat with MFM, she tells us about house rules for Phoebe, 10, and Amber, 5…
Do you have screen rules at home?
Yes, I won’t let my daughters go on screens at least half hour before bed because I think it stimulates them a little bit. And if my 10 year old is Googling or looking on YouTube then she’s got to do it in a room where we’re present. We’ve put all the child safety settings in place, but you still can’t predict what might turn up on a YouTube or Google search.
Technology is amazing for children, but it also brings risks. What do you find most worrying?
Social media is quite daunting, it’s kind of a minefield for parents. My daughter has been asking us if she can start Instagramming and we said absolutely not. Not yet, we’re going to try and hold off as long as we can. But 10-year-olds and 11-year-olds are doing it at school and it’s kind of norm.
You’re ambassador for an educational video gaming system, LeapTV. Why’s that?
It’s a video gaming system that kids can use educationally and it keeps them active. My 5 year old can go on the Princess Sophia game that she loves and count and engage with it in an educational way. So it’s not just screen time in front of the TV, it’s something that she can interact with and learn something from. You can also use your body’s motion to get active so you’re not passive. I like the fact that it’s age appropriate, so you don’t have to be looking over your shoulder to check what your child is looking at.
How are your girls getting on at school?
Reproduction’s coming up and I’m not looking forward to the awful truth being found out by my eldest! She thinks her father had absolutely nothing to do with it. She actually said to me, “Mummy, I know Daddy is my daddy in name but actually you did all the work by yourself and actually he’s got nothing to do with it.” I said, “Yes darling, you’re absolutely right.” Some kids are never the same after that big chat – people remember the trauma of finding out!
There’s quite a big age gap between the two girls. How do they get on?
I did worry that 4-and-a-half years might be a little too much of a gap. But the reason is that the first one didn’t sleep for 3-and-a-half years. No one had a worse sleep deprivation story than us. So of course, it was 4 years before we could even consider another one. But they’re really good mates. Yesterday they were playing together all day: schools and nature walks in the garden. The eldest bosses the little one, and the little one follows because she’s just happy to be wanted.
You have a very glam job presenting Strictly, do your girls raid your make-up box?
They do, and I say, “Ok, you can have 3 old sticks of make-up.” There are 2 rules: it doesn’t go on the carpet and it doesn’t go out of the house. But my eldest is at the stage where she’ll dig shoes out of my cupboard and say, “Look Mum they nearly fit me, I’m a 5 and you’re a 7, I can borrow these soon.” I’m like, “No you can’t! It’s a heel! Take them off please.”
Do they watch you on Strictly?
They do, because they love the show. They love the princess dresses and all the dancing and live music. I was working on the show ever since I was pregnant so they were in my stomach whilst the theme tune was playing. It’s all they’ve ever known really and is a big part of their lives.
When your image is so in the spotlight, is it harder to be a positive role model for your girls?
Well, I flatter them for their personalities and their kindness and their good deeds rather than their looks. So when they do something kind I reward them for that, because I want them to be good people who treat others well.
Do you try and protect them from the media?
Vernon and I have protected them early on, because until they’re old enough to make a decision themselves, we feel it should be their choice rather than ours. So we’ve just kept them out of the way of cameras [the girl in the article photos is a model] although part of me wants to show them off because I’m so proud of them.
Tess Daly is an ambassador for LeapTV, the first educational, active video gaming system designed just for kids. Suitable for children aged 3-8 years old, LeapTV is now available online and at major UK retail locations RRP £119.99.