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Just heard you on BBC London, very interesting! We have three kids ages 4, 6 and 8, and I try to spend less than the “expected average” on toys, clothes etc. We have received many clothes for free on freecycle, and have many hand-me-downs from friends. The kids love all those clothes even though they’re not new! We only buy the minimum of clothes so the kids don’t have an enormous clothing collection. I used to use cloth nappies for babies one and two, though I used disposables for days out. We try and make our own entertainment a lot of the time, the older two read a lot and make up games and virtually never say they’re bored, they don’t expect constant expensive days out. We have a few days abroad each year courtesy of cheap airlines which they love, last year we went to Lyon in France and they thoroughly enjoyed it! Good luck with everything, I’ll be following you!
You have asked a question about shoes…..well I don’t have children but, my sister does and over the last few years I have witnessed endless pairs of shoes being worn for only a few weeks at a time, so they are still in excellent condition, worn in, so better for your feet and presumably there is a swapping market out there for shoes !!
I would be interested to find out the cost comparison for cloth versus normal nappies versus ‘eco friendly’ nappies(part-biodegradable type ones). My sister started her first child with cloth nappies and did it all at home (she wasn’t near a scheme that took away dirty & delivered clean ones) and found that not only were they more of a hassle to use but they cost a fortune in washing machine bills (and tumble dryer in winter). When the second one came along she swapped to ‘eco friendly’ ones (part-biodegradable I think) as they were far quicker and easier than dealing with a soggy cloth full of poop, leaving her less stressed and with more time to spend with her little ones, and slightly less guilty than the usual ones.
Which are cheaper and better for the environment in the long run I wonder??
Hi, if you read Bumpology – apparently they are pretty much the same, but if you don’t tumble dry the nappies (I dry mine on the radiator) and pass them onto someone else after use, or use them on a subsequent child they are greener than disposables. Councils are doing money back schemes on them too – so def cheaper in the long run. Plus I find they are much nicer on my baby’s skin than disposables, I use Bum Genius – they’re great!
You can kit your baby out with all the nappies they need from the high street for under £80 (the cheapest Real Nappy option), add £1 per week to wash them and you’ll still save £500 compared to the market leading disposable nappy.
Read this its explains all – http://www.goreal.org.uk/why
Brilliant to hear that you’ve decided to get off the consumer rails!
We’ve run our family the ‘non-stuff, no television’ way since our son was born nearly seventeen years ago. My husband left his job in retail and went to work for a charity, I opted to get off the career treadmill and go back to being a painter. As a result we have one of the happiest, most well balanced and caring teenagers that I know (ok so I’m a bit mother-biased here…..)
Kids really don’t need Nike trainers, new computers and the latest iphone – they just need love, time and a patient, listening ear from their parents, a well managed bookcase,a cupboard of scrap paper, boxes, paints and glue, seed packets, a responsibility or two……. and lots of mud and puddles to jump around in.
Fun is doing jobs together, learning to use real tools to make things, cooking and eating the peas you planted together, writing your first novel at fourteen, playing in the snow with the dogs, singing three part harmonies, dancing in the kitchen……None of this needs ‘stuff’ and it’s a hundred times more joyful!
Stick to your guns when people doubt what you are doing.
So, they might think you are odd or depriving your kid of all those things that his friends have. It’s just not true, kid’s don’t need ‘stuff’ and there are lots of us out here who are raising a generation of thoughtful, responsible, caring and happy people who are this worlds’ best hope for the future.
Wishing you every joy for the future!
Hi, I was so pleased to come across this blog. When I found out I was pregnant last year – I started reading about minimalist parenting and loved Tom Hodgkinson’s Idle Parent. But it became increasingly obvious that people thought I was turning into a hippie. When I explained that I didn’t want our son to go to Disneyland (encourages excessive merchandising) and also wanted to limit the number of toys he has, particularly the plastic flashing ones I was largely met with raised eyebrows. Our mothers in particular have looked at me as though I’m condemning their grandson to an infinitely less-enjoyable childhood because of these views. But, I am sticking to my guns – we’re on reusable nappies, breastfeeding and interacting with my now 3-month old baby rather than endlessly sticking him in front of plastic toys. I feel like I’m being a cracked record by endlessly saying, ‘it’s very kind, but you don’t need to buy him X, Y or Z he really doesn’t need it.’ Children are manipulated into being little consumers from such a young age, it’s shocking. We’ve taken over an allotment and I already take him out for lots of walks in the fresh air every day – I want him to have an imagination – surely vital when the media and creative industries will be a major part of this country’s future economy. And it’s in all our best interests to be raising the next generation with an acute awareness of how limited the planet’s resources may be in the future.
I wish you the best of luck with your endeavour, I feel like I am swimming against the tide, so it’s good to find like-minded people out there!
My adult children reminisce about ‘the summer of the cardboard box’. This was a huge one, from a new freezer. It must have been a dry summer, the box lasted all through school holiday. It was everything, from cottage to castle, spaceship to cave. And all they remember about holidays was watching traffic pass under the motorway bridge, so you can economise there, too, from your son’s point of view.
I love your approach so much I just want to come and hang out with you lot and get away from the constant barrage of consumer tat that is flung at parents. If one more person invites me to a soft play area with rubbish food and a charge to basically run about, something my nearly two year old does for free in our house, his Granny’s house, a field, the high street, pretty much anywhere; I will scream! We do buy toys, although many are second hand, the same goes for clothes. We used reusable nappies until as soon he started teething at the relatively late age of 10 months he started getting awful nappy rash and we went onto ecodisposables, hoping to go back to them when he is done teething!!! He has a charity shop bought library in his bedroom and he loves the big library in town. We go to one very informal playgroup a week where he basically gets to play with big toys we don’t have room for in our little terrace, and I get to chat with some Mum’s and have a good cup of coffee ( you are right tho not as good as at home, but the biscuits are way better!!!) We consume far too much as a society and go out into the fresh air far too little. I can thoroughly recommend the free activities for older children that local country parks offer, ours offer things like bat watching and being a junior ranger for the day, all for free or for a couple of pounds. And I recommend every parent read both ‘The Idle Parent’ and ‘Consummer Kids’ neither are new, the first will make you feel good about letting go with keeping up with the Jones’s and the second will scare you into never watching an advert again and make you monitor every move your child makes on the internet ( or just pull the plug on it!!)
Keep up the great work and looking forward to seeing how your Free Year pans out.
So trying this! Gave our son a box that his Christmas present had arrived in. I bet you can guess which one he played with more!!!
I’ve just seen your post on the BT home page and found the ideas most refreshing! Children neither know about nor care about Baby Boden; parents’ social insecurities and pretensions and their own business and should not be inflicted on their children.
However, I would like to offer some advise regarding shoes. I am a children’s shoe fitter trained with the Society of Shoe Fitters, and I would ask you to buy your children new shoes rather than accept second hand. Young children’s bones are soft, and do not fully osify until they are between the ages of 18 – 21. This means that the shoes you put your child in will shape their feet. Walking in another someone else’s shoes is a bit like trying a write with someone else’s fountain pen. Even if a shoe has only been worn for 3 months, it will have moulded to the shape of that persons foot, and will be worn down in the areas that their foot treads on hardest.
What you say about children growing criminally fast is true, I’m afraid! However, buying your child good shoes when they are young is an investment in their future. I see a lot of children who pronate when they walk and need orthotic insoles. Children’s insoles cost about £100, while adult insoles cost around £300. If you catch any problems while the child is young, you can often fix the problem before it develops.
In terms of grown, children need new shoes roughly every 3 months until the age of 4-5, and it’s good practise to get their shoes checked every 6-8 weeks. Between the ages of 5-10 it’s about every 6 months, and at around 10-11 it should slow down further. Sometimes you’ll be lucky and get longer, sometimes they’ll have a huge growth spurt and you’ll consider rationing!
There are a few things that you can get away with recycling. Wellies and school plimpsoles are usually ok to pass on to another child, because generally, children do not spend very long in them and do not wear them down very much. Of course if your friend has a child with similar feet to your own child and offers you a pair that have been worm once or twice – feel free to accept. If they have spent any considerable time in the shoes, politely refuse and suggest finding a local shoe shop that accepts second hand shoes to donate to charity. Where I work we send the second hand shoes which are in a reasonable condition to Kosovo, where the children have no shoes, and anything is better than nothing.
I hope I haven’t preached too much, and good luck with your 2013! If you need any more information, here’s the web address of the society of shoe fitters http://www.shoefitters-uk.org/
This is AMAZING advice! Thank you so much!
Thank you everyone! I will try and respond individually but things are a bit crazy at the mo and there’s a human dynamo racing round my legs wanting my attention. Have read everyone’s comments, snorted with laughter into my coffee and onto my shirt, and absorbed an immense amount of useful suggestions. THANKS THANKS THANKS!
Brilliant, just come across your blog and the idea is something I am going to try with our three (9, 4 and 21 mths). Christmas again brought it home to me how little children really need in the way of material things; ridiculously we still have unopened toys sat in their bedrooms, given lovingly by family and friends. I’ve always been pretty good on the second hand clothes part, some of my youngests clothes are from his 9 yr old brother. Nappies, I dread to think how much we’ve spent over the years (even mainly buying the eco friendly variety). Its the entertainment part also that scares me cost wise, the odd snack whilst out here, soft play there….it goes on!! So we’ll certainly be following and hopefully changing our way of life along with you!!
My two year old once spent a happy morning with his granny in a huge cardboard box on the floor in her kitchen (well, I don’t think she was in the box with him!). She gave him a pile of newspapers and said he could do what he wanted with them. After half an hour of pretending to hibernate he then spent the rest of the morning ripping the paper into smaller and smaller pieces. He is now 10, with a 9 year old sister – they have just spent all morning with a huge cardboard box and masking tape. The sister did the interior design – all drawn in black marker onto the inside of the box, down to a bedside lamp complete with cord and ‘plugged in’ while her brother was in charge of the tape, mending the corners whenever they got too boisterous and it broke. Someone should just sell cardboard boxes in a ‘toy shop’. Another great great pastime is mud. It’s everywhere, it’s free and as long as they are in old clothes and have a good hot bath afterwards I don’t care what they do with it within a designated area outside – which now resembles a war zone!
Fascinating and inspiring thing that you’re doing. I’ll follow with interest. I have cut my son’s hair ever since he has needed it doing and he is just 2 also. His hair is curly so that possibly makes it easier. I’m sure you’ll be able to learn how though, youtube has some good videos for learning things. Mainly my method is to comb the hair out from their head and trim around the head rather than trimming ends of flattened hair – as this ends in a bowl cut. Hope you get the hang of it :O) Sarah
Hello, and the best of luck on your challenge!
I’ll start by saying I don’t have children. I am an only child and only grandchild, and was lucky to have been brought up with nothing lacking. However I will add that both my grandparents and (single) mother had to work hard for everything they got. I am glad I had toys, clothes and access to education, which got me a degree and a full time job. But most of all I am happy I received a reasonable perspective on things, hence what compelled me to write to you after reading your article through a link on Yahoo!
I think parents really struggle these days: they want to provide their children with the best they can (and cannot) afford, hoping they will make them happy kids. Companies relentlessly chase both parents and children with ads for the most needed/ wanted things.
I am a manager in a telecommunications company and this Christmas I helped a customer looking for a £400 smart phone for her 11 year old daughter. The world is changing fast and it’s important to provide your children with access to tools that expand their communication skills, I thought. But another thought stirred in my head: how expensive will that girl’s presents be on her 18th birthday?
I am happy people like yourself are trying different things in these dire times, it is not possible for us all to continue selling ourselves, our work, our skills for nothing more than possessions that won’t last long. Happiness is much more than that.
I think this is an inspired idea. We try as hard as we can to not buy toys for our two girls (3 and 1) and they are very happy and have amazing imaginations. I feel this idea is infectious enough to try it (although not sure I will sell my hubby on the reusable nappies….)
I look forward to reading about your successes!
So inspiring ! Def going to implement a few of your ideas – although think the reusable nappies are a step to far for me ! Best of luck, I will be following with interest
Our daughter is 5 months old and the only things we’ve bought new for her are disposable items – nappies, cotton wool etc. We’ve been really lucky and friends with older children have passed on most of what we need for free including clothes, bouncy chair, mobile, sling etc.Where I have needed to buy something, like a pushchair, I’ve got it second-hand. The main reason is that I hate the thought of creating demand for new resources when there are perfectly good used items out there being scrapped. We also don’t have a lot of money, with my husband being newly self-employed and me being made redundant just before I went on maternity leave. It sounds rather mean but we didn’t get her any Christmas presents – we figured she’d be given lots by other people and we were right, she definitely hasn’t missed out on anything. We live in a Winnebago and so we don’t have a lot of space for vast quantities of clothes and toys anyway. I can honestly say I haven’t even been into a shop to look at baby clothes – so the ones she’s got don’t quite match but who cares? She certainly doesn’t. I’ve also got a mum, an aunt and a sister-in-law who give me a jumper or cardi they’ve crocheted/knitted at regular intervals – maybe not fashionable, but made with love and so much nicer than anything froma shop. The only thing I haven’t been able to do that I would have liked to is use re-usable nappies – without a washing machine or much space indoors to hang wet things it was just too difficult. I feel really proud that we’ve managed so far without spending the vast sums that some of the other parents in my post-natal group seem to have done (not that we had the vast sums in the first place!). We want to carry on this non-consumerism and I envisage a future of home-made toys, library books, playing outdoors and walks with the dog, not computer games, endless ‘classes’ and organised activities. A bit idealistic and old-fashioned maybe, but something to aim for at least!
This is awesome, how it should be too. When we got a new dining table me and my 2 year old daughter painted it like a bus and played in it for weeks. I have never seen her show that much interest in 1 thing. You are made to feel your child needs all the latest gizmos but I always find if theres fun it doesnt matter how it comes. Me and my mate take our children over the fields with picnics, splash in puddles n play all day they love it yet when we take them to places they get bored easily. Makes sense! Good luck, I may have a bash myself
Awesome, finally someone has had the guts to stop and look and think. As a baby boomer we grew up with little money and lots of fun. Hopscotch, jacks, jam tins that had string handles became our stilts and the neighbourhood kids use to make a high jump where we would all line up to ‘have a go’. I got one present and a book each year and cherished each page as I turned it to find a little game, a page of jokes, and an adventure story in my Readers Digest annual. Working for VIP employers I see kids crying as they get ‘bored’ with opening presents that filled an entire room. Hattie, ‘Bonne Chance’ as I hung my nappies out to dry I looked back at them with motherly pride of a job well done. I will encourage my children to do the same when they make me a grandmother! All we need to do now is work on the violence and sexual content of TV programs and media games etc….then the good old days may one day be there for another generation to cherish also.
Here’s a great tip that has always worked for us: take away and hide half the toys. Now every few weeks or in times of desperation take out ONE toy and take away another they aren’t playing with. They act like it’s a brand new toy. Too much equals boredom, few equals fun!
LOVE THIS! Just seen your post on the Sydney Morning Herald and will be following your blog with interest and attempting to follow the rules myself!.
I am due to be a Mum in April this year and am already dreading the amount of “stuff” you gather when you have children…..
I am always amused at how parents would panic over how to entertain bored kids. It seems there is a commandment requiring a parent to run and think of, do or buy something to entertain their child. I am a single mum and have raised my son on my own. He is 22 now. He knows all household chores and I can leave the house to himself for days with absolute peace of mind. When he was growing up, I was fully aware that he needs to be stimulated, busy and productive not only on school holidays but everyday so that he learns new things, be entertained, feel proud of an achievement, etc. I spent time teaching him how to do the laundry, cook, scrub the bath tub, vacuum, do the shopping, wash dishes, etc. All these after we have read books, played, watched or did crafts together. He is a very stable person, never been in trouble, working part time and finishing a Uni degree. I am very proud. Spending time together is the key.
I have 3 girls aged 14, 10 and 8. We have always been fans of secondhand bargain hunting, and making your own fun, partly due to necessity, but mostly because its really enjoyable!
Lots of people told me that as the kids got older, I would find they ‘bought into’ the designer and brand culture, but in all honesty I don’t think they have. My eldest daughter is often bemused by the fact that people will pay lots of extra cash for an item, purely because it has a certain logo on it, and all of them really enjoy customising their clothes, and making crafts from things that would other wise be binned!
Some of our best days out (according to them not me) have been things such as taking a picnic on a walk up the mountain with the dog, or going down the river to play ‘pooh sticks’…I really think sometimes some people don’t give children the chance to enjoy these things, believeing the hype that it has to be expensive to be fu, but they don’t know what they are missing out on!
A lot of people have mentioned about the shoes now it seems, and all the tips have been great…it is very true that children often barely wear shoes before they grow out of them. The only thing to watch out for is that secondhand shoes can be slightly stretched through wear, so sometimes its necessary to go down a width fitting for a good fit for your child, but in the past if I have bought an item from ebay and found it unsuitable, I have usually been able to trade with a friend or just resell and try again
Good luck with it all and don’t let the bad days (there are always bad days in any venture!) get you down, there are lots of us rooting for you
Great stuff Hattie. I work for an environmental organisation that promotes recycling & tree planting among other things – and your article is the talk of the office today.
Here’s my 8month old daughter’s story for comparison (we’re Australian, so the nappies dry almost instantly in summer…):
We use modern cloth nappies for our little girl. We are potty training now (since 6 months) to get her used to the idea – you learn to see when she needs to go, and only occasionally get a messy carpet.
Anica wears almost exclusively hand-me-downs/freecyclables – including toys – and we are constantly giving away excess toys.
We carry her in a baby wrap & ergo-baby carrier, we don’t own a pram (or a car – inner city dwellers)
We have a rule that she has to be outside for at least one “period” a day (between sleeps) We started “swimming” lessons around 5 months old.
We’re feeding her real food – no mash – and she loves it.
We never let her go to sleep crying; “self-settling”.
In my opinion, we have a very happy home life, she sleeps well, loves playing with other people and is very curious and active. And yes – she loves to chew boxes!
My kids are all grown up, youngest going off yo uni soon, but I absolutely love what yr doing!!
Everywhere you look we are urged to buy buy buy.
Surely life wasn’t meant to be this hectic and costly!
Congratulations to you for doing this, I will be reading with interest!!
Totally with you, I brought my two up on recycling and improvising, we all had fun and they are not scarred for life! My best tip – the library, for free bounce & rhyme sessions, and of course story books, as well as books of Things to Do ideas. 2nd favourite, charity shops. 3rd favourite, freecycle. Best of luck with your first year!
We live like this already here in our humble home. I’ve got a tip for you, if you don’t want to do cloth nappies (which I did for my 2 kids) then toilet train him! The earlier the better, I started both of mine at 22 months and completed day time training within a week using ’3 day potty training’. Both my kids were out of night nappies within a couple of months as well!
Brilliant brilliant brilliant!!! I hope lots of people follow suit. I would be able to do this easily but unfortunately my other half has other ideas (grr). I managed to spend only £35 on my 18 m.o. at christmas and only £65 on my 4y.o. But this wasnt good enough for my husband, who insisted I spent a further £140 on a nintendo 3ds despite my son already owning a hand me down older version that he loves. My husband is a very keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ type of person. Any ideas on how to get him round to the ‘free our kids’ way of thinking? Thanks, Gemma.
Saw an article about your fantabulous initiative in the SMH in Australia and wanted to commend you. Im a parent of 3 girls – 13, 11 and 6.5 and we practice this sometimes but need to be more consistent, especially as they enter teenage hood and
Id also like to add that you need to get the grandparents to agree or instruct the kids that what the grandparents do is for grandparents and that the kids shouldnt expect their parents to be as free or frivolous with their spending and “presie” giving. Keep it going, great stuff!!
stumbled across hattie’s intentions on yahoo and just HAD to view the site. brilliant and very funny, keep that sense of humour as you may need it in the future!
re- terry v disposable. i used cloth nappies for both my boys (eldest is now 19 and youngest is 16) but baulked when i had my daughter (she’s now 8) cos i’d ‘been there, done that’. i actually still have the cloth nappies (and the nappy bag my grandma made to hold them) in the loft. they now make great floor cloths etc!! by the way, i actually started off washing terries in a twin tub as i didn’t have a ‘normal’ machine!!
and kiddie food? i started off with zeal with my boys were babies but then i suppose all this ready made kiddie c**p wasn’t invented 19 years ago. i’ve still got my rose elliot ‘cooking for vegetarian babies’ book and that was my bible when the boys were little. i wasn’t perfect tho, i still remember my mother laughing at me when i was trying to feed ground rice pudding to my firstborn and she then realised i hadn’t cooked it first………….i just thought it was an add milk and stir thing!!
my pram did both boys, i saved all the eldest’s clothes to hand down to his brother and the same can be said for toys. i went part-time at work when the eldest was born cos i thought he deserved to be as important as my job and we then shopped in the several second-hand shops in the local area for clothes, books, toys etc
having another baby 7 and half years after the other two, i certainly saw a difference. more ready meals and convenience foods and only mothercare sold anything remotely connected to terry nappies so goodness knows what it’s like now, after being out of the baby game for the last 7 years i shudder to think.
one thing i wouldn’t buy second-hand though is shoes, i’m still buying clarks shoes now after 19 years although i have relaxed slightly and buy my little girl other soft shoes for summer rather than clarks’ doodles range but that’s as much to do with the fact that she’s 8, 4’8″ tall and in a size 3 and half/4 now and they don’t do pretty girl shoes in bigger sizes!!
Loving this! I’m not a mother and yet I am amazed at watching my friends raise their kids with all this awful guilt and consumerism. The older I get, the more I wonder how we got to this point. When I was a kid in the 70s, my parents had no money and no credit cards. Not only did I make do with hand-me-downs but they were scratchy, hand-knitted jobs made by my grandmother for my BROTHERS. So the shoulders were off kilter and they were always well worn by the time I got to wear them. Did I complain? No way – my mother wouldn’t have tolerated that! But guess what? I love my parents and it taught me a valuable lesson. There are always going to be people richer than you and poorer than you. The key is to be happy. And my parents made me very happy indeed. Wishing you all the best in your endeavour!
Hi, just read your article on yahoo and luv it!! Xmas too was a cringing nightmare and my babies have their birthdays jan and feb. Not good planning there!!
I dont buy baby snacks, ready meals etc. Having a dog ensures I get them outside 1 or twice a day and going to the local church toddler group which is donation only has meant I have made friends with kids a similar age.
The shoe thing is v expensive, clarks is a rip off and cheap shoes just dont last so I get their feet measured at clarks then hunt for them on ebay. Ive had some great shoes for £3,4,5 and I will continue to do this for as long as I can.
Good luck with it all, I shall be making more consiouse effort to make do, recycle, re-use and do things for free!
Hello, you’re just venturing onto what I’ve been doing for the last few years. Keep it up because the benefits are never-ending! I have a website dedicated to the food and money saving side of things if you’re interested? Looking forward to hearing more about your fascinating exploits! http://rosemaryathome.weebly.com/
I love your blog ! You arecfunny & sarcastic – like me….
What are your tips re; shoes ? ? ?
absolutely agree. I have always cut down on my daughters toys, from birth to now, she is 5. And I have faced censure because of it! dont you think you are depriving her? are you scrooge? I do buy new clothes though. however, I buy the minimum, she has worn m and s and gap just about exclusively and most have lasted her at least 2 years and in most cases 3! you can get inventive with leggings as dresses become tops! She has a minimum of toys. but lots of mummy and daddy time. she gets overwhelmed with them and never plays with them anyway! buying lots of tat is pointless. she does have access to an ipad though! and an iphone! where she gets lots of games for semi free. but honestly when people visit they look at the tidiness and assume I am denying my daughter some basic human rights in order to have a tidy house. partly true! but mostly because she doesnt need lots of stuff! she may moan about wanting it, but when its home, she forgets and plays with us! Delia
I love the article I’ve just read in today’s (no yesterday’s) DT – because I always catch up with it a day or so behind…
My children are 14 and 12 now but I was always the thrifty version of friends who bought new items. Mine had everything second hand from the local newspaper; this was long before ebay had entered my life! I’d save things like the bottle tops from fizzy drinks (not for toddlers’ consumption, naturally) and ended up with over 200 which they spent hours and hours playing with, placing them neatly in each square of the pattern tiled kitchen floor, or making shapes with them and so on. Bring it on, the cheap and cheerful way of life for kids – I applaud you!
Hi Hattie, love the blog. Nice to meet you last week at the cooking workshop. Just to let you know that a few chemists in Walthamstow offer a free prescription service for children. I took Riley into our local chemists when I couldn’t get through to the doctors surgery on the phone. and for minor ailments They can give you the medicine there and then for free for minor ailments, and things like Ibuprofen or baby Paracetamol. x
sorry, got distracted by Riley !meant to delete part of the text!
Just read about your blog and i am inspired!! I would love to get this “idea” moving and shared. Trouble is…im in Australia. I’d love to help you with this, maybe we could get something seriously world changing happening here! Could we get some kind of australian link going? I dont want to infringe any copyright laws and i have no idea how a blog works.
Im a mother of two girls, 5 & 2, and my favourite hang out is the second hand stores, secondly the park. Same as my girls funnily enough hehe. I share a passion for recycling and would like to see this plastic “lets make those kids good little consumers” corporate driven money machine doomed!
After planning carefully for our first baby 6 years ago, putting money away to cover my giving up work etc, we then blew huge amounts of money on toys and clothes! I have lost count, just of the little toy cars alone, but it is in the hundreds and at around £1 each that is an awful lot of money. Then came the recession, hubby’s pay-freeze etc and we knuckled down – loo rolls & old bits of wrapping paper for arts and crafts, etc, all meals home-cooked, all clothes hand-me-downs or mended by me (except shoes, these we get from a Clarks outlet as they last far longer than Asda), we grow veg and herbs and we go to the park, duck pond, free historic houses and save up our Tesco rewards for a few trips each year to theme parks. We now have two children who are happy as larry, have second hand ebay toys for Christmas and could not care less about i-pods and the like..it can be done and it is great fun having to think up imaginative ways of keeping everyone entertained…so good luck and have fun!
I’ve just read your Telegraph article – very interesting. On your activities section I note that you’re a bit worried about using cloth nappies, and just wanted to reassure you that my son, who’s nearly two, has been in cloth since he was big enough (he was born prem so was too tiny to start with!), and no-one who changes his nappies (me, husband, granparents, friends, nursery) has a problem with it. I’m not particularly eco or budget concious, but I am horrified by the disposable nappy landfill mountain in this country, so wanted to do my little bit.
I tried logging in here with facebook but my computer’s playing up, so I’ll try from home later.
Good luck with your plan – I’ll bet you have a lot of fun!
Hi Hattie, my advice is to take up knitting, crocheting, or sewing there are so many youtube tutorials and you will soon be able to make hats, gloves, scarfs and as many pairs of socks and sweaters for the wee man and shirts, trousers, shorts for the summer.
I’m definitely on your side; we spent very little on our children when they were small and always told them as they became older and compared their presents with those that their friends received,
“our presents to you are a TOKEN of our love, not the sum total”.
I’m with your neighbour, Dot.
However, I do have to protest about a two year old in nappies. My daughter’s potty training began at 6 months; I held her over the potty after each feed, She soon got the point and barring a couple of accidents, we only had wet nappies after that for a few months. My son had the same treatment and it took him a little longer. Well worth the effort in time, money and trouble carting all the paraphernalia around for years.
All the best, Lynne.
I used reusable nappies with my first child and using them again now with my second. I think they are really good and a huge money saver. Some local authorities give you money off buying reusable nappies. I was living in the borough of Lewisham 4 years ago, and the council gave us a voucher for £40. Definitely worth looking into. Really interesting blog and agree that we, as a society, need to limit what we spend on our children. They are not that interested in material objects but would prefer to have time playing or doing activities with their parent and loved ones. There is nothing wrong with second hand stuff. We were very lucky and have had loads,of hand me downs. Hope to hand them down too. Keep it up, you are doing great Hattie and all the other eco, money conscious parents.
while I applaud the reasoning behind this social experiment – I can’t say I fully agree with some aspects – mainly the “0″ spending on clothes, (and this goes partly for the toys too). This is simply not realistic for most people and misses out one major component for this game to work; someone has to buy the clothes to “hand down” or put up on freecycle in the first place. While it could be argued that there are plenty of people who have the cash to do this, I doubt they are sufficient to fully feed this if everyone decided to score all their kids clothes on freecycle!
You have to ask yourself if your rules should extends this far, or if a sensible budget for clothes could be applied and used to plunder secondhand shops, ebay and bargain sales…and freecycle for the things that go beyond your budget allowance. Then when you’ve finished with them, you can use what you have purchased to keep the cycle going – handmedowns to others.
You’re right, children’s clothes are crazy expensive, and they don’t need bling or logos, just to feel loved AND to be warm, comfortable and dry. But after a while, second, third and 4th hand clothes can look more like urchins rags, so at some point purchases are necessary and building in a touch of reality might make it easier for the scores of parents who are reading your blog and thinking “I’ll try that” – a potential consequence of which is they’ll strip free resources like locusts while other families who are desperately in need will be the ones extending what they have to make essential purchases – their social experiments don’t last a year and are not by choice.
As I said, I truly applaud what you are doing and the visibility this initiative is getting, I just think it needs some tweaks to be sustainable as a “childhood long” commitment, not just for a year. And if we, as readers / parents have the power to choose this path, then we have the obligation to have social responsibility as well as parental.
Hi Ruth, Thanks – that is really thought provoking feedback. Here’s my initial response (but I’m going to keep thinking about this today and might get back to you with revised opinions later!)
First, your point about ’0 spending on clothes’ not being practical for most parents and putting some people off who might otherwise have joined in the project themselves. I can see that, especially since hunting out good quality hand-me-downs requires a degree of time that’s at a real premium for most parents. That’s why I wanted to make it absolutely clear, in my ‘rules’ post, that I wasn’t telling others what to do. These are *our* rules, which might well be moderated as we learn, and they are there for one year, not permanently.
The hope is that, by enforcing a blanket ban on spending, I’ll be encouraged to look at *every* aspect of our spending and question whether it is necessary or helpful or not. I’ll interview experts and give my own, inexpert but personal experience.
That way, I can also hand the information onto other parents who might only want to engage in one or another part of the project. Hopefully, it might be useful for those deciding what they want to spend on and what they don’t.
In the long term, once this year is over, we’ll almost certainly reintroduce spending, just in a more measured way and empowered by what we’ve learned through research and experience of this year.
I hope that also answers your worries about the sustainability of only getting hand-me-downs: we will contribute to the cycle again, and hand down our own purchases, once the project is over!
Do drop me an email, or add another comment here if I’ve left you with more questions!
And thanks, as I said, I’m absolutely not an expert and the project’s worth relies on other people chipping in and offering kind and constructive questioning like yours.
Your blog is inspiring and I will be mentioning it to everyone I meet who have children. ( which is lots as I work as a nursery nurse) back to basics is definitely what we need as parents. Well done
Hi – I just saw you on Australia morning t.v telling us about your blog. You are amazing, how fantastic, that you have got up and talked about this issue, it is the same when they grow all the way through life. I have now 3 teenage children, ages 15, 14, and 13 and they just grow and grow and are subject to such crap that they can buy in this world we live in. We have lived on hand me downs and only now since they are growing so quickly, I have found I have had to go out and buy clothes, as the hand me downs are all different sizes – but they understand the difference between named brands and cheaper brands, thank goodness. There are ways around buying things for children, and you are so right about Christmas, all they see Christmas is how many presents can they get, and the sad thing about is that parents get so involved in this and forget the true meaning of Christmas. It is such a money making part of life now, stuff comes out in September and there is such a hype for one special day of the year. Anyway good on yer and well done, keep up your good work and I hope your support stands firm.
Very inspiring I hope more people become aware of the values you are implementing. As a mother of adult children and also a Pre -School teacher I have to say children learn so much more when given boxes, crayons and paper, because they use their imagination to create their play. I would also add that I only used cloth nappies for both my children and it was no big deal. They finished up being very useful cloths for my husband in the garage. I wish you well and hope you achieve your goals.
Congratulations! This is a great challenge, and you have a wonderful attitude going about it.
You may enjoy adding these blogs to your reading list for inspiration:
Just came across this via Nappy Ever After’s Facebook page. Good luck with it – it’s a great idea and although we spend very little on our daughter (1) it has inspired us to look at where else we can save in these cash-strapped times. The children don’t miss out – in fact they gain, as more time, effort and creativity is present in their lives.
Also if you ever need any help with the washable nappies send me an email!
Charlotte (and Iris) in Hackney
LOVE THIS SITE! im already hooked! as for your rules ….. childcare… have a look at 2 year old funding. if you meet the criteria for the area you live in you may be entitled for 15 hours “free” childcare. there are various rules and regs but its worth looking into.
now 53 with 2 adult married kids….cheap things that worked (i was only part time in work at the time….some things take too much time!) were; buying a chicken carcass from the butchers and boiling it up in water with an onion, a carrot, some herbs…soup stock as the end result and enough chicken (succulent) to put in soup or a pic. Pop corn bought as corn…put a tbsp oil in a saucepan, when hot drop the corn in…cheap fun snack…kids find it hilarious when you lift the lid and it flies around the kitchen. My kids had allergies when small, so we didn’t have any supermarket snack stuff…but i made a fruit cake every week . Home made playdough was always a hit. Enjoyed your piece on radio 4 today, go for it x
oh, and i forgot….home made yogurt in a flask or special maker….with organic milk….cheap, easy, quick. Plus home made soup best way to get vegetables in. I use maigold bouillon for stock x
sorry, you have me on fire now. My kids weren’t allowed a tv in their rooms or a computer, ever. They accepted that fairly quickly. My son started playing guitar at 11 and spent hours in his room doing that. They had basic pocket money. We didn’t spend lots on them. With another family we used to go to youth hostels, sometimes in the middle of nowhere (to get her sons away from computer games) and drag them on walks, bike rides and canoes…all in the uk, scotland etc. They moaned at the time about their friends foreign holidays, but had a great time when there. Now 27 and 25 and newly married, on a mission to have children asap, they both say they want to take their children on the same kinds of holidays. It goes in to their heads, without making them worthy, pious people (both are very able, popular , outgoing , creative people) and sticks
I absolutely love this idea and I need help to be more like you! I am the ultimate purchaser and consumer and I want to stop but I need help! I will be following you with keen interest and will keep you updated at how well I do. So far 7 months pregnant and only basic white vests purchased for baby no.2! Keep in touch.
My children are older than most of the parents who appear to be posting on here, but I work with children and families, and am enjoying reading the blogs, but I do hope they stay informative , and offer suggestions of how to help, rather than lecture those parents who have not for what ever reason embraced the ‘free’ childhood. How many of these parents have purchased expensive pushchairs and prams, whole systems that cost hundreds and hundreds of pounds, but are repelled at the idea of a plastic toy foisted onto them by advertising and marketing? My Nephew for his 1st Birthday was bought a bright and sturdy plastic car garage with operating lift. My Nephew was 18 last November, and that toy is still in operation at the nursery he attended, where it has been for the last fourteen years, bringing delight and joy to all the children who have used it (over 200). Many times it has been looked to be replaced, but the children always ask for it to stay. It is important to think particularly in these trying economic times about reducing waste, and reusing items, that will benefit your child’s experiences, and add value to their learning and development, and that could be the bright plastic second hand activity walker, and not just to allow you to shine your ‘best parent’ halo.
have jsut listened to you on the radio and wanted to say well done you. When my children were born I did get sucked in to the money drain that advertisers use to guilt trip us to spend on our children. I currently don’t work ( not out of choice!) and so money is tight but I have always been a thrifty type, I grew up through two major recessions and learnt my lessons well from my parents. The result is that both my kids are aware that things cost more than they are worth, advertising is a con and both despite having desires for expensive gardgets ( one is a teenager) they realise that they can live with out them. And you are quiter right your son will not care less for quite a few years so you can make the best of it as long as health etc is taken in to account. At the end of the day my kids like going to second hand shops!, have more home cooked food than convieneince including snack and can use their money to have fun with friends rather than just trying to look like them. Good luck and well done.
Glad to hear there are so many mothers (and presumably fathers) out there wondering. My husband and I have 4 children….2 of our own and 2 that I brought with me into the relationship, that we share 50/50 with their father….we struggle with children who tend to seem just a bit entitled, yet when christmas is lean they never complain. My hubby is an only child from a very financially comfortable family, and I am the oldest of 5, raised by a single mom. It has been a tumultous journey for us, as for me saving money where you can = love and respect and for my hubby spending it did. Anyway *grin* longback story…but yesterday my wonderful, transformed hubby (when we met he wouldn’t even come oin to the secondhand shops) peaked in to the bin behind the secondhand store, and brought home a hot wheelsrace track with one car and many pieces missing. The children (10, 8, 4 & 2) have spent hours playing with it, wait it gets better……together! Lol. We find incredible stuff in this bin, and it has become one of our favorite “shopping” spots. Just before christmas my man brought home an adjustable wooden high chair I had secretly been serching for, brand new, in the box. Maybe we’re a little crazy, but as they say, ‘One man’s junk is another man’s treasure!’
when I first heard about this I thought ‘what a mean mom’..but then when I read your blog…I was sold on the idea! I really hope you make it the full year! Good idea!
I heard something that’s really nice to do for christmas. It goes; Something to wear, something to read, something they want, something they need.
I would add a surprise aswell. It gives them a range of presents but really cuts all the junk out. I always buy far to much and end up giving most away after a few month..
I’m so happy to have found your blog as well! I’m a parent in Canada to a 17month old and we’ve tried the minimalist approach. We are fortunate that we have family that can hand me down clothes, we are using cloth diapers and chose a few styles that can be used from birth to 3 years old, we asked our friends and family for NO GIFTS for her birthday, but instead a donation to a charity of their choice or if they insisted on giving something a contribution to her RESP(Education savings plan). We still find that some of our friends give their kids everything, so when our daughter is around them she’s awe stricken!
Our daughter has toys, not many, but I have bought a few at second hand stores. However, her favorite things to play with are still: the laundry basket or a cardboard box, lids to jars(make beautiful music;) you can paint the tops different colours or number the tops to use them for match games, pots, pans, tupperware and wooden spoons! It’s nice to hear that other parents also feel that kids don’t need all this s’tuff’ be it the latest and newest clothes, elctronics and toys, that their imaginations will still develop and their self confidence will be strong with the consistent love, time and patience from their parents.
I think what you are doing is great. Not sure that you can spend zero $’s but give it a go. Join the Library, and in Australia we have toy library’s also that cost nothing. Like your neighbour fiend, I used cloth nappies for my three kids, and if you had been using them from the beginning I imagine your little man would be toilet trained by now – cloth nappies are great incentive!!!. Good luck, you can only do good for your little boy. I have noticed with my own three kids and my 6 grandchildren that they got more fun out of the box than they did out of the toy!! Susanne Luck, Subiaco, WA, Australia
8) MEDICINES ETC
I’m not an idiot. Calpol, bonjella, and any other form of medicine doesn’t count.
No you’are not an idiot but perhaps you need to do a little more research. The same corporate evil that brought you kids ready meals and the latest must have toys also sit in boardrooms dreaming up ‘treatments’ for what does or doesn’t ail us.
I recommend you read ‘Health Wars’ by Phillip Day for a fresh perspective.
Great website, great idea.
Hello Hattie :0) I was really smiling reading the article on your challenge. You are very brave to make it public, as you say you sort of have to do it now :0) Anyway, I think you are doing a great thing and I’m quite sure it will have a positive effect on your son. Choice is a great thing but sometimes too many choices such as food, toys etc seem to ‘create’ boredom. How many things can human beings collect? When I have limited the toys, tv, sweets etc for my children they do seem happier and play with the few things they have really well. As for the cotton nappy’s if you can use the liners it helps. I did it for my first child for 2 years, potty training is easier, but it was harder work and they did smell :0) I admit I went to biodegradable nappies with my second child :0) Good luck to you, looking forward to hearing all about it. Take care, sarah
Hi Hattie – Well done on trying this experiment, i have also kept spending to a minimum since i found out i was pregnant, my LO is now 2. I borrowed moses basket, 10 vests, 10 babygrows, sheets and blankets, hats and mittins for baby when he came (I didn’t know what i was having) my parents bought me a nice pram i wouldn’t allow them to spend over £400 and its still used now after using the carry cot & car Seat now seat unit, on the day he was born i was given lots of lovely gifts of clothes and really haven’t had to buy many since. I buy of FB selling sites and ebay for clothes and toys, i used washable nappies not extra washing required all whites go in together! As LO was born in January he had very few toys until his 1st christmas and that kept him going to this xmas, i rotate the toys in a box s ohes alway excited to see them, we paint and make craft items and play in the parks. Everyone thought i was mad to start with so little but he didn’t need more than that for the first few weeks! I shall follow your blog with interest. Good luck x
Wow, I’m impressed at your idea and wish I had done the same. My son doesn’t get what he wants, but what he needs. However he has so many people in his (3 generations split) family that he gets money for Christmas and buys what he wants. I look around his room and think, did I teach him to do this? He is 13 and has a flat screen tv, a digital camera, an ipod with speaker system, a laptop and a kindle. He has paid for all of them but he has so many toys from previous Christmases and birthdays that never get touched due to the influx of ‘teenage’ gadgets. What now??
From Australia – we are with you on this one – Our family has never purchased birthday or christmas presents – we make presents and cards… I will send you a pic of Oak(6) Tardis for his birthday – made from cardboard boxes that we get our groceries in each week : )
Do nor for one repulse, for go the purpose that you resolved to effort.
Hi Hattie, I love your blog! I heard you talking about the kiddie consumerism on our Sunrise show here in Australia a few weeks ago, and I searched the net immediately to find you. I love your blog. I look at it daily, and I long for new posts! I am not a stalker….just somebody who is a mum. I am somebody who has a blog and loves to write. I am fascinated with ways to curb spending, but to hep make my kids into better adults. So thank you.
Cheers to a better future.
Just love this idea. I have six children and as you can imagine that pulls on the purse strings x look forward to reading more. Goodluck x
Harriet, LOVE your site, and your ideas. What a beautiful family you have I live with my husband & 2 year old girl in Hong Kong.
Just wanted to share with you that i blogged about you today…
Keep it up!!!
Hi, I just read an article about your blog in the West Australian newspaper! It reminded me of my childhood and it’s not that my parents were poor but they got everything second hand for us and I always wore my sister or my cousins’ hand-me-downs when I was growing up – I don’t think I had any kitchen hair-cuts though! I’m only 20 but I’d like to think I’d bring up my children in that way one day – it’s not like they will care what they are wearing anyway – they’ll just want to wear wellies and play in the mud like me and my siblings used to! Good luck with your resolution – it’s an inspiration to many people and it’s also a good way to change the way children are being raised these days!
Love your site!
I am a surgical podiatrist specialising in paediatrics and infant foot development and would love to hook up sometime to talk about why it’s not always an absolute no no to share shoes.
Take a look at my sites and give me a shout!
Many thanks, Tracy
What did you decide about shoes? I keep toying with the idea of getting Jim’s feet measured in-store then trying to source them elsewhere, but probably not for free… so far have used grandparent money for shoes and always ended up buying them in clarks cos the assistants have been so nice!
WELL. I had decided, after talking to the lady from the shoe fitters association, that I needed to buy new. So I was all prepared that I’d have to break the rules when his feet grew, and then a nice podiatrist emailed and said that might not be the case. So now I’ve emailed her and will post results of my enquiry soon as I hear back. Fingers crossed…
I think you should listen to this (Thrift Chic not Thatcher)
I agree that there are too many advertisements urging children to want toys and games etc. But I am also concerned about the types of clothes that they also push on to children, eg sexy clinging clothes with unsuitable logos. Are you not also worried about the amount of sexual images that are at children’s height in the newsagent and on the television. Even some of the so called chidren’s programmes contain unsuitable images. A mother recently bought her little girls of 2 and 5 years a dvd called Hop, it was supposed to be about an Easter bunny. To her horror, the bunny went to Hollywood to make its fortune, in the background was the Playboy Mansion. The film makers claim that young children would not be aware of it’s meaning. But the bunny wore the typical white and pink bunny ears that are worn by the bunny girls in the Playboy clubs. This is a drip drip feed to young children, introducing them gradually and eventually into the world of porn. I do not say this lightly, they make it look innocent and fun, but it is a dangerous world for our children to be introduced to. I hope your campaign considers these images too and helps society to fight these greedy capitalists. Many thanks for reading and hopefully listening too.
Loved your mini film about childhood. Well said!! My children are now 14 and 16 and I’ve felt strongly about the unnecessary complication that large companies place on parents for a long time. Guilt about the lack of time due to work is a big factor but I feel parents should be empowered and listen to their instincts about what is right for their children. I’m sure that it’s much worse now than it was when my children were under 5. My only concern about the date for national children’s day was that it fell right in the middle of Y6 SATs. As a primary school teacher and Forest School leader I felt shocked to be totally unaware of this brilliant day. It seems a sad reflection of the UKs feelings about children that this day of celebration coincided with a week of intense assessment of our children’s abilities. I look forward to hearing more about your success. Good luck