They have minds of their own

A long time ago, when I started illustrating children’s books someone very cynically said to me ‘You know you’re not illustrating for children, it’s for the parents or grandparents, they’re doing the buying’. Now that’s all fine if you’re in publishing and marketing and all that matters is shifting units off the shelf. But are we designing and illustrating to sell stuff or do we do it with children in mind? Do we consider their little personalities and the quirky choices they make? Personally I think the kids definitely have a say.

We start communicating with our children from day one. Mothers, in particular, are usually highly tuned to what their child likes and dislikes. My girls had a say in almost everything because they imposed their views and were very chatty. And, with three under 5, sometimes it makes for an easier life to let them go to kindergarten with their bathing suit on over their leggings. It’s not a great style choice, but it is theirs. Children make their own choices all the time. It’s healthy for them to be given the freedom to choose. You can buy them all the books you like, but they decide if they want to read or listen to them. They may have beautiful dresses but they often won’t choose to wear them. My middle child wore the same rainbow coloured skirt every day for almost six months until the colours faded (it did get washed). The person who bought it for her really knew how to buy for that particular child. It certainly simplified the morning dressing routine for us for a while.

Thoughtful gifts last

Some of the best gifts, the things we continue to treasure from when our children were little, were sourced thoughtfully or handmade. Beautifully made dolls, quilts and knitted baby cardigans. Things that we’ll keep safely in a box for when they have babies. I love the way we have more opportunities to choose now. I don’t mean that there are more and more things available in the shops or online. I mean that you can choose to make ethical choices when you buy things. The baby market is a throwaway market in the extreme. It’s painfully short-lived. But people buy gifts for little ones and there are more and more opportunities to buy well. Keeping in mind the environment, buying local and supporting small businesses.

Environmentally conscious buying for children

I come across a lot of washable nappy companies that use pattern designers for the wraps that go over the washable nappy. They are so colourful now! I used washable nappies but it was 18 years ago. It took some effort to source them and we had to drive about 30 miles up the motorway and pay a small fortune to get them. When we moved to Africa though I really found out that it was the best decision. To dispose of ‘disposable’ nappies there I would have to burn them (yuk…it takes ages!) or bury them (really?) So I loved them my washable nappies. It would have been so great to have had some of those beautifully patterned wraps that are available today. And you bet this little person would have had a say in which wrap she was going to wear….before she ripped it off and ran around with nothing on her bottom.

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