Children, no matter how young or old, seem to be ‘stuff magnets’. It’s not necessarily that they are seeking the stuff out, but often it seeks them out. We grown ups LOVE to give things to children, to share their natural enthusiasm for something different or new – and no matter how cheap, kids will always love it!
Unfortunately the trickle of gifts and treats that starts with your first beautiful baby, quickly becomes a flood of magazines, paper, tiny toys, and nick nacks which ultimately you have to sort, store or dispose of.
I love to treat my kids and, like all children, they have lots of lovely toys and books. But there are also ways to keep their magnetic powers for stuff in check ….
School - With 3 small children in full-time school, this brings a daily trickle of paper and an end of term sack of their creations. Ask your school if you can receive school letters by email only if possible. Try asking your child’s class teacher to only send home really nice examples of their work at the end of term rather than everything they have ever put their name to, which often even includes laminated name badges that they have used etc. You can also ask them not to laminate your child’s work so that if it’s not a keeper, at least it can be recycled.
Your children’s parties - this begins with the invite. To have a chance of not filling your bin with rigid plastic as soon as presents are ripped out of the packaging, you have to let the mum’s know that this is something that is important to you. It feels awkward to start, but trust me you will be nothing but applauded for it by the other mums. If only a few friends are invited, try explaining in person to the mums that you try to avoid plastic/excessive packaging and would be grateful if they could help with your ‘project’. If you are inviting all the class, you can add a little note on the invite along the same lines. You will be amazed at the difference in the packaging on the gifts your child receives that year.
If you are catering for the party, try to use reusable plates and cups (i.e. your normal crockery) where you can. If the numbers are high though, or you are at a venue where it would be difficult, then you can get some really good party plates which are fully compostable afterwards. Check out the Palm Leaf plates on Little Cherry‘s website for example. They also sell fully compostable party cups and I find that these and the plates wash well and can be used again for another party.
Party bags can be avoided altogether but if you like to give them, try to consider the bag and the contents. Either forget the bag altogether by just giving a little gift or go for a recycled paper bag option. Less is more with party bags and try to avoid bulking them out with cheap gifts that won’t last or aren’t needed. Gifts like a pack of seeds, playing cards or a wooden skipping rope go down well. If you like to give sweets, you can buy these loose from a local sweet shop to hand out at the party or add to the party bag.
Other children’s parties – try to purchase gifts with little or no packaging and wrap the gift as little as is needed (not at all if you know the family well!). You can get some fab cardboard toys that kids can spend hours decorating as they choose – have a look at a few of those available on ECOutlet.
If you don’t want your kids to have plastic party bags packed with stuff, just text the mum in advance explaining you are reducing plastic/waste and ‘if they don’t mind’ that they won’t need to do one for your child – they never mind and normally admire what you are doing. If your kids are very young and you feel guilty that they are missing out, then keep a small jar of loose sweets at home (any type that you approve of) and they can have one when they get home.
Crafty activities - one of my children has already told me she wants to do a craft degree and that all she wanted for Christmas was sellotape, so this is an area I have had to focus on! Keep a drawer for bits of paper or card which come into the house and can be reused for craft. The shredded cardboard that is used for packaging is great for stuffing monsters or as hair on pictures.
If your child likes using particular craft items like poms poms or glitter, try to buy them individually in craft shops rather than buying big multi packs of mixed craft items. Try and limit the use of non-recyclable materials like sellotape and googly eyes or when the picture has been admired for the appropriate amount of time, you can take off bits that can be reused and put them back in the craft box. See where you can use reusable sticky materials like blu tac instead of glue, and check out what you have in your pantry that would be good for collages – popping corn, black-eyed beans and lentils are all great and can be composted after use.
You can make your own play dough in no time and it stores in the fridge for a good few days in an airtight container. Once it can’t be used anymore, let it dry out and crumble it into your compost bin. Here’s a link to a good recipe for Play Dough.
Memories - Even the most minimalist mum likes to have a little reminisce, but try to be selective in what you save for the future. My own parents saved a loft full of my and my 3 brothers school work and art creations, only to ‘have a sort’ 20 years later and ditch almost 90% of it on our request. Try to keep only a selection of really special pieces all together in one ‘memory box’. It is so much fun to look through for a few hours in the future rather than wading through days of dusty memorabilia. If a piece is too big or messy to save, take a good picture of it and scan it into a dedicated folder on the computer.
What do your magnetic children bring home?
This post is also linked on Change the World Wednesday by Reduce Footprints