Magnetic Children

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 partiestry 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

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7 thoughts on “Magnetic Children

  1. Wonderful tips & suggestions! I especially like the school ideas. So many parents have told me that they are upset by the waste generated by schools … multiple hard-copy notes sent home with each child (even when there are multiple children in a family), waste (craft supplies which are slightly used, disposable lunch utensils and even wasted food, etc.). There is such an opportunity for schools to do better and in doing so, they would go a long ways in helping to teach children to do the same! Perhaps if all parents started talking to school administrators and asking for a change, it could happen.

    It’s never too late for a Change The World Wednesday post! And your post will be included in tomorrow’s wrap up. Thanks so much for participating and sharing your thoughts! :-)

  2. Hi Lizzy – yes I have seen these but they are wholesalers. The closest one like this is Bristol – Scoopaway (take bags if you are ever going to Bristol!!). But I have forwarded this link before to a local health food shop in Haverfordwest called The Ark and she is considering starting a line in these if we can drum up a core trade – one aim of the blog! In the meantime she keeps a stock of loose foods out the back and will fill up your containers – products such as cereals, sugar rice, carob raisins, lentils etc.

    If you want anything particular in a week she will also order it for you so that it is there including all herbs and spices. I tend to send her a message or ring the shop on Friday/Monday with a list of all I would like to get and everything is there by the Wednesday. I then drop off my containers with little labels in so they know what to put in each one. You can either pop back in an hour or pick it up later in the day whichever is most convenient.

    They also do refillable Ecover washing liquid, laundry liquid and all purpose cleaner and lots of unpackaged soaps etc.

    The Ark is in Quay St in Haverfordwest and they have a website – – Lise Matthews is the owner and is really helpful.

    If you were to shop there, you could even use the other stores that I use on your way back to Pembroke Dock:

    Gate 2 Plate Farm Shop (Freystrop – take Burton road from Haverfordwest) – I buy meat from them in to my own containers (they are very used to this now) but they also have a good range of loose freezer foods which you can get into your own containers and some loose veg.

    Then cut across to Johnston where the following shops are all next to each other on the industrial estate by the farmers co-operative:

    Pembrokeshire Bakery – do a great range of breads, cakes, sausage rolls etc and are used to me going in with my cloth bag!

    Five a Day Grocers – loads of loose veg and fruit and are starting to get much more locally grown selection

    Claws Fishmongers – award winning fishmongers with locally caught fish and shellfish and also do some deli things like loose olives, stuffed peppers etc. Again they are used to selling into own containers!

    Hope that helps – it would probably be about a 12 mile round trip for you from Pembroke Dock but maybe worth it every fortnight? It is a pretty direct route for you.

    I will be doing another post in a couple of weeks with a full list of shops in Pembrokeshire, Wales and beyond that I am aware of, so if you know of any others drop me a line.


  3. Excellent post – it’s so important that schools set the example about cutting down waste and that is matched by the attitude in the home. We home educated our kids and so needed lots of materials at home but we mostly acquired these from recycling centres, were really resourceful about paper and making everything really count and be valued. It gave us a wonderful opportunity to teach our kids to value the planet and be resourceful themselves – a great skill for adult life especially in these economic times!

  4. Hi Ross – I hope that mainstream schools soon begin to follow the type of example you set in your home schooling. The focus currently is mainly on whether you recycle what you dispose of (and not always that focussed on that!) and less on what you start out with. Nice to hear that your kids are at such an advantage there already! Lucy

  5. A topic after my own heart!! I am tripping over so much stuff! And I am planning my son’s party, so this is a timely reminder!

    I regularly give things to the charity shops AND I let my son spend his pocket money there. This gives him a chance to try a new car or something fairly cheaply. I also offer him pocket money in exchange for toys and items he is willing to give to the charity shop. Not necessarily the best idea, but it works a little.

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