WITH HELEN BOWMAN
From the perfect gifts for expectant mothers to adorable toys that baby will love, Helen Bowman shares her handy guide to gifting.
In a sense, buying gifts has never been easier.
Like a lot of people, I keep an informal archive of ideas and inspiration discovered on social media and elsewhere, ready to click through and purchase when the right occasion arises. It’s particularly easy to do with regard to children’s products – the recent proliferation of small brands with unique creative visions means there are more diverse, fun and engaging gift possibilities than ever.
But of course, there can be such a thing as too much choice: when faced with endless possibilities, how to decide on anything in particular? I try to err on the side of the ethical to narrow things down, ensuring a gift hits the mark but isn’t just an act of fruitless consumption or future landfill. The perfect gift for a little one should be beautiful or fun, well suited to the recipient and have enduring appeal – not just a momentary novelty value.
The first thing I do is remind myself that the gift should reflect something of the recipient’s personality as well as of my own taste. When shopping for a dress for my daughter’s third birthday, I started by erring towards my usual preferences: minimalist rustic styles in natural, neutral tones.
Then I stumbled across Stella McCartney Kids’ ‘ice cream seller’ dress, with its lively gelato-vendor print – and there was no question that it was the dress for Clem. She’s obsessed with ice cream and spends half her waking life playing with her ice cream shop. The dress wasn’t what I would usually buy, but it was as lively and sweet as my daughter’s personality – and completely in line with her interests. In the event, she loved it and literally would not take it off.
The second thing I’ve found useful is to choose a gift that chimes with events or occasions in my daughters’ wider lives. We’re planning a family trip to Giffords’ Circus in the spring and thought that something circus-related would help to prepare Clem, give her some context so that she better understands and enjoys the experience.
The Maileg circus tent (complete with three cute mouse performers) was ideal: ethically made from natural materials, like all Maileg products it captivates and inspires the imagination. Kids get creative with toys like these: they encourage collaborative play, storytelling and characterisation. We ended up building the mice little houses out of building blocks and inventing circus routines for them to enact.
Last but not least, I try to keep gifts relatively design-led because products that are thoughtfully designed tend to be products that last. We don’t get huge piles of gifts for Clem because there’s simply no need – she’s only ever interested in a couple of things at any one time. Instead, we give her a few more considered items that we believe will outlast her interest and become, in turn, favourites of her younger sister. Later, perhaps they’ll prove to be treasured pieces she’ll pass on to her own children.
Her circus mice are already set for a second life – at the year’s end they’ll double up as Christmas decorations, echoing a childhood memory of my husband’s. His family would place a family of cardboard and straw mice under the Christmas tree, and tell a story about them coming to life, Bagpuss-style, after the household had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. We believe that if we choose gifts we can invest with identities and stories, they’ll give our girls the tools they need to better understand, enjoy and cope with later life. Here’s hoping!
It’s nice to get a treat expressly for mum, or something that she might not want to spend money on herself. Clothes aren’t always the best thing to get (their use is so seasonal, plus size and fastening-dependent). Baby books and changing bags are great for those very early days and crib shoes are perfect around six months in.
Gifts for Baby
I could go mad with baby gifts! It’s nice to show that you’ve put some thought into the gift that welcomes new life into the world. Go with something that’s either super useful or beautifully designed and would make a great addition to the nursery.
Toys for Kids
I love simple toys that encourage free play (at least while my kids are too young to demand much else), incorporate natural elements and are well-made. I also tend to lean towards gender-neutral options.
With thanks to Helen Bowman X
GET THE LOOK
STELLA MCCARTNEY KIDS
ICE CREAM SELLER PRINT JERSEY BONGO DRESS