yurt life

We’ve been living off the grid for one year!

20 October, 2016

We’ve just passed our living off the grid first year anniversary and I thought it would be a good plan to reflect on it all a bit. We had been living off the grid for around 15 months prior to last September, but it was on someone’s elses farm, sort of tucking into their sunshine powered dream, apprenticed to them in the ways of self sufficiency.

One year ago we moved on to the land we bought with another family and began to set up a small solar powered home and farm. There was nothing on the farm apart from some fencing and a shed, and the natural environment- springs, trees, the river, meadows and native forest.

We popped up one little yurt and basically camped out for the summer. We hooked up a tap and had an outdoor kitchen. And slowly added bits and bobs. Four months in we stuck up a big yurt with the help of many friends and moved into that for a more long term home. We chose a yurt house as it was inexpensive, easy and quick to put up, and beautiful too. (Heres more on choosing to live in yurt homes.)

Here are a few thoughts….living off the grid for one year

Living off the grid is WELL EXPENSIVE to set up
One of the things that has been a bit of a shock is how much money everything has cost! Ultimately living off the grid ends up less expensive as our solar electricity is free and home grown food is cheaper. But to set it all up really does cost a lot. Things that you don’t really think about as costing actually money are REALLY expensive- things like timber and nails and pipes.

Living off the grid is a time stealer
Everything takes FOREVER. Working our bums off and we have only got two thirds through our To Do list. And that’s with crossing things off with the scribble “revisit 2018″…  We thought we would have an add on to our yurt built before the winter, a sort of porch/ wet room where we can keep wet coats and welly boots and store tools and things, but that hasn’t happened yet. We thought we’d have hydroelectricity set up so we could have endless electricity, but that got moved down the list. Mind you… the weather hasn’t exactly been a friend in all this. We’ve had to write off whole days, WEEKS, due to rain storms and stuff.

Living off the grid is hard and not so hard
Some of the things that might seem hard (like having an outhouse instead of an internal bathroom and a composting toilet that doesn’t flush) are not as hard as you might think. They just make SO much sense that we quite quickly got used to the idea of treating our waste differently. It’s something that is just part of life and only ever feels like a positive thing; isn’t it awesome that we don’t throw away something that is SO good for our trees?!

Living off the grid involves an entire mind revolution when it comes to electricity. There have been times when we have just had to shut everything down this winter. That can be incredibly frustrating. Slowly, mindful use of electricity just becomes the new normal.

And then, sometimes stuff is hard, with not much positive spin to be wrung out of it. Going without hot water for so long, months and months, was pants. Having to park our car 180 metres away and hike up with the girls and all our gear in the pouring rain has been a bit of a major mission.

Living off the grid gets the weather in your face
This one is the bridge between the bad and the good sides of living off grid. Because on one hand we feel so open to the elements, and lots of our activities are weather dependant, or go ahead despite the weather and are turned from a pleasant job to a freaking AWFUL one. And living in a yurt increases this too. We’ve done a winter in our yurt (read more by clicking that link) and it was warm as we had a fire. But when it hails, or when the wind howls around us, it is LOUD and full on! And as we lie in bed on our mezzanine floor, our faces half a foot from the fabric roof on which the rain is pounding we think who does this??!

But then, there is a good side to being this close to the elements. Those sunny days when we look out at the mountain and the meadows call to us and we fling our bodies down the hill and lie in the long grass and the ducks come quacking over ‘cos they think we have their grains and then a cloud comes and it rains. Ha. But really, I’ve never been so very conscious of the weather and the seasons and it is truly marvellous.

Living off the grid in community is so nice
So a year or so into living with another family on our farm and we are SO GRATEFUL to be living in community. It is SO NICE and SO RIGHT for this way of life. We would feel immensely isolated doing this without them. And it would be way too much work. This way the load is shared and if one family is sick or needs a break, the other can step in. If one family is going to be too late home to move the cows to the next field, the other family does it. They are kinda like the greatest neighbours ever, but more than that, like neighbours-with-benefits… but not those kinda benefits… other kinda more wholesome, agricultural benefits….argh

I don’t say this flippantly at all, and don’t even really recommend living this intensely in community unless you really think super hard about it, find the most very right people who you communicate really well with, and then do some serious work and living with them before hand. Buying land with people is a big deal. But we love, LOVE, our neighbours and we feel so lucky that we found each other. They bring a lot of joy and empathy into our lives.

Plus, together, we are able to give our dreams legs. We have begun fire/moon circles where adults gather to share stories around the fire, under the moon. We have begun a forest play group for little ones and home schoolers. Both of these groups add so, so, so much to my life.

Living off the grid… but with wifi
So we are off grid, no services or state provided infrastructure, except the internet. I guess that is someone’s grid. And I don’t know whose grid it is, I thank them for it, as I like it. Maybe it’s Gods grid? Would she let the whole xxx thing gets so outta hand on there? Doubt it.  Probably not God’s grid. I guess in a way it is sort of the world’s grid, right?  And I guess it’s less of a grid, and more like a flexible, evolving, sort of  interconnected structure… you know what, I’m gonna call it a WEB.  The World’s Web. I feel as if it needs another syllable in there somewhere. The World Wise Web? The World Whine Web?

Anyway. We are ON THAT. We thought it would help with my work, and it kind of has, like lots of cool things have happened, I turned up in all the charts, right up there in the British top parenting one and the NZ top blog one, and I made a meme and it got a virus and TWELVE MILLION PEOPLE SAW IT ON FACEBOOK! Like actually 12 million people, not kidspeak 12 million. OMG! Which is all quite amazing considering I feel like now that I work at home rather than the library I spend most of the time standing in front of my open fridge wondering why we don’t have more snacks.

And then, I feel like the wifi and the ease of working at home has come at a bit of a cost. It’s there all the time this WWW, asking you to click all the things. And I am having to work TRIPLEY hard at staying present and doing hobbies other than surfing the internet that I love to do. Pre wifi I used to read 3 books a WEEK I tell you! And I would sing 1990’s rap on my ukulele like the South London hipster I used to be. We are still figuring out how to get all the wonders of the wifi without the weird owning of your life that it can sometimes do.

Living off the grid… a year of loving nature (and nature loving me??)

YIKES THIS POST IS TURNING RIDICULOUSLY BIG. I probably need to write about all these things separately. Okay… so for me, this year has been less all about the living off the grid thing… and more about a life lived in touch with nature. I guess we chose off grid because it is so gentle on the earth’s resources… and, this might sound strange, this year I have felt the sense of being held by Papatuanuku – in Maori, this is the land, the mother of all living things.

I feel like we have said YES to the earth, and the earth is giving a million yeses back. I write about this in my book 30 Days of Rewilding…  the beautiful, mutual relationship that we can have with nature.
Living off the Grid for one year
The mountain invited us to live close by, and offers its protection from many of the roof ripping gales for which this region is named. We do what we can to stop the greedy pillaging that mining companies would like to do. It’s a relationship. Getting arrested on the mountain was kind of like the equivalent of getting a beloved’s name tatooed across my shoulder.

And then there’s the ruru, the native owl. We have this thing going on, I swear! Ah, sheesh. This is a story for another time….

Living off the grid and children

So, one of my children, Juno, is an off gridder.  She is a solar powered hippy from way back. She is three and gets involved with all the work around the place and heads off into the bush for solo adventures. Sometimes in the dark with a head torch!?! Like, for real, she did that.

The other was born and raised for her first 2.5 years in London and has taken longer to get used to it. She is far more fearless and ferocious than most in the wild. This is her catching eels in the creek.

But, you know what, she is still an urbanite in lots of ways. Just yesterday she found a matching pair of socks and went “MUM, QUICK WHERE ARE MY RUNNING SHOES?” “huh?” “MY RUNNING SHOES I NEED TO PUT THEM ON AND GO FOR A RUN!” “What, why, huh?” “LOOK I’VE GOT TWO WHITE SOCKS AND IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY DREAM TO WEAR TWO WHITE SOCKS AND GO FOR A RUN”

So we head in to town more often than we would to help her city slicker ways.


There is so much more to say but it is midnight and I have a book to read and a ukulele to strum. I might have to do a two parter on this whole year of living off the grid thing. In fact, if you have any questions, ask in the comments and maybe I could do a sort of Q and A thingy.

***new video*** Sometimes the reason all the important things, like getting our little yurt ready to go on Airbnb (oh there is it! Spread the word! If people want to try out an off grid farmstay, send them our Airbnb, kicking off in November!) it might be because we get distracted by doing something really fun like making earth bricks for our garden!

PS Want more nature loving stuff? My latest book is designed as 30 short readings you can do each day over your morning cup of tea to help you fall in love with nature. See more here!

PPS Here is our year of living off the grid in video form!






Five reasons to stop forcing good manners on our kids

13 October, 2016

So I was reading an academic journal last night and it featured a really robust, longitudinal research paper that revealed that children with good manners, who say “please” and “thank you” and things, will turn out to be, like, a million times more successful than anyone else, loads more happier, and just, y’know generally a far, far more superior adult?

Said no-one, ever.

Here’s the thing. Our adult obsession with “please” and “thank you” is baseless! It is rude, a waste of parental energy and one of the many daily microagressions against children.

Here’s five reasons we can stop fussing about good manners…

Don't worry about the manners! 5 reasons to give up forced please and thank yous

1- It’s totally rude. A good principle for interacting with our children is “would I say this/ do this to an adult?”

Would we ever say “What’s the magic word???!!!!” to our friend? Heck no! Or some people might, but they would also be known as the most annoying friend EVER IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANKIND.  Interrupting people over an issue of semantics is impolite, which is funny, when you are doing it to try and teach politeness.

Teresa Graham Brett says;

“In our dominant mainstream culture, we rarely question being rude to children. This is ironic, since we insist on polite behavior from children and in fact are often rude to them with the goal of teaching them to be polite. We’ll tell a child in front of other people that she must say “please” or “thank you.” Imagine for a moment correcting your partner or an adult friend if she or he neglected to say “please” in a store. Few of us would do so, yet we’ll interrupt and correct a child who doesn’t “properly” make a request of an adult.”

2- It’s okay to care about good manners. We all have our things, and I like to think we are all working on them. But you gotta understand that no one learns well by being told stuff. Children learn by watching you. They will understand that there are words that seem to have a little “magic” about them by listening to you on the phone to the plumber, booking her in to fix your blocked toilet “Please, as soon as possible thanks, because it’s all really sort of messy around here now, thank you SO much!”

If we treat our kids graciously, they will be gracious too. (And is constantly forcing them to say please and thank you good manners? Nope. Have I already made that point?)

If you do really want to talk with your kids about good manners, think about the big picture, about what you really want. Is it to just have them say these little tiny words? Or is it about them generally speaking kindly and noticing the impact their words can have on people?

Perhaps you might frame it like “some adults really care about the words “please” and “thank you” – when we go to Aunty Sally’s house, you might want to try and remember to say that as much as possible, because it’s really important to her.” We sometimes do this and I think Ramona appreciates us being frank with her, and she notices the effect of the “magic words”…

(And I also appreciate that we need to hang out with our kids a lot of the time so if it feels like the communication sounds genuinely rude, we can say “It makes me feel ____ when you use that tone of voice, are you willing to _____?” (A sentence roughly based on non violent communication.)

3- Kids are learning to communicate every day, they want to connect with you, share stories with you – do we REALLY want them analysing all their words to see if they will get your approval? Give them a break. Also – give yourselves a break. Shit, there’s enough to worry about as a parent, you really don’t need to add “micromanaging my child’s conversation” to the list!!  Relax. Wipe another thing off your “To Do” list.

Will this mean you are raising an unpleasant child? Are YOU unpleasant, in general? Are you unpleasant to your children? No? Okay, then it is HIGHLY unlikely you are raising an obnoxious brat. They might be going through a tricky stage, they might be just getting their heads around how their conversation can make other people feel good or bad. Model kindness, ask if they want some tips, but don’t worry about it.

4- I believe it is a form of adultism to impose our grown-up way of communicating on our children. Banging on and on about “please” and “thank you” and our version of “good manners” completely ignores and undermines the many beautiful and wonderful ways that kids show their gratitude. A child’s please and thank you sometimes just aren’t verbal – they come in many forms; obscure gifts, a beaming smile, an interpretive dance JUST FOR YOU!  Notice these forms of thanks, accept them, welcome them, celebrate them; don’t be hung up on the fact that it didn’t come in the package you wanted it in.

5- Hankering after a grudgingly given please or thank you is beneath you, my friend. You are way better than reluctant apologies and coerced pleases!! Communication is such a wonderful, beautiful thing. Connecting heart to heart through sounds that come out of our mouth – that is magic. Let’s invite our children to be part of a communication process that is gracious and compassionate and has connection at its very center. Give, hope for and strive for spontaneous gratitude –  in many cases it is there, you just need to open your eyes to see it.

If you genuinely don’t trust that children will learn to be respectful simply by being respected, and you feel you *must* keep reminding them about please and thank you and other socially constructed good manners, remember that children are wholly human and that you can do this in a gracious way.  In Parenting for Social Change Teresa Graham Brett suggests that we should treat our children as that is as we would a VIP from another country – guiding them in our strange ways with dignity and respect.

There is a brand new video on my channel all about good manners where I discuss this further and make some bold, bold claims… hehe.

As ever, always love to hear your opinions, as long as they are the same as mine! Ha, I jest, I jest.

Featured, Parenting

The beautiful side of your spirited child

6 October, 2016

Hey sleepyhead. Weary in your bones AND your mind?

I wonder if you are mama to a spirited child?

Some kids are wild ones. Exhausting, challenging, beautiful wild ones.

You will know you have one, if you have one.

You have been through the wringer and have spent whole days thinking you must be a terrible, terrible parent to be raising such a bombastic human.

They are completely themselves in all their wild beauty, but this wild beauty jars against societal norms and expectations.

They WON’T be quiet in the library, in fact, they might even take their volume to a new level because their whole mind and body is just urging them to do it.

They WON’T sit in the toddler seat in the trolley at the supermarket; they want to tear up and down the aisles.

They WON’T sit up at the dinner table, they can’t sit still and they don’t like that food and they want to be clear about how you should only ever cook pasta and broccoli, they especially want to be REALLY clear about that to sensitive old Grandpa, who slaved all afternoon on a Shepard’s Pie.

the beautiful side of your spirited child

I have a very spirited child, my firstborn, Ramona. First this made me feel like a terrible parent. I felt like she was uncooperative and it must be a result of my lack. I felt every public tantrum as a verdict on my poor skills.

It is not only my perception, either.

I have been judged as a parent as a result of Ramona’s refusal to do something she was asked to do. What a joy it would be to say “I felt judged, but now I realise that everyone understands that some children just happen to be hardcore rebels and every knows parent are all just trying to do their best!!”  The truth is that society does judge parents when their children don’t conform to expectations and we must stop that. PLEASE. Can we stop that? A spirited child is not an indication of poor parenting.

the beautiful side of your really wild child

The second stage was a huge journey of trying to discover what was going on – it sent me digging deep for patience and finding new ways to kind of upgrade my attachment parenting to toddler level. It made me write lots of things about defiant children and their urges and creating lots of space for autonomy even in toddlers. It was a process that broke me to bits, in a way, but also made me get really creative and set me firmly on a respectful parenting path.

This was awesome, because then when my far cruisier second child came along I found parenting an absolute breeze! I would ask her politely, human to equal human,  to keep her voice down in the library and she would say “okay, mama!” and I would be completely gobsmacked, and (because of the first stage) feel like one seriously awesome parent.

My heart contracts a bit at the idea of having children the other way round –  a spirited one second or third, so you think you have this parenting jazz all sorted and then WHAM BLAM.

There could at least be a tell tale sign in the womb, don’t you think? So we can prepare. Heartburn = spirited child on the way. Thank you, body!

All the things I learnt about whilst being with Ramona – the saying yes, the tips for connecting over small daily moments, all helped, really helped. They helped her keep a slightly more even keel, and helped me create space for her bigness. But she is still VERY likely to completely combust in a very public moment, when all eyes are on us. It is just her way.

You see, the final stage of having a spirited child is accepting them, just as they are. You might be able to change them, but you would crush their spirit in the process. And probably yours too.

And of course, our children are not ours to change. No one owns a child. It would be far outside our role to think we should change them.

You can only accept them and keep your eyes peeled for all the beauty in their wildness. They fight hard, but they love hard too, don’t they? the beautiful side of your spirited child

They might not ever, ever wear socks with seams, and they might ragingly insist on taking all their clothes off when they go to the toilet, they might not ever say “okay, mama” the first time you ask, and they might pour out their whole angst on the floor if you can’t immediately find Stick Man when they want to read it.

But when you see them in the scooter race with all that fierceness written on their face, doesn’t your heart squash your lungs against your chest?

When they laugh feverishly from their scalp to their toe nails, doesn’t it feel like a shower of shooting stars?

When they ball their fists and stand mighty as a lion to the kid that called their little sister a “baby” don’t you absolutely know that one day they will turn this sense of justice into world change?

When they whisper “I love you mama” into your neck as you cradle their body, weak from the crying and the screaming of “I hate you I hate it I hate everything”, don’t you know they mean that love badly, and don’t you know they need you to love them and accept them exactly as they are?

You know.


Oh, guardian of a spirited one. I know just what you are experiencing. I know the depths and heights. Don’t let anyone, anyone’s judgement or headshake or tutting, detract you from your path of loving your wild one one in the way they need to be loved.

Let your wild one be exactly who they are.


PS Brand new video on this very subject over on my Youtube Channel:

PPS  I generally try not to label kids, or even talk an enormous amount about their temperaments or characteristics. Who am I to try and describe or prescribe or put a structure upon my child’s personality when they still have so much blossoming to do?

But in not naming a child’s spiritedness in adult to adult discussion, we are in danger of perpetuating the myth that a child’s behaviour is a result of good or poor parenting.


50 Hippie Baby Names

27 September, 2016

There is absolutely no critical thinking or social analysis here in this post. It is just hippie baby names I love. That’s it. Sometimes I am just a completely one dimensional person and that is okay. ALRIGHT?

(I suspect for Debate-weary folk this may be a bit of a relief… but just for the record: my dear American readers VOTE HILARY.)

How I came up with my hippie baby names

Well, I definitely didn’t say “hmmm, I’m a bit of a hippie so what shall by hippie babies be called?” Honestly, I didn’t. HONESTLY. I just found myself drawn to certain names.
In fact, my children’s names, Ramona and Juno, are quite classic, they are just not mainstream these days.  Ramona was popular at the end of the 1800’s and the beginning of the 1900s and when older people hear her name they often break into song, one popular back in the day. The name Ramona sprung out at me from an artist’s exhibition poster when I was outside Kings Cross Station one day when I was 5 months pregnant and I just knew that was my baby’s name. I looked it up and found it meant “nurturing hands” which struck me as being perfect.

Juno is an ancient name, the name of a Roman Goddess who was the protector of women and community and I loved the sentiment and the sound of it. There was also a not-so famous suffragette called Juno in the US. Everyone asks if our Juno was named for the movie Juno, she isn’t, although it is an awesome redemptive story of love, freedom, respect, friendship, so she may well have been in a deeply subconcious way.

I was looking for names that were:

  • Strong and fairly non-prescriptive in terms of gender
  • Not very common
  • Held meaning for me

Whilst Ramona’s name came like divine inspiration, Juno’s name was an intense quest! But in that quest I came up with what I think are flipping AWESOME names!

To save me from emailing this list of names to any more of my pregnant friends (sorry friends) I thought I would  put them out there.Hippie baby Names

What makes a name get on my list of hippie baby names? 

No real reason apart from that I like it and I am a hippy, I guess.  They are underused. Creative. Not on the list of 1000 top baby names etc. Often based on nature or social change rebels.

To me, the word “hippy” means: loving the earth and loving humankind even if acting on that love questions the status quo. To some people the word “hippy” means “tree hugger” and do you know what? I love that term too! The term tree hugger originates from the 1700’s when a community of peasant women in Northeast India refused to let the king cut down an ancient forest to build a palace. They embraced the trees with their bodies and stood strong while the foresters cut down the trees. Many of them died in this peaceful protest but it began a movement that culminated in forestry reform.

Am I a proud hippy and tree hugger? Heck, yep!

Here’s a video of the names in the back of my notebook when I was pregnant with Juno. I also discuss people trolling me online for calling my children Ramona and Juno AND a little interview with my kids about what they would call their babies… Thanks for that, Ramona, you comic:

A lot of them could be either boys or girls names I think but for ease I will start with those that are more commonly used for boys and then girls:

Hippie Baby Names for Boys


Hippie Baby Names for Girls

Arietty (the Borrowers! Remember that?)
Beatrice (this doesn’t sound too hippy but the truth is I wanted to call her Beet)
Eartha (incredible 20th century performer and activist but I also love the reference to the earth)

<h2My favourite hippie baby names that friend’s have used:

Aniren (commonly Aneurin in Wales)

Hippie Baby Names based on the Suffragettes (I was absolutely certain both  my girls would be named after suffragettes but only Juno was)

Flora (flo! omg!)

Ahhh, they are all so brilliant. It makes me want to have fifty babies.

Okay, let’s go: your favourite hippie baby names?? Weirdly keen to hear them….

Featured, Parenting

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids (that aren’t toys) 2016-2017

18 September, 2016

**This list of Gift Ideas for Kids has been Updated for 2016 – 2017**

We spent six months travelling around Europe in a campervan. We had a tiny stash of playthings and our three year old toddler Ramona thrived. She was a case study for how kids play in nature. She had a twig that would be a wand one minute, a baby the next, a spade in the morning and a guitar in the afternoon.

During that time I came to believe that too many toys can push a child’s imagination right under the bed and will eventually wreck the planet our children have got to enjoy for the rest of their lives. (Read my thoughts on that here.)

These days I think that rather than having such a negative view of toys we can just view them as one part of the big picture of childhood. As parents (or caring adults in a child’s life) we need to provide a nurturing environment that values fun, communal games, imagination play, art, creating, music, nature. Toys aren’t evil. They bring kids a whole heap of enjoyment, so let’s not be too harsh on them!

However, we all want to be that awesome adult that opens the doors a little more on a child’s imagination. We want to give a kid a gift that they will remember forever!BEST LIST EVER! Sixty Great gift Ideas for Kids- that aren't toys

Pin for later: Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

This list of gift ideas for kids is for you. Whether it is for Christmas or a special birthday this list has a unique and awesome non-toy gift for every child.

This is a crowd sourced list of gift ideas for kids. Using Twitter and Facebook I asked 6000 people: What is the best non-toy present you ever received as a kid?

Here are sixty ways to show you care, and for the most part they fire a child’s imagination and cause less havoc for the environment. Many of them are free, or cheap and plenty of them can be found in charity shops or secondhand stores. There is a common theme of taking children seriously- of trusting them and their abilities, of giving them tools to create.

(When a celebration is coming up and it’s a pressie-giving kind of time, I reckon a good, frank chat is the best starting point. The child/ parents have a better idea about what the child would enjoy/ needs like a hole in the head. But the second port of call should be this list, for sure. Bookmark it and share it with your family members!)

Here we go….

Gift Ideas for Kids – Tools & Equipment

I am reading “Escape from Childhood” by John Holt at the moment and the thing he is really convincing me of is how much kids NEED to be useful. Exactly like adults! They love to be taken seriously, to have serious implements and to be able to truly, genuinely help and build and be busy working. When considering gift ideas for kids we should think about great it must feel for them to open up proper tools and equipment.

1-A small fruit tree to grow and nurture.

2- Same goes with a proper hammer and nails. Throw in some wheels and planks and they’ll be set for days. or perhaps a toolbox filled with things were a massive hit; rope, screws, pulleys etc.

3- Sew them a baby sling for their dolls. Here is a tutorial for an easy sling for your toddler’s doll – it has never failed to please a tot in my experience!

4- Gardening equipment- a proper trowel, some organic slug killer and some seeds.

5- A greenhouse. A reader says “When I was 9 I got a greenhouse. To this day it is still my best Christmas present ever as I spent hours with my Grandad learning how to grow food.”

6- A pocket knife. Every kid age 4+ needs a good simple pocket knife, a lesson in using it safely (sitting down, striking away from you, with an adult in range) and a bit of wood to carve.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for kids - that aren't toys

7 – Cress seeds were specified for very young children- imagine helping to feed your family at only age 2?! Plus they pop up all year round and don’t take as much patience. You can also make them a head to grow them in so it looks like hair! Classic!

8- My sister put together a survival kit for her six year old son- a good rope, pegs and a tarpaulin for den making, camo paint, a good torch. Flipping heck, that was a hit.

9 – A wind up torch. Sustainable and fascinating for children. They especially love head torches.

10 – A good baking bowl, a whisk, some scales. Show them you have faith in their ability to make something yummy.

11- The ingredients to make something yummy! One reader explains about the special thing she did for Christmas “I once gave my daughter’s friend a bag filled with the ingredients, Christmas cutters and the recipe to make their own Christmas gingerbread. They loved it.”

12 – Kitchen implements- one tweeter is getting her 2.5 year old son a peeler with a big handle as he genuinely loves helping in the kitchen. One reader received a sieve when she was young and it was her favourite present ever. I think I might get my three year old a good grater- they are so fulfilled when they are doing something worthwhile. A garlic press was another great suggestion. And every kid needs an apron.

13- Their own cookery book. Several times a week Ramona picks something out of her cookery book and bakes it. She is five.

14 – Something to pull apart- give them a screw driver and an old type writer and the afternoon to take it to bits and explore its inners.

15- A rock tumbler. A reader explains “I loved collecting rocks when I was about 9- it was so cool being able to polish them!”

16 – A magnifying glass and a book of native Insects.

17 – A microscope “I spent months finding things to look at and getting family members to guess what it was- the best was tiny slivers of onion skin.”

18 – Binoculars – plus a guide to bird and wildlife. We just bought a pair for our eight year old neighbour and you have pretty much never seen a kid more excited!!!!

19 – A calligraphy pen, nibs and ink. “I was given these age ten, and shown how to use it. I still have it!”

20 – A DIY science kit. Or DIY anything kit really!

Gift Ideas for Kids – Art and creating

The emphasis here is on good quality stuff. Just like adults, children deserve to work with good quality materials. It is frustrating scrawling on crap paper with crayons that barely make a mark. Seeing the vivid colours of acrylic paint on canvas is much more likely to stoke a child’s passion for creating art, no? These gift ideas for kids might just stoke your own memories of receiving creative crafty pressies.

21- A ball of bright coloured, good wool and instructions for finger knitting will open up a whole new meditative world.

22- Ingredients for DIY porcelain clay- a little box with corn flour and bicarb and instructions. They’ll love the making and the shaping.

23- Proper non toxic acrylic paint, high quality watercolours, and proper paintbrushes.

24 – A good quality sketch book. These are unbeatable in terms of art – acrylic and watercolours just feel and look magical with beautiful thick absorbent paper.

25- A selection of blank canvases and an easel.

26- A candle making kit. (I have made candles since I was 11 when I got my first kit and loved it. And the only fire I caused was when I was 22 and being VERY experimental. Just a shame the fire happened on my future in laws dining table.)

27 – More kits: A perfume making kit – what a cool way to learn about chemicals and stuff.

28 – A sewing machine. I got my first when I was 12 and after a fairly quick lesson from my Aunty have seen ever since. Or even just a hand sewing kit with fabric, needles and threads.

29 – How about these wonderful chalkboard puppets? Handmake some chalkboard blocks and give them along with some chalk and then, the best bit, PLAY TOGETHER!

30 -A box of craft materials that is all their own- ribbon, pipe cleaners, beads, buttons, fimo etc. Red Ted Art has a lot of gift ideas for kids in the form of arts and craft gift boxes.

31 – Jars of homemade playdough and a box of cutters and tools (found in secondhand shops.)

32 – A box. It was the third best gift, suggested by over thirty people! The best explanation comes from reader, Clare “The best ‘present’ I ever got was a great big cardboard box. I made it into a house and played in it for YEARS. The best thing about it was that my parents got really involved in it- my mum made curtains for it and they never complained about having a tatty old hoc in the living room and let me keep it as long as I wanted.”

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

Gift Ideas for Kids – Music and Culture

33- A mixtape – burn a cd with a selection of fun songs. Ramona has been given some of these and they are her favourite gift by a mile. I have gone on to make them for other children and my kids have helped select the tunes. So cool.

34 – Audiobooks- Roald Dahl stories are fantastic and tantalise imaginative minds.

35- A subscription to a magazine such as National Geographic. A reader explains how she felt about her subscription given to her by her neighbour age six, “At first, we just looked at the pictures but I read more each year as I grew. In our sleepy village,nit was a very welcome window into different cultures. And I always felt very grown up and acknowledged when I read them.”

36- Instruments! A good drum, maracas, a ukelele. A good xylophone. The brain patterns used in music are the same as those used in maths so giving kids the tools to create music is important. And fun. But make sure they are GOOD- in tune etc or children will lose interest.

37 – A song. Rope people in to help you, friends to strum chords on the guitar. Record it on YouTube and send it to them! We have done this a few times, it’s weird and fun. Write your own or just change a few lyrics to an existing one.

38 – Investment in a creative venture- for example Hadar Manor is crowd funding her new album and in return for contributing you can get anything from a shout out on the album to a personalised song, written sung and recorded for you.

39 – A poem. No, really, really! How special, for a kid to have their own poem. Written on beautiful paper. For them to treasure.

40 – A story. Ramona and Juno’s Grandad has written them both a story, printing it out into a book and gluing in photos.  It was about cats. They LOVE their personalised stories! How about writing a story about them? Or drawing a comic featuring them? It doesn’t need to be about them.

41- Lost My Name team sent Ramona and Juno personalised books featuring their name. The stories are totally unique, funny and the illustration is cracking without any rubbish gender stereotypes.

42- Books, books and more books. This was the most popular response by miles. The child especially enjoys receiving a book with meaning- one mum explains “her eyes light up when I say “this is something I loved when I was little, and I thought you’d like me to read it to you.”

43- Last Christmas we were living on the other side of the world to my husbands family. They sent over a book that they had recorded the story into- Ramona loves hearing the voices of her Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles reading to her.

44- A photo album or scrap book. Reader Sally explains that her three year old loves these.

Sixty Great Gift Ideas For Kids - that aren't toys!

Gift Ideas for Kids- Experiences

Days out were probably the second top answer after “box!” Kids love hanging out doing stuff with people who love them, and memories last WAY longer than toys. If giving an experience that doesn’t already come in the form of a card or voucher, draw them up a personalised one that they can open. It feels so much more exciting! These are gift ideas for kids that keep on giving WAY after they have been cashed in.

45 – A season pass or vouchers to something- an outdoor play area, a private woods such as Westonburt or a wildlife lark or donkey sanctuary.

46- A micro love bomb- let them have a whole evening hanging out with you, doing WHATEVER they want. Like, really, anything. (Based on Oliver James’ miraculous Love Bomb idea- a whole weekend to reset connection and attachment.)

47- A micro adventure- grab a tent, pack a little gas cooker and have a night in the local woods. Even London has accessible woods you can do this in.

48 – A visit to stables to ride on a horse- Ramona adored this for her third birthday. A reader adds that when she was seven she was given a Shetland pony-owning day “7 year old heaven!”

49 – Sew them something magnificent for their fancy dress box –  a mermaid outfit or a pair of wings- see a tutorial for easy toddler wings here, you could make them any size.Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids

50 – A tent and sleeping bags to camp out in the garden.

51 – A day out in a big city- the museums, a picnic, feeding the skanky pigeons, climbing the towers.

52- A voucher for a den building afternoon. Take wood, hammers and nails and build a fort together in the local woods.

53- A course. Six weeks of a children’s photography or pottery or dance classes.

54- Adopt a whale/ dog/ monkey. This is a delightful idea, the child has a sense of investment with an animal and they can make a real difference for a charity.

55- A box of second hand clothes and costume jewellery for a fancy dress department. One Tweeter said the stash she was given included a WEDDING DRESS. Brilliant.

56- An experience for a baby- a jar of threaded beads, jewels and shells for them to shake and look at.

57- And another idea for a baby- a box of tissues entirely theirs to pull out. (This is probably my favourite of them all- even at seven months old Juno has worked out how to undo the lid of the baby wipes and delights in pulling them out.)

58 – Organise a visit with a local craftsperson or skilled person.Imagine spending an hour with a beekeeper or on a tractor or hammering nails with a builder or watching an artist blowing glass or making cheese or something more specific the child loves! You could give a box of beers to the tradesperson in exchange! One reader had a day of work experience at a farm when she was a child and she cherishes that memory.

59- Car booting/ junk store shopping. Write a voucher and include ten smackeroonies and set a date and go and find the most obscure antiques you can! We bought tap shoes at a junk store for both our kids- unbelievable amounts of entertainment!!!

60- Fruit picking. One of my most treasured childhood memories is of going strawberry picking with my Nana and Grandad when I was small. I remember my Nana stuffing her face, the red juice dribbling down her chin. She was an upright, honest citizen but I think she thought eating them as you go was part of the deal! Traditional activities like this are magical – I could almost make a list of gift ideas for kids based entirely on old skool chores. Ha!

Sixty Great Gift Ideas for Kids


What an epic, epic list of gift ideas for kids. Thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas and stories. I am inspired and have my kid’s Christmas gifts sorted: a grater for Ramona and a box for Juno.

May your Christmas and birthday celebrations be ever imaginative and may you become a gift rockstar in the eyes of the children in your life!!!

PS We are blogging from a yurt in a forest in NZ these days – follow through Facebook or Instagram and keep up with our Youtube updates:

PPS If you are looking for creative gifts for mums and dad please check out my book 30 Days of Rewilding – designed to help families find their place amongst nature.
PPPS Check out the comments below for more gift ideas for kids – this is an organic, evolving list with people adding to it constantly via the comments!

Sixty Great Gift ideas for Kids - that aren't toys!

yurt life

A Home of Two Halves – on tidyiness, motherhood and creativity

13 September, 2016

Our home is perched on a hill. We overlook meadows and a mountain range. The beauty mostly stops at our front door. Every step into our home leads you deeper into disarray. For the first three metres of our yurt you might think “Oh, this is a nice little lived-in sort of place with a few lovely things!” but by the time you reach our back room (we call this the Snug) you will wonder who lives here? A clan of cuddly toy collecting room smashing rock stars?

to which I can only say, weeeeelllll yeah. Sort of.

But the thing is, we aim to mostly entertain in the front half. So it’s all good!

This is the compromise we have got to, as people who are generally quite messy living in a world that fetishises minimalism.

I call this method the Home of Two Halves.

I beleive, like most new concepts, it has it’s roots in the old skool. It used to be called The Parlour.  It was a front room kept shut apart from when visitors came over. We laugh at The Parlour these days. Ha! A china tea set that was used 6 times a year! Sofas that you weren’t allowed to sit on! But the thing is, we have got rid of The Parlour but we haven’t got rid of the judgment of mothers who fail to have a tidy home when unexpected visitors pop in.

I have had someone stand in the doorway of my home, shake their head at the messy room they were staring at and tell me that I am a poor housekeeper.  Never mind that I had a baby and a toddler and was writing a book at the time.

I think The Parlour was a thing that women came up with as a way of juggling people’s unrealistic expectations along with childcare, self-care and home-care.  People are not meant to be able to keep an entire home spick and span – it is unhealthy!

Like, I mean it. A bit of dirt is good for us. Even messy beds keep us healthier.

But mentally too. Stay At Home Parents (most of whom are women at this point in time) labour under this burden of respectability when actually our primary job, a job that can impact the world for better or worse, is caring and nurturing our children. The truth is, if I am rushing around trying to get my home looking clean, I struggle to dig deep for the empathy and extra help my kids might need. I wish I was a better juggler than that but I am not. I’m freaking out about someone judging my messiness and I say “Wait a sec, I have to get under this minging cabinet” instead of meeting their need.

So much research points towards this idea that meeting our kids needs empathetically will nurture a generation of empathetic, kind people. The world should be making a big deal about parents that choose to be attentive to their kids over being attentive to tidiness. I mean sometimes, just occasionally, they are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes my kids will bounce on the trampoline for 1.5 hours straight and I will have a fun time straightening things up. But sometimes I do choose to just be with my kids whilst our home is in squalor, and that is a good thing for the world’s future! Do I want an award? Yeah, okay. I’ll take an award.

Creatively too. Holy smokes if there is one thing many mothers need it is permission to be themselves and give voice to the creativity inside of them. I can’t speak for all mothers. Some mothers have a more basic need than that and my heart goes out to them. But there is a crowd of mothers with this wild urge for making who are quietly wilting because they are waiting for permission to let go of some other stuff that feels important.

What does the world need from you? Not a tidy home, that’s for sure. Do we need dreamers to dream? Yep. Do we need singers to sing and artists to paint and writers to capture that illusive string of words that will illuminate something really deeply meaningful for us? Hell yes.

“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

There’s probably loads of answers to this problem. Making sure everyone checks in with reality is part of it. Which is why I have done a big reveal of the shockingly messy half of our house in this video. Sink full of dishes? Normal. Teddies everywhere? Normal. More clothes out of the drawer than in? For some families this is reality. Instagram feeds with their clean white surfaces are not everyone’s reality. Ugh.

The benefit of having our yurt on the hill is that I get a good warning of an advancing party. I spy them pulling in and have chance to get the front half looking its best.

And sometimes, like yesterday, I’m busy and don’t get the advance warning and the new neighbours have arrived and our entire place looks like a volcano filled with grubby white teddy bears and dishes has exploded in the middle of everything. I sang a hallelujah for the sunshine under my breath and I shut the doors on the yurt and we had tea outside.


Let’s do it, my friends. Dismantle those ridiculous expectations, do what you can, ignore what you can’t, prioritise your children and follow up your creative urges. Life is to be lived, not to be sanitised.A Home of Two Halves - on tidying, motherhood, creativity