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A home with no rules (we have these six things instead)

26 October, 2017

Every so often I look about me and think does this happen in other homes?  Six year old Ramona will be dipping her scalp in some mud out the window and four year old Juno will be picking through the pantry popping special ingredients into the smoothie maker, or it’ll be past 10pm and we’ll all be in bed and Juno will be in the lounge painting a magnificent, meticulous rainbow on her teddy’s tummy.

And I’ll remind myself it’s not like there’s a rulebook, is there? HA. (Is there???)

But there is, some are written down and some are just contained within our minds – rules about propriety and appropriate bedtimes and when and where exactly the fun should be had.

And it’s strange because humans thrive without rules. The dignity of a rule-less environment helps us step our game up, allows our natural respect and watchfulness come to the fore.

There have been experiments in various settings around the world – the school playground that threw out the rules and saw a steep drop in bullying or the town that gave up road rulebook and saw the death toll drop to zero.

One of the reasons we have chosen a rule-free home is because we want our children to bring their hearts and minds to each situation, to discover a trust in themselves, rather than leaning on whatever random authority is looming over them that day. We want them to engage deeply with their environment, to connect authentically with the people around them and all of that is made trickier if they are required to live under a set of (often quite arbitrary) rules.

We also deeply believe that our role as parents isn’t to control our children, it is to create an environment where they can blossom into the people they are. Humans are at their very worst when we try and coerce, manipulate and control the actions of others. It shouldn’t be a part of parenting! A home without rules gives us room to flourish and to focus on the most important thing – our relationship with one another.

After posting this Youtube video yesterday about whether we were a”feral family” and then watching a few clips of the same named TV show in the UK I was lying in bed trying to have a full on analysis of our family life. Did we truly have no rules?  I scanned our day from waking to sleeping and concluded that yeah, indeed, we are a family with no rules.

But in my thinking it became apparent that there is not a gaping cavern where the rules should be. Instead there is a bunch of stuff that helps us all be our best selves.

Here’s what we have instead of rules. They can’t really be a pik n mix – they all relate to each other. You can’t have “honest conversation” without “connection” or “a healthy view about mistakes” without “good self-care”…
a home with no rules

1-  Connection. If I have *one* word that sums up my parenting it is connection. I feel it almost as a tangible thread between myself and my daughters and I can feel when it wears thin, I can sense when it is strong.  I take every opportunity I can to build this love-filled relationship with my daughters – including toilet time. I cannot imagine having no rules in a home where this connection is not there. I imagine all members to fizzing around, with no orientation or grounding, grazing each other’s elbows and knees. Our connectedness – our play and laughter and cuddles and random conversation- is the foundation for our whole family life.

2-A healthy view of mistakes. Rules, and the punitive measures taken when they are broken, are a stupid way to view mistakes. Jeez. Failing, and failing well, is an important part of being human! It makes me feel sick that there are kids growing up out there who are punished for failing – they will spend their whole life unable to take beautiful risks, in creative jail simply for being raised in a home that can’t handle mistakes. We aim to be chill when messes are made, stuff gets broken, people get hurt because we all make mistakes and we can ONLY learn from them when were are given the chance to, shame free.

3- Good self-care. You know when I find it hard to have a healthy view of mistakes? When I am strung out, tired, overtouched. Me-time is not selfish, it is the key to good parenting!  Audre Lorde says  “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare” and it’s true! We can’t raise authentic, empathetic humans if we aren’t kind to ourselves. This whole no-rules thing requires us to be our most patient and joyful selves.  Just yesterday I wrote about how self-care is the second step towards becoming a Parent Ally and here are 60 acts of self-care for busy parents. 

4- A family culture. I loved this article about the main thing that builds resilience in children. Apparently it is the presence of a family narrative, the children having a sense of the family history and values and it being a story that ebbs and flows in success and failure. We talk alot. We tell the stories of mine and Tim’s lives, the girls birth stories, stories about our grandparents. We have rituals – we have a pot of questions that we pull out and ask each other at dinner, we light candles and say things we are thankful for, we go on family walks each evening. All of this is opt-in, and sometimes the girls opt out – although for many of the things they came up with the idea so they are keen beans! All of this builds our family culture, a safe place, a unit of values that we are all co-creating.

5- Honest conversation in an environment of trust and respect. Oh, how we talk! We talk and talk! Ohhh, boy, we talk. And this, perhaps more than anything, takes the place of rules.

ME “Oh hey, girls, I see there’s a sign about no throwing balls on this lawn. Hmmm.”
RAMONA “what, why, why is that there?”
ME “Maybe they are worried about windows?”
RAMONA “Or maybe they don’t like balls?
JUNO “Or kids?”
ME “They might have a bunch of reasons its a good idea to put a sign up saying “NO BALLS. What should we do.”
JUNO “Play over there?”
RAMONA “I wanna play here.”
ME “Hmm, you really wanna play here.”
RAMONA “Yeah. How about we play until we get told off?”
ME “That could work. Or we could play that ball game where we sit on the ground and roll it?”
(and on for another ten minutes…)

Whenever there are rules, I raise them and we talk about them. We have agreed strategies when there are rule-based places we go to regularly. They are engaged in this idea that we have a very rule-based society and it’s pretty awesome to see them developing their own wisdom and consciousness about it all.

Here in New Zealand we try and observe Maori protocol, a common one of which is not to sit on tables that serve food. We could make it “a rule” or we could just remind them every time, and have a big conversation about it, and usually it goes down okay because the conversation is taking place in an environment of trust and respect. I trust that their hearts and intentions are good. I respect them as people. I respect their choices. And (not all of the time, but most!) it’s mutual.

6- A guiding principle. We’ve no rules but we have a guiding principle and that is “We don’t hurt each other or things around us” and it’s a principle we have come to together, through discussion. It’s something we all raise with each other when needed and it can be helpful for the sibling relationship and when friends come over to play, it also relates to how we all try and be in the world more generally – kind to our community and the earth around us.  I’ve been enjoying Gretchen Rubin’s podcast lately and she’s been speaking about the 4 different temperaments and there are a whole load of people out there who seem to enjoy having some stiffer parameters for life.  Perhaps you are one of them, or your children are – this still doesn’t mean you get to impose rules on your family. It means you are invited to cocreate a healthy framework, some bottomlines or guiding principles.

So there we go. No rules… but our kids don’t fling all the libraries books off the shelves or strip naked and paint themselves blue at the museum kid’s area (only in the comfort of their own home!)

I’d love to hear from you.

Do you have things instead of rules? Have you discovered a co-creation of guiding principles?

Featured, Green things, Shampoo Free, Thrifty

Ten Shampoo Alternatives for healthy, shiny and clean hair

27 September, 2017

Updated post: I have now been using 100% natural shampoo alternatives for six  years. My hair is stronger, shinier and healthier than it has ever been! I hope you enjoy this post featuring (still) my favourite No Poo shampoo substitutes. I am pretty surprised that the ingredients I fell in love with at the very beginning of my shampoo free journey have remained my favourites. For the last couple of years I have been working as a columnist for Cosmopolitan, writing up beauty experiments, and I also published a bestselling book all about how to give up shampoo which you can grab here.
Amazon Price- $5.56 My Price- $3.56 (2)

At a mere $5.20 or £3.40 (purchase in your own currency) it is a SNIP – less than a bottle of swanky shampoo. But unlike your shampoo it comes with a full refund if you don’t like it!

Why did I give up shampoo?
At the start of this year I began an experiment with my hair.  The purist in me was tired of putting toxins into my body, the spendthrift in me was weary of pouring so much money away on these toxins and the optimist in me was persuaded by our bodies ability to cope without reliance on products! I was in a wash-every-other-day-routine and was a slave to dry-shampoo. I knew there had to be a better way.

Enter the No Poo way of life!

In a typically extreme move  I totally gave up shampoo and have in the last 10 months put everything from a homemade nettle brew to mustard powder on my hair! It has gone quite wrong at times but ultimately my hair is a million times more healthy, voluminous, and grows much faster. Plus I can go away for weeks at a time and need nothing for my hair but a good bristle brush. This really appeals to my hopes of living more simply and with less impact on this beautiful earth (even though I am rubbish at this in lots of ways.)

Here are TEN options for shampoo alternatives I have played with- and sometimes made a lot of mess with! Most are the BEE’S KNEE’s for me and the rest are the dog’s whatchya’s for others…

One- Amla powder

Amla is a brilliant hair ingredient- it is actually dried goosberry! It must be prepared the night before use in an iron vessel. A cast iron pan or pot would be ideal.

Mix with a little water until you have a ruunny paste. Ideally it feels like henna. Or, if you don’t use henna, like dipping your ginger nut in your tea for too long and then mashing it into a bowl!

The next morning take your amla into the shower with you. Once your hair is wet apply the paste and leave it for half an hour. (Squeeze all your black heads and all those other things you can do alone in the bathroom. Don’t entertain guests you’ve never met before, which is what I had to do when I realised i couldn’t wash it straight out! More in video…)

I used two table spoons which was enough for my long hair.

Wash out well!

Read all about Amla for hair here. 

Two- Rye Flour.
Rye flour is fast becoming the star of the No Poo movement, the Bieber of all the shampoo alternatives! it has just the right mixture of saponins and exfoliating properties to make it super kind and cleaning on your hair. I wish i could say “Stick it on” but once again it is a little more complicated – mainly, you need to sieve it first! This video will give you the big HOW TO for rye flour.

Three- Egg.
I use the whole egg, whisked in a cup. I pour over my head and massage in. I leave for a few minutes and rinse well.  It leaves my hair SO clean and SO soft and shiny. However, the water must be cool! I have had a couple of scrambled disasters venturing into too warm territory…. Here is some info about how an egg works and how to apply egg on hair effectively.

Four- Soapnuts.
These are a natural cleaner and work incredibly well. My hair is like silk after- certainly the closest to shampoo I have found. I heat them in water on the stove for 10 minutes, whiz them with my hand blender and use the liquid. I am too lazy to make this my Go To alternative, but use it if my hair has become filthy. Buy them here and use them for cleaning a million and one things! Buy them from my affiliate chums, Ethical Superstore. They come in a 1 kilo pack and are a real bargain – over 300 washes in there!

Five- Rhassoul Clay.
This is LOVELY stuff. For skin and hair.  It is one of the better shampoo alternatives out there as it not only cleans but also conditions. I make a paste with two spoonfuls and boiling water. Once cool I smooth it into hair, after a few minutes I brush it through hair and rinse off. It is truly divine but a little on the expensive side for my thrifty self. (But doesn’t come close to the expense of good shampoo.)Shampoo alternatives for healthy hair

Six- Henna.
This is one of the more colourful shampoo alternatives, something to suit those who like to play around with their hair. This is my once-every-six-weeks deep treatment! I mix up about ten spoons of it with hot water to make a paste. Once cool I apply it all over and leave it for two hours. (Epic I know, I use a plastic bag and grips to keep it all in place.) It needs a SERIOUS rinse, and a good brush, but my hair after is brighter, cleaner, softer.

Seven- Tea.
This relies very much on the massage bit too, and the result is the same as water except you get a nice smell! Some people swear that the different aspects of the tea change your hair – chamomile adding a special softness and lightness to blonde hair, for example. My favourite is to take some lemonbalm leaves and make a tea out of it. A little video here of that happening and an explanation of my motto “If you can’t eat it, don’t wash your hair with it!” ….

Eight- Water!
Oh groan, I know, I’m sorry.  What kind of a shampoo alternative is this?! I hear you cry. The best, truly. It took me 9 months to realise it was all my hair needed – and now it has been one month since anything has been on my hair at all. The key is in the massage and the brush. As you soak your hair, get your fingers stuck in, pushing away at your scalp and any particularly grease-o bits. I do a five minute massage every five days.

I also brush my hair each night with my trusty boar bristle brush. I use Kent Brushes who have an amazing ethical record. They’ve been making boar bristle brushes since 1777 and can HIGHLY recommend either the barrel brush, which I inherited from my Nana and LOVE. The Moroccan Oil and Christophe Robin brushes here are pure boar bristle too – they are pricey but consider it an investment in natural beauty that will last your lifetime! (Those are affiliate links, they ship globally for free!) More info here about what the best boar bristle brush for you might be.

My hair is thick and voluminous and does whatever I want it to do. Whooppiiee for H20!! I have to say that some water is kinder to hair than others! Sometimes the chemicals or the limescale in the water of city residents can be a little unkind. Make sure you use lots of lovely natural homemade conditioners every so often, and if after a little while it becomes clear that your water isn’t nice enough consider getting a shower filter or just committing to one of these other shampoo alternatives below.

For more information see this guide on washing your hair with water only. 

Nine- homemade dry shampoo
Sometimes if you just need to get through an extra day or two, you just want to soak up an extra bit of shininess without doing a full wash, you might want to consider a quick dusting of homemade dry shampoo.

If you have dark hair try mixing a tea spoon of corn flower (or corn starch) with a teaspoon of cocoa.
For red hair, mix a teaspoon of cornflour (cornstarch) with a teaspoon of cinnamon.
For light, simply use cornflour or arrowroot.
Use an icing sugar shaker to give your hair the lightest dusting and keep the rest in a little jar.

Ten- Bicarbonate of Soda/ Baking Soda. This gets your hair SQUEAKY clean. Every ten days or so I put one teaspoon in a cup of water and dissolve it, chuck it on my hair mid shower and wash it straight out. The only reason it isn’t number one is because it isn’t free and I’m a cheapskate. Using bicarbonate of soda regularly and often, and using too much of it will damage your hair more than shampoo. (Please read this ultimate guide to using bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda on your hair! It is a much needed step but you can have too much of a good thing.) My hair gets a bit bicarb weary after too many times in a row, brittle and waxy and needs some of the other, more nourishing ingredients.

Extra helpful ingredients:

Lemon.
Lemon has some seriously potent anti-bacterial properties and can work as a lightener for people wanting to be blonder.  Squeeze a whole lemon into a cup of water and pour over your head mid shower. Rinse well, unless you have hard water in which case you might want to leave on. Not recommended for greasy hair.

Tea Tree Oil.
Full of incredible properties! Add tea tree oil to the bicarb paste, the lemon or the water only wash to turn them into very effective anti dandruff shampoos. Tea tree oil is perfect for people with scalp issues. In fact, one person I am VERY close to but who shalt remain nameless has had a life-long scalp issue fixed by dabbing on a couple of drops of tea tree oil to the problem areas.

A note on conditioner- Half of these, everyone apart from the rye flour, the clay and the egg and the lemon need a rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar. I use a splash in half a cup of water and throw it over the ends of my hair, leave for a few minutes then rinse out. It’s a WINNER.

The biggest lesson in all of this is to not give up  and be a brave old soul – often different hair just needs different proportions of things.

For the ultimate guide to giving up shampoo check out my bestselling book –  a shed load of advice and recipes for alternatives to shampoo and conditioners and styling products can be found here.
Happy Hair No Poo Book

FREEDOM FACE BEAUTY GUIDE

Featured, yurt life

15 seconds

20 December, 2016

I’m way too early for New Years Resolutions, but I am sharing one of mine now as I believe it might be handy over the coming few days.

We’ve experienced some huge changes over the last few years. My husband and I handed in our notice, we sold our house in London, and most of the stuff in it, and we packed ourselves into a campervan and travelled around Europe with our kids. We ended up in New Zealand.  Not only in New Zealand, but off grid, in a yurt, in a forest, in New Zealand.

And one of the things I have learnt over this time is… don’t laugh… happiness comes from the inside out.

A campervan can’t bring you happiness. A yurt can’t bring you happiness. A forest can’t bring you happiness.

(A caveat: I speak about happiness here from a very privileged position, as a white, wealthy, healthy, person. I recognise that what I have to say does not apply to everyone and that other people will have vastly different experiences of happiness to me. And I’d love for you to be a part of this conversation. Another caveat: whilst I think working on our own happiness framework is a good thing, I think this goes alongside activism, kindness in action; supporting our neighbours, raising kids with empathy, sending funds to good people who can help Aleppo, campaigning for socially just policies and more.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Campervans and yurts gave us great adventure. Buying a farm with others brings us community. Living amongst nature means we can do things like new moon women’s circles and family forest play; dreams of mine come true.  All of these things were like little bricks for my Happy House. Everyone’s bricks are different.But the house can’t stand, the bricks mean nothing lasting AT ALL, without the mortar. You just got a pile of bricks. They meant something once, but now they are just dusty and have bugs crawling in and out of them.

What I’m trying to say is that we did all these exciting things, but the single biggest factor in my happiness came only this year, when I figured out that the mortar is, and I decided to do the internal work towards happiness.

And I want to share one of these processes as I think there is a huge opportunity for mixing up our happiness mortar over this coming holiday period…

15 seconds to happiness

The concept

So, in normal life, happiness touches us fleetingly. We eat a delicious burger with friends and we get a bubble of joy and a second later it’s gone. What we need to do, what we need to work on, is savouring the moment, in order for it to add to our overall happiness.

Happiness isn’t how many happy moments you have in your life, but how deeply you allow happy moments to penetrate your life. 

I first became aware of this concept during my Endorphin Experiment  (still ongoing! See Endorphin Experiment Week 1, Endorphin Experiment Week 2, Endorphin Experiment Week 6) which I began as a result of reading William Bloom’s Endorphin Effect.

And then, as if to really strike home how much I needed to do it this Christmas, I was listening to a podcast this week that mentioned it again. (My new favourite thing! Doing dishes or jobs or anything, as long as the kids are occupied, I just listen away and it is so nice! Tell me your favourites.)

A neuro psychologist was talking about the human brain’s negativity bias. How bad thoughts act like velcro in the mind – clinging to one another and building up – whereas good thoughts are more like teflon, very slippery and harder to make stick, long term.

One of the secrets to happiness is the ability to make those positive thoughts stickier.

15 seconds to happiness

To make positive thoughts stickier we need to hold on to them longer. You know those nice little warm fuzzies you sometimes get, say, when your children are playing together (together!! and not fighting!) and you think “oh, my goodness, lovely children!” or if you get the chance to see a glorious sun setting over a majestic mountain, or when you are sitting with your ancient Nana, and she is holding your hand and you are singing a carol together.

Don’t let that warmth of happiness touch you for a second and move on. Hold on to it, let the warmth move through your body, close your eyes and savour the experience of your harmonious children, the majestic mountain, sweet joy of being with your Nana. Hang on to it for fifteen seconds! It shows your brain you want to keep this moment, and it then weaves that good thought into an overall picture of well being. Slowly, slowly we rewire our brains for happiness.

In the podcast the Neuroscience of Happiness, neuro psychologist, Rick Hanson, says

“The first step is to turn positive events into positive experiences. All kinds of good things happen in our daily life that we hardly notice at all, and if we do, we don’t feel it. Someone pays us a compliment, we hardly pay attention to it, or we deflect it. So instead of that, you turn positive events into positive experiences.

Second, really savor it. In other words, the way to remember something is to make it intense, felt in the body, and lasting. That’s how we give those neurons lots and lots time to fire together so they start wiring together. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it. Relish it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.

The third step is to sense and intend that this positive experience is sinking into you and becoming a part of you. In other words, it’s becoming woven into the fabric of your brain and yourself.”

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Solstice or nothing at all, these holidays often mean family gatherings and potential for these special moments. Remember the 15 second rule and harvest from these next few days a stack of good moments that will build up your overall happiness.

Halfway through this winter we began a forest play session for local home schoolers. It is a magical time, something we’ve dreamed of since visiting the Forest Kindergarten in Germany. We build huts, make soup, learn some primal skills. During our first session we sat around and talked about how to light a fire. “What can you start a fire with?” we asked the children. “Paper” “Twigs” “Cardboard” said some of them. “You can put a candle under the curtains” said another.

Indeed.

Happiness doesn’t come by doing something extreme like going off grid in New Zealand. It can very much come through the smaller stuff too.

Start with lighting your paper, before you set your curtains on fire.

Fifteen seconds to savour the goodness and spark your neurons for happiness.

~

So yeah, in an ideal setting Christmas is  a chance to build the framework for our happiness. And, also, sometimes with family gatherings, it’s, well, kind of the opposite! Tension can rise, particularly if you are parenting in a way that is different to others. My parents and my in laws are both respectful of the way we parent, even though they might not fully agree, but at different times over the last few years we have had people close to us make it clear that they don’t like what we are doing.

I have put some thought into how I can keep grounded, keep parenting the way I feel is right for us, all the way through the mayhem of Christmas. They ended up being 5 mantras which I share here. (YIKES I wish there was a better word than mantra! It just sounds so… so worthy. Ach. Who am I kidding? This whole post is worthy. Forgive me, I am obviously feeling very seriouspants today! I should at least call these Womantras.)

I would love to hear if you have any womantras (c’mon, let’s do it. Let’s literally just add WO to everything that starts with Man. Harhahahah.) Anyway, sorry, tell me what things help you stay strong and calm.

I just want to take a second too, to say THANK YOU HEAPS AND HEAPS for reading this year. I count it a complete privilege that I get to write and make videos and that people stick around to be a part of the conversation. Thank you x x x

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.

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!)

**New video** Here I share my favourite things from this list and add a few extra ones to the list – including the present we had handmade for Ramona’s sixth birthday! 

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!

Pin for Later:Sixty Gifts for kids that aren't toys. Amazing ideas for non toy gifts.

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

Featured, Parenting

She lets her kids get away with whatever they want!

7 September, 2016

A modern child respecting parent’s job is a balancing act.

In any split second we are juggling body autonomy, the desire to respect people around us, a critical analysis of the rules or the status quo, safety or well being and the fact that our children are actual people with minds and bodies of their own.

To some people this balancing act may look like “letting her kids do whatever they want” when actually it is “letting her kids do whatever they want – because they are free human beings with autonomy and will- as long as it isn’t harming anyone, physically or mentally.”

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa – quick assessment: causing harm, no… ROLY POLYS ARE AGOGO!

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa at GREAT AUNTY SHEILA’S house- quick assessment : causing physical harm, no, challenging normal sofa behaviour, yes, therefore causing mental harm for Great Aunty Sheila, yes… ROLY POLY’S ON SOFA ARE EMBARGOED! Or, we might get that judgment wrong and believe Aunty Sheila’s happiness isn’t dependant on normal sofa behaviour and say ROLY POLY’S ARE AGOGO when really they should have been EMBARGOED and now Aunty Sheila is cross and parents these days let their kids get away with anything!!!!!!

Arghhhh….

But I think it requires consideration, the mental harm thing. We are standing up for children and their right to be themselves in this strange, rule bound world. But we may need to take time with them to explain that sometimes grown ups don’t cope very well when rules are broken or when things don’t go their way.

(Sometimes we need to tread gently this way, and then sometimes we might need to say to a grown up “This child is doing nothing wrong! She is harming no thing! Why do you desire to control her or this situation?”)

The mental and physical harm goes for mamas and papas too- it’s why the activities I don’t interfere with look different to yours, or even my husband’s. If my kids want to make a potion out of bits of food and mud and soap I won’t stop them because I can’t see the harm in it (but I can see the joy and learning they are getting from it.)

My husband, however, has different parameters and he would say that mentally he is not up to that free style potion making, so he is far more likely to step in and redirect (in an ideal world still allowing that urge to flourish, but in a less messy place/ with limited ingredients.)

Personally, I feel like I have seen urges squashed and joy diminished by breaking a child’s working bee, so I try to just let things flow for them. But I’m not going to judge people’s different parameters – especially if they are working on expanding them! (I feel like that needs a *wink* emoji!)She lets her kids get away with anything!

I wonder what people mean, when they talk about kids getting away with whatever they want? Is seeing a kid in flow upsetting?

I sometimes wonder if grumpy grown ups (myself included) when they try and quench a child’s energy or enthusiasm are being triggered by their own controlled childhood. A child’s exuberance brings up, in a deep unconscious way, all the times we were made to sit on our hands and not make a peep because we were children in an adult’s world.

I love to hang out with grown ups who celebrate a child’s wildness. Who have come to terms with their own childhood oppression and are now able to take full delight in a child’s desire to stick their fingers in a jar, climb on the furniture, pick the petals. These grown ups are the greatest!

I am laughing inside a bit, because don’t you think it’s true that children go wilder when they are in an environment that tries to control them?

A few weeks ago we went to a new friend’s home. It was filled with bits of art and sculptures and beautiful, breakable things I was a little bit terrified inside. I knew one of us was gonna shatter something.

But we were all so welcome. The children were treated with the respect and honour we were given, as guests in their home. They relished it when Ramona reached in and grabbed the last two mussels from the bowl.

After dinner, instead of rushing from corner to corner, picking every piece of pottery up and eventually breaking something, Ramona and Juno curled up on the couch and fell asleep!!! Harhahahahahaha. It was as if they just floated into dreamland on a cloud of welcome and inclusion.

I couldn’t help but compare this to other situations where it seems my children ride a wave of tension… the weight of expectation is so heavy upon their shoulders that they crumple into every bad behaviour expected of them!

But of course… we know really there is no bad behaviour…

There are only children yielding to the urges inside of them, and there are only adults finding these urges an inconvenience.

There are only children with needs unmet, trying to communicate and connect in a way that makes us uncomfortable.

How hard it must be for kids, trying to figure out this ridiculous adult world.

Where saying the word “thank you” trumps a grateful smile, or where even the word “thank you” bossed out of you opens the door to receiving something. This world where you DON’T see adults constantly badgering magic words out of each other…

So I won’t let the children hurt people… (but if they do hurt someone or do something unsafe you won’t find me reprimanding them or punishing them. You will -on a good day as opposed to those grumpy stressed out days that pop up- see me intervene to stop it happening, and requesting that we keep things kind and safe, then you probably won’t see anything. Because the follow up to that is an empathetic conversation and an acknowledgement of needs unmet, it’s decisions made together about how we can make sure everyone stays safe in the future. Long term, punishment impacts well being, compared to an empathetic response that promote the development of empathy… so I’m not gonna forsake their well being even if it looks like they’re getting away with something…)

Where was I?! Ah yes! We won’t let the children hurt people … and I will probably try and stop them breaking precious things… and I will absolutely ensure their safety. Aside from that, I am simply here to help them navigate this strange place, to create space for them to follow up their wishes, to personally, mentally, rise to the challenge of letting kids be kids for a while.

If that is letting them get away with whatever they want….

so be it.

***
PS If you found this post helpful please consider supporting my work through Patreon. You can support for as little as $1 a month and get access to lots of extra content.

PPS New Youtube video from today; non violent parenting, child shaming and unmet needs…