Doll Boy

Mac, the knitted boy doll from Red Nose Day Dolls

Not having dolls in the house is possibly the best thing about not having girls. No scary glass eyes to turn to the wall at bedtime. No grubby plastic contortionists flashing their pink jointed bits from beneath the acrylic blankets…
But, have you seen Mac, the knitted boy child of queen crafters Rose Badger and Emma Mitchell, one of 4 hand-sewn dolls to go under the hammer for Red Nose Day? There is a virtual frenzy of grown-up excitement around them ( check out their Facebook page and blog not least because they are being kitted out by twenty of the country’s most talented crafters. Mac has his own Shetland wool jumper, sleeping bag, and dog, no less. He has even posted a camping video on You Tube.
All four dolls, plus their miniature crocheted dresses, tulle underskirts, needle felted wirehair fox terriers, and teeny tiny patchwork quilts go under the hammer on Red Nose Day’s official Ebay site on March 15th. With such a good cause in mind, there is no need even to pretend you are bidding on behalf of anyone but yourself.

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Shopping for Boys

I knew that boys didn’t like clothes shopping before I spent 2 hours proving it in Brent Cross. Two hours of trying to avoid the Arsenal shop, bribing with Nando’s, and apologizing to everyone who was tripped up and bumped into. But Boy 2 has been complaining at his lack of clothes, and more curiously, about his ‘look’ so I thought I would give it a whirl.
I write about children’s fashion for a living, and the high street’s paltry boys’ offering is nothing new to me. But I was stunned at the lack of choice, harassed by Angry Birds at every turn, and depressed that once a boy goes beyond the realms of cute (which mine certainly have) they have little alternative than to dress like a seventh division football manager. There was nothing to buy until Boy 2, by then sulking furiously, spotted a shiny navy suit. He has wanted one since Sky Fall, longing to look smart when all around him is in chaos and Dri-Fit. He tried it on. His brother said he looked like the head-master, but he was too busy styling his hair to listen. He grinned and I bought it, of course, triumphantly sharing in the fleeting retail thrill.

Suit trousers, £19.99,

Suit jacket, £39.99,

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Chaos theory

Disorder and chaos

A few years ago we had a party. Knowing that everyone coming would have small, fidgety people in tow I decided to nail up the toy cupboards. It was bliss. And the cupboards stayed sealed for the whole summer.

Children have too many toys. The urge to shower them with plastic seems too strong to over-ride. My 6 year old has 2 enormous plastic dustbin lorries which sing, if he holds them steady, in hideous unison. TWO. Neither were presents from me. Neither will submit to the charity shop collection.

I had thought that moving to a bigger house with lots of cupboards would help, but the toys seem to have swelled behind closed doors and chaos is upon us. I met a pair of architects last week, living in an open-plan flat in London in apparent harmony with young children. There were, I realised, no cupboards. Everything was consciously on display, and therefore everything was ordered and valued. They admitted to frequent ‘toy culls’, and stuck to strong Montessori principles of only letting their children play with one toy at a time, and insisting they put it away nicely before getting another one out. “If you see everything, you remember to use it- whether it is a toy or a kitchen spice,” one of them told me from her beautifully ordered kitchen. “Children respond well to order and structure. They need to learn to  value their possessions, and that means looking after them carefully.”

Returning home, and wading through the deep litter of Lego and toy soldiers that carpet my 10-year-old’s bedroom, I could not help but feel I had missed a trick. But as I opened the toy cupboard doors, determined to begin the cull, an entire box of Playmobil fell onto my foot.  I hopped off to look for the hammer.


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Alternative realities

William gets a taste of reality

give a boy an ipod and they will sulk in their room; give a boy a kindling axe and he will feel like a man

There was a pick axe moment last weekend: either they came outside to help with the wood, or the ipods would be for the chop. There were complaints, excuses, delaying tactics, but once outside and put to task they were soon pink-cheeked and back to the violently physical, deliriously happy boys I thought I knew.

There is nothing like a hot ipod to tell you that your son is lying. Somehow the electronic devices that Boys 1 (10) and 2 (8) have patiently (and admirably) saved for have become the source of almost every argument (bar the one about flushing the loo). They say they are brushing their teeth when in fact they are playing Minecraft. They spot my laptop and beg for apps, seeking boyish fulfillment in Heligunners and Ishotgun Pro.

These shiny, long-coveted devices have become portals to an alternative reality, one which can make real life boring, and engaging seem far too much like hard work.

We now work on a rota of confiscation. Boy 1 lost his within days of buying it, got it back and then swiftly lost it for an entire week. For lying. About his Ipod. Boy 2 is fairing slightly better, if only for tempering his stories.

Boys need exercise. They need danger. They need to be challenged physically and mentally. You need to be brave to give a child an axe. You need to be clear with them about how to swing it, how not to hit their brothers, how not to take off their own fingers. But give them some real responsibility, in this case in the shape of a kindling axe, rather than fobbing them off in front of a screen, and they will shine. Mine did, and my log pile is now wonderfully large.

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