Thinking of Toys This Christmas

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Do children need so many toys?

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving, and for some quite a lot is received. These days kids can watch all sorts on YouTube and online, and are more open to advertising than any generation before them. From a very young age children are learning how to use iPads and laptops, and can access a huge amount of information, which can be exploited by advertising companies and retailers. We are all fairly savvy now to the ways that advertisers target us, and with the option of opting out of cookies we are able to see exactly how we have been targeted in the past, and manage how we are advertised at now. We know that adverts pop up on our social channels because we’ve bought something from a website (or even browsed a website) and we know that our mobile phone and computer use is monitored by the app companies and phone companies that provide the services we use. But what parents are perhaps not as prepared for is seeing how children are susceptible to advertising from their own peers.

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Whilst it’s not unusual for kids to see images and adverts on their Instagram or Facebook pages that their heroes and admired celebrities are paid to promote, it’s become a big thing for their own peers to take matters into their own hands and start to show “unboxing” videos, and videos of children their age receiving huge amounts toys to play with. Whilst it’s true that a lot of the toys are donated to charities, it doesn’t mean that your children are aware of this and can understand that the toys aren’t being kept by the video creator. Ryan Kaji was four when he started his YouTube channel of unboxing toys, and his first video has been viewed over a billion times. He was the highest paid YouTube star of last year, when he earned more than £17m, mainly through partnerships with toy firms and his own TV show. He’s now eight!

With Christmas only just around the corner, many parents are asking themselves what is the best thing to do in terms of buying presents for their children. Whilst it’s tempting to spend as much money as possible on making sure your children have the best Christmas, and can hold their heads up high at school with the latest gadgets and new coats, it doesn’t take long to search online and see what kind of debt we get into at Christmas; a third of Britons are willing to borrow money to buy gifts, and many websites and debt helplines are creating ways to escape putting presents onto credit cards, or borrowing to cover the cost of food. But with videos from children as young as four promoting huge gift hauls and toy splurges to other children, it can feel as though we are meant to keep putting our hands into our pockets, even when the pocket is empty.

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So what can be done to help curb the spending, and buy each other meaningful gifts that don’t cost the earth? Thankfully, with the awareness of pollution and avoiding plastic where possible, toys are becoming more eco-friendly, and more pocket-friendly. If you have tiny tots this year perhaps buy them one or two gifts, and make the toys wooden building blocks, push-along animals or puzzles. Older kids can get a lot from toys that require a bit more brain power, such as dolls, toy soldiers and arts or craft materials. If you have family remember that they are likely to buy your kids some gifts too, so they won’t go empty-handed on Christmas Day. But even a few gifts to a child are enough. If you watch children open presents, they tend to gravitate towards one or two that they really love, and play with them all day. Too many toys can swamp a young brain, and be too much for them to take in. Plus, you are creating a future adult who won’t buy lots of gifts, thus making a bigger change to later years on a wider scale. If you have lots of family who buy gifts, consider pacing gifts over the Christmas period, or into the New Year if you have a lot. But don’t feel you have to give and give; gifts are a way of saying you care about someone and want them to be happy. They aren’t for you to get so far into debt you are paying it off until the next Christmas. With the current push towards a more eco-friendly approach, perhaps we need to look a simple gifts of love and happiness, rather than expensive gifts or gifts because you feel you should. A few simple tokens to show someone you care is worth so much, as they will be genuinely appreciated.

Top Gift Tips:

  • Make your own! Young kids especially will love doing this. Paint your mum, dad or carer a picture and give it to them on Christmas Day. Or create your own Christmas cards for the ones you love, and put vouchers for hugs, cups of tea or breakfast in bed inside.
  • Buy a simple gift. One book, such as a picture book, will keep a small child entertained for hours. Parents who have read the same book over and over again every night will know that one or two books are enough for a small child. Sometimes for a whole year (or so it feels!)
  • Buy local and handmade. Something being pushed over the past few years from smaller retailers and businesses is the idea of buying locally and buying handmade. Local jams, chutneys and candles are fab gifts, and usually you can ask for a nice box to wrap it in as well. Soaps, bath products and even hats and scarves can be fab gifts, and you don’t even have to leave your own town!
  • Buy SIMPLE! Finally, keep it simple. Whether you make presents, buy them or donate them, you are telling someone you care about them enough to give them something that they can cherish and value. Make the most of the moment of giving, and the pleasure in receiving. Even hosting a coffee morning with homemade mince pies (if you can do it!) is a lovely way to give the gift of love and, so very importantly, time with your loved ones.
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Most importantly, whatever you do, make sure you enjoy yourself, try to take some time to yourself and try to spend some time with the ones you love.

A few of my previous clients

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  • "The logos are absolutely fantastic, they are spot on brief and are even better than we imagined!Paolo Pini, Step Up To Languages

  • "Sarah loves her work, her friendly ‘can do’ approach is reassuring whether you’re on your first or tenth book."  – Darron Jon Love
  • "Thank you both so much for your hard work and dedication. Sarah is a fantastic illustrator! It is nice to know I have worked with someone who is so professional at her job, and will certainly remember her for the future if I need another book illustrating."
  • Sarah really understood the brief right from the beginning and has been able to translate my ideas and mental images, that at times were quite specific, into magical illustrations that are better than I’d ever hoped. She has absolutely nailed it!” – Gareth Edwards

  • "I hope my recommendation will persuade you to use Sarah! I cannot fault her, for her professionalism, enthusiasm and talent." - Michelle Hawkins, Director: The Flying DoDo

  • “I am so happy that I found Sarah to bring my book to life. Sarah took the time to listen and really made the effort to make sure that I was happy and her brilliant designs translated the words of my book into a beautiful visual story." - Jodie Jackson

  • "WOW! Love it! I'm so happy with what you've produced- and with so little input from me. FANTASTIC!!! THANK YOU” - Darren Pascoe: 'Red Rabbit Book'

  • “When we first contacted Sarah, Dainty Dizzy was a concept;  an idea to be shaped into a brand.  Sarah took this idea and illustrated it perfectly….and our brand look and feel was born.” – Dainty Dizzy

  • “Sarah was lovely to work with and keen to make sure that the illustrations were a perfect match for the story. It’s obvious that she really cares about her work and wants you, the author, to be happy with the final results.” – Marion Adams

  • "I can’t speak highly enough of Sarah! She has brought Roopert Snoopert to life in a way I could never have imagined.
    The illustrations are fantastic! Sarah keeps you update with progress from the draft stage right through to sign off." - Paul Micklewright
  • Sarah has a great insight into how to best produce a children’s book and is really helpful in getting you there! I really cannot recommend Sarah enough – brilliant designer, friendly and professional. The experience has been a great one!“ – Jodie Jackson
  • "I am absolutely thrilled with the colours and love the look and overall feel of the book, its so different and unique, thank you so much"
  • “I was so nervous ringing you as i've never done anything like this before, but you were so friendly and put me completely at ease.” - Donna Purvis

  • "She has a keen eye for the quirky detail, she is punctual and a joy to work with. I simply cannot praise her enough.” - Clickety Books

  • “Thank you, Sarah, for the amazing work you did on the illustrations for my book. Working with you has been so easy thanks to your enthusiasm, flexibility, support, professionalism and, of course, the amazing quality of your work." – Stuart Neath

  • "These posters and flyers are perfect”
    - Julia G, Manager at the Truro branch of Pets at Home

  • "Sarah quickly understood what I wanted to achieve and the look I was after. Sarah kept me informed and brought me into the whole process” – Darron Jon Love

  • "Sarah understood what I was looking for and produced a fantastic logo for me.  She is very approachable and friendly – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her” Katie Jarvis, Fancy Prints

  • "Outstanding illustrator with exceptional talent. You couldn’t wish for a better artist, as it would be impossible to find. Such a spectacular gifted designer who is always happy!" - Rachel Lake

  • Sarah is an extremely talented designer and illustrator. She has that rare gift of being able to find something in your business or character that you never knew existed" Craig Green

  • “Sarah’s re-branding of my business has given it a much needed fresh and quirky feel. She provided us with an extremely friendly courteous and efficient service and injected an energy into the project, that only Sarah could.” – Discovery Leisure

  • "Sarah is amazing - very fast at understanding the requirements, great pictures and never too much trouble. I recommend her wholeheartedly" - Fernando Caldeira-Saraiva
  • "It's been great working with Sarah as our illustrator! She's been so great in taking all feedback on board and delivers work of the highest standard. Would 100% recommend :-)" - Michelle Gibbs, Doodle Dozen Series
  • Sarah is professional, friendly and very knowledgeable, she delivered 100% with a new logo that was spot on! We can't recommend her enough!” - Lucy @ Get Active

  • “Sarah’s advice has been invaluable, she could have just illustrated my first attempt but knew there was more to be had from the story and pointed me towards the right help." – Darron Jon Love

  • “Books arrived safely today- I am absolutely delighted with how they look – I can’t thank you enough – you’ve made my dream come true :)” – Jane Collins