Who made their clothes?
Talking to your child about who made your clothes is as important as questioning what they are made from. We have a fairly-traded basket in the house with a label on it depicting the individual who crafted it. Unprompted, my daughter asked if that was who made the basket. I’ve left the tag on.
Clothes labels don’t have such visual indicators of their origins. Get your child to pick out a favourite outfit and look at the label to tell them where it was made. Explain to them that children, as well as adults, often work very long hours to make our clothes and they get very hot, tired and hungry. Ask your child to write or dictate a letter to one of these children – does your child think they might find the work hard? Would they rather be playing or going to school? What would they like about your child’s home or school?
Reuse and teach moderation
It’s also really important simply to limit what comes into your house because so much of what goes out for resale or recycling may well be landfilled or incinerated. Have a one-out, one-in system. Get your child used to second-hand clothes so there’s no yuk factor later on and take them charity shopping to normalise this. Pre-loved hand-me-downs are a great opportunity to talk about a specific child who used to have fun in the clothes, as are clothes swaps with friends.
Teach moderation not abundance by storing out of season clothing elsewhere, neatly folding everything so your child can see just how much they’ve got, and periodically ask your child if they would like to give a jumper, dress or pair of trousers to a child who doesn’t have as many clothes as they do. They might keep saying no, but keep asking!
Lead by example
Repair damaged clothes by making fun-shaped patches together for trousers with holes at the knees and make sure your child sees you sewing loose hems or torn seams. Repurpose lost-cause items into wipes, cloths, book covers, bags.
And above all lead by example. With every purchase you make, with every round of decluttering, repairing and repurposing you embark on, tell your child what you’re doing and why it’s important. Parents are the most influential role models children have in their young lives and the good news is that parents don’t need to be environmentalists or educators to raise their children to consume wisely.
Anya Hart Dyke is a mum of two living in Fife, Scotland. She is currently crowdfunding for her first book, Our throwaway culture – raising children to consume wisely. Click here to find out more.
Click here to see what happened when mums got dressed by their kids for Oxfam.