My mother was an early champion of organic food, animal welfare and conservation, which meant I was brought up with an awareness of our impact on the environment.
I could only look on wistfully as my contemporaries tore into their My Little Pony lunch boxes to discover bountiful harvests of Um Bungo, soft white bread, primula and, best of all, golden wonder crisps.
I remained forever hopeful that, by some miracle, my recycled brown paper bag wouldn't contain a cucumber chunk, some unsweetened apple juice, a damp, disintegrating marmite sandwich made from crumbly brown organic bread, and some potato based product that were crisps in name only, their blandness apparently mitigated by their professed contribution to saving the British hedgehog.
Healthy food, and our attitude towards it, has changed dramatically, but since becoming a mum myself I've been shocked by the 'toy blind-spot' that exists in normally socially and environmentally aware parents. I've watched once minimalist and elegant homes (including my own) become awash with cheap plastic. We've all become victims of a belief that this is how parents of small children have to live.
Well, now we don’t. The Toy Box Club – which I’ve started with my old friend Sheela (who always had a better lunch than mine) - offers a solution, and unlike those Eighties packed lunches, your children will love it too.
When I was pregnant with my first son Ethan I wanted to buy everything, only the best for my precious little one. I bought toys, teethers, walkers, jumparoos everything all brand new. I even bought the most fashionable buggy there was, the bugaboo.
As time went by, I started to notice that many of these toys still had their labels on it, that the jumparoo had barely been used because my son didn't like it, and that I had bought another less sought-after buggy because it was lighter smaller and easier to fold. If only, I thought, I could have tried before buying, I would have saved money, time and space.
When, 22 months after Ethan, Rafael arrived, so did a whole new wave of toys along with him. Not only did I buy new baby toys, because the old used ones weren’t good enough for my darling, but also I was buying more toys for Ethan, to take away the guilt I felt for not giving him 100% attention.
When I finally went back to work the toy situation was totally out of control, the children ignored most of them and fought over the one they did want, while I fought with my husband about who should tidy them all away into our overflowing cupboards.
When I found myself begging family members not to buy toys for birthdays and Christmas I realised a new approach was called for.
Which is why Jessica and I have started the Toy Box Club, so that other parents can make their lives less cluttered, and improve their children’s learning and development at the same time. Guilt free.