Design For Life

Changing tables, feeding chairs, wipe warmers, Peepee Teepees (seriously, Google them), tiny sheepskin booties… first-time parents are sitting ducks as far as pointless purchasing is concerned. Bulky, ugly or downright useless, most of us have been there, done that – and some of us still have the boxes in the attic to prove it. If anyone wants a plastic top-and-tail bowl (yes, really!), a maddening jungle-themed bouncer or a pack of vests with head holes too small to fit over an actual human infant’s skull, I can totally sort you out.

It doesn’t stop once your progeny are out of the baby stage either. There are wonky swing sets, itchy jumpers and out-of-control scooters cluttering up garden sheds and charity shops from Edinburgh to Eastbourne.

Yet for every plastic monstrosity, brain-frying instruction manual or ill-thought-out sleepsuit there’s a piece of design genius that’s not only easy on the eye but life-changing in its functionality too. I’m forever grateful to the person who introduced me to kimono-style babygrows (nothing to get over that precious head), baby sleeping bags (genius) and those gigantic muslins (still using them now, eight years on). And I’ll never forget how pleased I was to have chosen the super-light Bugaboo Bee that time I had to haul it plus my two-year-old down three flights of stairs to catch a train.

More recently, my life has been improved no end by beautifully designed but sturdy bunk beds, sandals that don’t fall apart at the first sight of water and imaginative card games that stop my girls asking for screens in the school holidays.

Look around you. How many of the items that have entered your house since you had children fill you with joy at their beauty and function? What would go straight to the nearest charity shop if you thought you could get away with it? What do you recommend to pregnant friends safe in the knowledge they’ll be back to thank you in a few months time? What will you keep for prosperity or to pass on to your grandchildren or simply because you love it? Have you bought anything for your child that’ll still be on display in your house in ten years time?

The fact that the Stokke highchair both my babies smeared mashed banana over is still going strong as a seat for an eight-year-old never fails to make me smile. I’m still getting thank yous for gifting those giant muslins. Then there’s the box of simple but beautiful wooden toddler toys in the attic (some of them handed down from my own parents) that I won’t be parting with anytime soon.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” said textile designer William Morris. We say go one better and choose products that do both. Great design is not only good-looking, it’s enduring, it’s functional and it makes life easier. It’s a cool pushchair you can fold with one hand, a car seat your baby will sleep in or a beautiful toy you can shove in the washing machine. It’s the dress you love that they always pick out of the wardrobe or a bike that’s light enough for them to carry themselves. Good design is always out there, evolving, innovating and making things better, you just have to know where to find it.

At Smallish we love discovering innovative, engaging new products that captivate children, appeal to parents and make life easier. The annual Smallish Design Awards champion brands creating beautiful and original products that tell a story, touch our hearts and that we know our readers will love. Previous winners have included Rachel Riley, Saltwater Sandals, Smallprint Books, IO Kids Design, Tiba & Marl, Stokke, Cybex, Soho Farmhouse and BKD Baking Kits. Among many, many others.

Check out the full list here and find out how to enter your brand or product for the 2017 awards here.

Closing date for entries is midnight on 31st July 2017.