Favorite Kid Shops Round-Up and How We Shop for Kids

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Since it’s award season and everyone’s talking about–well, besides politics–what people are wearing, I figured it was a good time to do our own “Best Of” awards for kid clothes. Where do you shop for your kids? 

To be honest, I could easily write at least a 7-chapter book on shopping for kids’ clothes, with topics ranging from the delight of little details (Peter Pan collars! Applique! Hand stitching! Hold me BACK!) to the psychology behind parental influence on style and personality through dress, but I’ve shaved off about 6.5 chapters for this post and will simply leave you with our favorite places to shop. After ten years of shopping for kids–wait, who am I kidding–I was buying clothes for my imaginary kids long before they existed. Okay, after a lifetime of studying children’s fashion and implementing practical application of practices for dressing real life kids who don’t want to wear knee socks and saddle shoes every day–or, say really want that glitter “GYMNASTICS OR BUST” shirt–I’ve figured out a shopping system that works for us: eclectic wardrobes. There’s a little bit of everything, and I try to embrace my kids’ personalities and individual styles when buying things while maintaining shopping standards that are important to our family–quality, versatility and price. Lainey’s older and makes most of her own selections that, yes, include “PIZZA IS MY LIFE” shirts and leggings that say JUSTICE in the largest font known to fashion, but she also still loves a lot of classics and shops where Mama’s been shopping for her since she was little.

Everybody shops for kids’ clothes differently, but I will say this. If you stand by the rule that kids grow too fast, no way are you wasting money on a $30 t-shirt, good for you. If you love Spanish brands, children’s fashion is your jam, and you stayed up until midnight for the new Bobo Choses line to drop so you could scoop up that $80 romper because you love it and can afford it, good for you. If your kid looks like she stepped out of a fashion editorial every day, good for you. If your kid is running around in a stained Ninja Turtles t-shirt and never takes off those amazing light-up Spiderman shoes because he thinks they give him super powers, good for you too. If you let your son wear whatever he wants and have zero influence on his closet because he’s an individual and you celebrate his creative choices, you are amazing. If you say no to the pink Dora decal shirt simply because you hate it, you know what? You’re amazing too. If you buy all your kids’ clothes at Goodwill so you can give more to charity, YES! I LOVE YOU! If you have so much fun playing dress-up with your kids and choose to support causes and buy brand new beautiful things for your littles, YES! I LOVE YOU TOO! You do you. I assume everyone’s momming as best as they can. And as long as no one’s holding their screaming kid down, demanding “DAMMIT, YOU WILL WEAR THIS HEIRLOOM BLOUSE!”, I think the kids will be alright.

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For us, there’s no doubt a lot of my kids’ clothes are a reflection of things I love–color and stripes, for one–just like my kids have picked up a lot of other things I love like crafting, Michigan and beautiful sunsets. The things I love are also reflection of my mom and the way she shopped for us, and I love that she passed down her love of handmade clothes, good cotton, floral prints and neck bows.

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Have I used my selling powers to make my kids want to wear things I love? Sure. (“I saw Taylor Swift wore this shirt once.” IN THE BAG. YOU’RE WELCOME.) But I also embrace the things they love that I don’t and make room for mismatched and glitter because I have a feeling if you resist too much, that’s all they’re going to want to wear. Plus, I love celebrating their bloomin’ little fashion senses.

I’ll stop rambling…other than to say, I love little people clothes, and I cannot lie. There wasn’t a day I woke up when they were babies that I didn’t get excited about carrying them into their rooms to pick out what they were going to wear, and I still cuddle up with my kids at night and think about silly things like, “I love these pajamas so damn much.”

With no further ado…shop faves

First of all, I follow my favorite brands on Instagram, and I shop when I see sales. I shop when Hanna Andersson offers 40% their entire site, when there’s a promo code for Mini Boden and when Janie & Jack clearances out their swimsuits. Following favorite brands on social media and taking advantage of sales and offers saves us a lot of money. We also cushion our closets with consignment buys (we love our local Once Upon a Child) and inexpensive fun finds and basics from Target (their Cat & Jack line!), Old Navy, H&M and ThredUp. I love some high end brands and European designers for kids, but I choose not to afford them. I do however splurge on quality classics that will get worn a lot, pass down to siblings and–if really remarkable–saved in the Cherish Bin for grandkids and/or keepsake quilts.

As for favorites, I’ll break it down to categories.

Quality Classics
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1. Mini BodenBy far, my favorite kids’ brand, full of bold color, fun prints and personality. That little rainbow dress above? We must have worn it once a week last year. And it still looks great. Their summer lines are always my favorite.
2. Hanna AnderssonComfy classics with Swedish style roots. I swear, Hanna clothes can go through 5 kids and still look the same as the day you bought it. Their playtime dresses are so versatile.
3. Mabo KidsI discovered Mabo Kids last year, and I’m obsessed with their organic cotton basics–amazing quality. The foundation of my kids’ wardrobes lies in the black and white stripe Mabo tee. We have one for each kid.
4. Osh Kosh B’Gosh: Classic overalls that never go out of style. When in doubt, go with Osh Kosh overalls.
5. Zara: I have a hard time going on their site because I want all their kids’ stuff. Cutting edge trends, super fashionable.
6. Alice & Ames: Classic, comfortable quality twirl dresses your daughter will never want to take off.

Gap and Crew Cuts also have great closet staples for kids and frequent sales.

Vintage Style/Unique Handmade
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1. Vindie Baby: Their dresses are so beautiful for little girls.
2. Hum Stitchery: The mini trouser skirt (in a variety of colors and patterns) is everything.
3. Berits Lila: I found this shop when I purchased Nella’s birthday dress from them one year–beautiful hand made pieces with retro style.
4. Lee Marie – Clothes only go up to 4T, but I couldn’t leave this one off. Her retro printed overalls are so much fun!
5. Muny Design – My favorite things in Dash’s dresser are from Muny. They’re keepsakes you’ll save forever.

Fun & Colorful All-Over Prints
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1Winter Water Factory
2. Duns Sweden
  (ships from Sweden, but gets here fast)
3. Izzy and Ferd 

Graphic Tees
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1. JollyGood Apparel: Love their camp shirt, “Happy Trails” and “Makin’ Memories” tees.
2. Savage Seeds: Powerful messages, simply stated.
3. Passive Juice Motel: I’ve been a Passive Juice fan for years now. Hilarious pop culture references, great art and fun throwbacks to the 80’s.
4. Wee Rascals: Historical heroes celebrated in a hip way
5. Hatch for Kids: From Bob Ross and Ferris Bueller to Biggie, Hatch has it. We love their “Read to Me” tee.
6. Out of Print: The classic children’s books you love, turned into tees. From Frog & Toad and Madeline to Corduroy and Harold & the Purple Crayon.
7. Peek Kids: Progressive, powerful messages celebrating kindness, love, art and science.
8. The Bee & The Fox: Simple design, classic font. Pair them with toddler bell bottoms for a nice 70’s flair.

Pajamas
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1. Shop Plain Jane: The softest, sweetest simple nightgown for your girls.
2. Hanna Andersson: Organic cotton long johns (and short johns) that stay soft wash after wash. 
3. Tea Collection: Amazing quality, cozy snug fit.
4. Hatley, particularly their Little Blue House brand which is our go-to pajamas for summers in Michigan. So many prints for cabin life–fishing lures, black bears and camping gear
5. Mini Boden: I watch for their nightgowns to go on sale and snatch them up when they do.

Swimsuits
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We wear swimsuits a lot in Florida, and it’s one of our favorite things to shop for. With pool chemicals, sand & saltwater and little butts that scoot across pavement, I love finding brands that hold up against the wear.

1. Mini Boden
2. Hanna Andersson
3. Janie & Jack
4. Kortni Jeane
5. Lolli Swim
6. Vindie Baby
7. Jessica Rey Swimwear
8. Zara Boys (love their euro short suits)

Jeans
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1. A&F Kids Watch for sales. Best flare jeans ever–they fit Nella like a glove.
2. Dudley Denim: Deconstructed edgy denim, frayed edges, cool
3. Old Navy Skinny Jeans (super slim for my beany kids and come in fun color pops) and Gap

Cool & Edgy Pieces
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1. Little Edge Threads
2. Forever 21 Girls

Socks & Tights
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1. Amazon–these retro stripe tube socks or our favorite rainbow stripe knee socks
2. Hanna Andersson
3. Mini Boden
4. Duns Sweden

Shoes
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My kids live in the first three, the Florida classics trifecta:

1. Saltwater Sandals: (we get ours on Amazon). My most favorite shoes of all. We wear them year round here. They’re classic, they go with EVERYTHING. They can get wet. They pass down from kid to kid in great condition. They’re timeless. My favorite are the original loop strap in red, but we’ve had every color, and Dash wears the single strap ones.
2. Keds: Let’s put it this way: If I were the mayor of Kidtown, I’d give every kid a pair of red Keds upon citizenship. Red Keds with dresses, red Keds with jeans, red Keds with popsicle-stained shorts and dirty skinned knees in the summer. The definition of childhood.
3. Native Jefferson Slip-ons: The key? No buckles, no straps. They can put them on by themselves. And they’re waterproof. Plus super cute with that little contrasted toe kick.
4. ZaraThey have beautiful leather sandals in unique designs in the summer and timeless leather boots in the winter. And everything else in between.
5. Livie and Luca
6. Converse high-tops
7.
For everything else in between, we love Zappos, Nordstrom & Amazon

Also, you can find the kids’ sneaker round-up I did last year here.

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Whew. Okay, that’s a lot. Did I miss a favorite shop you love? Tell me!

You know what the irony of this post is? All this time talking about kids’ clothes, and Dash just darted out the garage door NAKED. Gotta go.

The Balance Bird

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In a fortunate twist of events that involves some beloved family and friends who seek inspiring adventures and a universe that sometimes delivers just the experiences we need, I found myself on a primitive island boat pulling up to an ashram in the Bahamas late Friday afternoon.

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A courtyard packed with tents and a serious daily itinerary that included mandatory meditation and “yoga church” participation quickly revealed this was the real deal, not the occasional Saturday morning class I’ve attended at our posh Naples studio with infused water and a curated boutique of “Spiritual Gangster” shirts and sports bras with elaborate webs of back straps.

A few minutes after arrival, I signed my name, committing to respecting ashram policies and held out my right hand for my bead string bracelet. “Now make an intention for the weekend,” the beautiful yogi instructed while she tied a knot at my wrist.

I whispered my intention to myself, thanked her, and then made a very purposeful decision before taking my bags to our room. I reached up and fumbled for the clasp on my necklace–the one I always wear when I travel without my kids, the one that holds their fingerprint charms close to my heart so I’m never without them–and I removed it.

If I was going to really listen to my own heartbeat over the weekend, I was going to need to remember that my heartbeat existed before the kids and that the foundation of my commitment to them is rooted in discipline and strength and love for myself. Because lately when I’m running and feel like stopping, I push myself to keep going by imagining I’m running for my kids–that somehow the proof of my love for them exists in another block of sprinting. And when I need willpower in its greatest form for anything in life, my first resort is to tap in to how much I love them and mold that love into some weird mind game incentive because it’s the strongest force I know. I don’t think that’s the healthiest way to find my own strength.

My friend texted me a few weeks ago after her yoga class. She has four kids and like so many of us spends her days making them breakfast, getting them off to school, e-mailing teachers, driving them to dance practice and hockey games and play dates. Worrying about how they’re absorbing the world, if she’s doing her job right, equipping them with life tools. Ever so slowly pushing them out of the nest while tickling their backs, kissing their foreheads and whispering life wishes for them as they fall asleep under sheets she had so much fun picking out for them. We text pictures and videos of our kids back and forth to each other and have built so much of our friendship on how similarly we mother…on how much alike we love.

“I just had the worst metaphor jump into my head for my life and what I feel like is happening. I was lying on my yoga mat and I thought”…

I waited for the end of her thought that arrived in a separate text a few seconds later.

…”I’m being erased.”

“There, now you have to deal with it,” she wrote. “Like the brother and sister in the photograph from ‘Back to the Future’, remember?”

Yes.

“With every day…I’m just going going going…gone,” she wrote. “How can we feel so invisible while making so many marks a day? I write all their shit in permanent marker,” she ended…

“…and I write mine in pencil.”

“We fight the eraser,” I texted back.

She didn’t need advice, and I had nothing to offer because I know how this works–like everything else in motherhood. Nobody has the balance game down pat. The weight of everything in life is constantly shifting; scales tip. There’s always either a little too much to the left or too much to the right, and we make it work. When they’re tipped too far, we’ll know–a cup of spilled milk puts us over the edge during the witching hour, a little voice speaks up in yoga class. We reevaluate our schedules, make room for date nights, get up early to meditate, run, read. We write in journals, plan a girl’s weekend, eat better, drink less. We feel good, clear, balanced, able to see our own stuff written in permanent marker…until we realize the demands of life slowly faded it to pencil again and we begin another cycle of weight redistribution.

I think moms are a lot like that magic balance bird toy. Have you seen it? It’s a plastic bird with a weighted body that magically balances on the tip of your finger from the point of its tiny beak. Dash has one and always laughs, positioning himself to catch the bird, waiting for it to fall…but it never does. Unlike objects of uniform shape, the center of gravity isn’t in the middle, and the wings are specifically designed–heavy enough and extended far enough–to withstand the weight of its back. Motherhood is as far from uniform shape as you can get–our unique situations and schedules and family circumstances in constant motion and the love we feel for everyone, an overpowering force. You know how the law of physics works for finding the center of gravity in non-uniform objects? Trial and error. Every day.

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The love we feel for our families is so deep, so complex, so intense, it’s only natural for it to tip us off balance sometimes. And then when you add the other things we think about–our work, our hurts, our future, our finances, our parents, our friends, our community, our world–it’s no wonder we’re able to get off the ground at all. But we’ve got wings that stretch far–farther than we can ever comprehend–to withstand the love and weight on our backs. So we fly.

Coincidentally, my mom instincts had me running after Dash the other day to keep him from walking into a parking lot, and I lost my balance. My foot snapped at the edge of a curb, and I fell and broke it. I’m off-kilter now for the next 6 weeks, finding new strength in my right side, learning ways to slow down.

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Trial and error–the very definition of motherhood. And yet still, we fly. Or clomp in a moon boot air cast.

A Great Grandma is to Love

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It was the first resolution I conquered last month–choose one of those dreams I keep saying “One day soon, I’m going to…” and make it happen. Or else it never will.

So I pick up the phone and call my 87-year-old grandma–the only grandparent I still have.

“Grandma, are you still able to travel? If we found a direct flight, would you be able to make the trip down to us?”

“Oh honey,” she says, “I might be tired when it’s over, but when I leave this life, God’s going to have to take me out on a stretcher. I don’t say no to being with my grand kids or adventure.”

So we book a flight. Make some arrangements. Exchange calls about what to pack. “Comfy clothes,” I tell her.

She arrives while the girls are at school, so Dash and I wait in the airport, his little sign held high above his head.

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“Keep watching,” I tell him. “She has white hair. She’ll be in a wheelchair. I’ll tell you when I see her.”

…and then…my heart skips a beat as I see her appear.

“There she is. There she is, Dash!”

And a hug to erase all time.

I once again explain the order of birth of a great grandma to the kids, and the number of years and stories and sequence of love it took to get there feels so grand, I almost can’t grasp it myself.

“Remember, she’s my mama’s mama,” I say. “All those memories you’re making your grandpas and grandmas–I made them with her when I was little like you.”

It takes Dash all of a millisecond before he falls into her lap, taking her hand and rubbing it on his cheek. “Grandma, look!” he yells as he does a funny dance. “Grandma, come here,” he says as he leads her to his room to show her his garbage truck. “Grandma, don’t go,” he cries six days later as we pull back into the airport to say goodbye. It’s like he’s known her forever, like she’s been here every day of our lives…because in a way, she has.

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“Kel,” she says as we drive to get breakfast one morning. “I watch you–all my grandkids–and your lives, and I just feel so proud. I’m a part of this. I’m a part of all of you. I suppose that’s not very humble,” she laughs, “but I get to own some of it too, right? Because I see myself in you.”

“Grandma, if you only knew,” I tell her. “I watch you, and I feel so lucky that you are a part of me. You are the coolest grandma I know.”

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I ask her if she wants to come to a baby shower with me over the weekend. “Doll me up!” she instructs. So I run to my closet and pick out my favorite skirt, a sweater, some pearls.

“She needs a hat,” Brett adds.

“And red lipstick,” Heidi says.

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Grandma whispers, “Now no one’s going to know this is your skirt, right?” as we walk into the baby shower. Two seconds later, my friend hugs her with “So nice to meet you!” followed by, “Oh my gosh, that skirt! I borrowed it from Kelle too.” We all laugh.

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We eat lunch by the ocean, trade stories over coffee at the kitchen counter every morning, watch Property Brothers next to the fire on one of Florida’s rare cold nights. We flip through photo albums together, drop the kids off at school, pick them up, run errands. “I want to see it all,” Grandma says. “I want to meet your friends, see the kids’ school, hang out with the neighbors–so I can picture it all when I go home.”

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I wake up one morning to find a large bowl with a few popcorn kernels left in it. “Your grandma woke up at midnight,” Brett explains, “so we watched T.V. and had a little popcorn party together.”

It feels like the love we have in our home just tapped a new source, and it’s flowing so fast now, I can’t ladle it up quick enough.

Dash borrows her walker to practice roller skating.

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And later bends over naked and yells, “Grandma, look at my butt.”

“Oh dear, Grandma! I’m so sorry. He likes that potty talk.”

She laughs hard. “Redeemable garbage!” she calls it. “The things we carry around in us that we’re not proud of.”

We talk about redeemable garbage a lot more over the week, but in that moment, I grab my phone and text my sister. “Dude. Dash just bent over naked and told Grandma to look at his butt. I’m dying.”

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Mostly, I feel proud of where I come from. And though I constantly lament over how fast these days are going by–how big our kids are, how quickly things change, how the world so unforgivingly reminds us how old we’re all getting–I am reminded this is exactly how it’s supposed to go, and it’s beautiful.

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I ask Grandma one morning if she slept well. “Well, I woke up in the middle of the night and started walking around your house looking at all your things–Dash’s art on the walls, the pictures on the fridge, all these cute little trinkets you have. I have to tell you Kel, it was making me so happy, my kite started to fly away.” I laugh, familiar with all these phrases she’s made up over the years. “I think my blood pressure was getting high just from the excitement. I swear I’m going to end up in the ER someday, and when they ask what happened, you all are going to have to tell them my kite flew too high. I just get too excited!” To delight in the world so much at 87 that you fear it might the end of you? I hope that’s where I’m headed.

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We talk a lot about politics, women’s roles, religion, raising kids and what absolute truth means to both of us. She’s conservative, I’m liberal. We differ on a lot of things and lovingly get fiery over the ones that are close to our hearts. We listen and smile and admit we love each other’s fire.

We sing a lot over the week, sitting side by side on the piano bench, flipping through an old hymnal to find the songs we both grew up with–For the Beauty of the Earth, And Can It Be, Amazing Grace. I can only play the treble clef, so she plays the bass and together we make music, sometimes overlapping fingers to create the harmonies. We FaceTime my mom to give her a concert. We call my sister and put her on speaker phone so she can sing with us. I text a video to Brett’s dad, so he can see my grandma playing his grandma’s piano.

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Over the week, I sharpen my explanation to the kids on who a great grandma is.

There’s a tiny page I tore out of the children’s book  A Hole is to Dig (I regret ripping it out) and one of Maurice Sendak’s illustrations from it framed in my office. A simple sketch of a group children sitting under the stars is accompanied by the words, “A dream is to look at the night and see things.”

A great grandma is to anchor who you are becoming. 

A great grandma is to love.

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A great grandma is to never forget.

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Grateful for heritage, stories and the unshakable source of love from which ours flows…how ever far we may go. To kites flying high.