Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The young ones - vintage can be fun for children, too!

As many of you are probably parents with young or teenage children, this chapter is about how to get your children interested and involved with your vintage business. Also, if you particularly like children, you may want a business that sells vintage things specially for babies and children.

My daughter, Emilia, was only 3 when I started going to boot sales and markets regularly and being a single mum at the time, she had to come along with me.  She became quite well known at the various places and enjoyed the attention and fuss she received.  Now as a twentysomething, she shares a love of the old and quirky, so something rubbed off along the way.  We used to have fun together and keeping her interested allowed me to enjoy my passion, too!  It wore off a bit when she was a teenager - the early starts did not appeal.  But by then, she could be left for a couple of hours without worrying.

sweet old music score for a lullaby

Making things fun and enjoyable is the best way of keeping your children engaged and lets you have time to browse when you are out buying.  And if they come to events where you are selling, they can become great little helpers and develop confidence at the same time.

The boot sale conundrum.  When our children are little, most of us have enough plastic toys to build a replica of the Great Wall of China.  So, avoiding acquiring more plastic is a big issue at boot sales - inevitably your child will fixate on some ghastly lump of plastic that you loathe.  Of course, there are always loads of sellers getting rid of their own plastic toy mountains!  But, even little ones can enjoy the fun of having a small sum of money to invest in a collectable. If you find something your children love - it might be My Little Pony (collectable plastic!), china animal ornaments like Wade Whimsies, old school or picture books, metal or wooden toys - the boot sale becomes a treasure hunt and enormous fun.  I always like to encourage children when I am a seller - I let them handle things under supervision and enjoy their interest and questions.  And most people appreciate someone showing an interest in their child's enthusiasm.

When the children get a bit older, around 6 or 7, you might even introduce them to the idea of buying things to sell.  I used to give my daughter a couple of £s to buy items and then sell them on her behalf, giving her the profits.  She loved finding her bargains and making a bit of pocket money.  And it does teach children about money, negotiation and other valuable life skills.  At our local fair, Village Vintage, a really fantastic young man called Henry aged about 13, has a regular stall.  He brings along all his finds and makes some decent returns - his dad helps him, but he is a real entrepreneur in the making. 

old ted in his vintage bed with little bedclothes fasioned from an old sheet and blanket...ssshhh!

Children develop their eye for good objects if they visit antique shops, vintage markets, old houses and places of interest.  If you enjoy lovely things and can show them how to appreciate things, it will be a lifelong habit and pleasure.  Of course, they may reject "old stuff" totally for a while and only like modern, new things, but come back to it later.  From what I see at every fair, there are plenty of  girls and guys in their 20s running vintage businesses - and loads more out there buying all sorts of funky, fun and inexpensive stuff.  I love it!

How about getting your child involved in your stall if they have to come with you? Helping you carry in a few items is the obvious starting point, although you might think twice if your stock is heavy or breakable.  But they can carry the cloths, your stationery kit, picnic and props - all very useful. Maybe they have a few things to sell and you can give them a little space on your table.  If not, how about getting them involved in selling for you on a commission basis.  I used to leave my daughter in charge of my stall and she would do a grand sales job for me.  I used to pay her a percent on sales, to incentivize her.  Asking your child to wrap up sold items and take the money and give change to customers, will help to build their confidence and makes them feel they are important.  Most children seem to respond well to responsibility and enjoy being treated as an adult.  Learning how to have conversations with adults who are not friends or family is another bonus.  And if they sell their own treasures, being able to research and give the history of the item is another great learning point.  Most buyers are friendly and encouraging of young ones who are helping on a stall.

Scripture Cubes - a very old fashioned toy!

inside the box! for Sunday Best only.

Another fun job that can be given to a child with neat writing is to produce your price labels - an artistic child might be encouraged to design something for you.  Or you could use rubber stamps to make attractive labels.  This can be done at home whilst you are cleaning, refurbishing and packing your stock.

If your child really takes to selling, when they get a bit older they might even want to start up their own stall.  Lots of girls in the vintage world sell clothes, jewellery, hair ornaments, children's books and toys - and there is no reason why your son or daughter can't do the same.  Boys might be interested in vintage memorabilia, games, sporting items or classic collectables like toy cars and planes.  Having their own stall and making their own decisions about stock and pricing is a great way to create an independent and confident teenager.  Many schools now encourage this spirit through the Young Enterprise scheme.  And earning money is always an attractive option for teenagers.
lovely old Triang caterer's truck....

As a trader, I also try to make my stall attractive to children.  Many mums come along with toddlers and school children and it can be very boring for them.  Being small, in a hot busy hall, with people's bags and packages bashing into you isn't a lot of fun!  I always have sweets or chocolates to offer - mini Easter eggs or wrapped sweets (hygiene being a concern).  I always check with the parent or carer before offering the sweets, in case the child is not allowed them.  At Christmas, I have a 50p lucky dip which is always popular and again provides a child-focussed activity to make the day enjoyable for smaller visitors.  Having attractive vintage toys, games and children's books will of course be a draw.  Just make sure that the items at child height are robust enough to stand a bit of handling - something wooden that cannot be broken is ideal.  If your stock is too precious or valuable to be handled by children then do keep an eye and gently remind the child or parent that the item is very precious.  Most parents will get the hint!

A lot of mums and teenage girls seem to enjoy a day together at a vintage fair - what a lovely way to spend time and build closeness.  Fairs where there are vintage stylists and make up artistes are particularly popular with the girls - if you are offering this kind of service at your stall, then maybe a "mum and daughter" offer would work well.  Prettily displayed clothes and accessories will be a magnet to today's fashion loving teens.  If you sell fashion, make sure you have a good mirror available or are close to a changing area for trying on.  Some fairs even have prizes for best dressed buyers and if you sell fashion items, perhaps you could sponsor the prize and have pictures of the winner taken at your stall?

I also try to have things of interest to small (and grown up) boys!  Pictures and books on cars, planes, trains are always a hit; old metal farm animals and cars, wooden tractors and train sets are bound to appeal.  One word of warning though; many old toys were painted with lead paint, now not in use as it is toxic.  If you are buying or selling toys that would appeal or be played with by small children, please make sure that the parents or guardians are aware of this.  I would always stress that old toys are collectables and not necessarily for everyday play.  This would also apply to the eyes and clothes on old teddies and dolls - not necessarily safe by today's standards.  Some grannies have old toys that the children can only play with under supervision which sounds like a good compromise.  I still have my Great Aunt Amy's doggie nightdress case, Rover, which I played with everytime I visited her - probably not up to safety standards of today, but it gave me hours of fun.
Christmas fairy and golden coins

If you want to appeal to young parents and have a stall that attracts their custom, I can guarantee that small chairs are extremely sought after.  No-one, especially grand-parents, can resist a cute tiny school chair, deckchair, rocker or armchair.  Small tables, old fashioned school desks, old third pint milk bottles, blackboards on stands, vintage metal and wire school lockers, pre-1960s school and youth group uniforms and kit, garden benches, tiny deckchairs, children's gardening items like tools, wheelbarrows and watering cans all sell very well.  In fact, you could dedicate a whole stall just to vintage things for kids!  I know of one trader, Dinky Vintage, who sells lovely vintage children's clothing.  Photographs of babies and children taken pre 1960 are also adorable - small serious boys clutching teddies; round faced girls with bobbed hair in their Sunday dresses - lovely examples of what is out there.  And don't forget vintage tricycles, scooters, rocking horses and pedal cars - lovely for a child but also great display objects for grown-uips, too.

I hope these ideas and reflections on involving your children are helpful.  A shared passion with a child, whether for vintage, sports, music or any other activity is a wonderful bond.
Happy face!

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