If there's something on which most parents can agree, it's that there is an over-abundance of goods and services available today for infants and kids that just aren't necessary.
With a lot of more affluent, older parents around, the market for luxury clothing for infants, toddlers and preschoolers alone is worth $14.5 billion annually, according to the Boston Consulting Group. Parents are increasingly spending adult prices for clothes for their kids, thinking nothing of dropping $103 for a pair of size 6 True Religion jeans.
And even though most of us remember simpler times, when we were happy playing in the sandbox in our Toughskins, we have to admit that we're intrigued by the explosion of offerings for our wee ones. Even if we're unwilling to open our wallets to buy them.
There are so many choices in children's clothing and toys that many companies are turning to private online sales to get the word out about their brands. One such site, www.zulily.com, offers 145 different styles of product every day, said Chief Executive Officer Darrell Cavens.
Even its promoters admit that the fledgling members-only site, which offers products at up to 70% off retail prices, is "basically an entire multimillion dollar market being built by things kids don't really need" such as tutus, Italian-designed shoes and organic clothing. But parents love it.
"We generally don't disclose member numbers," said Cavens. "It's grown much faster than we anticipated. On Alexa, the best free data source for growth of traffic, we were the 4,000th most popular site in the U.S."
A look at 10 extraneous things that our kids could live without and never know the difference:
10. Early reading kits for babies. Even some toy sellers say they don't see the value in DVDs and flashcards sold online for $14.95 for a 30-day trial. "It's a perfect example of parents putting pressure on their children to be the first to read so they have bragging rights to their friends," said Gwen Austin, a mom and toy industry veteran.
9. Rubber bands shaped like sharks, cars, dinosaurs and palm trees that sell for $4.95 for a 24 pack. "Talk about adding to landfills. Oy!" exclaimed Jen Maidenberg, a mother of two boys and owner of Mindful Living NJ. (Full disclosure: My three-year-old loves these and they are currently encircling bags of pretzels and frozen peas in my kitchen.)
8. Designer diapers available in jeans styles -- from Huggies -- and Cynthia Rowley-inspired madras and pastel prints from Pampers. The new nappies -- being trumpeted by their makers as limited-edition finds -- sell at Target for 60% more than regular brands.
7. Suri Cruise-inspired high heels for little girls. The four-year-old's gold and silver sandals kicked off an online backlash against dressing kids like little adults and prompted a British moms group to ask retailers in the U.K. not to sell products that "prematurely sexualize young children."
6. Manicures, pedicures and spa treatments for kids -- like Gwen Stefani's son, Kingston, who recently got his fingernails done up in Vampire-like black in anticipation of his four-year-old birthday party -- who are just as likely to leave the salon and head right for the nearest mud puddle.
5. Yoga for young ones. I can see benefits this exercise would provide kids in terms of relaxation and stress reduction. But at my seven-year-old's elementary school they substitute yoga for active gym pursuits, asking young boys to do the downward dog without making gross noises in the process. Kids should be chasing balls during their weekly 45-minute "psychomotor" class - -which has unfortunately replaced gym at our school - -instead of sitting on mats stretching.
4. A $900 birch Bauhaus dollhouse, complete with garden, pool, pool house and Beech furniture.
3. Organic bedding sets for infants and kids that sell online at $295 for a twin bedding set and $380 for a Udaipur crib set.
2. Diaper wipe warmers. This item is often mentioned on popular mommy blogs as unnecessary, even though Babies R' Us would have to-be parents believe otherwise.
1. 3D movies for kids. Every single preview of the five shown before a recent outing to Toy Story 3 advertised an upcoming picture in 3D. This is a trend that's gone way over board, especially for kids who don't feel comfortable wearing the special glasses every time they hit the theaters.
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