Baby Hair, Milk Teeth, Early Artwork. How Many Childhood Mementoes Should We Keep?


Tucked away in a box on top of my six-year-old's wardrobe are a few of her baby things that I just couldn't bring myself to part with.

There's the sleepsuit that she wore when we left hospital, the bracelet that the midwife attached to her wrist soon after she was born, a lock of hair from her first haircut and her first pair of shoes. Don't hold it against me, but I think that I even kept the clip that was attached to her umbilical cord - in my defense, I did, at least, throw away the blackened umbilical stump. Even I have my limits.

Now she has her first wobbly tooth and I'm already beginning to wonder what the 'tooth fairy' is going to do with her pearly whites when they drop out.


Common sense dictates that I should bin them. It's just a bit creepy to keep a jar full of teeth, isn't it? But losing her baby teeth feels like one more milestone on the road to adulthood and, sentimental fool that I am, I'm just not convinced that I'll be able to throw them out.


If I do decide to keep them, I'll be in good company.

"I've kept some baby hair and teeth because it's a reminder of when they were babies," says Sharon, a mum of two girls.

"My two boys still have all their baby teeth, but I imagine I'll be keeping them," says Sarah. "I only draw the line at scabs and snot."

"Keeping their teeth seemed like a good idea until I realised that I'd have quite a few by the time they were both young adults, so I threw them away," says Emma, who also has two boys. "I kept their hospital wristbands and first lock of hair though."

But if I do keep them, what will I actually do with them?

"My parents kept a couple of my teeth and some of my hair," says Emma. "But then they didn't know what to do with them, so they gave them to me. Now I don't know what to do with them."

I could take a tip from Queen Victoria, who had a gold and enamel brooch made in the shape of a thistle, with the first milk tooth of her eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, forming the flower head.

Or I could copy actress Susan Sarandon, who has had the teeth of her three children set into a bracelet alongside diamonds and rubies. She wore it to a gala in New York last December, with her daughter, actress Eva Amurri, at her side. She explained that a friend designed it especially for her and it looked quite lovely, if a little bit strange.

But, most likely, I'd just keep them in a pot in the bottom of a drawer like most other mums seem to do.


And it's precisely this attitude that means we're currently drowning under a sea of stuff that we feel a bit guilty about throwing out.


In the first year or two of school our daughter brought home a handful of drawings every single day. And don't even get me started on the junk models - the cupboard under our stairs is rammed with space rockets made from empty milk cartons and houses made from cardboard boxes. Mr Maker has a lot to answer for.

Obviously, there comes a time - usually after dark, the night before the recycling is due to be collected - when you just have to get rid of some of these artistic creations. But whenever I do, I feel a bit guilty.

So what's the best way to decide what we should keep and what we should throw away? And is it unhealthy to want to cling to these reminders of our children's early years?

"We all have different ideas about the childhood mementoes that we want to keep, but for practical reasons it pays to be selective," says Sue Atkins, author of Parenting Made Easy (Vermilion, £12.99).

"Not only that, choosing to keep every little thing suggests that you want them to stay babies forever and don't want to let them grow up.

"The key is to be selective - perhaps restrict yourself to keeping all the 'firsts'. So you could have a little box with the first outfit, the first lock of hair, the first pair of shoes and the first tooth. This is quite a nice way to record all your child's milestones.

"When it comes to their works of art, just keep the special ones. Give their self-esteem a boost by displaying the rest of their work for a week or so, then replace it with something new. If they're keen on model making, take a photograph and stick it in an album. That way they have a record of all their achievements that doesn't take up too much space."

Of course, just because you make a decision to be a little less sentimental and a little more ruthless, it doesn't mean that your kids will do the same. My daughter has a drawer that's bursting with the contents of every party bag that she's ever received. And the cast she wore when she broke her arm last year has pride of place in her bedroom.

"Not long after I decided to throw away the first few baby teeth, my eldest decided that he wanted to keep them himself," says Emma.

"He's already built up quite a collection - yuck!"