Shopping: Check It Out - Children's Pyjamas

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MY FAVOURITE bedtime story is the one where all my children have a bath without argument, brush their teeth - with toothpaste - then, smelling and looking like fresh, rosy apples, put their pyjamas on, get into bed, we talk and read, and they go to sleep. The reality is very different. Persuading children that there is a time for bed is a challenge when supermarkets and the television ignore the idea that days have a beginning and end. What they should wear in bed is another cause of disharmony.

In your search for the ideal pyjamas, start by deciding what bedtime story you want to tell. Kent & Carey's classic English pyjamas for boys are perfect if you enjoy Richmal Crompton's Just William. Even its brushed cotton has something of the hair-shirt about it, and only the most confident boys will appreciate the yawning flies. As well as classic gingham, checks and stripes, Kent & Carey has prints with dogs, bears, cars and aeroplanes. Winter pyjamas start at pounds 30 and, for spring, a unisex, cotton pyjama in sky blue, navy or pink, is pounds 15.95.

For those who prefer Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, French pyjamas are the answer. Rachel Riley's thick cotton flannelette pyjamas for boys and girls are generously baggy and come in green and lilac patterns, as well as the more traditional pink and blue. Prices start at pounds 32 from Rachel Riley (0171-259 5969).

For fun, try Coup de Coeur's unisex prints. Pyjamas are cotton interlock, with winter styles brushed inside for extra softness, and wrists and ankles cuffed to stop sleeves and trouser legs riding up. Pyjamas cost between pounds 35 and pounds 40; Coup de Coeur's boy's boxer-short-and- T-shirt pyjamas, from pounds 30, easily pass for designer daywear, so are a good buy for children who absolutely refuse to wear pyjamas. Both ranges are available from Butterscotch, 172 Walton Street, SW1 (0171-581 8551); sales at Rachel Riley and Butterscotch start on Monday.

Also on sale is Petit Bateau's range of comfortable towelling velour pyjamas for boys and girls, at its factory outlet shop at Bicester Village, Oxfordshire (01869 244336). Prices range from pounds 13 to pounds 23, with 30 per cent off until the end of January.

Bicester Village also boasts Big Dog, home of American pyjamas. Its unisex cotton jersey pyjamas feature Little Big Dog in different sporting designs, and fans of Disney find them great fun. Pyjamas cost between around pounds 35 and pounds 45, and have 50 per cent off during January.

There are also the children's fashion catalogues. Vertbaudet (0500 332211) has pairs of boys' cotton pyjama bottoms with wide, SuperCool waistband elastic, from pounds 7.99. These can be matched with their favourite T-shirt as a bedtime compromise. La Redoute (0500 777777) offers everything from cotton interlock and flannelette to stretch towelling and velour. Its L'Heure Anglaise classic pyjamas, from pounds 7.99, are excellent value; Empire's (0800 220230) T-shirt and short pyjamas for boys and girls are also excellent value at pounds 9.99 for a pack of two. For mail-order sales, try Mini Boden (0181- 453 1535) during January. Its boys' stripped and checked flannelette pyjamas, are the softest I've found. Priced from pounds 22, there is pounds 6 off during the sale and, for girls, its jersey star and rose design pyjamas are reduced by pounds 4 to pounds 14.

All these brands make pyjamas for a wide range of ages, but remember that US pyjamas are slim fitting to comply with their safety regulations, so are only for the lean. Sweet dreams.

Debbie Davies