If you like shopping but your children don't, buying clothes for them can be a painful experience. To make life a little easier for harassed pre-Christmas parents, Melanie Rickey highlights six of the best and brightest ranges, all available by post
The Roobarb and Custard range for boys and girls from two to eight is one of the best collections for kids via mail order. Bright striped cotton jumpers, (pounds 37), with matching cord skirts (pounds 17.50), needlecord dresses, jeans, shirts and fluffy "Yeti" coats (pounds 65) are funky, fashionable (without being faddy), bright and hard wearing. Order the catalogue on 0171 835 0010. Orders can be dispatched within seven working days (their website: http://www.roobarb.com).

The Rachel Riley collection offers boys' and girls' clothes for children from birth to 12 years old. They look like the kind of clothes the Railway Children could have worn before they hit hard times. Flannelette underwear (from pounds 25), duffle-coats, pinafores, knickerbockers and pyjamas (from pounds 34) all come with co-ordinating shirts, jumpers and accessories. There is also a complete range of smart shoes on offer by Start-Rite (details: 00 332 41 38 04 93).

Little Badger is a range of hand-made knitwear for children from birth to 10 years old. Accessories include mice booties (pounds 12) and stripy sailor's hats (pounds 17). Star, heart and pirate motifs on primary-coloured jumpers are fun, from pounds 36, as are T-shirts with legends such as "Little Angel" and "Wild Child", from pounds 10. All are ideal Christmas gifts; the Heart cot blanket, pounds 69, can be knitted to order with your child's name or date of birth on it. Call 0171-498 4707 for details, catalogue and mail order. Allow 10 working days for delivery.

The Scotch House range for children from age two to 12 maintains the same design ethos as the adult range, but in mini-sizes. There are hand- knitted Aran berets (pounds 9.50), reversible jackets, pinafores in corduroy, and four different types of tartan for the girls; cord trousers, duffle- coats (from pounds 75) and a range of Fair Isle and Aran jumpers, for boys (0171 581 2151, ext 510).

Hillbillies offer a range of sports-inspired clothes for children from six months to eight years. Most of it is unisex.. A cow print hooded polar fleece top starts at pounds 23 (call 01603 505 771).

Mini Boden was launched this spring and has already proved popular with parents who want their children to look like children, with clothes that are user friendly and traditional. Sizes go from birth to 12 years. Boys' check pyjamas cost pounds 24; a velvet sailor dress (12 months to eight years) is pounds 38. Christmas orders can be guaranteed if ordered by 18 December (call 0181 453 1535)n