Since writing on this blog that I am interested in user participation in design, I reflected that when I have made things for my children I have rarely involved them or at most involved them in limited ways. I think it’s something to do with wanting to surprise them. I did a session with our craft group of three year-olds where they chose and filled little lavender bags which worked well, and our children like to watch the sewing machine, but that is about it. So I resolved to do better.

Rowan loves crabs. Really loves crabs. We visited a friend recently whose daughter has a little crab cushion which he seized upon, and so I made the offer of making his own one, together. I was interested in the apparent tension between a toddler’s now-ness, and the fact that true involvement in the making process takes a little bit of time and patience.

We made Crabby over three or four days. Rowan chose the colour; shape of the shell; the zig-zag design, to resemble a shore crab; to have a barnacle sewn on, just one and the size; and the buttons to make the eyes. He stuffed the crab and watched me draw and then free machine embroider the barnacle.

I think he liked it and he likes the crab. He probably has a small appreciation of how things are made. For me, having a little bit of process behind it was probably better than the ‘surprise’; it was nice to make something that flowed from him. I felt I had to keep the pace up by finishing each part off in the evening. I had to allow him to choose, even when I had something else in mind, and watch my expectations of him, accepting he would work on it as his interest and mood dictated.