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Inspired by traditional Japanese toys which I saw at a children’s day organised by the General Consulate of Japan, I have been making otedama, juggling balls or beanbags. These are so compelling because super quick to run up and really something from nothing, because you can work with the smallest of scraps. Because of my own life circumstances, I am really interested in ideas of speed and simplicity; just what can you make in ten minutes? The otedama also work as touchy-feelies, as they can be filled with rice, beans or wadding. Louis enjoyed filling them up using a funnel, and we could compare how they felt and sounded.

The children have used them differently too. They are nice to throw and catch. Alice likes gathering hers in to a bag. The boys invented pingu-bingu, something to do with hitting targets with set numbers of points and winning a plastic lion inside a sock. You had to wear pants on your head.

I have based mine on this tutorial which gives a tactile, irregular shape, and brings the fabric combinations together in a criss-cross so very nicely. Departing from the tutorial, I make mine slightly larger and machine stitch, as I found it too difficult and time-consuming to work small enough stitches by hand to hold the corners together well.

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Meantime, the growing season has brought success in the garden (the wildflower meadow is growing!) and troubles on the allotment. Somehow, our rosy-cheeked idea of having an allotment has not found expression in our real, shared lives. Some of that is because of the condition of the plot when we took it on, some perhaps a problem in self-knowledge and definitely confusion between wild and disciplined outdoor spaces. Being in wild outdoors is an almost magical way of giving children freedom, both to express their energy and to work things through for themselves in their relationships, because when there is conflict it is not confined by the space and it is more bearable that way, for everyone. In the beginning we thought being at the allotment would be enough. However, a few visits in, surrounded by weeds, scrap metal, fights, wildness and a bored baby, it was time to think again. We thought about giving up. Then we decided to try again, planning mostly hardy perennials, with Malc taking one boy at a time with a snack and a play idea for when he tires of helping. And so, with my old researcher-evaluator head on, what are the outcomes? We have eaten lettuce; snails have eaten beans; weeds have swamped onions. Big boy tried and liked lettuce (a big thing!); medium boy nearly ate a snail (a silly story). Big boy, ideas boy, has definitely been inspired, picking horsetail to feed dinosaurs and making worlds. Medium boy says he likes planting seeds, watering plants, going with his Papa. Visits have become part of the architecture of our weekends and of our home. The proof will be in the eating …

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