Fantastic moments of play follow when children create toys out of things that aren’t toys. (Like screws. My girls love to go through David’s toolboxes. He’s pretty good about it too — as long as they pack up afterward!)

I have wonderful memories of poring over my mother’s sewing basket — browsing through the spools of thread, wondering at the marvellous designs of each button (which rarely matched) and being inspired by the pretty laces. So it isn’t a surprise when I go searching for my girls because it’s just too quiet, and I find them sequestered in my new sewing room, looking at the (small) collection of accessories.

Aisha, 5yo, June 2010
Carefully, Aisha sorts through my little container of pearl-headed pins, pulling out certain colours and poking them into a corresponding spool of thread.

Sewing stuff, June 2010
The girls fashioned a bandage with a scrap of material and a carefully-placed pin.

Sewing stuff, June 2001
Buttons are collected and used as coins in the girls' purses and money-box.

This kind of play inspires me to build up my button collection through op-shop purchases. I love the idea of them sorting through shapes, sizes and colours. It won’t be long before they’ll want to start sewing their own things too!

If you have a sewing basket somewhere, why don’t you bring it (or just the buttons) out for your children to play with?