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A crafty way to give the kids a creative workout

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It’s one of those fleeting parenting moments when my normally nonstop high-volume children are awake, but silent. The reason for this? They are studiously poring over a table covered with a neatly aligned assortment of wood cutouts — a cat, a witch, a star, a moon, a pumpkin — and, unusually quiet in concentration, they are brushing on thick pastel paints.

It’s a rare occasion of mid-weekend calm that I savor — first sipping an organic juice before indulging in some retail therapy as I wander around the small stands that surround the crafts table and peruse an array of stylish children’s clothing.

This unexpectedly serene window in an otherwise hectic Sunday took place at a recent Small is More event, a regular pop-up organized by Abi Loves that brings together children’s craft workshops with a carefully curated selection of super chic Japanese children’s wear brands.

As a mother of two young girls in Tokyo, I can say it’s an event that is definitely welcome (and not only for the peace and quiet). Choices for children’s wear in Japan have long been limited, with options normally confined to either high-end (and expensive) European imports or more commercial mainstream outlets such as H&M or Gap — with surprisingly little in between that is stylish, well made and reasonably priced.

Small is More is a treasure trove of little-known brands that may display an array of aesthetics (both furry animal bags and avant-garde dresses are spotted on the day I visit), but all clearly share a passion for quality craftsmanship and contemporary design.

“It’s like a mini festival for just one day,” says Abigail Terrien, the Swiss Tokyo-based PR and events organizer behind Abi Loves. “I started it to help colleagues, who were kids fashion designers or kids’ shop owners, get rid of unwanted stock in a nice environment. Customers can come and not only shop, but also enjoy children’s workshops, the organic cafe and other entertainment.”

She adds: “All these goods are in perfect condition and often have amazing discounted prices. We like to keep it small, so it feels personal and boutique-like. So there are often between six to 10 pop-up shops and maybe three or four children’s workshops run by artist ladies.”

Walking into the plant-filled terrace that marks the entrance of the concrete SodaCCo Building in Daikanyama feels a little like straying onto the pages of a children’s fashion magazine: Scattered among the greenery are countless playful and impeccably dressed mini Tokyoites (think mustard headbands, asymmetric black dresses and artfully tilted berets). Inside is no less stylish an affair: The bustling event space is fringed with half a dozen sleek clothing displays, as well as a stand selling homemade muffins and organic apple juices.

Kids’ brand highlights this time include Bow, showcasing an array of colorful contemporary children’s bow ties; Folk Made, with its edgy dresses and trousers in modern hues; Matao, displaying children’s shirt dresses and cocoon-like puffer coats; and Arkakama, with quality cotton leggings and sweatshirts in graphic prints (perfect for nursery, I scoop up a pile of these for the girls).

My children’s eyes, however, are instantly drawn to a long table in the center of the room where the main crafts event is about to take place: a wooden mobile-making workshop, run by the company Unicorn & Unicorn.

Here, the girls join half a dozen other children, first painting the delicately cut-out wooden pieces laid out in front them in pastel shades, using sticky tape to create stylish stripes. Next, to the bemusement of the girls, the wooden pieces are given a quick blow-dry with a hair dryer, before everyone is handed metal wiring to thread the pieces onto a simple wooden bar. Once done, the mobile is complete and ready to take home.

Further crafts activities enjoyed that day included making colorful fabric flower accessories with children’s brand Niva, with the girls each creating dramatic hair bands with oversized blooms.

“We normally host three Small is More pop-up events a year, in Spring, Fall and Christmas,” adds Abigail, who also hosts events for other kids’ companies, including Bonpoint and Caramel.

We all leave happy and content, the girls wearing their colorful hairbands and clutching the wooden mobile that will soon hang from the ceiling at home, and their mother simply feeling thankful for that rare moment of parental calm (as well as some nice shopping).

Small is More is free to visit. The mobile-making workshop with Unicorn & Unicorn was ¥3,000 per child, while Niva’s flower accessories was ¥1,000. Future workshops may vary depending on the event. The next Small is More will take place on Dec. 17 at SodaCCo Building, 9-10 Daikanyama, Shibuya-ku. For more information, visit www.smallismore.abiloves.com