What Do I Mean by Life?

There are several layers of “Life” as I see it, that combine to form a rich curriculum:

1. Daily Tasks. These include preparing meals, setting the table, cleaning up from meals, sweeping the floors, washing the dishes, making your beds after naptime, etc. In addition to these, there are the tasks of self-care that make up a big part of “life:” dressing and undressing, brushing hair and teeth, diapering and pottying. We can use these times of bodily care not just as tasks to be done, but as special times to connect, and to allow children to gain competence. When they are able to do them alone, they will be contributing in a very real way. I love to brush the children’s hair when they wake up from their nap. I make it very sweet and special, and everyone looks forward to it. I had one little girl who was with me for two years, and when her family moved away her mother said with real regret, “I think the thing I will miss the most is your hair-brushing.”

2. Weekly Tasks. Depending on how many children you care for, laundry might be daily, weekly, or twice-weekly. Baking (either bread or muffins) is a lovely weekly task. Fridays are nice for ‘cleaning day’ where you can wash the windows together, ‘mop’ the kitchen floors with damp rags, shine wooden toys and furniture with beeswax wood polish, sort through any piles of stuff like lost-and-found clothing, etc. I have a basket where I’ll put any broken toys I find, and every third or fourth friday I’ll bring it down and see what I can fix.

3. Seasonal Tasks. This is the part of “Life” that I love the most, and it’s what keeps me from getting bored with life as the curriculum. Seasonal tasks often center around food and holidays, although not exclusively. Springtime tasks might include preparing the garden and planting the seeds, fixing or replacing any outdoor toys that didn’t make it through the winter, planting wheat grass indoors and decorating eggs if you celebrate easter, making gifts for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (this can take quite awhile and be a task that you work on most days over a period of time). Stories about the plants and the animals experiencing Spring are soaked right up, especially as you start to notice birds building their nests, and the squirrels playing with renewed vigor. In the summertime we start to see the fruits of our labors in the garden. We make grape juice from the grapes, collect plums and make them into jam (we cooked them and strained them together, but I did the canning in the evening after everyone was gone), and did lots of other things. Each season has its own activities. Winter can feel like a challenge, because our time outside is often limited. What to do when we feel cooped up? Well, first is to stop viewing getting ready to go outside as a task, and start viewing it as a daily activity, one where you’re connecting, helping children gain competence, and allowing them to contribute. Shovel the walkways every time it snows, but make sure there’s a small shovel so that your child can help you do it. If you celebrate Christmas, having Advent activities for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas is lovely. Get or make an evergreen wreath, and have four candles, one for each week leading up to the day. For ideas on celebrating Advent, look here. Once Christmas is over, or if your family doesn’t celebrate, there are still lots of seasonal activities you can do. Make feeders for the birds or the squirrels. Make a pomander to hang in each closet, to make it smell lovely. Make warm slippers for the children. Bake gingerbread, plant an Amaryllis, cut out snowflakes, mend all of the clothes that have lost buttons or gotten holes, make an afghan, make pom-poms and attach them to the children’s hats. Get a bunch of sheets from the thrift store, cut them into two-inch strips, braid them with your child and sew them into a rag-rug. Large projects like this are often ones that children mostly watch, and help in limited ways. That’s OK. As children watch you work on these projects a little bit every day, the idea of work soaks into their consciousness. They watch the birthing of this project, and will be just as proud as you are, when it’s finally done! That rag-rug will be cared for and treasured, as the two of you remember making it together.

My dad, painting the play-house with the kids

4. Making Things. Making things that you’ll use is a great part of “Life” for children. Often these are tasks that children simply watch, but you’ll see it come out in their play again and again. For instance, one winter I crocheted a dozen bibs so we’d have enough between loads of laundry. And when the latch on our fence broke, I got a board which the bigger kids and I sawed in half together, then everyone got to help sand it, and a few lucky kids got to help paint them a rich blue. They watched as I painted silver stars on myself, then sealed it, screwed the new latch on, and then we attached it to the gate. The whole process took about a week, and at the end we had a beautiful new latch for our gate which the children and I were both proud of. These practical activities are “Life” at its best for young children!


Looking for more ideas or ways? Read this fabulous article on Meaningful Work for Toddlers that’s a guest post on The Parenting Passageway.


  1. Kelley Klor says

    I love the verse at the end of the the Meaningful Work for Toddlers article. Beautiful! I definitely need to relax and let my kids help more.

  2. Celeste Woody says

    Thank for this Faith. I find that I have great plans for so much of this, but I have trouble following through. Working on that. We do celebrate Advent, and still now in February my boys are still expecting Advent with candles, snack and story every night. The link you mentioned in the article for Advent activities didn’t show up on my screen. If you have a moment in all your free time;) I would love that link. I also love The Parenting Passageway and will read the guest post. I will also tell Carrie that I took this class and how fab it is! Thank you!

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