What I mean by "Life"

In my last post I talked about Life As the Curriculum, and why children really feel fulfilled by helping with household tasks. So what do I mean by “Life?” There are several layers of “Life” as I see it, that combine to form a rich day (and a rich life!) if they are done with attention, reverence, and spaciousness:

  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 (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.
  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!


  1. I love this post. Sometimes I feel a little guilty for I feel like I don't necessarily do lots of crafts and art projects with my nearly two year old. But we do all of what you mentioned above. We stay busy with life and as she grows up, I hope we have many seasonal traditions that help mark the passage of the years.

    Again, I love your blog. It's such a great source of inspiration.

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