What we teach at daycare

Most of what we teach at daycare is inseparable from care-giving. Here are a few examples that have been on my mind recently.

A big part of what we teach kids is problem-solving skills. A good and common example is helping them to recognize when a situation calls for a step stool, locating one, and then using it safely. It’s simple but powerful to see children develop pride in their own ability to solve their problems that they identify in the world, to be more self-sufficient, and to develop skills for using tools. In this sense, problem solving is at the intersection of “ways of seeing the world”, “ways of seeing oneself”, and “understanding how technologies transform the relationship between our self and the world”.

We also spend a lot of time and effort helping children to be coming more collaborative partners in their own care. Outsiders are often surprised at how skilled the children who come here are at using glassware and silverware, both the mechanics and the mindfulness needed. We also spend a lot of our time teaching kids how to be more active agents in routines with clothing— shoes in and off, shirts on and off, jackets on and off, and so on. This starts quite early with sportscasting to infants, narrating how you are helping to move their body as clothes come off and on. I have honestly seen 6 month olds who are much better at helping to change their clothes than a two or three year old. Bethany typically expects kids to be able to put on their own jackets before three.

We also teach kids to look for things. This sounds funny, but we are often teaching kids not just the mindset of how to actively look for something (in more and less obvious places), but often the mechanics of how to move one’s eyes across a scene, and how and where to move one’s bodies and hands. Some kids will run into a room to look for a toy, and just move their eyes across the walls of a room (never looking down or focusing anywhere), or open a closet door and actually never look in. Learning to find things involves specific mechanics of coordinated eye and hand movements, searching one’s memories for where something might be or was seen last, and even keeping track of where one has and hasn’t yet looked. Kids get better with practice, support, modeling, and specific skill development.

We teach kids to move their bodies to safety. As soon as babies are crawling, we will have already started a process that seems odd a first. For example, a baby is upset on the floor, perhaps frustrated about a toy, or a very small booboo. Instead of going all the way over to the baby and picking them up or putting them in our lap, we will go almost all the way there, and put our hands within an inch, and kindly and gently say, “I’m right here with you. You can come to me for comfort.” It is difficult, but that small step they have to take in this moments opens a door for them developing more agency in the world, and that they are partners not just recipients in creating safety, giving and taking comfort, and in advocating for one self . It’s, of course, important not to abuse this or to use this maliciously, but instead to be supportive and encouraging. As kids get older, of course, we expect them to broaden their agency and responsibilities, and to collaborate with peers (not just adults) in the creating of safety and the giving and taking of comfort, but it starts very early on.

Of course, there are so many other things we are learning here, but those are a few that have been in my mind this season.

Things we do with kids

Chalk, towers, mud, water, cooking, journaling, play doh, water, bubbles, lacing, pattern blocks, spray bottles, boxes, collage, painting, walks, biking, dissections, dance parties, rough housing, yoga, trains, ramps, letter writing / envelopes, telling spooky stories, did I mention mud?

Big Kids at Xmas

I didn’t take a lot of photos this year, but we

  • Made a ton of Paper Snowflakes
  • Made and decorated Christmas Cookies
  • Went caroling at neighbor’s houses

The kids are getting so big: Three in elementary school, three going off to Kindergarten next year, and one about to turn two. Good thing we got a new dining room table and bench! (Thanks Bid).

Water Play – Big and Small

We are fortunate to have a friendly neighbor with access to the river that is within a half of a mile walk from the house. The place has a sandy/rocky side with a gradual entrance to the river that is opposite if a cliff (point bar / cut bank). We’ve been just handful of times–looking forward to getting out there more this summer.


This spring, we’ve been making good use of the outdoor kitchen — one day making a water run, and another day we brought out some old kitchen grates and pans.



Beyond these, we have small and medium size wading pools, sprinklers, spray bottles, and even water balloon fights. Hope to post some more pictures soon.


Nurturing Children’s Sense of Missing Others’ Presence

One of the things that has been coming into focus for me is how much work Bethany puts in to nurturing children’s feelings, awareness, and actions that are geared toward helping them to build (and maintain) close and healthy bonds with other people in their life.

There’s so much to say on this, but the specific aspect I have been thinking about is children being helped to learn the following constellation of things:

    Thinking about people you have close bonds with when they are not around.
    Recognizing you have feelings that are related to missing this person’s presence.
    Letting other people who are with know you that you are thinking about this other person and that you miss them.
    Reaching out to persons who are missed and cannot presently be with you in various way such writing notes, sending messages, and making calls.
    Letting people explicitly and implicitly know they were missed when you see them again.
  • I wish I had more useful things to say about this, but for now I’m just writing this down. A lot of the ways that Bethany does this is by modeling — she is the one missing and talking those people with the kids. She recognizes when kids might be missing others and point it out, and gives them options for how to move from feeling to action. She tells the kids how much she missed them, and often does so with specificity. I missed these snuggles. I missed eating breakfast with you. I missed hearing your laugh.
  • What I am most realizing is that close healthy bonds are not just things that happen naturally or randomly. Now I see more so how they are, in fact, more like a set of feelings that need to be nurtured as well as skills and dispositions of how to act on those feelings that need to be taught and practiced.
  • Care-giving Advice: Modeling how I think, not what I would do

    In the past 30 months of running daycare in our home, I have learned so much about being with kids. And a lot of that learning has actually been learning about myself – my values, feelings, boundaries, triggers, blindspots, etc.

    I became especially aware of this a few days ago when a friend of ours asked a seemingly simple question about how to respond to a situation with their children –one that was unfolding in front of us. The question wasn’t asked in desperation, but more with just curiosity.

    The older of the two siblings had come to a moment where they were playing/ toying with / taunting the younger one by holding out something they knew was wanted, asking if they wanted it as an offering, and then running away and saying “then come get it!”. The younger one had been running and chasing previously, but now was upset.

    I could see myself saying so many different things here depending. Here are a few things that quickly came to mind, none of which I am saying are ideal.

    I could say to the younger one:

    That chasing game was a lot of fun at first, but it doesn’t look like your having fun anymore. Why don’t you come over here and we will find something else to do.

    I could say to the older one:

    Jack, if you want Tessa to chase you, you could ask her, ‘Tessa, do you want to chase me?


    Jack, I’m not going to let you taunt your sister with that toy. If you are done playing with it, hand it to Tessa. If you are still playing with it, you can come over here to play with it by me.

    I could also see myself saying to both of them,

    Jack and Tessa, we are going to be getting ready for bed soon. Why don’t each of you grab a book to read and find a seat on the couch?

    This list is not exhaustive or exemplary, but I think it’s illustrative of a range of moves that are, for me, rooted in different ways of seeing / framing the event and are also based in a foregrounding / backgrounding different values I hold.

    In the first response, I am framing the event as something fun that has come to an end. I can help it come to an end graciously. I am also modeling something that is important to me — that of becoming more aware of when something is no longer pleasant to us and to finding ways to use our own agency to opt out.

    In the second response, I am framing the event as something fun that could use some of my help to repair. I’m modeling social / communication skills and giving an opportunity to find out for themselves whether the fun is or isn’t ready to come to an end.

    In the third response, I am framing this as a transgression of sorts, transgression to a person but also to their fun. I am pointing out the transgression, re-establishing a boundary I am comfortable with, and giving options for the two of them moving forward.

    In the last comment, I am leaning on a routine to signal a transition, therefore closing off possibilities for their play. I am probably also acting to preserve my sanity, and signaling to my guests that our evening together is winding down.

    All of these choices are made easier, in part, because I am not just responding to the event. I am making actions toward things I hold important — the continuation of play and the learning of skills to do so independently; recognition of one’s feelings and agency in playing with others; firm, calm and clear boundary setting / resetting; and management of our care through clear communication and established routine.

    Part of what makes giving advice so hard is that good advice cannot be five absent an understanding of one’s values are as a care giver / parent, but also an understanding of how the caregiver does and can variably see the event. Learning to see events from multiple perspectives is important, and responding in concert with one’s values helps you to reframe the event.

    Four Stories of Giving at Daycare

    Here are four stories of giving from this week. The last one is especially heart-warming.

    Gifts to Give

    Earlier this week, the kids crafted many snowflake ornaments. Then yesterday at our Christmas party, they wrapped each and decided who they wanted to give it to. Many gifts were wrapped for mommies and daddies, grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters. This age seemed to be a good age for engaging them in the whole process in a way the felt connected and meaningful to them– crafting, wrapping, and deciding.

    Festive Treats

    We have a cleaning service come to our house every other Friday for the past two years. Over time, the two ladies have gotten to know the kids and our dogs quite well. They do their best to work around the chaos and lovingly let our dogs in and out (and in and out) the back door. This year, they treated all of us to doughnuts, and the kids made them cards. This year, doting on baby N has been in full effect, a much needed gift for one of the ladies especially, who earlier in the year had a grandchild born in intensive care.

    Families make Daycare

    Karen, our next door neighbor, is both our Tennessee Mom and resident grandma at the Children’s Burrow. She loves the kids here so much and they love her in return. Yesterday, She brought gifts with treats and lovies, which each kid lovingly took to bed with them during nap time. We are so grateful for Karen and the gift of family she has brought to our home and daycare.

    A few weeks ago, while we were decorating around the house for Christmas, Ad was looking at one of Bethany’s snow globes –an owl one that Bethany had been given as a gift years ago. While Ad was shaking the globe, it slipped out of her hands and broke on the floor. Broken glass scattered everywhere, and all the children and dogs had to be quickly ushered out of the room. Ad was very upset–nearly inconsolable that she had broken something that was special to Bethany.

    In the weeks leading up to our Christmas party, Ad and Aa went shopping with their family to buy gifts for Bethany. Ad decided she wanted to get an owl snow globe to replace the one she had broken. Making amends is something we actually talk a lot about in daycare. We don’t give much weight to words of “I’m sorry” and never demand that the children speak them. Instead, we try to balance giving comfort to those who have been harmed (often asking them what they need), and helping the child who has done harm to recognize their own feelings of remorse (and others feelings of hurt) and to think through possibilities for making amends.

    In that spirit, Aa and Ad‘s family ended up buying three snow globes–one owl snow globe to give to Bethany, and a different one each for Ad and Aa that would be special to them. Later, it would turn out that Aa (Ad‘s twin brother) not only broke his own snow globe, but he also ended up breaking the owl snow globe that Ad had chosen for Bethany. Understandably, Ad was very upset and probably feeling angry as well. Out of this, Ad came to decision on her own that she would give to Bethany the snowglobe that she had picked out special for herself.

    Ad‘s mom shared with Bethany the story behind this special gift that was given yesterday. Here are two pictures so telling of the tenderness and love radiating from that moment.

    Tiles and Beads

    Lots of tiling fun the past two days– I didn’t take enough pictures, of course. We made snakes, butterflies, spirals, stars, and lots of patterns.

    Last week the kids were super into making ornaments. They spent hours focused on their work across the week with lots of deliberate pattern-making.

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