If kids are to believe they are strong and competent, they need opportunities to make real contributions to their community. Work gives children the chance to demonstrate that they are smart and capable, and true self-esteem develops from genuine accomplishment, like digging potatoes and then mashing them by hand; cleaning up a spill; helping a new friend work a puzzle you’ve mastered; helping a teacher build a campfire for roasting cheese; or hauling a heavy bag of manure to the garden beds.

avery alena potatoes

Children Firsters use adult tools and equipment in ways appropriate for them, whether that means using a real stove to cook cinnamon toast, a real screwdriver to take apart a printer, or a real camera to capture an image of a garden critter for our Field Guide.

alex kid camera

Children also benefit from opportunities to face down challenges. Some of those challenges come in play, but others come from teachers who sense a child’s readiness to try something new and difficult. Children Firsters learn that a “must -do” is a task teachers are confident they can tackle, even if they aren’t sure yet. So it is that a child who usually avoids drawing will be asked to sketch his building before going outside to play; or a child who is unsure about storytelling will be brought to the story table and offered help to get started; or a child who never builds will be paired with enthusiastic builders in a small group activity.