My girl who will be off to kindergarten in the fall began as a shy person in our group. Today she told us about a dancing class where she is afraid to participate because she is shy. She said this in our informal group meeting time, when others were talking about dancing. This participation alone made me happy she is no longer shy with us.

For a long time, this girl and I have shared time at the kitchen sink in the afternoon. She loves water. I first thought to do it with her because she did not join easily in the afternoon playtime of the other threes and fours awake at nap, and because I knew she spent a lot of time in the company of her many grandparents. When I was a girl, I loved to visit my grandmother. One of my favorite things to do at her house was to wash the dishes with her, with my uncle, with my sister, my cousins, my mother, my aunts, whoever was there for tea or lunch or dinner or a party.

Here are photos I took last week of my girl at the sink. This is her third year of washing with me, I think. That is something I love about mixed age grouping and about family child care. We are together for a long time, and we do regular things together, many of which give us great pleasure. Ask the fours and fives that helped to haul the Halloween pumpkin which had frozen and softened on my porch around the side of the house and into the compost bin this morning. They didn’t want to leave for the park for all the fun they were having with that pumpkin, working together to drag it on a large wood handled, metal scooped shovel along the brick walk, where I hoisted it into the compost bin and they jabbed at it with pitchforks, letting the air out of it like a big balloon, watching the liquid drain from the holes, pulling strands of pulp out the holes which they called noodles, watching the thing collapse on the pile of composting food and leaves and fungi, as our fungi loving newly five admired. Real work is real learning and real fun.

What I loved about this series of photos is the shifting of the activity from sink to table. I also loved being able to take the photos without disturbing her work or concentration. If anything, the photographing seemed to make her more attentive and invested in her project, which turned into filling glasses and carrying them on a tray to a table, which she set gradually to look as though she were expecting guests.

I’ve also included four photos of her work before the dish washing. You can see how she has made a place for herself to work on the kitchen floor by laying a table cloth there and bringing puzzles and a game, and how she has made a cozy nest on the futon where she rested beside me while I typed and the younger children fell asleep. The ability to create spaces of one’s own is something we all need. Our family child care tries to create such opportunities within our space and routine. The children make many small worlds each day.