Departing childhood – what will your child pack?

I am not an educator but I believe a competitive, results-based approach to learning threatens to not only bore children to death, but teaches them little about independence, imagination, creativity, resilience or the value of self-guided play and the exquisite art of doing nothing and enjoying it.

This set me to thinking about the educational experiences children deserve. So I compiled a list of the 100 things I believe children* should experience before they depart childhood.  They are in no particular order and it is impossible for the list to be finite. Many of the experiences should definitely be carried through into adulthood.

  1. Give or receive a hug every day
  2. Climb a tree
  3. Fall out of a tree
  4. Catch a fish
  5. Swim with fish
  6. Do something kind with no expectation of recognition or reward
  7. Start a found collection
  8. Keep a journal
  9. Boil an egg and eat it before the age of 10
  10. Drink out of a hose, preferably wearing nothing other than a pair of knickers
  11. Eat some soil
  12. Walk a dog
  13. Create something with sticks, cardboard and sticky tape
  14. Lie on the ground and watch the clouds or just enjoy the feeling of the earth under your body
  15. Be thrilled during a thunderstorm
  16. Catch rain on their tongue
  17. Experience triumph
  18. Blow a bubble gum bubble as big as their head
  19. Make jelly
  20. Visit a zoo
  21. Do nothing
  22. Be pushed in a swing
  23. Learn how to swing themselves
  24. Pick flowers
  25. Require a bandaid once a month
  26. Experience failure
  27. Watch a spider in its web
  28. Complete a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle
  29. Experience boredom. Regularly.  It promotes creativity.
  30. Form a special attachment with someone at least 50 years older than themselves
  31. Spend 3 consecutive days in their pyjamas
  32. Watch a really scary movie without parental guidance
  33. Pop a pimple
  34. Ride a bike
  35. Play with snow
  36. Get sun-kissed
  37. Bite their fingernails and regret it
  38. Be bewildered but secretly thrilled by their first wet dream
  39. Experience disappointment
  40. Listen to a thrush sing
  41. Make a cake from scratch
  42. Enjoy the discovery that their parents are people, not just their carers
  43. Hate their first period (but be relaxed about the commencement of their journey into womanhood)
  44. Watch several sunrises
  45. Go bird watching
  46. Wonder at a full moon
  47. Walk barefoot on wet grass
  48. Step on a prickle
  49. Do nothing
  50. Take public transport somewhere by themselves before the age of 12
  51. Walk to school
  52. Wonder at a butterfly
  53. Kiss their first true love
  54. Mow a lawn
  55. Fart with relish and not confess
  56. Take a photo of something cherished and turn it into an artwork
  57. Confound their parent with something related to technology
  58. Unplug
  59. Understand the value of unstructured play
  60. Use the cardboard box, rather than its contents to create a masterpiece
  61. Love and laugh often
  62. Climb a hill and enjoy the view
  63. Ride a horse bareback
  64. Grow their own vegetables and herbs
  65. Show compassion
  66. Write a letter to someone using pen and paper
  67. Build a cubby house
  68. Find a secret hiding place and decorate it
  69. Sing and shout out loud
  70. Play an instrument.  Whether this is done well or badly is irrelevant
  71. Chase a rainbow
  72. Relish creativity
  73. Swim in a river
  74. Make their own book
  75. Get dirty and stay that way all day
  76. Try various cuisines from around the world
  77. Perfect handstands and cartwheels
  78. Make mud pies
  79. Do nothing
  80. Jump off a jetty
  81. Go ice-skating
  82. Do a self-portrait
  83. Blow bubbles
  84. Paint with a hose
  85. Score (or save) a goal at some form of sport
  86. Go to a church service of their choice
  87. Toast marshmallows
  88. Experience the fallibility of their parents
  89. Blow a raspberry
  90. Go camping
  91. Make a family tree
  92. Learn how to count to 10 in 10 different languages
  93. Hold a snake
  94. Blow an egg
  95. Paint with their fingers
  96. Pick their nose, eat it and decide that doing so is daft
  97. Have (and keep into adulthood) a favourite toy
  98. Keep a pet
  99. Read books
  100. Do nothing

The brilliant Sir Ken Robinson is far more eloquent than me on the importance of fostering spontaneity and creativity.  You can listen to his thoughts here.

What would you add to this list?

Until next time….


For more recipes, tips, advice and ideas on how to find wonder in all you do, look out for my book “Caro & Co ~ Helping Kids find Wonder in the Everyday”, published by Sally Milner Publishing. Available from 01 December at all good bookstores and online. For interview opportunities please contact Jackie Evans on 0407 776 222 or

* For the purposes of this post, I’ve defined childhood as 0-16.

This originally appeared on Caro & Co a couple of years back but it’s as relevant as ever!


    • Caro&Co says

      Thanks so much Alissa. I certainly had fun compiling it. My kids want to put it on the fridge so they can tick things off. Easiest to do list in the world for them! x

  1. says

    GREAT LIST!!! And hear, hear!

    I would add:
    – roll down a hill
    – go star gazing
    – go on an owl prowl
    – go to summer sleep away camp
    – draw on their sneakers — in pen
    – plant something and watch it grow
    – be the odd one out
    – stand up for a friend & stand up for what they believe in
    – make up a language with their friends
    – think that the book was way better than the movie
    – catch fireflies
    – dig for the sake of digging
    – trick or treat with kids only — no adults
    – play pranks at sleepovers
    – put on a show for the neighborhood
    – have a lemonade stand
    – fall down & dust themselves off
    – not get everything they want
    – make tie-die tshirts
    – listen to great music made way before they were born
    – make popcorn balls
    – help out an elderly neighbor
    – believe in fairies
    – learn to love to learn
    – write terrible poetry about a crush
    – roller skate backwards
    – play with toys long after their friends think it’s cool
    – have a nickname they love

  2. says

    I laughed, I cried, I LOVED it! Thank you for this. On behalf of my 3-year-old, I’d add: “Get your first stitches – and a great story to go along with it.”

  3. says

    I love your list Caro. I’d add see phosphorescence in the ocean”. Possibly a bit tricky to achieve before departing childhood but when i first saw it at age 16 on my first overnight sailing race I almost believed it was magic myself. Better than any computer generated fairy dust could ever inspire x

  4. says

    Great post. I would add start a club to the list (maybe I missed it). I can proudly say my children have experienced almost all on your list based on their current ages. Makes me look back on my childhood with fond memories.

  5. mandy says

    hi Caro,… lovely to meet you the other day at Julie’ Place. What a cool list… it’s inspired me on a rainy day to encourage my 14 year old boy to do something other than computer games.
    Great soul food, thankyou x Mandy


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