Ancient Egyptians, like modern Egyptians, loved children, and took good care of them. Mothers nursed their babies for three or four years. Little ones were carried by their mothers in a soft sling, so that they felt her body's warmth and her presence always. There are many images of mothers taking their babies with them to work. Sometimes older children wear the sling to carry their baby brothers and sisters. Infants were probably held most of the time. Scorpions and snakes were a danger to babies who were not carefully watched.
Even after they began to eat solid food, young children ate with their mothers, who looked after them constantly.
The names given to children also tell us of the affection parents had for their little ones: Nakht, which means strong, and Nefer, which means beautiful, were common names. Merit, which means beloved, was popular, too. These terms could be combined with the names of gods to give a child protection. For example,
Meret-Neith: beloved of the powerful goddess Neith
Neferkare: Beautiful is the ka of Re
Nakht-Min: Strong one of Min
Spells and prayers for the protection of children survive from later periods of Egyptian history. Amulets could also protect children. One of the most popular was the wedjet eye of Horus. It could help a child heal a wound, as Horus' wounded eye had been restored by his mother, Isis. It may also have helped to turn away 'the evil eye' - envy.
Small children are shown naked in wall paintings and reliefs from Ancient Egypt, but in fact, they wore clothes. Clothing for children has been found in tombs. It gets cold in Egypt at night, so clothes and warm blankets would have been essential. It may be that children are shown naked to distinguish them from small images of adults.
Children are often shown with pets, particularly birds. There were board games for adults, and perhaps children played these, too. Toys were made for children, and there are images of children at play on the walls of tombs. In the warm, dry climate of Egypt, children played outdoors. There were strenuous jumping games like leap-frog. Wrestling and dancing games are recorded, too. Poor children helped their parents by looking after the younger children, and taking care of animals. Did children think it was work, or play, to look after the donkeys and goats?