Reflections on Childhood Spaces

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When I speak to groups about outdoor play or connecting children with nature, I always have them do a short visioning exercise. And yes — you guessed it — I am going to ask you to do it, too! Come on. Play along with me. It will be OK, I promise.

Close your eyes (Hey, no peeking!). Think back to when you were a child. Now, think about your favorite place. Take a minute, and really let yourself remember a special place where you loved to be — to play and explore — to just be a kid. Visualize the place you cannot imagine your childhood without. OK. Got it?

Take note about how you are feeling right now. Is there a smile on your face? Do you feel a giggle bubbling up? Do you remember all the sights and smells? Is it a space you shared with friend or family, or kept secret, just for yourself? Enjoy the feelings for a moment.

Every time I do this activity with a group, you can feel the energy change in the room. I love it. A room-full of adult professionals sit before me, eyes closed, and smiles on their faces. Everyone is so excited to share their special places, and it is almost always the same fantastic list:

• Backyard
• Treehouse
• Garden
• Creek/Lake
• Woods
• Park

The answers are never the sofa, or “my” room, or the mall. People seem to universally choose somewhere outside as their favorite childhood space. It’s some easily accessible bit of nature that builds the strongest memories for people, and they are able to reflect back on and cherish these memories as adults. This fact speaks volumes to me.

Can you imagine who you would be today without your special place? Without the time you were allowed to spend there, just being a kid? Wouldn’t it be a shame if today’s children — this “indoor” generation we keep hearing about — were not given the opportunity to find their own special places outdoors? The thought of it makes me very sad.

I hope you will take the time to help the children in your world find their special places. To adopt a bit of the outdoors as their own. Of course, I hope that you have your own special place too, or are now inspired to go find one. We grown-ups need one just as much as kids do.

In the meantime, enjoy the memories of your childhood place, and make sure to share your stories. See what other folks have to say, and watch for the smile on their faces as they share their own memories and stories. It’s a real treat.

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

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