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5 Ways to Reconnect with Childhood Wonder: Embracing Playfulness as Adults

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

It was a sunny, crisp fall afternoon. Colorful leaves were in the plenty.It was the kind that of autumn afternoon every body prays for so that we can take stunning pictures for our instagram. I was out with my class for some outdoor time. My students were laughing as they ran into big piles of leaves. They asked me to join them. Since I had an espresso or two to burn off I decided to join them. There was so much excitement in their little faces ad they watched their teacher run and slide into a pile of leaves. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a few of the other teachers stare at me form there windows. I didn't care though. I took a huge pile of leaves in my arms and threw them into there air. My students chuckled as we tried to grab them all. They still remember that day even months later. In our ridiculously hectic adult lives, filled with responsibilities, things breaking, people getting sick, everyone wants their money right now, dear lord why does everything hurt? and deadlines, we often lose touch with the simple wonder of our childhood days. The man-made world can seem stressful and quite dull. Play isn't just for kids though. We might not build a cardboard castle and pretend like we are the queen but adults need their own type of play. Play is not only good for children brains its good for the adult brain ass well. Deep within the hear of adults the spirit of playfulness and wonder still resides. It might bee hidden under piles of disillusionment, frustration, scars from bad bosses, and health insurance papers, but it's waiting to be discovered again. In my article, we will go on a mini journey to reconnect with our childhood wonder by what it looks like to enjoy playfulness in nature as adults.I encourage you to dust off your old magnifying glass(or borrow your kids) to rediscover the simple magic, and unlock a world of joy, curiosity, that is in the natural world around us.

Viewing Nature as Our Playground

They may not make playgrounds for adults but the outdoors can be on giant playground for everyone. On of my backpacking trips, we had set up came by a small river.

A Man underneath an epic Banyan Tree
A Man Underneath an Epic Banyan Tree

We all took turns going back and fourth across only stepping on rocks. Some of us made it will others got a little wet in the process. It was really fun. It was nice to see everyone in this serious group losses up a little bit and laugh.We ere recconnecting with our childlike wonder. When I worked as an outdoor instructor much of our team building was playing in nature. For example, in one of the activities we were all on a huge log. Our objective was to re-aggange each other by birthdate, without getting of the log. It was quite the challenge but we did it. When I lived out in Hawaii I was introduced to their famous Banyan trees. Immediately I was in awe. They look like the picture to the right. I did not waste any time, I climbed as high as I could. As, I looked all around me people of all ages were climbing, swinging, and laughing on the Banyan trees. Sometimes I would take by students(teens) to the trees and it didn't matter if they were giving me attitude earlier, the act dropped as we approach the trees and they were climbing and having a great time. My students felt inspired to be playful in those moments. Nature has always been a captivating for adults and kids alike. Our modern world is so advanced but out brains have not caught up yet. We still have brains that are created for the natural world. The natural world will always be more interesting to us. That is way we are soothed by natural sounds, and our eyes enjoy color plates that are the same as how they appear in nature. inviting us to explore, discover, and reconnect with our natural sense of wonder. As adults, we often brush off the transformative power that nature wants to give us. Don't get me wrong, sometimes life wears us down to the point that we are shells of ourselves. By looking at the natural world as our playground, we open the door to a an amazing realm where playfulness is allowed, where we can freely roam, release our stiff inhibitions, and tap into the limitless possibilities that as within us.

Embracing the Curiosity Within(it's there)

Girl being playful in the river, childhood wonder

We got real butterflies for my Pre-K class. Whenever they could get a spare minute that would check on the butterflies. Their curiosity about the butterflies was endless. They would ask a million questions about them. "What's that?" "When will they come out?" "What do they eat?" "Why does this one one look like that?" My class also asks a million questions during story time. I like that, because it means the wheels in their brains are turning, but it makes it hard to get through a story. Remember the amazing curiosity of your childhood?Back when you would watch a frog hop until it jumped into the pond. It may be hard to believe that once, there was a time when you were curious about everything. Somewhere along the line though, we learned that only grades matter, the world has high expectations of us and what we are curious about only counts if it makes money. Our natural curiosity is kind of like a muscle. If we don't use it we are going to lose it. It will start collecting dust like old books on a shelf. We forget about our imaginations as we slowly let the adult world pull us into survival mode. The natural world can help us get out curiosity back. Getting our curiosity back has its perks. It makes our everyday moments magical. It helps us discover what is right under our nose. When we approach nature and our everyday life with a curious mindset, we unlock a treasure trove of cool things waiting to be discovered. It may be hard to get started at first. Try picking a tree on your next walk. What kind of tree do you think it is? What shape are the leaves?How does the bark feel? Close your eyes. Do you hear any birds near by? Marvel at the amazing music these tiny feathered creatures are able to make for you.

Observe a flower on your walk. Look at the patterns of the petals. If you dare, follow the winding path of a winding stream just to see where it goes. Think about what different kinds of creatures are in the stream. Turn over a few rocks. What did you see? Embrace the childlike awe that comes with each new encounter, and let curiosity be your guide on this adventure.

The Joy of Unstructured Play

How long have you been on the hamster wheel of life? So much of our lives we live in the mindset of just getting through the week. We have our schedules that we need to follow. Don't get me wrong it is very important to have routines. In fact I am a huge advocate of having effective routines in our lives. Sadly however, many of us are stuck in lives where most of our day is spoken for. In our adult lives, heavy schedules and often dominate our days, leaving little room for

Woman dancing freely in the water

unstructured play. For young children, free unstructured play is an important part of their brain development. I would argue, that unstructured play is important for adults as well. I think that it helps us get our autonomy back. I think it helps to re-set our brain and help stimulate our new creativity. Unstructured play can also be incredibly healing for those adults that had to grow up too fast because of trauma, overly critical parents or being in an environment where they couldn't be themselves. In can be hard to find areas in our adult lives where we can free play. Especially for us women, a free day often means us catching up on chores and laundry. But I have discovered that nature, all those rules seem to dissolve. All of us, young and old are free to explore without boundaries(with safety in mind of course).I know you probably haven't used your camera lately. So go ahead. Look around and see what inspires you. Take a picture of the sunset over the lake. Take a deep breath in and as you breath out imagine all the stress leaving your body. Try and get a shot of that falcon flying overhead.Watch and see where it goes. He wants to teach you to be free again. Feel the urge to climb a tree? Climb a tree, feel the thrill of swinging on a rope while jumping into the lake. What to collect rocks again just for the fun of it?Let them make you happy again! What to YOU want to do? It's your journey, no one can tell you how to do it. Allow the sheer joy of playing in the river to transport you back to a time when worries were distant. Let the inspiration for new idea's come to your thoughts. Embrace the freedom to let go, be present, and simply delight in the moment.

Cultivating Connection with the Natural World

I have had those days where its seems I've done nothing but look at screens all day. My phone, to my computer, to my phone, to my computer, to my TV, my reading tablet, then back to my phone again.

Childhood wonder. A child playing among the rocks.

Especially during those COVID days when I was teaching from home and it was cold. There were some weeks when , without realizing it, I hadn't left my apartment. Things are moving online at an unbelievable speed. We are all creatures of the biosphere, and something deep inside wants to connect us to it. We crave moments where there are no microwaves, copy machines, or traffic. Our stressful lives can lead us to becoming emotionally numb, leaving us longing to feel again. With rising costs and our hard earned money not keeping up with cost of living are leaving many of us depressed, feeling not good enough, and deeply discouraged. Time and nature offers us an opportunity to reconnect with the rhythms of the world around us. By taking off our shoes on a large smooth rock, we intentionally a deeper connection with the earth that is beneath our feet. Its then we start to believe that our worth is so much more than what is in our bank account. We are creatures of the one and only earth. Most of the time I just like to stand outside on my balcony and feel the breeze as it playfully crashes over my skin. I close my eyes and let the sun gently kiss my face. (But with out sunscreen because wrinkles. haha.) You probably like to take a barefoot stroll along the beach. Feel all the negative ions from the water bring you back to a better mood.

If you can't get away you can simply lay down on a blanket in your yard. Take a moment on that blanket too bring your awareness to the ground. Tune out the sirens, the neighbors, and all the cars. Feel the heartbeat of the Earth. In these peaceful moments, we rediscover our place in the web of life, giving a sweet sense of belonging.

Embracing Playfulness in Everyday Life

All aspects of our life are connected. As much as we try to compartimentalize each part of our life effects the other. Our work impacts our personal lives and our personal lives impact out work. That is just how it is. As we re-discover our playful selves in nature, it naturally spills over into other aspects of our lives. The joy, creativity, and freedom experienced outdoors find a way of impacting our daily routines with positivity. You will start to appreciate the small things in life, like the bird that landed on your window in the morning. It will be easier to find the magic in the ordinary parts of your day. People will want to be around you more. The children in your life will feel close to you and know that you can empathize with how they see the world. I know that when I am at ease, interactions with my loved ones are healthier. Playfulness will help you think outside the box, and come up with new ideas at work. When the serious trial of life come, your playfulness will act as buffer and you will be able to bounce back quicker. That is because you will be able to see the positivity in situations and come up with creative problem solving ideas. Allow your inner child to guide you towards a life that is light-hearted, filled with wonder, and brimming with possibilities.

As Adults it is up to us to deal with a lot of boring crap. But that stuff need not take up are whole day or totally control our lives. There needs to be a balance. Let's rediscover the magic of our childhood wonder by embracing playfulness in nature. By reconnecting with our inner child, we are able to unlock a world of creativity, joy, curiosity, and connection with the natural world. And so, wild one, head into into the wilderness, listen to the birds, dance in the rain, hike a mountain trail, and build sandcastles by the seashore. Fully embrace the playfulness that resides within you . Rekindle the magic you had as a child. Let spill over into all aspects of your life, making it more full of wonder and joy!

Girl sitting in a hammock

Hi! I am Paulie D. from Notes from My Hammock. I write about living authentically, mindfulness, wellness, and self-expression.

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