Let’s remember our happy moments of play as children to regain our playful spirit as adults

A shot showing framed pictures of several children, with a mix of colour and black-and-white.

Photo Credit: Drops of Joy / Maria Farinha Films

Let me start off this week by welcoming those who are new to this community! Hallo to Jessica, Almaz, Alessio, Cara, Dina, Rania and Yoshie. I know some of you in person, but if you want to get a sense of what keeps me going, look at last week’s newsletter to get started. And now, let’s get going.

What are your happiest memories of when you were a child?

When I think of my childhood’s happy memories, my mind travels mostly to our summers in my parents’ camper van, somewhere in Greece or Turkey. The seaside is recurrent in these memories. I can feel my hands going all wrinkly after spending hours in the water pretending to be a mermaid or the sand sticking to my knees as I help my father build an elaborate volcano. I can smell that 1980s coconut-flavoured sunscreen that my mum used. There are some rusty and abandoned playgrounds, others made out of high wooden structures that we would only dream of in Naples, there are treehouses we hoped to build one day in the woods. There are also exciting afternoons in the communal space outside the apartment we grew up in, playing hide and seek in between parked cars, kicking a ball around without aiming at people’s windows, imagining all the magical and scary creatures that lived in an abandoned house next door. My brother is always present in these memories, us playing in parallel or together, within each other’s reach. There is an unmatched lightness to these memories. They hold a power that allows me to transport myself back to that moment again, as if a part of me had remained there, in those moments, for me to go back to and find inspiration.

I’m talking about inspiration because play practitioners agree that to be creative and joyful as adults and support children’s play, we need to connect with what we loved as children. I first heard this idea from early childhood educator Kisha Reid of the Discovery Early Learning Center, a play-based program located in Poolesville, Maryland. To get adults to understand why their children want to play and what they like to play with, “I would bring adults back to their childhood,” Reid said at The Play First Summit last July.

So, let me go back to my initial question: What are your happiest memories as a child?

If you’re having a hard time with this question, think of one of your childhood photos that shows that spirit, that sense of fun or adventure. Here is mine, in one of those mythical summers in the 1980s, with sand under my feet, in some rusty old playground, excited about what was to come next.

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