Written by: Kathie Houchens
Date: September 29, 2015

Zoe-at-Paradise-Pond1“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.”
― Roald Dahl, in “Back to the Chocolate Factory”

One of the joys of summer is a trip to New England where we visit family.  In autumn we skip the long drive to Vermont or Massachusetts and take in the autumn beauty in Ohio’s Hocking Hills. The children and grandchildren have such busy lives that we will have to wait until December to enjoy our “kid time” again.

When I joined my grandchildren in games and recreation I found joy and rejuvenation. I explored stream beds with a nine year old, made friends with a small frog, named him “Leopard,”  and then carried on conversations with him. Zoe suggested we collect rocks to paint in the likeness of lady bugs, frogs or flowers.

On a nature walk we flopped belly-down on a floating deck to observe pond life.  I felt connected to an essential inner urge to plunge deeply into my still-live childlike curiosity and propensity for fantasy.  My inner child is ready at a moment’s notice to dance or draw, to go barefoot in the mud or chase butterflies.

But why depend on playtime afar to engage my inner child?

What can happen if I pay attention daily to the playful part of me, even when I am NOT joined by a younger companion? I have a fairy garden outside the back door.  Sometimes I forget to sit close in the evening and imagine what is going on behind the elfin door.

Fairy Garden

A playground across the street intrigues me with its brightly colored equipment.  Some is quite welcoming to an adventuresome person of any age.  A set of drum-like cylinders begs for a beat.  The nearby tubular chimes sing in perfect harmony no matter which notes are played.  A balance beam may be a challenge worth exploring.  If a basketball is handy, I may make a few shots while the memories flood my whole being.   Does playtime help restore my balance both psychologically and physically?

Many psychologists have studied and written about inner child work, and professional help may be needed to heal a wounded inner child.  From Carl Jung to Emmet Fox, and Charles Whitfield to Lucia Capaccione, there is much written about the identity and care of our core selves. From my casual perspective I am learning to recognize, acknowledge and creatively process my emotional, creative and spiritual needs in Adulthood, Act 2 by reconnecting with my child within.

Depending on your interests, invite your “inner child” to play.  Always available, no special arrangements or travel required, your essential self may be waiting for a creative outlet. Make a date with yourself to try out a new activity or participate in one you remember enjoying as a child.

Coloring books for all ages are now popular.  Even a pad of newsprint with crayons, oil pastels, or other coloring tools can be fun.  You might want a tote bag “ready-to-go” that has all the basic sketching and drawing equipment you need for a “plein air” outing.  Sit in the park and play with shapes, shadows, abstract figures.  It can all be good, liberating, renewing.  Dr. Capaccione recommends using your non-dominant hand.  It has never been told it can’t draw.  Give it free rein to scribble, make basic shapes, to use whatever media feels pleasant.

James J. and Constance G. Messina wrote about “growing down” as a way to counterbalance our “growing up.”  They say, “Growing down” is the term we use to symbolize the movement back to a feelings-enriched life. In this new life we experience the joy of being alive, living one day at a time with no fear or dread of the future. In this growing down we awaken our creative spirit so that we can again enjoy playing, having fun, and relaxing. ….. Growing down is a way to learn to “live” again rather than just exist.”  (http://www.jamesjmessina.com/growingdowninnerchild.html)  It makes sense!

As we move out of summer mode, I want to remember how good it felt to walk in the mud, to talk to a frog, to laugh while sharing silliness with a child.  I don’t want to over-think it, but to freely indulge in “wasting time” without any guilt.

Here are a few more ideas for practical ways to engage your inner child.  What others can you add?

–  Have an evening picnic by candlelight in the backyard.

– Camp in the backyard all night.

–  Take a pre-dawn walk , notice the sunrise, listen for birds.

– Arrange a “no reason” party or an “unbirthday” party for someone, even for yourself.

–  Wade in a stream or a fountain.

–  Draw in the sand or build a sand castle.

–  Grab a stuffed animal and take a nap.

–  Check out some children’s books from the library, or read them on the computer.

  • The Little Engine that Could by Walter Piper. Grosset & Dunlop, 1978
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Double Day Publishers, 1922.
  • The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. Harper & Row, 1981
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Harper & Row, 1964
  • The Tree that Survived the Winter by Mary Fahy. Paulist Press, 1989.

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