Embracing Your Inner Child

By Lindsey Kortum, Nature Explore Communications Specialist

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  -George Bernard Shaw

498_070As a parent, watching my son experience the world around him is a true joy in my life.  There is something so beautiful and humbling about the way a child can connect to a moment in life that I often find myself yearning to replicate in my own life.  At some point along this path to adulthood, many of us find ourselves jaded and removed from the simple daily wonders we encounter.  We become concerned with how others will perceive us and begin to tame our enthusiasm for the simple things like jumping in puddles.

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tag along to a photo shoot at one of our certified outdoor classrooms.  I watched from the sidelines as the children enjoyed watering the plants, running through the grass, and painting on the art panel.  Then I heard a little voice ask, “Can I paint your cheek?”  As I looked down at his sweet face, I fought my adult instincts to say “no” and instead decided to listen to my inner child.  I knelt down beside him and said, “of course!”  The paint on my cheek quickly moved to my nose, forehead, neck, arms, and soon a group of giggling children had turned me into their canvas of colorful artwork.

I walked away from this experience feeling energized and joyful in a way I don’t often experience as an adult.  It left me wondering:  At what point in life do we stop jumping in the puddle and start navigating around it? At what point do we start to quiet our inner child?

One of the truly touching things about surrendering to your inner child is how the children around you respond.  They can hardly contain their excitement of having an adult join them, not as the referee or leader, but as a participant in the experience.  There is something almost magical in that connection. As I shared my experience back at the office, I learned that many of my coworkers had similar experiences while visiting an outdoor classroom.  These unique spaces offer an opportunity for children and adults to tap into a part of themselves that often gets buried in our world today.

While we can’t hold on to all of the carefree ways that come with being a child (at some point wearing a tutu to work is deemed, understandably, inappropriate), I’m beginning to see that we also don’t have to let go of all of the wonder and joy that flows through us as children.  That inner child still lives inside each of us.  So the next time a sweet little voice invites you to join along, I encourage you to embrace your inner child and run straight for that puddle.