The word, “childhood”, like the word “love”, defies easy definition. While everyone’s individual childhood experiences are unique, there are, however, universal qualities of childhood which we all recognize. These qualities or states of mind are fleeting, but essential as they are what inspire and sustain us along the way, if we are lucky.
Children need to feel both safe and free, to be guided by correction but not harshly criticized. They need to be encouraged to explore and experience the exhilaration of testing their abilities, but also instructed in the value of practice along the path of mastery, hence developing their own good judgement within the context of family love and protection.
But are we today, as adults, in danger of unwittingly depriving our children of the very environment of play, which childhood cries out, by restricting their lives to scheduled, well organized physical activities or worse yet, the lack of vigorous physical activity at all as they sit viewing screens, where they may, by microscopic movement, direct play but never actually engage in it? The result being a childhood which has existed in name only, lacking the richness of play that is meant to inform their adult lives in both conscious and unconscious ways?
With all our good intentions, have we found ourselves wholly missing the mark by neglecting to create a world for our children where their little minds, bodies, and spirits can simply delight in the silence of meandering play? It is only in these moments when our children are allowed to forget time and simply be that their creative imagination can expand out beyond the boundaries, allowing them to develop their own powers of clarity and concentration. It is in these moments of unhurried enchantment that the child first glimpses the wonder and mystery of the natural world. Without this wonder, all else is lost.
My hope is that these images will remind us all of what we already know deeply to be true about the essence of childhood, and that they will prompt us to foster an environment where the non-serious importance of play can thrive.