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Fuel Your Imagination

We had the usual assortment of ghosts, goblins, and superheroes stop by the house last Halloween. One trick-or-treater included a baby not yet old enough to walk, wearing a bee costume.

My own toddler, himself carrying a foam sword and wearing a pirate costume, was fascinated. “Look,” he said, “there’s a bumblebee dressed like a baby.”

It was an interesting perspective, looking at the world through a child’s eyes.

Despite his costume, however, my son didn’t truly become a pirate until a few weeks later. We were walking through the woods and happened to come upon a raised wooden boardwalk across a swampy area. Walking along the boardwalk, my toddler stopped to swat at the top of each plant with a wooden stick, shouting “ARGHH!” with each swipe. In his imagination, he was saving his pirate ship from invaders.

My New Year’s resolutions for 2009 won’t include the usual empty promises about losing weight or joining the gym. Instead, I’m resolving to view more of the world through a child’s eyes. I’m inviting all parents and grandparents to do the same.

Following through on this resolution will require the most precious thing someone can offer a child: time together. I’m not talking about watching television together or playing with battery-operated toys that dull the imagination. I’m talking about time outdoors.

How many of us built forts out of branches and leaves found in a thicket? Or learned how to skip rocks while at the knee of a parent or grandparent? Maybe we walked to where they were still building houses in the back of the neighborhood and dug for hours in a dirt pile or played king of the mountain there.

Spending time outdoors fuels the imagination. As we age, we tend to forget the fun we had as kids just exploring the world around us.

Take a child into the woods and a new world opens around you. Instead of focusing strictly on getting from one place to another, you begin to notice the small birds flittering in the bushes. You hear a satisfying slurp from your boot as you pull it out of the mud. You discover the joy of bouncing on a fallen tree limb. You shuffle your feet to carve a path in the fallen leaves.

These are all simple pleasures I’ve rediscovered by seeing the world through the eyes of a child. This year, resolve to take a kid outside and try it for yourself.

Just watch out for the pirates.


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