50 Ways to Think Like a Child

When I was little, I couldn’t wait to leave childhood behind and venture into the adult world. Now that I’m all grown up and writing books for children, I sometimes wish I could go back in time, if only briefly, to recapture some of those important memories and feelings associated with childhood.
If your writing project requires that you become re-acquainted with the child you used to he, some of the activities on this list may be just what you need to do a little time-traveling of your own. Keep a note-book and pen handy. Don’t censor the memories as they come. One good connection is all it takes and the memories will come flooding back to you.
1. Play with your food. Dip your cookies in milk. Make hills and valleys with your mashed potatoes. Put olives on the ends of your fingers.
2. Ask a child to teach you something. How to tie your shoes. How to ride a bike. How to draw a picture of a house.
3. Go to the circus, the car­nival, or the town agricultural fair. Watch the clowns. Go to the kiddie rides and watch the children there. Play kiddie games. Eat cotton candy. Watch the animal and baked goods competitions.
4. Fly a kite. You’ll probably gather an audience of children. Take turns.
5. Buy a coloring book and a big box of crayons. Color inside the lines. Color outside the lines. Hang your picture near your workplace to remind you to take chances.
6. Visit an antique shop. Look around for objects from your childhood. What is it that stirs your memory? A Howdy Doody lunchbox? Superman comic books? Matchbook cars? Tinkertoys? Metal toy soldiers? Dishes you remember from your grandmother’s kitchen?
7. Go to the zoo. Watch the monkeys. Follow the laughter of the children.
8. Make a kazoo. Take a small plastic comb and cover the teeth with waxed paper. Put a rubber band lengthwise to hold it loosely. Now hum. Start a kazoo band.
9. Jump rope. Better still, get two friends and a long jump rope and take turns.
10. Listen to children’s music. Every song tells a story. Which ones make you laugh?
11. Eat an ice cream cone. Slowly. Watch it melt. Eat food that you remember eating at a younger age.
12. Climb a tree or monkey bars. Swing from the bar or the branch. Let yourself fall on the grass.
13. Go down the slide at the park. More than once. On your stomach.
14. Blow up balloons. Now play with them. Bounce them off your head, your elbow. Let the air out and listen to the whistle.
15. Draw pictures on the sidewalk with colored chalk. It won’t take long for the neigh­borhood kids to join you.
16. Baby-sit. Crawl around on the floor and see what tod­dlers see at their level. How different does the world look when you’re only two feet tall?
17. Hop on one foot. Skip. Fall down. Roll over. Do a somersault.
18. Walk around an elementary school at recess. (Get permission first.) What are the children playing? What are they talking about? Which one child would you pick for your friend and why?
19. Play jacks. Twirl the jacks and make them spin.
20. Fingerpaint. Smear the paint all over the page. Paint your face.
21. Build a snowman or a scarecrow. Dress it up. Talk to it. Yes, talk to it.
22. Go to a roller rink. Don’t just watch. Put on a pair of skates and go out on the floor. Hold hands with a friend. Try skating backwards.
23. Dig a hole. A big hole, all the way to China. Sit in it. Use your hands to scoop some of the dirt back on you. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. If you find some worms, all the better. Make a worm farm.
24. Bounce a ball. A big red one. Bounce it against the garage door. Find someone to bounce it back and forth with.
25. Lay on your back and watch the clouds. No further instructions needed.
26. Go to the toy store. Reac­quaint yourself with old favorites. What toy calls to you? What are the other kids in the store begging for?
27. Catch pollywogs or frogs or lizards. You can let them go again right away. The act of catching them is what’s important.
28. Build a fort. Put a blanket over a card table. Take your lunch and a flash-light. Make shadow animals on the wall.
29. Swing on the swing. Higher and higher. Now jump!
30. Blow bubbles. Alone is okay. With a child is better. Pour bubbles into a large tray. Use some wire or items front the kitchen to make bubbles of varying shapes and sizes. Have a bub­ble blowing contest to see who can make the most or the biggest or the one with the funniest shape.
31. Go to a Little League baseball or Peewee soccer game. Volunteer to help.
32. Read children’s books. Lots of them. Better yet, read them to a group of kids.
33. Play hopscotch. Draw the form on the sidewalk in front of your house. Keep a basket of hopscotch markers on your front porch for visitors.
34. Catch butterflies or fireflies. Let them go. Chase them. Run without purpose.
35. Look through scrapbooks. Find your old scrapbooks or photo albums from when you were a child. Make a memory list.
36. Play marbles. In the dirt. On your knees.
37. Watch cartoons and TV shows. Watch the ones from your childhood and ones the kids like today. How are they different? How are they the same?
38. Play dominos and checkers in the park. Make a domino wall and let them tumble. Play croquet, horseshoes or ping pong.
39. Find a sandbox or visit the beach. Build a castle with a moat. Bury things.
40. Make a necklace out of maca­roni or by stringing flowers. Thread buttons on a shoelace.
41. Do a cartwheel. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Go ahead and try. Lie down and roll down a hill.
42. Cuddle with a doll or a bear. Have a tea party. Eat animal crackers. Play dress up.
43. Volunteer at a daycare or in a classroom. Make it a regular event for a few weeks. Play games, sing, read, sit on the floor cross-legged, draw.
44. Buy a wagon. Take a walk. Fill the wagon with things that interest you.
45. Find a park with a merry-go­-round. Push the kids on it. Let them push you.
46. Hula hoops, pogo sticks, paddle balls, Slinkys, tops, jacks, and yo-yos. Need I say more?
47. Borrow blocks. Convince a child to let you play with their Legos, Lin­coln Logs, Erector Set, train set, or building blocks. Say please.
48. Play chopsticks on the piano. Teach the song to a child.
49. Make mud. Get a hose and make some mud. Make mud pies. Squish it between your fingers. Take off your shoes and socks and walk in the mud.
50. Play leap frog. With friends of all ages. Don’t worry about looking silly. Children don’t
—Susan Taylor Brown
NOTE: This article first appeared in the Children’s Writer Newsletter. Editors may have moved to a different publishing house and editorial needs may have changed. Please do your own research before submitting.