“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~ W.B. Yeats
Over the winter break, my family and I traveled to Borneo for two weeks. During those two weeks, we navigated the choppy waves of South China Sea, drifted down the peaceful waters of rivers, and clambered the rugged terrains of rain forests and mountains. We enjoyed the flavors of local and aboriginal foods. We saw in the wild all kinds of majestic, beautiful, and magnificent plant life and animals.
Over those two weeks, my husband, son, and I were awed, energized, and inspired. Everywhere we went, we marveled at the beauty our planet has to offer. That trip brought me back to life. And it got me thinking and wondering: How does one maintain and safeguard one’s sense of wonder about the world? How do we, as global citizens who have traveled and seen more remarkable sights of the world than most people ever will, keep ourselves from becoming jaded or bored?
Encouraging the Sense of Wonder in Children
We live in a modern world where the artificial online sphere constantly vies for our attention and tells us what life should be or look like, and having a sense of wonder about the real world is more important than ever. A sense of wonder keeps us connected, interested, and active. It keeps us curious and helps us to continue learning and engaging with our environment and our communities; brings us joy; and is stimulating, making us more creative and innovative.
Young children are full of wonder. To them, the world is full of new and exciting possibilities, regardless of where they are. As children get older, though, the world loses its mystery and stops being interesting, and they lose their curiosity in their surroundings and other people.
It is important to nurture this sense of curiosity and beauty about the world in our children so they continue to connect and engage with it, and feel ownership of it. In doing so, we help them to think of the world as their home, no matter where they are, and learn to improve it and care for it as their home.
- Children are naturally curious about the world around them. Follow their lead and help them explore and learn about their surroundings. Observe and explore nature. Conduct science experiments. Visit your local natural history museum. Ask questions to stimulate your children’s natural sense of curiosity and help them find answers to their own questions.
- Model a sense of awe and curiosity about the world. Point out and talk about the things you find amazing, interesting, humorous, or joyful. Continue to learn about our magnificent world along with your children. Make mundane daily routines and chores novel.
- Let your children engage in free and imaginative play, silliness, and downtime.
- Read with your children. Children’s literature sparks their creativity and imagination, takes them to other worlds, teaches them about people, and introduces to them interesting characters. Children’s non-fiction books teach them about science, history, and the world.
- Limit the use of technology. As useful and wonderful as technology can be, I’ve found that indiscriminate use of it for entertainment takes away children’s creativity and imagination.
Awakening Our Own Sense of Wonder
It’s easy to be awestruck when we first encounter a new place and everything is different and intriguing. But it’s difficult to maintain that sense of amazement when we are dealing with the nitty-gritty of daily life. So how do we revive that sense of wonder that lies dormant within us?
- Slow down and take the time to do things that bring you joy, like listening to your favorite songs. Savor your experience and be present in the moment. Put away your phone and take in all that’s around you.
- Experience nature. View the night sky full of stars, take a hike among the woods, listen to the wind and look at the clouds, or walk barefooted through grass. Notice the exquisite colors of wild flowers or the patterns on insects. Nature is full of amazing and magnificent wildlife and plants, waiting for us to notice them.
- Incorporate routines into your daily life that foster beauty, let you wind down, and enjoy a slower pace, such as lighting a candle or listening to music during dinner or taking a few minutes to talk with your children about their day at the end of the day.
- Travel and explore. Visit another country and learn about its art, people, and culture. Participate in its traditions and see its sights. But this doesn’t have to involve another country. Visit other cities in your country. Visit new places and be a tourist in your own city. Get to know another neighborhood.
- Do something creative: Write, sing, play a musical instrument, draw, dance, or make a craft. A creative endeavor allows us to open our minds to explore beyond our comfort zone.
What do you do to restore your own sense of wonder and joy when you’re in need of inspiration?
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
Author: Ann Kreske
As a Third Culture Kid, I was born in Taiwan, but raised in the United States, and have lived in over ten cities and towns in three different countries in my lifetime. In 2013, my husband and I decided to fulfill our lifelong dream of living abroad, and, together with our son, moved to and lived in Thailand for two years. I felt I had arrived “home” living abroad, and we were all bitten by the travel bug. Formally trained as an educator and lawyer, I have worked in the fields of education, editing, special education and disability rights advocacy, and veterans law.