How to regain childlike wonder

The New Jersey crew is on an epic cross-country road trip—six grandkids and two parents in an eight-passenger van—visiting family in Iowa, Utah, California, Oregon, Idaho.

And I’ve been re-experiencing the wonders of the Wild Wild West through their eyes.


Photo: Summer Conn


Last weekend we were at my bro- and sis-in-law’s ranch in northern California. There was the excitement of riding in the back of a Rhino. Standing up. And with no seatbelt. Imagine.

Photo: Marlys Johnson


The fascination over young calves with their ridiculously exquisite eyelashes.


Photo: Marlys Johnson


The rewarding work of helping with the cows. (We might not have been that much help … actually, we were no help at all.)


Photo: Laurel Johnson


In addition to all the outdoor adventure, there was indoor awesomeness.

One afternoon, my sister-in-law made sugar cookies. The Littles slathered them with blue frosting, and scattered way too many sprinkles on top, and experienced more joy than ought to be legal.

Next stop: Large vacation log cabin near my hometown in Oregon.

Friends from Seattle (who were in Uganda the same time as SIL Josh & Daughter Summer, adopting children from the same orphanage) joined us with their brood.

Ten kids in all.

You can imagine the burbling laughter, rampant pandemonium, unrestrained joy.


Photo: Marlys Johnson


One of the things I love about children is their childlikeness.

Did you know that being more childlike can actually provide better quality of life?

This from René Proyer, a psychologist at the University of Zurich, in an article entitled “What Playfulness Can Do for You”:

People who exhibit high levels of playfulness—those who are predisposed to being spontaneous, outgoing, creative, fun-loving, and lighthearted—appear to be better at coping with stress, more likely to report leading active lifestyles, and more likely to succeed academically.

So, how does an adult regain his/her wonder and childlikeness (not to be confused with childishness)?

I’m glad you asked. Here are 46 things I’ve absolutely enjoyed doing with my grandkids that brought on the unrestrained joy of a child in me:

  1. Build blanket tents over the living room furniture
  2. Read books by flashlight in blanket tents
  3. Decorate gingerbread houses
  4. Feed the ducks
  5. Blow bubbles
  6. Go barefoot
  7. Go ice-skating
  8. Visit candy shoppes
  9. Visit ice cream parlors
  10. Go swimming
  11. Go stand-up paddle boarding
  12. Row a boat
  13. Visit museums (favorite: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, home of Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose)
  14. Visit aquariums
  15. Visit zoos
  16. Picnic outdoors
  17. Bake cookies
  18. Eat chocolate chips while baking cookies
  19. Hold hands and dance
  20. Hug and kiss
  21. Shoot hoops
  22. Play baseball
  23. Visit Disney World
  24. Fly kites
  25. Run from waves
  26. Build a bonfire
  27. Roast marshmallows
  28. Collect seashells
  29. Explore tide pools
  30. Play Monopoly
  31. Make up fun rules … like, “Last one out of bed has to stand on her head”
  32. Make up games
  33. Walk dogs
  34. Ride bicycles
  35. Try not to fall off skateboards
  36. Go bowling
  37. Carve jack-‘o-lanterns
  38. Draw and paint and color and glue and glitter and overload with stickers
  39. Put together puzzles
  40. Read books — the sillier, the better — and then read more books
  41. Talk with animals
  42. Climb trees
  43. Climb a mountain
  44. Do nothing
  45. Have pillow fights
  46. Fall down and get up again


Oh, and don’t forget the antlers. Because every child needs his/her own set of antlers.


Photo: Michelle Sanders


The Teens got to experience new wonders on this visit to the Wild Wild West, as well.

Like, mastering stand-up paddle boarding.


Photo: Marlys Johnson


And driving a Rhino.

Here’s what it looks like to put your life in the hands of the Boy Teen on a four-wheeler, hair flying, trying to grab a photo at breakneck speeds while holding on for dear life through uncontrollable laughter:


Photo: Marlys Johnson


It was Socrates who said:

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.

May we lose any jadededness, hardness, bitterness, and reclaim our wonder, our glee, our childlikeness.


11 reasons why you should not join a support group


Discovering new purpose in loss


  1. I loved your list of 46 fun things to do with the Littles, Marlys. I found a few I hadn’t tried yet, but plan to now!

  2. Allison Mccormick

    Thank you for this reminder. The world can choke out our childlikeness reinforcing the need for a serious focused approach to our lives. However, it is that innocent surrendered perspective of a child that allows us to draw closer to God and others. Thank you for the nudge!!!

    • Well said, Allison: “It is that innocent surrendered perspective of a child that allows us to draw closer to God and others.”

  3. Marshall Matthews

    Thank you Marlys, for this new blog post. You are most assuredly correct in pointing out that adults regaining some “childlike” behavior can indeed result in stress coping and negating abilities (this is also backed up by psychiatric papers, can provide upon request). When do most people learn to express the carefree joy we want to accompany us through life? As children. It’s not only a healthy foundation for life, but keeps us engaging in behavior that releases “good endorphins”, which is a very healthy process. Enjoyed this, Marlys!

  4. The Johnsons

    They managed to visit all family except AZ. Well noted.

  5. Marcia Musial

    Loved the 46! Bought my Mom a coloring book and she loves it. I think I need one too. Love your spirit Marlys.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2024 Marlys Johnson