6 Ways to Notice Like a Child

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.”

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence


Do you have some time off this summer – maybe a week or two of vacation? Can you carve out a bit of down time for yourself? It’s a good habit to get into, allowing ourselves down time. Time to simply be. Even five minutes does wonders if we can let ourselves relax into it, especially if we spend the time in free-form noticing, being in the moment, being aware – like a child.

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time simply being. Free time was free, and there was lots of it. The only screen we had was the television, there were only three channels, and it was turned on only at select times. So I read, or I found something artsy-craftsy to do, or I simply sat and noticed and pondered. Even now, when I think of tapping in to a sense of wonder and deep calm, I go back to that state of being that taught me how to notice.

Children are experts at seeing and sensing wonder in common objects that adults often rush past. Here are six ways to train yourself to notice like a child and set your sense of wonder free again.

  1. Sit in a swing and rock slowly back and forth. Notice your surroundings as you let the motion lull you. As a child, swinging lazily in my backyard, I would scan the grass, watch the busy ants beneath me, and imagine what the world might look like from an ant’s perspective. Try it.
  1. Angle yourself. Children twist and turn and lean and look from all kinds of angles that upright adults rarely use to view the world. I used to turn upside down in a chair or couch and study the new perspective of the room, pretending that I lived in an upside down house. I imagined that I walked on the ceiling and had to step over the top of the door (now the bottom). (Confession: I still do this sometimes.)
  1. Squint. Some artists squint in order to see large areas of shadow and light and color in the subject they’re preparing to paint. Spend a few minutes squinting or looking out of the corner of your eye to get a different perspective on the world. It’s especially fun to squint at lights and make them split into a starburst (you did this as a kid, right?). My grandmother had wallpaper in a pattern so busy that when I squinted at it, it would wiggle and swim.
  1. Focus on moving water. Watch rain form a puddle or make ripples in a pond or pool. Watch water fill a bathtub. When my parents watered the lawn, there was always a trickle of water running down the driveway to the street. I used to follow the leading edge of the water and watch it roll slowly forward to merge at last into the stream in the gutter. I thought of it as a bird’s-eye view of Moses leading the Israelites to the Red Sea. Go figure.
  1. Squat. Okay, it’s harder for some of us to squat these days, so maybe just sit somewhere low where you can watch an insect. Some will be too fast for you, but others – ants, beetles, praying mantis, bees in a garden – are pretty easy to spy on. From this angle, you can also sift through pebbles. Enjoy.
  1. Get bored. I can picture this point scheduled into a daytimer: Get bored. Of course, maybe you don’t have time to stop and simply let yourself get bored. But remember this one the next time you’re a captive audience. Instead of growing anxious over your to-do list, sit there and . . . yep, get bored. See what you can see, smell what you can smell, listen to background sounds, feel the textures around you. When I was growing up and my mind wandered in church, I studied the patterns in the wood paneling on the walls and pulpit. Some patterns looked like objects or city buildings or animals. I especially enjoyed finding faces in the patterns.

Were you fortunate enough to have free time as a child? Were you allowed to get bored? Did you experience simply being? What did you notice during that time? Next week, I’ll post six more ways to notice like a child. Meanwhile, nourish peace, cultivate loving kindness, and carry the calm.

Nature of the week – from my Wednesday Walk at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens:


Shadow of the Week – from my deck:



Text and photos © 2016 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

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