The Playful Den


Toddler-philosophy. How small kids teach us big lessons about living fulfilled lives

My youngest son Scout is 2 years old.

He is entirely unaware he was born at the start of a pandemic – quite literally ushered out of the hospital ward as health care workers were fitted for their PPE around us in preparation as they tentatively asked “would you like to stay the night?”. It was a polite no. Off we went, apparently experienced and knowing what we’re doing based on the other 2 children we’d raised and who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new baby brother back at home. 

Turns out Scout would flummox us all and land us right back in the novice territory proving that he didn’t seem to quite ‘work’ in the same way as the other two. And those two were in their own way very unique, Scout was like a whole new Pokemon evolving faster and in ways we couldn’t keep up. He has been known as many things, and now I come to write this, I’ll be honest are starting to feel somewhat inappropriate: 

  • The beast 
  • Tiny dictator
  • Destroyer
  • General 

I regret naming him Megatron in utero. I blame my husband and his relentless fandom – the prior fetus Aaragorn, proved to be a much gentler fictional character to raise. Scout on the other hand did indeed transform into a force to be reckoned with. 

And still he is also gentle, affectionate, funny, observant, curious and just so bloody cute. Which helps with the incessant demands. I love finding those moments where I can take a step back and simply observe him being Scout. Looking after a toddler is like sifting for gems – a lot of dirt and sand to get through (literally, I have no idea how what comes out of his nappy, trousers and socks gets in there), but once you’re through you find these magical gems that dazzle and mesmerise. They are truly priceless.

And it is in these observations that I’ve found some useful life teachings from Scout because within our societies youngest members lie jewels of wisdom that can teach us adults how to live more fulfilled and happier lives. Perhaps a more apt new name for Scout might be the Dinky Philosopher. I have offered up some of his teachings for us all here: 

1. Move your body like it’s absolutely f!cking fabulous

Toddlers do not concern themselves with a complex body image. Their body is a reliable vessel for life and play. When their belly protrudes it becomes ripe for stroking (and exposing). Their feet are there to be grabbed, legs to be stretched, hips to be jigged when they so desire. Their whole body is a sandbox of possibility which can make them feel joy. It’s not something to overthink, question, hide or be shameful of – it’s a portal to fun, it is theirs and its truly a thing to behold and marvel at.

2. Know what you want and tell someone  

It can be hard to be on the receiving end of a toddler who has a specific request but cannot quite communicate it. Many times I’ve found myself on a wild goose chase of desperately trying to help with what appears to be a life-threatening problem to discover that he just wants a jaffa cake. But toddlers’ ability to get their needs met is something to behold. How often might we busy adults go through the day and realise – I haven’t had a glass of water, taken a rest or eaten properly. How often do we not tell others how we feel? How often do we sturggle to know and share what it is we really want? Toddlers are truly inspirational in their ablity to know what they want and make it happen (though I’d advise less shouting and pointing in your own methods). 

3. Take a time out when you need one  

For a while Scout was in a routine of needing a nap about 90 mins after he’d got up in the morning. He was very happy to head back his cot and get some more zzz’s in before waking up an hour later refreshed. I admired the audacity of this mindset – waking up, having breakfast and then going to back to bed for an hour because you didn’t feel fully ready to face life yet. I’m here for that energy. We all have times we’re just not quite ready to adult, face the world or take on the day, could taking a toddler-inspired moment to close our eyes, give ourselves a time out be what we need before rushing into something we’re not ready to do? 

4. Find novel in everyday normal 

Yesterday it took us about 30 mins to walk about 25 meters round the corner from our house. We stopped for quite a while due to the discovery of a branch that when said brand was held down and the released, would spring up and down. I looked at Scout doing this over and over before concluding – yes, that’s a really freaking cool branch. How does it move like that? What is it made of inside that makes that happen? Scout is an excellent reminder that there is always something interesting to discover around us. We know curiosity can lead to creativity but I think curiosity also breeds a natural sense of gratitude and appreciation. Personally I will never look at that tree round the corner in the same way again. 

5. Literally give no f!cks what anyone thinks.

Like ever. 

Scout has a tendency to join other people’s picnics (they probably have better food, I relate). He will wander over on the beach to other families with children, stand there (definitely too close), have a look at what they’ve got, point at things he’d like to be offered and then start playing with other kids’ toys. Whilst personally I’m not necessarily saying I want you to march over and eat all my Babybels, this openness to converse, this assumption for sharing is something to consider how it might spread positively through culture. Life seems behind closed doors these days, people are mobilized to be polarised, hate seems to the binding social glue above kindness and community. I can’t help but wonder if we should all be a bit more curious and enthusiastic about one another’s picnics and be open to sharing a few more sandwiches with a stranger (not all my Babybels though, just to be clear, we need boundaries else this is never going to work). 

So if you have a toddler in your life take a step back and really observe. What life lessons are they teaching you every single day and how could you adapt them and bring them into your adult world to give yourself some self-love and spread joy to others…without shouting, stealing or exposing yourself inappropriately in public, because, well, it’s just not that cute as a 39 year old woman to rub her belly in the park, shout at someone and then take their scone, sadly as that sounds like a great afternoon out. Oh to be a toddler.