According to my mum, my brother and I had very few toys. We had Lego of course. I remember building travel machines (à la Rodney Peppé) and spending hours making the little figures walk through the sheepskin rug “forest” or climb up the ficus tree. I don’t really remember any other toys apart from a few dolls, although I suppose there must have been some. My parents didn’t play with me much; play was something that children did independently.
I was a very keen reader and we had shelves of books all over the house. I remember rocking myself backwards and forwards in sheer excitement as I was reading. I created imaginary stories, living them in my head and sometimes writing them down. The books I read often provided inspiration for the games I played.
We were given a lot of freedom to tinker. The garage at the end of the garden was full of tools and wood which my brother and I were allowed to use. I remember turning the utility room into a science laboratory one summer, spending most of my time wearing one of my dad’s shirts as a lab coat, mixing various potions in jam jars and making a terrible mess!
I don’t remember doing any fancy arts or crafts at home, just simple drawing and painting. We certainly didn’t have the amazing array of craft materials that kids do nowadays. My mum taught me to sew simple lavender and I remember sitting outside on the patio with my grandmother teaching me how to knit. I had my own sewing basket from a young age and especially enjoyed doing cross-stitch.
My family always had dogs, so we spent time outdoors every day walking them. We also went on a lot of holidays, both abroad and in the UK. We used tents, trailer tents, caravans and occasionally static caravans, usually at quiet campsites without entertainment or many facilities. Our holidays always involved lots of walking and exploring the local countryside. We climbed mountains, scrambled down cliffs and played in streams.
So what does make childhood magical? The vast majority of my childhood memories are outdoors, and hardly any of them involve toys. A few of my memories are of childhood friends, but the happiest are with my own family. The best fun I had was often without adult supervision! Looking back at my own experiences, my recipe for a magical childhood would be love, adventure, imagination and freedom.
Reflecting on some of my childhood memories has been really interesting. It has confirmed my beliefs that toys and material possessions are unimportant, whilst outdoor experiences are near the top of the list. Perhaps it’s time to declutter and simplify our toys yet again, we still have far too many! I also need to have a think about how I can give my children freedom in a world where danger is perceived to be lurking around every corner. Aaron is getting to an age now where he would appreciate more freedom, but living on a main road with no garden makes that difficult.
What do you think makes childhood magical? What do you remember most about your own childhood? I’d love to hear your opinions!