Channel Your Inner ToddlerPosted by: Danielle Tumminio on November 1st, 2012
As a rule, I don’t wear side ponytails. Or ponytails secured at the crown of my head. Or clothes that don’t match.
Except with my niece Elle.
You see, when Elle was 18-months old, she piled a bunch of hair on the top of my skull and insisted I secure it with a rubber band before doing the same to her own. It looked ridiculous. And it felt fantastic. That’s because Elle is that fabulous kind of little girl who doesn’t think inside the box. She doesn’t think inside the box because she doesn’t know there is a box. In Elle’s world, boxes carry birthday presents and Christmas presents but otherwise have no purpose or relevance whatsoever. (Except that if one is empty, she might turn it into a doghouse inside of which she would climb, giggling, and say, “Woof! Woof!”)
But anyhoo… For Elle, the world is a colorful adventure, a jungle of an art project. A bagel becomes a canvas upon which she paints cream cheese and jelly with a fork. All clothes look fashionable with a tutu, and no pair of shoes lacks silver glitter. You see, like boxes, rules don’t seem to exist in Elle’s world. And I don’t mean that Elle’s a disobedient little girl—she follows the important rules just fine. When her mom says to take a bath, she runs upstairs. When it’s time for bed, she dutifully puts her pajamas on. Elle’s got no problem with those kinds of rules.
It’s all the other ones she flaunts — the ones we adults take for granted, the ones we follow so consistently that we forget they’re rules at all. Like this one night, we were all cooking dinner together and Elle’s father asked her what kind of music she and her brother wanted to hear. Aidan, her charming twin brother who just tries his darndest to do the right thing all the time, said he wanted to listen to his dad’s favorite bluegrass. Which was all fine and well until Elle ran over and put her little hands in front of her and sighed, “Not bluegrass, Aidan. Pinkgrass!”
That’s a typical Elle remark.
So that night when Elle threw all my hair on top of my head and insisted I tie a rubber band around it, I remember feeling like a clown wearing an extra big nose and gigantic shoes to a black tie dinner. No mature adult woman wears half her hair in a style that looks only slightly less messy than Cousin It. But maybe we should. Because giggling on the floor with Elle and her brush, I felt more alive, more vibrant, than I almost ever do.
How can you energize your Inner Elle? Here are some ideas to get you started
1. Make Your Meal an Art Project: Elle likes to paint peanut butter and jelly onto her bread and cream cheese on her bagel. She also does a pretty spectacular job turning yogurt into finger paint. Can you think of simple and fun ways to make eating more artistic? Buying a squeeze bottle is an easy and inexpensive way to make your meals more beautiful. Zigzag olive oil or pesto sauce across some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella for a gorgeous caprese salad, or drizzle balsamic glaze instead of balsamic vinegar on your salad for a more polished look. Even popping a mint leaf on the top of some store bought ice cream can turn a simple dessert into a creative treat.
2. Make Fashion Fun: So maybe you feel a little old to be wearing a tutu with everything, but that doesn’t mean that your clothing has to be, well, too adult-ish. Next time you have the opportunity, look in your wardrobe for a top and bottom you never pair together. Try them on, look in the mirror, and even if you don’t want to wear the combo outside, lounge around the house treasuring your inner fashionista.
3. Play with your Nest: Elle likes to keep busy, and one of her favorite ways of doing that is to take all the baskets around the house that her mom uses to hold newspapers and create what she calls an “orphanage.” She lines the baskets up, gathers armloads of baby blankets to put inside, and then nestles all her little stuffed dogs and frogs—because Elle has a thing for dogs and frogs—inside. And voila: an orphanage. While it may not appeal to you to create a new home for your stuffed animals, what about playing around with your own furniture? Rearranging the living room is a luxurious yet inexpensive way to stimulate those artistic brain cells and give your home a makeover. Slather on a clay mask or exfoliating scrub from the grocery store while you rearrange the furniture for a double makeover!
4. Just Draw: Crayons pressed into paper, Elle’s little hands scribble circles and lines across the page at a frenetic pace. But when you ask her what she’s drawing, don’t expect a plan. Her usual response is, “Why do you always want to know what I’m drawing? I’m just drawing!” So often in life, we have an agenda or deadlines or goals and we forget to take a moment to just do something for pure enjoyment. Maybe for you that involves drawing a picture like Elle, or maybe it means playing a game with your child or taking an impromptu drive to an open space where you can watch the sun set or rise. Whatever it is, being open to doing something just for the pleasure of it is a wonderful way to exercise your inner creative muscles.
How would you like to be more creative in your life? Can you imagine breaking a few rules to do it? How can you cultivate your Inner Elle?