Are there any little girls in your life? I’m talkin’ sandbox/swing set/jungle gym-aged girls? If there are, you’re probably already aware of this little anti-aging tidbit: kids keep you young. From their imaginative play to their fantastical outlook on the world, they have so much to remind us about what it means to be carefree.

My almost two-year-old recently started playing with her first box of crayons. When I bought them, almost a year ago, I was like any other harried, overextended woman, impatiently standing in the Babies R Us checkout line. The 24-count box of Crayolas only caught my eye because it was on sale for 25 cent.

But now that she’s begun to discover them, her crayons have come to represent so much more than a momentary savings. They’re a time machine, a looking glass.

Watching her purse her lips and furrow her brow in concentration as she discovers that these curious little sticks leave color behind—no matter the surface, to her mischievous delight—reminds me of how much I loved to color when I was young. My mother and I would buy Barbie coloring books and take turns decking out the black and white sketches with bold fashion statements and various shades of brown skin. My mom even taught me how to add “makeup” to the drawings after I’d colored in the faces: a splash of indigo over the eye, carnation pink on the blush of each cheek, two slits of scarlet across the lips.

Not only is this a ritual I intend to pass down to my daughter, it’s something she’s inspired me to resume. I recently went out and hunted down an old-school Barbie coloring book and bought myself a 64-pack of crayons. After a long commute or a particularly stressful day, I flip to a new page and lose myself in the rhythmic motion of filling blank space with vibrancy and life.

It’s an exercise that would benefit us all, really, finding and reclaiming that thing that brought us unabashed joy when we were little. What was yours? Double dutch? Running through open fields? Coloring?
If, at first, you feel silly, carving out a few minutes a day or a week to engage in carefree hobby you used to enjoy as a child, bring along a niece, nephew, cousin, a son or a daughter. They’d love to see you really let go. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to forget that it’s finals week, that you’ve got errands, that your bills need a little juggling, when you’re hearkening back to a time before any of that mattered.

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