What Did You Love As a Child?

So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.

~Gaston Bachelard


I loved to climb the big mulberry tree in the front yard
I loved to steer a wagon down a steep hill
I loved to do magic tricks
I loved to build snow people
I loved to leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus
I loved to drape myself in a towel and be Superman
I loved to build a fort with bed sheets

The first time I asked a client this question, I got a surprise. And I was caught off guard a little, but in a good way.

Because in the middle of telling me a story about flying kites, my client stopped. Suddenly she said, “I’d forgotten about that part of myself.” Seconds later she was crying, very softly. Just a few tears.

It was then that I realized the depth of the question.


I loved pillow fights
I loved to finger paint
I loved to climb bales of hay in the barn
I loved to tromp around the house in Mom’s high heels
I loved to dance around the living room
I loved to go camping
I loved to skip down the street

In my line of work, we do sometimes ask questions. And occasionally we stumble onto something good. But for a long time I asked another question: What did you want to be when you were a child?

A serviceable question, to be sure. But I’ve discovered it lacks the allure of the first one.

And if you asked it of me right now, I’d tell you that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was nuts for animals back then (still am). But that’s not why my 10-year-old self settled on it as a vocation. Nope. It was because my mom, with all good intentions, declared one day that I might like being a veterinarian.

So that thought got lodged in my consciousness, but it didn’t come from me.

And whether it’s family or culture or society or media, we often set a course for our lives based on such influences. As a result, I’ve learned over the years that if I ask the “what did you want to be” question, I’ll often get a recitation of what someone else wanted for my client.


I loved to climb big rocks
I loved to swim in the river
I loved to sleep in my bed with my stuffed animals
I loved to play tag with the waves at the beach
I loved to play hide and seek
I loved to ride my bike with my dog by my side
I loved to run against the wind

Now, if you ask me instead what I loved to do as a child, you will awaken something deep within me. Something that’s all mine.

I’ll tell you a story about making up characters and putting on plays in the garage with my friends Jody and Sherry. Performing Cinderella with my sixth grade French class (yes, we spoke all our lines in French). Riding my bike to the library and spending hours reading about other people’s lives. Nervously awaiting my chance to give a speech in fifth grade about how to make friends, and loving every minute of it.

Looking back, it’s clear I was fascinated by what makes people tick.

I loved stepping into other lives, which was the enduring root under my blossoming desire to study theatre. And that journey opened me up to so much: empathy, drama, connection, emotions, listening, human yearning, comedy, tragedy, story.

Little did I know it was the perfect first act for what would become my life’s work as a counselor and coach.


I loved to go exploring in the woods
I loved to jump on my bed
I loved to blow bubbles in my milk with a straw
I loved to race slot cars
I loved to tickle my best friend
I loved to draw pictures with my Etch A Sketch
I loved to have my birthday party at the skating rink

As it turned out, before I ever got the chance to follow that theatrical passion, I spent two years as a pre-vet major. Mixing potions in organic chemistry. Raising a sheep I named Raymond in animal science. Routinely getting lost in my calculus equations.

I was OK at it. But it wasn’t really me.

I don’t regret it, though, mostly because it makes a good story. You know how I love stories.

But today, for some reason, I want to be the voice that proclaims it’s as important to look back as it is to look forward. To see who we were as well as who we are becoming.

To be the one who says that the seeds of our greatest joys are often sprouted early, and if we’ve had to put them aside for some reason, they’re still waiting patiently for our tending.



37 thoughts on “What Did You Love As a Child?

  1. Fabulous question, Patty! 🙂

    I loved to read. I’d read everything I could lay my hands on whether it be a novel, a comic book or some other periodical.

    I loved to watch cartoons, especially the ones from Japan. These seemed to synch with my imagination’s sensibilities the most (can imagination have sensibilities?).

    I loved to run around the place pretending that I was a giant robot (from the aforementioned Japanese cartoons).

    I loved to draw, draw, and then draw some more. Everything around me was a story waiting to be drawn.

    And last but not least, I loved being told stories! The more the better! Mundane or fantastic, I didn’t care! 🙂

    In fact, now that I think about it… I still haven’t lost any of these loves as an adult. Huh, I guess some things are timeless after all. 😛

  2. What did I love as a child?
    Being out in nature.
    Working at the farmer’s market.
    Playing with sisters.
    Eating ice cream and candy.
    Music on the radio.
    New dresses and black patent leather shoes.
    My mother’s cooking.
    Great question!

  3. Hmmmmm…

    playing in our garden and yard, building fairy towns out of leaves and sticks.
    listening to music while fantasizing stories about being strong and powerful.
    exploring new places, especially in nature.
    being around animals.
    playing imagination games with my friends, pretending we were cowgirls or horse-show riders.

  4. I love this question. My daughter becomes weepy sometimes as she sees time passing before her eyes and she doesn’t want to loose the age and the experiences she has. I don’t remember being like that – but I work to remind her of what she loves to do and all that she will love to do each year.

    This question ran by my reader just before receiving a call telling me that my dad’s cancer has spread to the base of his spine. We don’t know what that means right now, but I found the question poignant as so much of what I loved to do as a child involved my best friend – my dad. So much of what my daughter loves to do involves one of her best friends, my dad…

    SO I want to answer this question, but it might take me a few boxes of tissue and a bit of time to get there… I do love the question. Thank you Patty

    • Oh, my heart goes out to you. Yes, definitely a good supply of tissues are in order. And maybe wait a day or two?

  5. Happy birthday, Patty! May your day be filled to overflow with love, peace and joy!

    I loved:
    – following my older sisters around
    – singing out loud and getting all the lyrics wrong
    – running around outdoors; playing hide and seek
    – storytime, good and evil as well as ghost stories
    – playing pretend and what-if games
    – asking questions that I thought for sure all adults would know the answers to
    – drawing with crayons
    – paper, glue, glitter and scissors crafts
    – being silly and giggling over the silliest things
    – going on adventures
    – digging my feet in the sand…

  6. Happy birthday from me too, Patty.

    I sewed seeds for my later life with what I loved doing as a child as well.

    Living in an apartment building I loved looking over the hedges into other people’s garden. I could stand there for ages just looking.
    I loved making a tent behind my mother’s chair and hide in there and dream.
    I loved losing myself in the story of books.
    I loved cleaning so I had something to do while dreaming.
    I loved rollerskating.
    I loved taking long walks with my dad.
    I loved lipstick.
    I loved red high heels as a child.
    I loved looking at pictures.

  7. Let’s see — I loved to program computers, which surprisingly enough I don’t do today. But not much else has really changed, now that I think about it.

    I read a lot of books, which I still do. I wrote music and played drums — check. I listened to loud heavy metal music — check, listening to it right now. I liked acting too — and I still do public speaking, which at least puts me on stage. Sometimes I think of this as a drawback, but I’m very grateful that in some ways I never “grew up.”

  8. How thoughtless of me! I forgot to wish you a happy birthday, Patty. Sorry about that! 😦

    I hope it was wonderful, and that it brought you a pleasant surprise or two. 🙂

    • Very sweet of you Tony to come back to say that. It was a quiet but meaningful day.

  9. If I somehow learned I was going to have to relive my childhood, I would jump off a bridge right now, and I don’t mean that figuratively. But having said that, I can still make a little list.

    I loved to read.

    I loved to watch “The Twilight Zone” and “Walt Disney”.

    I loved these sour orange hard candies my Dad used to get for me.

    I loved Barbies, though I was forbidden early on to play with them.

    I loved trading cards. We had Beatles cards and Monster cards. I especially liked the ones of The Creature From The Black Lagoon. I forget who my favorite Beatle was. In those days, you were expected to have a favorite Beatle lol.

    • Fabulous, Shay! And you’re right, it’s not about reliving our childhoods. But no matter how much it sucked, there are always those enduring loves that get planted then.

  10. Hi Patty,

    I love talking about childhood loves. Mine are still the same: being in the woods near trees, solving mysteries (loved Nancy Drew and read every book in the old series.), laughing, being the first one to step out of line, “talking” back, being controversial, studying maps and travelling to those places, chatting with cats, doing artwork, singing, dancing, having and being a good friend and writing!

    We know society beats the childhood out of us, so why don’t we all turn around and say enough and stop doing it to each subsequent generation?

    super post!

    Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel

  11. Hi Patty! I’ve used that question in teaching journal writing – it really gets people to open up and so many many times, their passion as a child will translate into what they love (or should REdiscover for themselves) in the now.

    I loved to color in coloring books
    I loved to design paper doll clothes
    I loved to sit in my tree house and read
    I loved to play school
    I loved to work with clay, wood, textiles
    I loved to sit on grandma’s lap and “sew” while she did the treadling
    I loved to sit on grandpa’s lap for his stories
    I loved working in the garden, cooking and baking
    I loved writing in my diary and writing poetry
    I loved learning – everything!

    Nothing has changed for me really – except I DID give up the tree house for a lake house with a dynamite porch and dock to read on! I can sew by myself and the stories of others I still find fascinating. That 6 year old is still HERE and well, it is just the package I am in has evolved. That 6 yr. old is still in EVERYone!

    Delightful post – as usual 🙂

  12. Great question!
    I loved diggers and excavators
    I loved making paper planes
    I loved finding out how everything in the world worked and what it was for
    I loved playing games (although I didn’t love losing)
    I loved jumping in snowdrifts
    I loved spending time with my granny
    I loved drinking fizzy pop at the end of an afternoon in the garden
    I loved my cats
    I loved friday – fish and chips and cold milk
    I loved being outside in the fresh air, staring at the sky

    Made me smile big time – thank you!

  13. This is great. I work in a counseling center and I am forwarding this blog to our counselors.

    A friend of mine and I regularly email each other of things we love at that moment. Whatever comes to mind. We give each other permission to be as cheesy as we need to.
    It really helps us out of a funk and appreciate things that might sometimes annoy us but more appropriately should just be laughed at.

    As a child I loved to(in no particular order)…
    ride my bike
    play with the neighbor kids
    explore in the woods, get lost, and try to find my way back
    make forts
    make treasure maps
    make up stories and scare myself
    sit at the table and listen to the grown ups
    slumber parties with my aunts
    eat pancakes for breakfast on my grandparent’s farm
    camp! camp! camp!
    have “grown up” conversations with adults that made me feel smart
    make friends
    look at the tadpoles in the pond

  14. Hey, everybody, I just wanted to say that reading all of your childhood loves has been an absolute joy. I can’t help it! I’ve just gotta add a few more of my own:

    I loved to spend summers with my grandparents in Weaverville
    I loved to cut out pictures from magazines
    I love to create paper dolls
    I loved to swing on swings
    I loved big family picnics in Memorial Park

    So keep them coming…What fun! And thanks!

  15. Hi Patty
    I loved everything because it was all new, I was doing it for the first time.
    Walking in the snow, sitting on a train, watching the trams (yes I can remember the trams).
    Going to school to be with my pals, playing games, running, football, tennis, cricket.
    Watching television, going to the pictures, listening to The Beatles.
    I liked school meals, I liked the teachers… can’t think of much I didn’t like.

  16. Patty — What a wonderful way to ask this question. I agree with you asking what did you love to do as a child opens up some many memory doors.

    In my case, I loved playing outdoors and the freedom of imagination. You reminded me that I also used to love acting, even though I was a very shy child.

    I remember putting on a play with my friends. Later, in high school I was in almost all the plays…never big parts, but still involved. I loved it.

    These are good memories…thanks for helping me see them again:~)

  17. Happy Birthday Patty!
    I loved to lay on my back in the grass and stare up at the sky… day or night. I loved to listen to the rain pounding on the roof. I loved to weed the vegetable garden in the early morning hours just after the sun had risen. Oh boy, I could go on forever. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Cheers to your next year 🙂

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