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Childhood reflections:


I thought this would be a great way to introduce myself as one of the newest members of the Curiosity Approach tribe.

I join the team with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained over 25 years working in the sector. I am ready to share, as well as wanting to learn and grow, as I become part of this amazing community.

I have the best job title in the world, The Curiosity Approach Lead Consultant & Director of Authentic Childhoods. A badge that I will wear with honour.

I have been reflecting on the term authentic childhoods and what that means to me, what was my childhood like, what are my strongest memories, deep down what do I truly believe children need.

To make a difference to children, whether you are an educator, parent or carer it's important you understand your values, your beliefs and reflect on your influences. It's so important to understand the You, so you can share in the WE. So prepare yourself for cuteness overload as you meet me……

This is me, I think about 18month old. I’m outside in our back garden with my dad’s wheelbarrow, he’s a keen gardener. The sort that likes stripy grass and a straight edge border. All of my strongest childhood memories are outside, in fact, I have very few memories of being inside. Something I hold dear and hope for my son.

From camping holidays to sitting in our tree in the front garden, roller skating up and down our streets to hanging around the train station opposite where we built a den under the platform. (Please don’t try this a home).

I guess you could say I had a feral childhood and am proud of it. I knew my boundaries; they had been made very clear. But within them, I could pretty much do what I want. I was allowed to take risks, travel distances without an adult, and explore my surroundings with the freedom to know and trust my own decision-making skills.

Camping was a big part of my childhood and loved being picked up from school on a Friday afternoon with the caravan on the back on the car. I thought we had these massive adventures, however, as an adult, I realised we only went about 5 miles from home. But still, the adventure of sleeping outdoors, cooking in the field and exploring the local farmers land felt like magic. There is something about being outside that makes you feel alive, even as an adult now my choice is always to be outside.

I’m so grateful to my parents for embedding this deep in my core. It makes me sad now how much time is spent inside, and the potential of the lifelong impact of that.

I did venture inside now and again; our house would regularly see a horde of kids and young adults trapes through our open front door being lead by myself and my older siblings. Most of our friends refer to our parents as Mom and Dad (yes Mom, not Mum I’m from Birmingham UK) and our house was forever full.

We are after all designed to be in groups, we have that need to belong. That feeling gives us our sense of safety to be able to grow into strong independent adults. Attachments feed our everything, something we need to be more aware of in early childhood.

I had the normal stuff that most kids had, I was particularly fond of my He-man collection and my Lego. However, these were surrounded by a wealth of open-ended resources, or stuff as I used to refer to it. And yes, these would be outside with me and my best friend James, we would spend hours sorting, grouping and organising our Lego then disappear outside with one Lego figure to build a house with my Dad’s grass cuttings, creating small fantasy worlds.

Would we be in our best clothes??? No, I would normally be found in shorts all year round or something out of my Mom and Dad’s wardrobe which served as our fancy dress box. That innate drive that is built-in for pretend play, storytelling and creativity were fed by my amazing Granny, who we lost a few years ago at the age of 102. She would be forever making craft things for me or whipping up a sleeping bag for my action man.

The best was her lean-to greenhouse. I loved the smell as you played in between the Geraniums, a memory that always pops into my head when I brush past one now. You could always find us in the greenhouse with a recycled foil tray creating a fairy garden. And as for her button box and cotton reels, I can’t describe the awe and wonder in my eyes as I played with them over and over and over.

As you can see, the button box is still alive and well in our family now.

My other Granny would cook with me, take me to the greenhouse full of the amazing smell of tomatoes and we would sit on the garden bench with a lemonade float.

It’s those” in the moment” memories of togetherness that build our foundations to attachment, self-regulation and emotional security and they will last us a lifetime.

My nursery experience proved to be the catalyst for my professional career. I went to a Playgroup; you know the sort. The ones that are started in a church hall by a group of parents. I don’t have lots of memories, but the ones I do have a strong are far-reaching. I went back many times to say hello and ended up working there for my school work experience. It has always been present in my life and is still going strong today.

That’s me, at the back in the blue and white stripes. I did love that creative area, and the storage boxes behind providing a place to rummage, discover and create.

Notice I’m not joining in (Yet), I’m still like that as an adult, I’m the child you all know who likes to take a step back, to wait watch and wonder, I’m the one who skirts the room weighing everyone up and making an informed choice. I do often see practitioners or inspectors keen to make their children join in.

I need time, I need choice, and I need to process what needs to be done before I can do it. Check out the children you observe, what are they doing, what are they thinking?? Offer a guiding hand if you feel the need, but allow them choice and time.

I should probably save the rest for another day.

The important thing for me is, to know I value so much the outdoors, the sense of family no matter what form that takes, the opportunity to interact with nature, to retell or create stories, and strive to create a back to basics childhood, or an “Authentic Childhood”. And I know how my personal values fit with the values held by this community of practitioners.

Why don’t you have ago, on your own or part of a team, think about your beliefs, your values, how do they fit with the shared values you hold as a setting???

How will they influence your journey?

Michael Willis

The Curiosity Approach Lead Consultant & Director of Authentic Childhoods


Stephanie Bennett

This article was written by Stephanie Bennett, One of the Co-founders of The Curiosity Approach, alongside Lyndsey Hellyn. We're more than just another consultancy company, together we want to impact on early years. To make a change to the educational system. To inspire practitioners to bring back curiosity, awe and wonder to childhood and to the lives of educators.

Lyndsey Hellyn

This article was written by Lyndsey Hellyn, One of the Co-founders of The Curiosity Approach, alongside Stephanie Bennett. We're more than just another consultancy company, together we want to impact on early years. To make a change to the educational system. To inspire practitioners to bring back curiosity, awe and wonder to childhood and to the lives of educators.

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