Childhood Development

The month of May always takes me back to childhood when life felt carefree.  The promise of April showers always comes through with the blossoming return of May flowers. I remember the excitement of picking dandelions for my mom on Mother’s Day, thinking that I had just delivered her a gift of sunshine and happy dreams. I am confident that there is some kind of magic embedded in our DNA that inspires joy at this time of year. The sunshine and warmer weather beckon people out of their homes and offices to walk, run, and ride in the glorious outdoors to enjoy the gift of nature and the wonder it inspires within us.

The children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, is a metaphor for our ability to change and the human desire to be out in nature in the wonder of spring. The story begins with a little egg sitting on a leaf. As it warms up in the sun, out pops a little caterpillar. The caterpillar is very hungry and begins searching for food. Over the week, the caterpillar eats its way through various fruits, yet it is still hungry. Then, on the last day of the week, the caterpillar eats its way through a wide variety of treats including cakes, ice cream, cheese, and pie. If you are familiar with this story, you may remember Eric Carle’s images from these mouthwatering pages! After the caterpillar’s decadent day of eating, the next day, it finds and eats through a green leaf. Feeling satisfied, it then builds a cocoon around itself. After a couple of weeks, it emerges from the cocoon as a beautiful butterfly!

The point is, that we have the same potential to change, just like the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. Hans Christian Anderson wrote in The Complete Fairy Tales, “’ Just living isn’t enough,’ said the butterfly, ‘one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.’” As humans, the month of May invites us to be curious and to enjoy the gifts that mother nature bestows us. Yet, as grownups, who work, raise children, pay bills, and do a vast variety of other “adulting”, how do we do that? I will tell you; we play! I humbly declare this month to be, MAKE HAY MAY, the month of PLAY! Become the butterfly! The best way for you to rekindle your relationship with joy is through play. Playtime does not need to end because you’re an adult! When you allow yourself to play, you can begin to develop your relationship with your creativity and imagine yourself becoming who you truly hope to be, or in other words, “the butterfly”. When adults take time out to play, they are not only stimulating and preparing their brains for new ideas, but they are modeling the importance of self-care for the significant children in their lives. Children learn by watching adults. When children see adults taking time away from their technology devices to play and enjoy our beautiful communities you are also making a statement to children. Spending time outside is fun!

I encourage you to take time each day to play. It’s ok to take small steps. Dip your toes into the water at the beach, walk barefoot in the grass, jump into a puddle or dance in the rain. If you’re already a play aficionado, kick it up a notch and dance on the boardwalk or take a hike in the woods. You deserve it and the children in our community deserve it too. We need more playful, joy-filled, smiling grownups in the world. Go ahead and pretend you’re the butterfly breaking out of your cocoon. Try it, you may just like it.

My name is Tammy Theis-Satterlee. I am the Family Engagement Coordinator at the West Haven Child Development Center. I plan to use this space to inspire you to connect with your inner child and the children in your lives by offering advice, sharing resources, and reminding you to embrace the child within yourself. I have over 25 years of experience working with children and families. I am a certified regular and special education teacher, who has experience working with children and families from diverse backgrounds including residential recovery programs, Birth to Three, public and private schools, and several faith communities. Feel free to reach out with any questions at



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