When we talk about the fresh eyes of childhood, it’s usually a metaphor. But in truth, scientists tell us that our brains actually prime our eyes for what we are about to see.
Think of it as a mental shortcut: the eyes oftentimes see what the brain expects, thus saving us the time and energy from visually scanning and processing our entire environment.
As adults, we’ve seen and experienced much. Our minds have a database of experiences to prime our vision — to give us a sense of what to expect.
But kids don’t have that database yet. They rely on their vision to see and experience the world. Our kids are awash in new experiences, creating memories, exploring the world, and processing the richness of their environments.
It’s one reason why, as parents, we love to see the world through our children’s eyes — and that’s because we are pausing to see the world for what it is instead of what we expect. It’s thrilling to see the world through fresh eyes. It’s a gift that our children give to us.
And it’s also why we love to follow our kids’ leads. A few weeks back, we camped at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and explored the dunes with our kids.
When we approached the dunes with their towering mounds of soft sand reaching 750 feet high, we followed our three-year-old twins. They ran up and down the soft mounds, grabbed fistfuls of sand and watched the grains disappear through their fingers, and just explored this totally unique landscape.
Before we had kids, we’d been to the sand dunes, so we knew what to expect this time around. Our eyes didn’t have to wildly scan the surroundings to take it all in.
But following our children around the dunes allowed us to see them again with fresh eyes, to appreciate nature's wonder, and to focus on beauty that we might’ve otherwise looked. We're pretty thankful for the world we see through the fresh eyes of childhood.