April is a great time for a spring clean, and with the prospect of a good spell of weather, and a family sized tent pitched in the garden just in case, the whole family set too on a mammoth clear out of our tardis-like shed. By chance this coincided with my deadline for finishing the first chapter of a Sensory Play book (due to be published by Practical Pre School in August 2011) and so in between bouts of researching the brain and our amazing senses, I busied myself sorting junk and incubating new ideas.

It was in one such clearing session that I discovered a box of childhood treasures. As three children aged 5 to 8 years gathered closely to peer in the box, a flash of green glistened in the sun. With magpie eyes a child quickly pulled from the box a small cylinder of bright green glass, pointed at one end and hollow with jaggedy (not sharp) edges at the other. The glass felt smooth and cold and was coloured vivid green. In a flash I was transported back to a childhood holiday in Spain, where we’d visited a glass blowing factory.

With bare legs and sandaled feet my two brothers and I stood mesmerised as the skilled craftsman shaped magnificent creations from a multitude of different coloured glass. As the pipe was gently turned, a perfect balloon of liquid glass grew and took shape before our eyes. Transfixed by the magic and theatre of the display, the unveiling of the creation was marked by the end nodule of glass being sliced off, in a swift and decisive action and the ping of glass landing on the stone floor. Watching this twice, my two older brothers were each rewarded with a glass nodule, my eldest brother, a vivid turquoise ball of glass, perfect, save for the puckered edges where it had once been attached to the pipe. My youngest brother, the green cylinder of glass, that we’d discovered. (Presumably I was considered too young or as a girl, not likely to be interested in having one!) Later I acquired these coveted treasures and nearly forty years on these two pieces of glass catapulted me back in an instant to being six years old again!

With a vividness to match the colour of the glass, my memories of the visual spectacle, sound of pinging glass and roaring fire and warmth of the furnace came alive, crystallising for me the importance of our senses in shaping and re-accessing our memories. It also highlighted the value of children’s ‘treasures’. Even the most enlightened adult would struggle to see the beauty and magic of that irregular piece of green glass, rediscovered on that day in the warm sun, but those three children looked on captivated and happy to share my awe and wonder. And so my mind wandered to the treasures that most children collect every day, that we as adults are quick to dismiss as rubbish. Like the children on a series of walks in Finland who collected hundreds of ‘treasures’ which helped tell a narrative of their journey. And these treasures were? – lolly sticks, pine cones, stones and worn pebbles of glass!