Kids love snug places. They like to play underneath tables or make tents from blankets and chairs or find secret hideaways.

In his book, Feeling Like A Kid, Jerry Griswold shows that Snugness is a big theme in children’s literature—from Badger’s cozy underground home in The Wind and the Willows, to the grandfather’s alpine cabin in Heidi, to the Little House on the Prairie.

But what does this tell us about how kids think? Griswold mentions several insights.

  • Refuge. Snug, cozy places feel safe. They are refuges from the storm or from the world “out there.” They are bastions of safety and comfort.
  • One’s Own World. Snug places are often hidden, secret getaways that let a child feel that this is his or her own special, private space—separate from the adult world.
  • Control. Kids don’t have much control; adults have all the say. But in that small, private space, they are in control.

But my favorite insight, and one I think is very important, is this:

  • Snug Places Are Shelters for Daydreaming.

When Saul Bellow received his Nobel Prize for literature, in his speech he said that one of the hardest things for him to do as a writer was to find enough “dream space.”

Daydreaming is “dream space” for kids. But it’s not easy to find. Ordinary, everyday life is so busy, noisy, and sometimes random. There’s always something to do.

Snug spaces, cozy, secret hideaways give kids a place and a time apart, where they can shut out the world and the noise of life (and all those screens!) and just daydream. It’s a place where they are free to wonder, and free to not worry about what others think.

Recently, my 6-year-old granddaughter asked to use my computer to type something. She typed her name, then two words: “Be You.” Then she asked me to print the page.

I’m convinced that daydreaming—or dream space—is one of the places where kids begin to work out who they are.

Dream spaces should be protected, just as we protect other “endangered species.”