Just because you are grown up now, doesn’t mean that you can’t have the same fun as when you were younger. You are never too old to play. And there are some very easy things you can do to embrace your inner child in an adult world. Simply open up to the possibilities in stead of thinking in terms of what you can and cannot do, and have fun!
1. Do what you loved to do as a child
Do something you loved as a kid but haven’t done in years. Make a big list of everything you have fond memories of doing when you were little. Then pick one and do it. Perhaps it is watching old cartoons on a Saturday morning, chalking on the sidewalk, coloring books, playing with Lego, dressing up Barbies, climbing a tree, flying a kite, making a snow angel, having a water fight. Apart from the Barbie I have done all of these things in the last couple of years. If you feel self-conscious about jumping rope outside of your house where your neighbors can spy on your every move, start with something more private that you feel comfortable doing. Many childhood activities are just as fun now as they were when you were younger.
2. Learn something new
Commit to learning something new. Anything you have been putting off but have really wanted to do for a long time. It could be learning French, cooking, knitting or playing an instrument; anything you would love to learn. Then make it into a realistic goal. Don’t phrase your goal as ‘be able to’, as this is vague and might get you discouraged when you don’t accomplish it immediately. Rather make your goal to ‘spent X amount of time’ working on your goal. For example: half an hour 3 times a week, or something else you know you will able to keep up with. As a child you were learning new things all the time. Your learning curve might have dropped over the last years. But don’t worry, you are never too old to learn something new!
3. Ask questions
Ask ‘why?’ as much as you can. If you come across something you don’t know or understand, look it up. From the location of a place that is mentioned on the news to that difficult word your friend uses. Don’t assume anything; get to the core of understanding how something works and why. Don’t feel ashamed of coming across as ‘dumb’. Most often you are not the only one who doesn’t know something, others just won’t ask. I come across interesting phenomena on a weekly base that I look up; from the origin of an opera I visited, to how yoghurt is made. These don’t even have to be deep philosophical questions. Simply look at the world around you more closely and think about the things you don’t know about. Make a habit of asking questions and finding answers to them will fuel your curiosity. It will make you look more careful and go through life having the pleasure of discovering new things and being amazed by how awesome everything is.
Make a list of 10 places in your city you haven’t visited, but would like to. Make a goal to visit at least one in the coming month. When you travel to exotic places you often try to see everything in a city in a small amount of time. But your own city probably has some interesting places too that you never take the time to look at normally. Of course I highly recommend travelling to exotic locations if you have the opportunity, but there are more low-budget options of exploration that can also be heaps of fun. As a kid the whole world is full of ‘first-time-experiences’. When you grow older you will have seen more and be less surprised and amazed by the things around you. When you make it a habit to visit new places, say at least once a month (or more if possible), it will provide you with many more interesting ‘first-time-experiences’. Doing new things and seeing places you haven’t seen before is essential to embracing your inner child.
5. Play with your food
Yes I know, your mom always told you NOT to play with your food. I am telling you otherwise. The fun thing about being a grown up is that you have no one else telling you how to live your life. Take advantage of it! I highly recommend buying food coloring if you don’t own any yet. Food is simply way more fun when it is blue. But you don’t have to go that extreme if you don’t want to. You could play with shapes and decorate your plate in a fun way. You could eat a meal using only your right hand (without cutlery!) like I did in India for half a year. Or make beautiful looking cupcakes and cookies. Anything that makes you giddy and excited. If you want examples, I have plenty. Here is a selection: star shaped carrots, pink and turquoise valentine cookies, candy house, tomato and egg disguised as a mushroom, hamburger elephant, mini rainbow pancakes and of course cupcakes.
6. Re-read you favorite children’s book
I came across a Pippi Longstocking edition in a bookstore that I have wanted for ages. I was so excited! Let’s just say I spent the next day in bed crawled up under the covers while soaking up every chapter. After that, I wanted to paint my house, get a pet monkey, play outside and dream about all the marvelous things that make life beautiful. Good books do that to you. Now perhaps you’re not really into the silly ginger girl who wants to be a pirate when she grows up. But there sure is some book or childhood hero you enjoyed. Read it! Children’s books help to see the simplicity of how a kid’s mind works. They aren’t limited by the critical ideas of the world around you and make you think anything is possible.
7. Buy yourself something you’ve always wanted as a child
Something you’ve always wanted but never got. It could be glitter shoes, fairy wings, a complete pink gel pen set, a book or movie you love, a doll house, microscope explorer set, mermaid costume, whatever it was that you wanted and still secretly would love to own today. In high school, I always forgot where I put my bike in the morning. Imagine a typical Dutch high school where practically everyone travels by bike. Then imagine facing a schoolyard with over a thousand bikes and not knowing where you put yours. Now combine that with the fact that I always wanted a little flag on my bike as a kid. And I never got one. 1 + 1 = 2 Well, I never again had to look for my bike. Let’s ignore for a moment that I was obviously going through some sort of identity seeking phase. Today, I would imagine taking a more subtle take on the whole thing. However, I still fully believe in embracing that part of you and indulging in an occasional materialistic splurge when you know it will provide a great deal of satisfaction. So find some roller skates, or whatever would fill you with the giddy excitement of a kid.
Theme parties are a great way to dress up and behave silly and get away with it. So either embrace your awesome theme-party-throwing friends, or throw one yourself! As a student I have been to countless theme parties from fairytale themed to moustache, USA vs. USSR, Balkan, Halloween, dark-room, cartoon heroes and I can’t even remember the many others. I remember a mask-themed party that I went to. There were Zorro’s and beautiful girls with Venetian carnival masks. My housemate and I decided to dress up in a towel and/or bathrobe. I put curlers in my hair and put on a facial mask (you know: the greenish creamy ones), she put on one of those sleeping masks. We looked ridiculous. And we had such a blast. There is something profoundly freeing about biking in your bathrobe, slippers and facial mask through town (to get to the party) and not giving a heck about what others might thing of you. So take some risk and have fun! If you don’t have the space to throw a party, convince your friends to do so or see if there are interesting local theme parties. Find an excuse to dress weird and have fun with it. Be creative. The most awesome costumes of people I remember where the ones that went over the top and showed up in the most impractical hilarious things.
9. Play with children
In the end, children know how to play best. They also form a great excuse to play, as you are only ‘playing along’ and other adults will accept your behavior. If you don’t have any kids of your own, you could babysit, play with your little cousin, on the street with your neighbors, etc. I do think being female will make things easier in this area, especially with children you don’t know. Once, I was reading a scientific paper on a couch in the university, when suddenly two small kids showed up out of nowhere and started to talk to me. Their dad was close by and they were waiting for their mom. I ended up playing hide and seek with them and running through the big entrance hall. It was so much fun! I felt extremely light and was beaming with positive energy afterwards. Watch and learn from the true masters: children.
10. Make your home a happy place
Embrace the freedom you have to decorate your living space in any way you desire. You want a swing in your bedroom? A plastic pool in your backyard? A polka-dot wall or a big temporary fort in the living room? Do it! Fill your home with playful objects that bring magic and fun to your home and make you feel special. Chalkboard doors, tea-cup flower pots, rabbit-shaped lamps; nobody tells you not to, so please put some effort in creating an inspirational space that you love to be in and that brings out the best in you. A fun playful space to live in will fuel your overall playfulness.
So, I hope these steps provided some fun ideas to work with. Any of these things that you already do or plan to implement? Let me know!