I still treasure the memory of the day when my friends and I were walking home through the park at the end of a long afternoon of educational play (wandering museums, visiting landmarks) and one of them started a game of Red Rover and we all ditched our bags to join in.
I was twenty-three at the time.
Growing up isn’t just inevitable — it is a good thing. Growing up, when done properly, hopefully results in being wiser, less selfish, and potentially taller, which is helpful for reaching things. But while there is a time for setting aside your childish things, there are a few childhood activities that grown-ups could stand to gain a lot from reintroducing into their lives.
1. Random, Unannounced Racing
Remember when you were all walking along to some destination and one person broke out into a sprint, the universal signal for everyone else to start running to catch or overtake him? Have you stopped doing that because you’ll ruin your shoes, or you’re just plain scared of appearing undignified? Whenever you’re scared to do something fun, ask yourself: whom exactly are you trying to impress?
When you grow up, something weird happens to your view of physical activity: instead of being a possibility in all situations, exercise becomes something you confine to the gym or running club or organized sports, and when you’re not at one of those, you’re supposed to sedately float along through your work and social life. At your next gathering, challenge yourself: what could you do with all your friends besides just sit or stand around?
2. Hide and Go Seek
You can play this creatively as a grown-up. Meeting a friend at a store or museum? Play a game of finding each other. Send each other clues via picture messages. Start a game with a group of friends — make it a date, in a local park.
It’s creative, playful, and relatively non-competitive. Playing hide and go seek might not just provide a little exercise — it could also sharpen your imagination as you seek more interesting and inventive places to hide. And it’ll certainly give you and your friends something to talk about later, besides their least favorite coworkers or how expensive gas is.
Just don’t take it to Portlandia levels, okay?
3. Arts and Crafts Projects
You can buy pretty much any physical item you want or need, but having a creative hobby is a fun outlet. Knitting, or refurbishing furniture, or drawing, or whatever strikes your fancy — when you’re a kid, you don’t feel like you have to be “good at it” to justify spending your time on art or craft projects. Don’t put off drawing or another artistic outlet because you feel like, as an adult, it’s only worthwhile spending your time on those pursuits if you’re very, very good at them and can somehow win accolades or put them on display or turn it into a career. You’re not being graded, and no one even has to see your creations if you don’t want them to. So don’t be that person with a dusty art kit in the corner who says, “I used to draw all the time in high school — I wish I did now.”
4. Building Pillow Forts
You own your stuff. It doesn’t own you. Is your couch telling you you can’t set its cushions up as walls and drape them as a blanket? Have I just not been listening carefully enough?
Besides being fun, here’s a grown-up reason for building pillow forts: because you can. Because if you’ve ever felt trapped by your surroundings, or stuck in a rut, or just bored, you can take control of your situation (and your furniture) and do something completely different and unconventional with it. And then you realize: you’re free. You just have to stop listening to your furniture and start listening to possibility.
I don’t have a boatload of statistics to prove, definitively, that these activities will indeed make you “happier, healthier, and smarter.” But I do have common sense and a bit of creative thinking:
Doctors are now recommending that people work out in short bursts throughout the day, rather than saving it all for one concentrated hour of exercise. What better way to do this than to play like a child?
Countless productivity studies have shown that people work more efficiently and focus better when they have moments of rest or non-work recreation throughout the day. You know who’s good at daytime moments of rest and non-work recreation? Kids.
There’s your healthier and smarter. As for happier? You’ll just have to try it to find out.