‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’ — 1 Corinthians 13:11, King James Version.
Yes, I know, nobody comes here for the Bible verses, but this one has stuck with me for decades. This isn’t because I agree with it, but for precisely the opposite reason; it makes me deeply uncomfortable.
Why are we expected to put away childish things just because we have hit whatever arbitrary age that our culture has decided makes us an adult?
There are a number of reasons why things marketed for children appeal to adults – and, more often, to traumatised, or neuro-diverse, adults. For those of us (un)lucky to be both, these so-called ‘kids’ things can bring relief, joy, and comfort like nothing else. Like so many things, adults can be shamed for ‘playing with toys’ but – let’s be honest here – isn’t much of that shame internalised? Shame is a burden you don’t need to carry around for making yourself feel better, when doing so doesn’t make anyone else feel worse!
I have a list here of things that might work for you – as ever, these are just suggestions; take what works for you, leave what doesn’t.
I am a big fan of bubbles. I love how they look. I love that they brighten up my environment immediately. And I love that blowing bubbles especially outdoors means there is no cleanup involved afterwards. Therapeutically, bubbles can be really useful if, when you are blowing a bubble you consciously visualize yourself blowing a care, or worry, or stress, into that bubble and then watching it disappear.
In conversation with Joanna Fortune recently, she mentioned that blowing bubbles is useful for people when we are in a state of heightened anxiety or stress. Blowing bubbles helps to regulate our breathing, but doesn’t come with annoying ‘Take a deep breath and calm down’ instruction.
Recently, I was introduced Mrs Bench‘s website, which is stuffed full of stims and fidgets for people who are neurodiverse. I think there are plenty of items here that would appeal to children, and adults alike – and not just those of us who are neurodiverse. There are several things on Mrs Bench’s website that appeal to each of the senses, and are suitable for a variety of environments. Don’t forget that we have an entire sensory diet that needs to be taken care of!
Stickers & Colouring Books
I love stickers, I’m not even entirely sure why – but putting a sticker on something brings me more joy than it should! Yes, there are grownup versions but there’s nothing wrong with the kiddy ones that are really satisfying to use as well.
The same can equally be said for colouring books – I love a bit of colouring now and again, but I absolutely cannot stand those in the ‘Mindful Colouring Books For Adults’ genre. They actually increase my anxiety! My little ADHD brain gets so overwhelmed by the tiny elements of these pictures. So, when I want to do a bit of colouring, I dig out a child’s colouring book and use that. If it’s one of those kid’s colouring books that has stickers as well, that’s just a bonus!
Who remembers Kalkitos? I loved it when I was young, and have recently discovered that it’s possible to buy a similar product. I’m delighted, and can’t wait to head off and buy a few Transfer Books for myself.
You don’t have to wait until you have a child to read to to get yourself a few children’s books. Between the simple language, the wonderful themes, and the gorgeous illustrations, what’s not to like? Why don’t you take yourself to the library some day soon and have a meander through the kid’s section, plucking out whatever catches your eye?
Then there’s a young adult genre that has exploded in the past fifteen years or so. We didn’t really have ‘Young Adult’ books when I was a nipper, so I didn’t discover them until my own children were pre-teens. They have stopped reading the YA books – but I haven’t! Honestly, there is an absolute embarrassment of riches in that particular section of your local library, and bookshop. Your inner teenager will find something – or lots of somethings – there to enjoy.
Speaking of inner teenagers, I was working with somebody recently who is busy re-parenting his inner teenager. I suggested two books that are written for teenagers. ‘Get Out Of Your Head, And Into Your LIfe For Teenagers’ and ‘The Self-Esteem Workbook For Teens’. He has started to use these books in order to work with that part of himself, and fully integrate his teenaged self into the adult that he is now.
Clay is a very grown up substance to use. It smacks of seriousness, and – for many of us – instils a sense that we must get the clay item right the first time. Again, this can trigger an anxiety reaction. But – do you remember using plasticine when you were a child? Or Playdoh, or something similar? If things didn’t go according to plan, you just scrunched it up and started again – no pressure, and no judgement. Why not put the clay away for a while, and use a similar product intended for children instead?
If you are an adult who likes things that are ostensibly created for children or teenagers there is no shame in enjoying those things as an adult publicly: Your enjoyment, your enthusiasm, your joy, might very well spark the notion in somebody else to take a leaf out of your book, or bubble out of your pot, and indulge their own inner child / teenager.