Being an adult sucks. There’s always work to be done. A lot is expected of you. You have to pay for food, and then when you eat it, your body does stupid things like give you heartburn.
The benefits of a childlike perspective on the world are well documented. Whether it’s the cardiovascular boost from a sense of wonderment or the stress-relieving properties of playfulness and laughter, studies show that going back to your youth isn’t just fun: It’s good for you.
So, here are a few ways to recapture your sense of play, and why you ought to.
1. Arts and crafts.
Kids are inherently creative, but it’s a skill that tends to drop off over time, as the vicissitudes of adult life compete for time and attention. Which is a shame, as research shows there are many cognitive benefits to maintaining a creative hobby in adulthood. In particular, we now know that regularly being creative is a great way to stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Thankfully, there are plenty of creative outlets for the modern adult, from adult coloring books to the countless DIY craft projects from Pinterest.
2. Have a sleepover.
Sleepovers are the crowning invention of child civilization: a chance to hang out with all your friends all night, and do the things you enjoy most until everyone passes out. Why should you have to miss out on that just because you’re a grown-up now?
This weekend, set aside your Saturday night, and invite friends over. Collect keys and phones at the door. Provide booze, snacks, a movie, some games, and a solid post-sleepover breakfast. You’ll wonder why you ever stopped having sleepovers to begin with.
3. Build a fort.
Remember cozying up on a rainy day in your very own fort? Pillows and blankets stretched out across chairs, with a fat cat sprawled somewhere in the middle? That doesn’t have to stop just because you’re old now. In fact, it can be a downright awesome way to spend a romantic evening.
4. Go camping.
If an indoor fort isn’t your style, you can always load up a duffel bag and do the real thing. Camping is a little more work when you’re an adult, but it’s also a lot more fun, and brings some surprising health benefits. Make it a point to hit the local sporting goods store, grab some basic supplies, and find a campground near you.
5. Jump rope.
It’s probably not a stretch to say that most boys view jumping rope as the provenance of girls, no thanks to the blue-and-pink obsession of toy manufacturers. The truth–as decades of boxers will attest–is that no matter your gender, jumping rope is an easy, healthy, and fun exercise, and it only gets more so the older you get. So grab a rope and jump in.
6. Hit the playground.
In 1995, artists Bob and Gail Cassilly launched a crazy project: turning an abandoned St. Louis shoe factory into a massive adult playground. It was a laughable idea, but upon its opening in 1997, City Museum was embraced with gusto, and today the cherished landmark draws more than 300,000 visitors a year.
Luckily, you don’t need to renovate a shoe factory or travel to St. Louis to experience the joys of a playground. Just find one near you. Better yet? Build one in your own backyard.
7. Build a treehouse.
Building a treehouse as a kid was always a tricky endeavor. Where do we get wood? How do we make it stay together? What’s our policy regarding cooties?
As an adult, your treehouse options expand dramatically, with the introduction of a key missing element: power tools. If you’re a homeowner, building a treehouse is an awesome summer project that also boosts your property value, and it’s not as expensive as you might think. As for the cootie-thing, you may want to call your HMO.
8. Make a sand castle.
If you live near the beach, sandcastle building is probably a nostalgic pastime–but did you know it’s also a serious craft? In the same vein as ice-sculpting or wood-carving, sandcastle building has its own associations and even major contests. Forget golf: Grab your shovel and pail, head down to the beach, and take up a hobby that’s way more interesting.
9. Play a board game.
With the rise of Netflix and video games, it’s easy to skip over a hobby that used to be the great common denominator: board games. From Chutes and Ladders to Scrabble, the social and cognitive benefits of board games are too numerous to count, which explains their proliferation in day cares and classrooms.
As you get older, though, your selection opens massively, to include crazy-fun adults-only games like Cards Against Humanity. If you’ve got a really solid group of friends and are feeling a little more imaginative, you can also …
10. Play pretend.
Playing pretend is a hobby shared by children all across the world, because it promotes creative thinking and fosters social cohesion. It’s a shame, then, that it’s a hobby we tend to abandon as we grow older–but it doesn’t have to be. With just a handful of good friends and a bottle of cheap tequila, you too can play pretend.
I’m talking about tabletop role-playing games.
Games like Dungeons & Dragons have gotten a bad rap over the years. Tastes are changing, however, thanks in big part to shows like “Game of Thrones,” and today a whole new generation of players are learning what nerds and children have always known: Playing pretend with friends is just fun.
So why not grab the latest edition of that seminal pastime and see for yourself?
If there’s one thing we here at GenTwenty know, it’s this: The idea that reaching any particular age changes who you are or what you can do is ridiculous. There’s no such thing as grown up, and no reason to stop doing the things you enjoy–and as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons not to.