Wondering how to be more playful in your life? Adults often find that responsibilities and seriousness replace the excitement and playfulness of childhood. But by being creative, spontaneous, finding work that feels like play, and being silly, you can cultivate that childlike spirit once again.
Ever dream about being a kid again?
It’s a common reaction to the onset of adulthood. Gradually, responsibilities and seriousness have a tendency to crowd out the joy, excitement, and play that’s often a feature of childhood.
Of course, some adults maintain an attitude of playfulness throughout their lives.
If there’s a single secret to how to be a kid again, it’s that: play, and be playful.
Channeling your inner child is about spontaneity, playfulness, creativity, laughing, looking silly, playing with friends, and doing things for the pure joy of doing them.
But that’s not to say switching from seriousness to playfulness is easy.
Let’s explore how to channel your inner child, roadblocks you might run into, and easy ways to get started.
Think about a time you felt childlike energy
Think about a time you were playful. See what comes to mind. By doing so, you can remind yourself that you do have that inherent ability and spirit inside of you.
A couple years ago, I was at the beach with a group of friends.
Sunset rolled around. It was stunning. Red, yellow, and orange hues reflected off the water. A few of us started wading into the water, basking in the glow.
I’m not sure what compelled me, but I started doing front flips over each wave as it came in. As each wave came in, I flipped over it into the water on the other side, trying to avoid touching the wave itself.
I was playing exactly as a kid would play: no rationale, no structure. Just doing something physical that occurred to me in the moment.
Soon enough, my friends started joining in. We turned it into a kind of contest, all trying to flip over the waves at the same time.
Although I don’t have a great memory, that moment is crystal clear in my mind.
How to be more playful
Okay—so if you’ve followed the step above, you’ve remembered a moment in your adult life where you felt a playful joy and spontaneous energy.
If you want to access more of that feeling, there’s plenty you can do.
Generally this process falls into two categories:
First, intentions. If you set the genuine intention to access your playfulness and childlike wonder, opportunities will arise.
A good way to remind yourself of your intention is to do an affirmation daily each morning. It could be something like “I am playful, creative, and joyful. When I have the choice to be serious or playful, I choose playfulness.”
Second, activities. If your day is full of serious activities, it’s possible to imbue them with playfulness, but it’s harder. If you make time each day for creative activities and play, your energy will naturally move in that direction.
Over time, you can cultivate a more playful, childlike energy.
Let’s get started.
1. Be creative
If you’re coming from a place of relative seriousness, like I am, the easiest place to start is by being creative.
Activities like writing, painting, photography, poetry, and music can help you remember what it was like to do things just for the joy of doing them.
Creativity isn’t just the arts, though.
Creativity is cooking something new; it’s deciding to try something you’ve never tried before; it’s creating something where before there was nothing.
2. Be spontaneous
If I had a “how to be a kid again” Kryptonite, it would be spontaneity.
Honestly, I’d rather know about things 48 hours in advance. Friends have even teased me about how much time I need in order to fit something comfortably into my schedule.
So needless to say, I certainly won’t lecture you here.
But if you have the choice to be spontaneous, take it.
Kids have a lot to teach us in this area.
3. Put play first
As an adult, it sometimes feels like the point of each day is to work, and then to do what you can to relax after work.
Play isn’t the priority. And it usually doesn’t have a place in our schedules.
What would life be like if you took play as seriously as you took work?
How can you incorporate regular creativity, playfulness, time with friends, and fun activities into your daily routine?
4. Practice childlike wonder
Children are new to the world, and they have an amazing ability to experience a state of wonder. This happens even when seeing things that, to jaded adult eyes, are nothing special.
Over time, the more we see, the less we pay attention. It can be hard to reverse this.
Mindfulness is a helpful way to notice more in the present moment, and tap into your sense of childlike wonder.
Being in nature is another way to do it.
5. Find work that feels like play
I’m not going to give you the trite advice “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
It’s not easy to find work that feels like play. Not all of us can be professional racquetball players by day and lead singers of a rock-and-roll cover band by night.
But the closer we can get to work that lets us explore our creativity, the better.
Writing has been that way for me.
My mom, a professional artist, spends each day creating beautiful paintings.
Find the intersection of work and play that works for you.
6. Be willing to look silly
I’ve got to pay tribute to my dad here.
One of his most admirable qualities is his willingness—even eagerness—to look silly for the sake of playing, laughing, and building relationships.
He adds a healthy dose of playfulness to his professional interactions too, making him magnetic and fun to be around—a welcome reprieve in serious business settings.
If you’re willing to look silly and surprise people by being playful in contexts that are normally serious, you’ll give other people permission to be playful, too.
You’ll also have more fun in the process.
7. Tap into what you loved as a kid
When in doubt, think about what you loved doing when you were a kid.
I spent endless hours reading, writing stories, and drawing. I built a fort in the woods. I became the “tech guru” of my family by exploring computers and the Internet. I took guitar lessons. I swam, collected basketball cards, played video games, and played basketball with my friends.
Think about what you loved as a kid. How can you rediscover some of those activities, whether in a professional or recreational way?
Playfulness might not come naturally—that’s okay
In my adult life, seriousness has come more naturally to me than playfulness.
It can feel inauthentic or awkward to switch into playfulness mode when you normally come from a place of seriousness. Or, you might genuinely want to make the switch, but there are too many “responsibility scripts” running through your mind.
For example, I live by the beach, and I often see kids playing in the water even when it’s cold. They’re having a blast! But I don’t consider getting in.
I’m thinking not about the fun to be had, but about the consequences: the water will be chilly, and then I’ll be cold afterwards when the wind hits me. Plus a bunch of sand will stick to my feet, which will make the car messy. I might also track it into the house.
I know, I know: seriousness mode in full action.
To be fair, some of this playfulness vs seriousness dynamic may be influenced by your personality, too, rather than the seriousness that naturally comes with adulthood.
But if you played as a kid, I believe you have the capacity to tap into that energy again.
Remembering how to be a kid again
Remember the feeling of being a kid during summer?
No school for weeks or months. Hot weather. No responsibilities other than figuring out how to have fun each day once you finished your chores.
It’s easy to romanticize, of course. Being a kid can be hard, too. Ironically, a chief concern when you’re young is all the things you can’t do until you’re older.
But I think, at our core, the feelings that come with being a kid are something we all long for: being calm, care-free, and playful. Experiencing wonder. Avoiding work in favor of play.
How can we tap into that energy again?
Start with small steps.
Sports are a great “acceptable” way to play as an adult. Sports with friends are even better.
Try a new instrument. Start writing, start painting, start singing.
Doing something for the pure joy of doing it.
Over time, your seriousness can soften. Your playfulness can emerge once again.
It’s waiting to be rediscovered.
Hi there—my name is Ryan. My mindfulness practice kicked off in 2016 after I joined a ten-day silent retreat. I started Mindfulness Box because thinking about what makes humans happy, calm, and peaceful is endlessly fascinating to me.