Don’t Be in a Rush to Grow up Quickly

Adults pay to seek out their childhood again and even rats laugh when tickled

Erik Brown
Nov 24 · 6 min read
Photo by Lorene Farrugia on Unsplash

I remember vividly as a kid looking forward to growing up. A day in the future where my bedtime wasn’t set by someone else was so appealing. Limits appeared to me everywhere because of my age.

I’d hear these phrases endlessly:

  • ”You have to be ‘x’ age to get on this ride.”
  • “You’ll understand when you’re older”.
  • “When you have your own money and own house you can make the rules.”
  • “You’re going to school whether you want to or not.”

As a kid, I figured being an adult would be a time when I’d constantly smash through limits. A strange kind of freedom would envelop me. I’d get to go wherever I want and do whatever I want.

The never-ending mantra of “you can’t” and “do this” would go away forever. It would be a new world of happiness and open possibilities.

You know how kids see things. They live in a simple world where fairy tales and cartoons are a reality. What Disney films and animation never quite explain though is consequences and tradeoffs.

Adulthood would bring freedom to do many things. But, you exchange something for each choice you make. Just the way you exchange dollars out of your wallet for a coffee, you trade something for pursuits you take.

You’ll often exchange your time and a bit of your newly found freedom for money. After all, you will need that home or apartment, so you can make the rules.

Often, you’ll find you’re exchanging lots of time for the freedom you craved as a kid. As time speeds by, it seems like you have little freedom or time.

You find yourself reminiscing about times you were a kid and the freedoms you had then. Yup, you suddenly realize you actually led a pretty carefree life back in the day.

Why the hell were you in such a rush to grow up? Seriously, what were you thinking? If you knew then what you knew now, you’d probably milk some more carefree time out of that whole childhood thing.

Recreating Childhood As An Industry

You’re not the only one who misses some of the carefree times of your childhood. As adults are likely to do, many have started to create industries to make money off this reminiscence of childhood.

“…Though the first commercially successful adult coloring books were published in 2012 and 2013, the once-niche hobby has now grown into a full-on trend, with everyone from researchers at Johns Hopkins University to the editors of Yoga Journal suggesting coloring as an alternative to meditation.”

Kelly Fitzpatrick, Daily Burn via

What was once a niche industry of adult coloring books has become a small force of nature. At one time people may have pointed and laughed if they caught anyone over 14 with a coloring book. That’s not the case anymore.

Kelly Fitzpatrick’s article explains that many mental health professionals are now advocating for the use of coloring as a supplement to therapy. The childhood past time of coloring allows the mind to focus on the here and now instead of being scattered all over the place.

In 2015, Business Insider interviewed Jenean Morrison, a creator of adult coloring books. She explained it’s a lucrative business. In that year alone she earned $329,000 on coloring books she created. Between 2012 and 2015 she sold 91,000 coloring books.

In the same light, video games were once thought to be for kids. As you already know, that thought has been blown to pieces.

According to numbers gathered by Newzoo, the 2019 global games market is a near $149 billion dollar industry. According to the stats site Statista, 79% of those playing video games are 18 or over. 21% of the gamer populations is over 50.

The video game industry itself understands how many older people are playing games and is working to engage that audience.

Picture Of NES Classic —

Nintendo recently created a retro version of their original entertainment system from 1983. It plugs right into your TV and comes with 30 games within the system. The NES Classic outsold every game system platform in June of 2018 including Xbox One and Sony’s Playstation 4.

Even the bounce house your kids hop around in during their birthday parties is getting into the action. An organization called The Great Inflatable Race is combining the Tough Mudder races with the childhood fun of a bounce house.

Racers At A Great Inflatable Race Event —Picture From The Great Inflatable Race Website

Instead of muscle-breaking obstacles a Tough Mudder presents, the Great Inflatable Race is more geared to fun. Giant inflatable obstacles that look like bounce houses are laid out on a field. They promote the race as a family event but advertise it to adults as a way to feel like a kid again.

There must be something deeper in these throwback childhood industries if they’re generating so much money. They’re tapping into something we may be missing.

Even Rats Like To Laugh And Play

“They were so excited. They were jumping around and they chased my hand. Pretty much like human kids, giggling and chasing around, playing rough and tumble.”

— Neurobiologist Shimpei Ishiyama, The Smithsonian

Believe it or not, a certain group of scientists spends their time tickling rats. They may not post this activity on their EHarmony profiles, but they did publish a scientific paper about it.

Scientists at Humboldt University in Berlin tickled rats and listened to them with various devices. It turns out the rats let out ultrasonic noises the human ear can’t hear — they were laughing.

Even stranger, the rats seemed to enjoy being tickled. A video from Science Magazine shows the rats chasing a scientist’s hand in order to be tickled.

According to the Smithsonian, primates are also ticklish. Orangutans, gorillas, bonobos, and chimpanzees laugh in their own way when tickled. It would appear this reflex is present in animals that are social and acts as a cohesive force of sorts. It would have to be built into social creatures for a reason.

It would make sense if this was true. The article reminds us that even Aristotle noted that one can’t tickle themselves. You need another person to make this happen.

Perhaps there’s a major reason for this and it’s a part of our internal makeup? We are social creatures after all.

Don’t Rush To Grow Up So Quickly

Photo by Andrea Tummons on Unsplash

In our effort to grow up and be serious, we tend to dismiss that childhood desire to play. We grow up and take on responsibilities. The idea of “growth” seems to entail taking on burdens and carrying a load.

It’s good to do this, but that desire for play is there for a reason. We even find it present in rats and other primates. It’s built into the very tickle reflex that’s present in the human body.

Play and fun isn’t something you grow up away from. Your responsibilities make time away from games and good times, but that doesn’t mean playing is a thing for children.

Businesses recognize this and are making millions off that innate desire for play.

When you see kids around you trying their best to grow up, remind them one day they’ll look back and miss those childhood days. When you go about your day being a responsible adult, seek fun where you can find it. Your species demands it and wired it into you for a reason.

Even that rat that freaked you out on the subway will be playing and tickling another rat later on. You may be more evolved than the rodent, but that same desire for play lives within you.

It doesn’t go away when your body gets bigger and your responsibilities grow.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read, please share.

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Erik Brown

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Work out fanatic, martial artist, student, MBA, and connoisseur of useless information.

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