Forget what you wanted to be when you grew up. Here’s a better question: now that you’re grown up, what are some ways you can be little again?
Personally, connecting to my childhood self means wearing yellow sandals and dancing around to KT Tunstall. Also: going swimming, reading an entire book in a single sitting, writing a haiku, and eating blackberries.
Each and every day, there are ways we can pay a bit more attention to our younger selves. From pulling out the coloring book to having a Little House on the Prairie marathon, connecting with the younger you has the potential to aid in creativity, self-understanding, and healing of all sorts.
Carl Jung, the psychiatrist behind the “divine child” archetype, described the “inner child” as an unconscious part of our mind that contains everything we learned in our earliest years. In Jungian psychotherapy, patients learn to heal their inner child by paying attention to the patterns and traumas that still affect them from their youth.
While this is all absolutely interesting (I highly recommend researching!), there are also a number of simple, everyday ways we can indulge our childhood selves. You’ll find seventeen options here, but it’s important I encourage you to do whatever feels true to you. If you never liked art projects, don’t force yourself to sit down with a friendship bracelet kit now. While childhood can be wonderful, autonomy is the beauty of adulthood, isn’t it?
There are also a number of simple, everyday ways we can indulge our childhood selves. You’ll find seventeen options here, but it’s important I encourage you to do whatever feels true to you. . . . While childhood can be wonderful, autonomy is the beauty of adulthood, isn’t it?
Before we dive in, I’ll leave you with a quote by the marvelous Madeline L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time and a childhood icon to many.
“Far too many people misunderstand what *putting away childish things* means and think that forgetting what it is like to think and feel and touch and smell and taste and see and hear like a three-year-old or a thirteen-year-old or a twenty-three-year-old means being grown-up. When I’m with these people I, like the kids, feel that if this is what it means to be a grown-up, then I don’t ever want to be one. Instead of which, if I can retain a child’s awareness and joy, and *be* fifty-one, then I will really learn what it means to be grown-up.”
And now, without further ado, the time machine awaits.
Break Out the Finger Paints
Or the colored pencils, the crayons, the construction paper and scissors! Create something just because it feels good and don’t worry about staying inside the lines.
Imagine a day you would have thought of as the very best day in your childhood, then recreate it. Tea parties, the high diving board, museums, the zoo, a slumber party? Whatever you wish.
A puzzle, a card game, a trip to the roller rink.
If you’re lucky enough to still be connected to a friend from when you were little, give them a call. A sibling works too, as does a new friend that makes you feel particularly youthful. Go for a walk, perform the play you wrote long ago, giggle away.
Bring out the Boombox
We are so lucky to have every piece of music we could ever hope for at our disposal. Stream an album you liked when you were younger. You remember the lyrics, right? Indeed, you were ahead of your time when it came to jamming to “Free To Be You And Me.”
Put Down Your Phone
Remember how at one point we were forced to be bored? Pretend you’re grounded from screen time and make your own entertainment for the day.
Explore a place you’ve never been or a subject you’ve never cared about. Let yourself see through bright eyes — no world-weariness allowed.
Dive Into Your Memories
Look through old photos or watch old home videos. Drive around your childhood neighborhood or go spritz your grandma’s perfume. Remember the smells, the sounds, or the very specific fear that came from one of those crazy daisy sprinklers whipping around in your front yard.
Turn Up the Nostalgia
Movie and T.V. show reboots can get old after a time, but sometimes it’s nice to kick back with something that feels familiar. Watch The Nanny for the memories, but also the outfit inspiration that can come in handy now that you’re in charge of your own wardrobe.
Look to Other Children for Guidance
Make special time to play (really play!) with your own child or offer a friend free babysitting for an afternoon. Don’t have a kid in your life? Build a fort and play Chutes and Ladders anyway.
Try a Journaling Prompt
This could be as easy as making a list of things you loved when you were little.
Run around barefoot. Go swimming. Stay out until it’s past your bedtime.
Have a Feast
What was your favorite food when you were six? Make it for dinner! The beauty of being an adult is that you can absolutely have dessert first. Just be forewarned: your stomach might hurt more than you remember.
Enjoy a Bedtime Story
Did you have a favorite book when you were younger? Or a favorite subject? If you were interested in ancient Egypt or Greek mythology, spend some time diving back into your old passion. Did you love fairies? Pick up a fantasy novel!
Write a Letter
Pretend you’re pen pals with your childhood self. What would you want them to know? You can also go the other way—what would they want you to know?
Dig in the Dirt
Watch Something You Once Loved
While not everything is as good as you remember upon rewatch, you can always go for The Sound of Music. That one *always* holds up.
Sophie Vilensky (@sophiavilensky on Instagram and Twitter or if you met her in second grade) is a Real Housewives scholar and naturopath’s daughter. At this point in time these things are very important to her.