In a 2010 study, two groups of college students were given an assignment to write about what they’d do if school was canceled for the day. One group received an additional instruction: Imagine that you are 7 years old. Then both groups completed the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. The group that imagined themselves as 7-year-old kids produced more original responses than the other group. (Here’s the full article.)
This probably doesn’t surprise you. After all, kids are known for their insatiable curiosity and boundless imagination. Kids are open and flexible. They aren’t as self-conscious or fearful of making mistakes as adults tend to be. They see possibility and magic everywhere. They find the most mundane of objects fascinating and exciting. (Have you ever watched a young child play with a plastic water bottle? There’s no need to buy expensive toys, because they’ll pick the bottle. Every time.)
When we pretend to be kids, again (like in the study above), we reconnect to these things. And that’s great! Because it means that our childhood sense of wonder, adventure and openness hasn’t escaped us. It’s not gone forever. We can reconnect to our inner child and savor that playful spirit.
Below you’ll find a list of 19 simple ways we can do just that. You might try these suggestions before you’re about to create to prime your brain for creativity. Maybe they’ll spark more imaginative ideas. Or you might do them just because. Just because life sometimes feels too serious. Just because you want to play. And just because. Which are all great reasons.
- Get any kind of coloring book (the cheaper and sillier, the better). And color outside the lines. Literally. Get messy. Create your own doodles. Use crayons or paint. Use something surprising as your coloring tool.
- Play with Play-Doh or anything else you haven’t played with since childhood.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes, and write about a funny childhood memory.
- Write a paragraph about what you wanted to be when you grew up.
- Describe what your perfect house looks like and what it’s made of—from the perspective of your 7-year-old self. For instance, maybe the walls are made of candy, and your house stands on a cloud. Or maybe your house is a cloud. And if you’d like, draw your house, too.
- If you had a favorite color as a child, use it to doodle whatever you like for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Finger paint.
- Create a children’s book that you wish was around when you were a child. Or write a quick synopsis of your book and illustrate the first page.
- Skip everywhere you go. All day long.
- Visit a children’s museum and play with all of the interactive exhibits.
- Watch a few cartoons while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or any other childhood favorite).
- Create your very own creature. Name your creature, and write a short story about their adventurous life.
- Draw 20 things that are magical. Whatever you think is magical—from the sun to love.
- Make a list titled: “20 Things I’d Do Right Now If I Were a Child.” Then pick one and do it. Right now.
- Listen to the tunes you loved listening to as a child.
- Think of the person you admired most when you were a child. Write a letter to that person explaining why.
- Write an entry in your diary about your day. Begin, of course, with “Dear Diary…”
- Write a note to someone instead of texting them. Pass the note to them. In it ask them to reply by writing you back.
- Draw the sky, and remind yourself of the very vast and the very real world of possibility.
Sometimes, it can feel like our imagination is buried in cobwebs, because it’s simply been too long since we’ve used it. And that’s OK. Because we can reconnect to our imagination. We can reconnect to our playful, adventurous, silly inner child. And doing so helps us to cultivate a creative mindset and come up with ideas we might’ve never known. And maybe the best reason of all—it’s also fun.