The ‘adult play’ trend offers big opportunities for business

'Adult play' colouring books

The growing demand for ‘childish’ pursuits and adult play as entertainment for grown-ups offers a big opportunity for firms in touch with their inner ‘kidult’, writes Will Higham

German paper Die Welt dubbed it “ein alter” (“one age”). Many psychologists talk about kidults. But whatever you call it, the trend for adult play is unmistakable. Some 12 million adult colouring books were sold globally last year, up from just a million the year before. The craze even drove a 26 per cent rise in coloured pencil sales. And, since opening up to adults, the haunted house industry has grown to $300m (£230m) worldwide.

Anything popular with children is becoming fair game for today’s stressed-out adults, trying to avoid the ‘seriousness’ of economic downturns and the fear of global terrorism. In Camp Grounded in the US, adults can enjoy potato printing, mask making and stilt walking. The Drink, Shop & Do bar in London gives us the chance to make pom poms, robots and papier mâché monsters.

Children’s playgrounds and activity parks, such as Jump Street in Colchester, are being opened at night for adults. There are even playgrounds for the elderly –Barcelona has 300. Meanwhile, over half of those reading young adult fiction today are (old) adults.

The trend’s catching on with celebrities too: macho stars David Beckham and Brad Pitt both love Lego, while the movies are popular with many over-16s, especially members of global society AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego). Meanwhile stag-dos are built around ‘childish’ sports (paintballing, go-karting) rather than the ‘adult’ pursuits of the past. ‘Adulting’ has even become a verb, one to be avoided where possible. A popular social media meme shows an exhausted dog alongside the phrase “Please don’t make me adult today”.

So where next? As we saw with slow leisure, premiumisation of a trend brings great opportunities. Already Vogue has produced high-end colouring books, and Crayola’s launched Color Escapes (“premium coloring kits specially designed for adults”). Another opportunity is gamification: instilling an element of entertainment into a ‘serious’ service could prove attractive to kidult customers.

So, premiumise, kidify or gamify. But – like today’s kidults – whatever you do, have fun!

Will Higham is a popular speaker and founder of strategic consultancy Next Big Thing


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About author

William Higham

William Higham

William Higham is the founder and CEO of consumer trends consultancy Next Big Thing.

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