Kidults - do you have one in your life? This culture is on the rise, so we spoke to a psychotherapist and toy expert (and it all makes much more sense now)

We look into the meaning of kidult and why your other half plays with the Lego more than your kids do...

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Being a kidult can sometimes be seen as a negative thing, a Peter Pan complex almost, when isn’t it just about tapping into your inner child? Young at heart is no longer defined by age but by lifestyle choices - such as still enjoying toys.

Though toys are not for all adults, many parents hate playing with their kids (we see you, and it’s ok) but playing with your kids and choosing to play with toys as an adult are two very different things. As family editor here at GoodToKnow, I’ve come downstairs many a time from putting our son to bed to find my husband still building Lego - ‘it's easier when he’s not here trying to “help” me', he clarifies. (Not to mention the hours he's spent comparing Lego Vs Play Mobil - 'an experiment to see which was better'.)

Child psychologist Lee Chambers can see why this might happen more often than not for dads. He tells us; “While being and behaving like a kidult is not exclusive to gender, there is a range of considerations around why men are more likely to be labelled this way. Firstly is their propensity towards risky and playful behaviours, which can be perceived as childlike, and a desire to push away from adult social expectations of being responsible and serious… Even in the media, the “man-child” character is still portrayed in many formats, and the overall gendered expectations around maturity and responsibility are more heavily placed upon women, giving men more space to embrace youthfulness and playfulness.” And he's not wrong, especially when it comes to the mental load of raising a family.

In this article we look at what a kidult is, the rise of the culture, and the pros of embracing your inner child for mental health - with a child psychologist and toy expert on hand for their views.

What is a kidult? (spoiler: it's exactly as it sounds)

Technically, a “kidult” is anyone older than 12, by Circana group (who analyse consumer behaviours) standards. But the ones with the real disposable income are people in their twenties and thirties (and older) who can’t let go of products and sensory experiences that remind them of a happier and more innocent time, their childhood - and who can blame them, right? Given recent toy trends, which focus on rebooting hit items from the ‘90s and early aughts, the latest marketing push seems squarely aimed at millennials.

The term kidult was first coined in the 1950s when the TV industry used it to describe adults who enjoyed youthful programming. Today’s kidults — and their adult salaries — are driving demand for nostalgia and play as they revel in the pastimes and culture of their youth. Lee tells us: “The concept of a kidult has multiple layers but fundamentally is used to convey that an adult behaves and lives close to being childlike, and can range from attitudes to living, hobbies and interests and decision making and responsibility taking.”

This new digital age is rewriting the script on what ‘grown up’ looks like. If you like board games, going to Disneyland without the kids, and watching teen dramas (we're looking at you, One Tree Hill) then you might be a kidult. A 2021 Toy Association Survey found that 58% of adult respondents had purchased a toy for themselves, per Bloomberg. Of those:

  • 65% purchased board games
  • 61% bought craft or building kits
  • 53% threw down on collectibles
  • 52% got into video games

Toys aren’t just objects – they are time capsules that embody memories of carefree days and the excitement of discovery. As adults face the complexities of modern life, these toys become portals that transport them back to a simpler, more innocent era.

And Rebecca Deeming, British Toys & Hobbies Association, Communications and Events Manager agrees, telling us; “The emergence of the 'Kidult' category as a thriving consumer segment, bolstering over a quarter of the toy market's value, is an exciting development. 

“The rise of 'kidults' can be attributed to adults actively seeking out activities that provide an escape from challenging times and tap into activities that offer joy and a link to the carefree essence of youth.” She adds; “This burgeoning segment now commands a worth of £1 billion, showcasing an outstanding growth rate of 6% in 2023.”

Why are kidults on the rise?

There are so many variables as to why kidults are now more recognised. It could be down to social media making the trend more visible, or that more adults are clinging to their childhood as, let’s face it, adulting can be hard.

Lee’s professional opinion is; “The rise of the kidult and kidulthood as a concept is an area that is being explored, but a variety of factors are likely to influence its prevalence in modern society. Firstly, in many parts of the world, education for the majority is longer than it was, delaying entry into the workforce and the adult expectations that transition creates. 


Profile picture of Goodto Family editor Stephanie Lowe

(Image credit: Stephanie Lowe)

One day you're young and cool. The next, nostalgia hits and you'll tell anyone who'll listen how you never got the Mr Frosty Ice Maker you kept asking for. After speaking to our experts I realise the rise of the kidult is not lost on me (nor my husband). I bought a Polly Pocket "for my son" and had to be talked down from buying a Barbie styling head more than once. And I'm not talking eBay here, there are so many classic toys being brought back. But how many throwbacks can your heart handle? I'm asking for a friend...

He goes on to explain how the economy can play a part; “the economic uncertainty that exists for many young people can also lead to delaying of adult decisions, such as moving out or starting a family, leading to lowering the priority of these milestones.

Plus technology provides a whole new way of escaping and exploring the world, which he tells us can distract from growing up. “In addition,” Lee says, “video gaming is designed for both children and adults, a blurred boundary between both life stages. And in a world where self-expression is being prioritised, more people will happily engage with nostalgic interests and hobbies that are considered childlike, without being judged”.

On TikTok, #AdultMoney videos of adults buying toys for themselves, “and having zero regrets about it,” have nearly four billion views. And this isn't a new phenomenon, remember adult colouring books? They boomed in 2015, selling 12 million copies compared to 1 million the year prior. Plus, Funko Pops launched in 1998 with a bobblehead of the Big Boy mascot. Now it’s worth $1.15 billion, selling pop culture dolls.

The UK toy industry is worth a massive £3.4 billion with more innovative toys than ever before on the market - and it's not the kids spending the big bucks but the adults, with Generation X-ers (35-54-year-olds) and Millennials (18-34-year-olds) clamouring for must-have toys. According to studies from HexBug, 57% of adult males between 25 and 45 still buy children’s toys for themselves, with 49% admitting they will ask for toys for Christmas.

Kidult Toys - the classics rebooted

Is being a kidult good for your mental health?

Being a kidult can be positive for your mental wellbeing, but it can also be detrimental. Lee tells us; “engaging in things that you enjoy, bringing nostalgia and playfulness in the uncertain and volatile world we live in, can give an element of stress relief and fulfillment and can actually be a form of self-care. 

“These temporary breaks from the overwhelm of modern life can be mood-boosting, and the activities often foster a sense of belonging if they are connected to communities with shared interests. But like anything, if being a kidult becomes excessive escapism, avoidance of responsibility or leads to neglecting important parts of adult life, it can be detrimental to a person's mental wellbeing and can become an unhelpful coping mechanism that blocks feelings of growth and progress.”

Rebecca agrees, telling us; "Engaging in play has notable benefits for overall well-being and sparks a sense of joy within us. The wonderful thing about games, toys, and puzzles is that they provide us with plenty of variety and opportunities to bridge the generations. There are endless avenues for shared experiences among friends and family, fostering togetherness and strengthening relationships. The rising kidult trend exemplifies the transformative power of play, reminding us that age knows no boundaries when it comes to enjoying toys.”

So, maybe give the kidult in your life some space... or join in once in a while, play is fun and surprisingly mindful.

Our experts

a profile picture of Lee Chambers
Lee Chambers

Lee is an award-winning child psychologist, Keynote Speaker, Male Ally, and Media Contributor. Lee has written for and been interviewed by Vogue, The Guardian, and Newsweek. He is trusted by publications such as Medical News Today, the BBC, and Healthline, and recently featured as an expert in IKEA’s docuseries, “It won’t feel like home, ‘til it feels like you.”

Woman with long blonde hair in striped top smiling at camera
Rebecca Deeming

Rebecca has worked for the British Toys & Hobbies Association for over seven years and has invaluable insight into toys and their popularity as well as trends and sales within the toys and hobbies sector.

Check out our curated edit of the best classic toys, find out why LEGO is great for development and if your house is overflowing with all the toys check out our toy storage ideas.

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Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.