All television has finally become children’s television. It wasn’t always like this. Not so long ago there would be proper debates in which fully grown adults opined on matters with original thought and genuine contemplation. Today, our juvenile brains can only process a well rehearsed soundbite if it’s accompanied by a manic drumbeat. We’ve even grown to love our Cheshire-cheeked presenters of mundanity, pumped with Blue Peter enthusiasm and avuncular vowels. Somewhere up there, in the great conspiracy in the sky, they want us all to be obedient children that grin inanely as a parrot performs card tricks or something.
Infantilism has now infected retail and leisure with a torrent of kidult concepts and products coming to market every week. In the gluttony department, and egged on by Instagram, we have dinner plate sized, candy floss collared ice creams at Milk Train, overladen cones at Udderlicious, Sticky Toffee Warmies at the Chin Chin Dessert Club, Bilog purple ice cream deep fried buns at Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream, hip versions of Mr Whippy from Soft Serve Society, and the £99 Billionaire Soft Serve at Snowflake. If these outrageous gelatos are not kiddified enough for you, how about the cookie dough brands like My Cookie Dough (Stratford), Humbledough (Shoreditch) and Naked Dough (Camden Lock)? (This might be a good time to confess my addiction to Little Moons mochi balls. I can’t even type that without salivating). Ultimately, no adult activity is safe from infantilisation. I mean, what young bride doesn’t dream of a Disney themed hen party-cum-singalong at Funktion Events and a unicorn wedding cake from the Maid of Ginger Bread?
Invention has no limits when it comes to impregnating us with glucose. From Bubbleology’s Electric Yuzu bubble tea through to Kinder Egg ice rolls made fresh for you at Pan-n-Ice, it’s never been easier to pretend we’re five years old and Mummy is buying us a treat. For advanced narcissism you must go to Candy Mechanics who will make a 3D printed chocolate lollipop of your very own head! What sort of self obsessed idiot would ever want one of these?
Away from the global obesity craze there’s a slew of adult ball pits at the moment from brands such as Ballie Ballerson (Shoreditch & Soho) and at The Museum of Ice Cream (SoHo, NYC) one of the many Instagrammable places emerging along with Happy Place (Vegas & Philadelphia) and the Selfie Factory (O2, London). Even trusty old John Lewis held a selfie workshop at its Southampton store. Not that this has any great social significance you understand, ahem, but boy would Freud freak.
With legacy brands disappearing at a silly rate of knots, shopping centres are racking their brains for engaging replacements to plug the often huge, yawning spaces traditional stores have abandoned. Intu was quick to add adult play areas into the mix with their funky, two storey climbing brand Rock Up seen here at Lakeside. And who could ever forget Bompas & Parr’s Grope Mountain at New York’s Museum of Sex?
Puttshack is doing a roaring trade at Westfield London at the moment with the kind of crazy golf we dreamt of as kids, but sadly never discovered. Topgolf, Junkyard Golf and the cheeky sounding Swingers, mix crazy golf with cocktails to appeal to our inner juvenile. Other brands jumping on the big, squishy, kidult bandwagon are Go Ape (ziplines), Flip Out and Jump Giants (adult soft-play and trampoline parks).
One of the most imaginative up and coming activities is the urban adventure trail. Brands like Hidden City, Secret City Trails and Foxtrail construct tours via cryptic clues sent to your phone, while you dash breathlessly through London’s drizzle. With the advent of Augmented Reality, we can expect to see groups of terrified tourists wandering around Whitechapel in search of ghostly apparitions and virtual gore. The gamification of tourism is here to stay.
Some of the most creative ideas can be found at immersive events designed by the clever people at Escape Room, Gingerline, Colab Theatre and Secret Cinema. These venues are where you dress up to be dragged into a choreographed fantasy world for a few hours, presumably to expunge the memory of your daily commute. If that fails you can always head to The Cauldron where you make your own magic (alcoholic) potions, dressed as a wizard of course.
Fantasy can be fun, but it can also be absolutely terrifying. If you’re into being scared witless try ‘Trapped in a Room with a Zombie’ at Apocalypse Events in Charlton. Solve the clues within five minutes or the zombie’s chain will be released another five foot! Grandma loves this one.
Sleepovers are massive too. The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, holds all-night pyjama and movie binging parties, while London and Whipsnade Zoos now have permanent sleepover lodges. But best of all has to be the Natural History Museum where the events calendar includes Dino Snores for Grown Ups, silent discos, behind the scenes tours, all-night monster movie marathons and Crime Scene Live where you join their forensic experts to solve a museum based murder mystery. Perhaps some of our retailers could learn a thing or two from our long since dusty museums?
As I’ve said many times, trends aren’t sent down to us from on high, but instead grow inside us as our hopes and expectations shift and change. My inner Freud tells me Kidultification answers a desire to escape adult responsibility. The future has become so scary we clearly yearn to retreat into the sanctuary of our pre-school years…but with added cocktails. My inner mummy just thinks we’ve all become spoilt brats!