The appearance of the kidult is troubling from several non-economic perspectives. It speaks of the state of a decadent culture that embraces childish and immature things. Childhood is a transitory state through which all pass. It can be a time of innocence and happiness where everything is full of wonder and freshness. However, it is not meant to be eternal. Children are shielded from many dangers, so they might have the occasion to build character, establish good habits, and grow in the love of God that comes naturally to them.
It is easy to dismiss adult toy-buying as a craze of little significance. But the appearance of the “kidult” is troubling from several perspectives, for it speaks of the state of a decadent culture that embraces childish and immature things. The kidult idea also participates in the postmodern desire to be what one is not. It is a revolt against the Creator and the desire to be the fantasy designer of one’s own identity.
Some years ago, people criticized the tendency of young people to defer adulthood and live as eternal adolescents. Youth were encouraged to engage in “adulting” by assuming at least some of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals. Now a new word is circulating describing another postmodern absurdity: the “kidult.”
This curious mixture of kid and adult is the contrary of the “adulting” adolescent. It consists of grown-up adults who assume some of the attributes of children. A new niche market has opened up to cater to these now “grown-downs.”
A hot new trend for this demographic is the adult purchase of toys—for the adults’ own entertainment.
Kidult-Toys “R” Us?
It’s not just adult coloring books anymore, but all sorts of stocking stuffers. Toy companies are expanding special lines of products that appeal to kidults. Legos now has more than one hundred kits explicitly designed for grown-downs. Stuffed animals, dolls, and action figures are all the rage among those 18 and up. McDonald’s recently jumped on the bandwagon by offering Happy Meals for kidults, complete with a free toy inside.
Many claim the new trend is an effect of the pandemic. The stress and insecurity of withdrawal from society caused many Americans to want to reconnect with their past. They longed for the distant past of a childhood when things are often simpler. But unlike past adult toy sales based on nostalgia, the new toy buyers are actually playing with them.
The surge in sales is also connected to a feeling of entitlement. Adults gift themselves toys to make up for what they never had as children. They sometimes indulge in purchases as a means of satisfying the fantasies of their inner child. Doll owners like to appear on social media in matching outfits. Toys are finding their way into celebrations like birthdays, showers, and corporate events. Toy companies are right behind the kidults, meeting the demand with new teddy bears and Captain Marvel figures.