“Mum! Mum! Come and see what I built!”
“Mum… play cars with me!”
“Mum, what can I play?”
“Muuum… pwease pway with me!”
Do you ever have those days when all your kids want is to do something fun with you? All they want is for you to play with them, but you really don’t feel like it.
I remember days like those so well.
Days when I wasn’t feeling well, or when I hadn’t had any sleep, but my kids still needed me, and I still needed to engage them in something so they didn’t fight constantly.
Days when I was so busy, or stretched so thin that just the thought of taking time out to play tea parties made me feel overwhelmed and exhausted, but the guilt of not interacting with my kids threatened to swallow me.
Days when I just needed to get dinner made without the kids tearing the house apart or trying to climb up my leg while I drained the pasta.
Days when the thought of dressing up another Barbie made me want to stab my eyes out with a fork.
I could have turned on the TV, or handed over my ipad, and let’s be honest, some days I did just that. But even screen time won’t always save you from a nagging child who just wants you to ‘get up and play with me mummy!’
Over the years I came up with a list of easy ways to play with your kids, even when you don’t feel like it, or don’t have the time, or just don’t want to! A list that totally saved my sanity, and might just save yours!
Easy Ways To Play With Your Kids Even When You Don’t Want To.
These activities and ideas are easy to set up, use basic items, and don’t make much mess. They are ‘open-ended’ which means there is no one ‘correct’ way to play with them, so they work for a variety of age groups, and the kids can use them again and again.
Some activities require more adult interaction than others. Some need you to be nearby to supervise, but you can do that laying down resting or while you do something else. How much supervision is needed will depend on the age of your children and on individual kids personalities, but most of these activities are aimed at 2+ year olds.
Floor Drawing – Roll out a length of paper (the Ikea rolls of paper are perfect for this!) on the floor and dump out the crayons. With the paper on the floor everyone can reach, no one argues over chairs, or crawls onto the table trying to get the green crayon, and I can lay on the couch, or fold the washing near by with only a quick reminder for the toddler not to draw on the floor.
Drawing Prompts – Print off some of our printable drawing prompts, and grab the pencils or markers. These are great for a variety of ages, though little kids may want you to read the writing.
Quick and Easy Small World Play – grab a green rug or towel, some stones or wooden blocks, a couple of twigs or leaves from the garden, and some animal figurines, or dinosaurs, or fairies. Dump it all in the middle of the floor, or on the table, and let the kids do the rest.
Dance – put on some groovy kid-friendly music and dance! This works great if you can dance along while cooking dinner or doing another task, and it can lift your mood too. If you are not up for dancing yourself, these Mini Groov3 dance workouts are great, this ‘Freeze Dance‘ video is also good. You can fond more great Youtube dance and movement channels for kids here, or search ‘just dance kids’ on YouTube and you’ll find lots of great dance videos – this Gummy Bear one is a fav.
Audiobooks and podcasts – Audiobooks and story podcasts are great when you just can’t face reading another story, and there are loads of other great kids podcasts that will keep the kids interested. Libraries often have audiobook borrowing services, or check out our list of great free kids audiobooks, or our lists of great kids podcasts.
Building Challenge – dump out a construction set (try combining two different sets like wooden blocks and magnet blocks or Lego) and use our printable building challenge cards to keep the kids busy creating. You can lie on the couch and shout out a challenge from one of the cards, set your phone timer for 10 minutes, and snooze till they are done!
Go Outside – If the weather is good and you can muster up the energy to find shoes and hats, once you get outside you can lay on a rug on the grass and watch the kids play. Bring out some spoons and plastic bowls if you have a sandpit, or offer a few buckets or containers with a little bit of water in them. Even play dough can be easy outside, because you don’t have to worry about sweeping up the mess!
These are some of our favourite individual fiddly toys (affiliate links):