“Mommy, will you play with me?” is the sentence I dread hearing. I hate playing. I used to love it, when I was five, but now, let’s be honest. I’d rather read a magazine. It isn’t that I don’t adore my cute children, but they usually want to play dreaded imagination games like “house” or “Barbies,” which make me want to poke my ears out with forks. I don’t know what Barbie would say to Skipper while shopping at the mall with tiny pink dogs. And I can’t get that stripper shoe on her for you. I tried. Barbie is going to have to get some morals and start wearing flats! These are the things I can’t stop thinking (or saying) when trying to “pretend” with my kids. Then there are the wrestling games. They always want to jump on me and elbow me in the eye. I simply am not cut out for rug sports and I really despise getting dog hair all over my shirt while being slammed into the carpet. That’s what Dads are for!
Stop judging me. You hate playing too–don’t lie. But we all want to be the fun mommy who does play and saying no to “Mommy, please play with me” can’t be done more than once a day. I have spent years experimenting with Mommy-friendly playtime that is a winner for both kids and moms. Here are the best ways to play without having to make up impromptu dialog for Sparkles the Flying Glitter Pony.
#8 Read to Them
I am not talking about that book you’ve read to them a million times. I’m talking about a childhood classic you love. Here’s a fun trick: children may not be able to read at the level of the book you pick, but their comprehension level is far higher than their reading level. So even if they don’t read, they can enjoy Charlotte’s Web or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone or the story of Anne of Green Gables, Lemony Snicket’s books or whatever it is that you loved as a child. Read it to them. When I read to my kids we get to share something that I really love to do and they enjoy it too. If they don’t want to sit for it, I offer them candy (like all great parents). Whenever they ask you to play, read a chapter. Reading aloud to your kids will make them better readers, instill a love of reading in them, and it gives you an opportunity to try out some silly voices while reading someone else’s witty dialog.
#7 Card Games
Easy to set up, easy to clean up, card games are the answer to “will you play with me.” There are all sorts of games that are kid friendly using a plain deck of cards, like Crazy 8s, War, SlapJack and GoFish. Then there’s UNO (a classic) or other similar games. My favorite of all time is Spot It. This game is so fun you will find yourself not wanting to stop. It’s a simple matching speed game, but it is a riot. The kids and the husband like this one. Recently I picked up Pizza Party (a card and dice game) and it is a winner. Lots of laughs and easy for all to understand and play. Avoid board games at all costs. These take FOREVER and if you have a young child who doesn’t quite understand rules it can be so frustrating. Even CandyLand is more like TortureLand for us. I hate it. Every time my 6-year-old lands on a space that sends her backward, the tears start. This game is torturous. So is Chutes and Ladders and Monopoly…avoid!
#6 Manicures or Tattoos
Girls are pretty easy to bribe with nail painting. This doesn’t take long and results in extremely happy children. If you have boys you can offer them stick-on tattoos. I keep a stash of those that we get at birthday parties to whip out in a pinch. Playtime? Sure! Who wants a tattoo? They are thrilled with this. Another alternative is face painting, but you might not want to pull it out. I have two sets, one that is mine and one for them to paint on each other that I don’t worry about getting wrecked. This can keep them busy for hours. There’s more clean up, but it’s worth it.
Coloring is surprisingly still fun. I like to suggest coloring with my kids when they want to play with me. I keep a ton of coloring books and we each choose one and share crayons and compare our works of art. Most of the time when your kids want to play, they just want to be close to you. Coloring together is the perfect opportunity to sit close and chat about colors and characters and whatever is going on in their funny little brains.
Do you have a giant stash of bubble solution like I do and one of those big spill-proof buckets to use with it? These are awesome. I got one at a garage sale the other day for $2. You can even do this inside in the winter. It’s just soap. Maybe it will make stuff cleaner. Bubbles are lots of fun for everyone, including the dog. Make sure to blow some his way.
#3 Write a Poem
This one is funny and guaranteed to make everyone laugh. Take turns making up lines of a poem. It must rhyme. This will help your kids with their language skills, while at the same time teaching them to be creative and love writing. If you don’t want to use your brain that much, try Mad Libs. Those bring the side-splitting giggles. (My kids’ favorite noun is “butt”.) Here’s a poem that we wrote:
There was a sock named Bob,
He had an annoying job.
He covered my feet,
They didn’t smell sweet,
He said, “I wish I was corn on the cob!”
#2 Make Brownies
Not scratch brownies, I’m not crazy. The box kind are just fine. It’s just the right amount of kitchen time together where everyone gets a stir, there’s only one eggshell to throw away and one bowl to clean up, and the best part…warm brownies! They really like it when you let them do it themselves (if they’re capable) and then you’ve got other people making you brownies. Score! This one gets a little messier than the rest, but it’s worth it. They can also practice their measuring and pouring skills. By the time they’re in the oven the kids are usually ready to go entertain themselves again for a while.
#1 Take a Walk
They love to ride scooters or bikes and you could use the exercise.
The next time you hear, “Mommy, will you play with me?” you will have all the right tricks up your sleeve to say “Yes!” with enthusiasm!