Almost 5 Year Old Play

Updated on March 16, 2013
C.Z. asks from Manning, IA
12 answers

My son will be 5 in May. He is getting to the point that when we play I have to be and/ or do a certain thing. Most of the time I just fallow along going with his lead but sometimes I just dont know what to do! I will tell him at that point that I dont know how to play that game, and I get a fine!(insert sigh while saying this) response. We play with cars but I always have to get chased by this person or that person and then I flip my car and have to stay there. His games also usually dont last long!

What can we do that we will both enjoy? He loves farming (has a complete farm in his room) but that turns into the same thing. He likes cars and trucks but well that is stated above. I limit his video game time (if he has a bad day it just doesnt happen). He resists naps now so we do have a movie time for the day so he can just have time to recharge. (naps are around 30 min or he gets crabby.) I am running out of fun things to do. I will admitt that I get pretty lathargic(sp?) toward the end of the day and just want to chill.

What do we do? What do you do?

Also when it warms up we will start going to the park again but this winter I just havent wanted to go and deal with the mud and mess from the thaw, freeze, then thaw again winter we have had. I tried baking with him but that is a loss. I tried board games that are age apporpriate but that turns into a complete other game that is usually scattered accross our floor. I also do something slightly educational for about an hour a day. Writing a letter to the next holiday symbol, reading, dealing with numbers, or life lessons.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I didn't act as a playmate for my kids. I would provide them with toys and maybe get started, but I did not play with them. I encouraged independant play. I also ensured that they had other children to play with on a daily basis, either by having kids come over to play, or by taking them places where there would be other kids to play with. When we went to the park it was so the kids could play with other kids and I could just enjoy being outside and visiting with other parents. The kids and I interacted in other ways, such as reading together, baking or things like swimming, bowling or mini golf.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Its a phase.
Kids go through that. It is their imagination and changing cognition.
Normal. But sure, for us adults, it can be, onerous.
But he is 5. So you can tell him "Mommy can play for 15 minutes. Then I have to wash the dishes... " In other words, you have to cue him... that there is a "beginning" and an "end" to things. BUT that HE... can continue playing. A kid, needs to learn to do things on their own, too. It helps with self-reliance and problem solving.

Both my kids did that too.
But, I also... would tell them that Mommy has things to do too. It is normal house stuff. And kids, get to know the daily house routines. And that, there is a time to play w/Mommy and a time when she cannot. It is also important... for a kid to learn that.
We cannot, be.... a continuous Mary Poppins ALL day.

Though my kids went through phases like that too, they learned how to play on their own volition, and on their own, too. A kid also need to learn, to deal with it. It is a part of development.
It is not "bad" that we Moms cannot do EVERY second of being RIGHT there, playing all day.
A child NEEDS to learn, normal everyday routines too, of Mommy and the house.
Otherwise, they "learn" that, Mommy is less important.
Don't feel bad for running out of things to do. Sometimes, that is just life. I then tell my kids, that THEY can come up with things too. And they do. They are very self reliant in that sense. They don't DEMAND... that I spend EVERY SECOND of my time in the house, entertaining them. We are a family, we all have things to do, there is a time and place for it, there are routines of the house and family, and it is good, for a child to also be a PART of that.
And your son is 5... this is a good age, to segue into this with him.

I have 2 kids that are 6 and 10. And they are VERY active. Even when my daughter was an only child (my kids are 4 years apart), and it was only me and her... I also did what I said above. I spent a lot of time on her/with her and was attentive to her needs... but at the same time... she learned that Mommy has a house to run and things to do, too. At those times, there is her time... to play independently. And she did. But as the Mom I was always there for her. Being there for a kid does not necessarily mean... that you have to ALWAYS be right there next to them, playing.
Everyone is the house, has roles. And things to be and do.

Teach your son, that there is a beginning and an end, to things. ie: play for 1/2 hour doing such and such, then, Mommy cleans the kitchen. For example. And then he can play by himself. A child needs to learn, these things.

Your son is 5... is he in school yet????
Or have play dates for him.
Some days, are not all just continuous play. That is life.
A child, who learns to play by themselves, is not a bad thing. It teaches them, other things than just being passively entertained. Or that someone always has to entertain, them. Their imaginations and self-reliance, has to develop too.

When or if my kids are bored (which they rarely are), I tell them "GOOD. Now you can think of something on your own. Mommy has to clean the house and prep dinner..."

Your son is 5. Teach him how to do things around the house TOO.
Teach him, now. He is old enough.
Teach him, how to be a part of the house, about helping Mommy.
My son is 6, and since he was 3 years old, I taught him how to cook. Even with my daughter I started that at 3 years old.
And my kids, can, cook.
My son can make eggs from beginning to end, make sandwiches, make cereal, help he chop things and stir things and helps me cook. He knows how to use a microwave & my daughter too. My daughter, can make crepes, pancakes, omelettes, pasta and she is really a good cook. She at even 8 year old, was cooking and able to cook, unlike her classmates that same age.
And my son, even likes vacuuming. And mopping.
He feels "important" doing those things and helping.
Even if he doesn't do it as well as me (an adult) he CAN do it.
It is life. It is family... routines.
A child has to learn to partake in that.

So, teach your son, HOW to do things in the house too.
A child need to learn that.
HOW to be a part of the family.
It is not just them, being the only priority.
Mommy has things to do, too.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Sounds like he needs some playmates his own age. You didn't mention whether or not he has any in your post above. Join a mom's group or try to network with people in your community. He needs to be able to play with others as well as play independently, as well.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Like Sherri G I also never really played with my kids. They were with me and I interacted with them all the time, but they played on their own or with each other. They went to preschool a few mornings a week, and I took them to other places and activities where they would have a chance to play and socialize with other kids: the park, pool, kindergym, indoor play places, kid's museums, the library, a friend's house, etc.
I think your son relies on you too much as a playmate and of COURSE that must be exhausting for you! You need to wean him of this. I say wean because it's probably going to take time and be a little painful as it sounds like he's used to you being at his beck and call all day.
Stop playing with him so much but continue to invite him to join you in whatever you are doing around the house (my kids liked helping in the kitchen and in the yard and garden most of all.) Make sure he has plenty of interesting toys that will hold his attention, lots of art and craft supplies, things he can do on his own that allow him to use his imagination.

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answers from Washington DC on

I think it is a good thing to participate in imaginary play like this with your son! Good for you for playing with him! I think its important that kids see their parents play and imagine and have fun! My son turns 5 in October and he often wants to play in similar ways to what you have described. In fact, last night he was a puppy and I was supposed to teach him how to do doggy tricks. So, I had him shaking hands and rolling over and playing dead, and then would pet him like crazy and tell him "good dog". We BOTH ended up cracking up on the bed together at one point. It felt good!

Dont worry about not knowing "how" to play!! Just go with it. Your son is not going to be judging your playing skills - pretty much anything you do will be totally fine!! The great thing about this kind of play is that anything goes! It does NOT need to make sense to be a fun game for a 4-5 year old :) Also, take turns in directing the play. That will help him get used to when he is playing with other kids and they want to direct the action, and maybe give him some new ideas.

I am not saying you have to be his playmate all day long everyday, but when I hear folks say they have never played with their kids, I think that is terribly sad and they should try it sometime because they are really missing out!

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answers from San Francisco on

I was going to suggest board games. Perhaps you can try again, but this time tell him he has to follow the rules of the game - you aren't making it up this time.

You could also play hide 'n seek or try some simple jigsaw puzzles. Do some cutting and gluing - maybe let him use macaroni or other items to make a picture - paint with water colors - finger paint.

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answers from Dallas on

There are many books in the library that will give you ideas. In the children's section, There are kids craft books, like mask making or working with dough, science books with experiments and lots of different subjects to check out. Spend time looking for just the right thing to keep you both interested.

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answers from Minneapolis on

If it's during the day try to get some fun learning involved like science projects and sensory tables. Is he in pre-school or Pre K? Does he have any friends you could have over for play dates? I make my kids get outside as much as possible, even in the winter. We go sledding, tubing, ice skating, play hockey in the he involved in any sports? Are their any community programs you can get him signed up for?

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answers from Columbia on

DON'T try to organize and plan play. The best play is imaginative, off the cuff, made up as you go along. If you aren't understanding that, then you need to work on your imagination, Momma!

I would try to play "his way" for at least part of the time. It strengthens your relationship and helps him to feel like you understand who he is...which will make a huge difference in how you communicate with him as he gets older. Pretend to understand what he wants. Use your imagination and make it all up. Be silly.

There's a time for formal, adult coordinated activities, like baking or board games....and there's a time for play that makes no sense (to you). Just go with it.

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answers from Chicago on

Okay, so he has a short attention span...he is a boy. They usually don't grow out of this ;) It is normal, he is excited about many things and so he moves on quickly. It is actually a really good trait to have. He will be able to let go of the things quickly. making him more efficient in multiple tasks as an adult in the work place.

He is bossy, also a good trait. It means he knows what he wants (it will not be easy for him to be influenced badly) and he will be a leader. In this though, he needs to know when to follow, and how to lead respectfully. So he shouldn't being saying 'fine!' to his mother.

I have all girls. So they play with the same thing for hours and sadly I am always the bald naked barbie....(I should buy my own :)) So it is hard to really say what will work for a boy.

I think you do fantastically with keeping him entertained as long as you can, boys are extremely hyper active and like action. So i suggest making up games that allow his to be active. I mean serious, up and down games. And you can even incorporate trucks and cars.

Ex: Buy or draw on poster boards large trucks and cars, two sided, and hang then from you in some safe fashion. I would do this just for me at first, with his car waiting close by hidden. (Draw as best you can, the car he seems to favor, for him) I would run around or walk quickly making the sound of a car. Our goals would be to make stops, or complete small missions, to which I would allow him to create. This helps broaden his imagination, AND works out certain situations, in the form of play.

Once he sees you, he will demand your truck, To which you present him with his very own. After running around making all of that car noise, and stopping, and crashing, he will be ready for a nap!

Be creative using the things he loves to do best. It is okay that he only likes trucks and cars. My Nephew only likes lego's...That is it.

Hope this helped! Have fun.

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answers from Santa Fe on

Have him do some "real" things with you. Help you clean windows (spray bottle and paper towels) or sweep or some other job. Gardening. Give him his own gardening boxes to tend. Have him fold clothes or put them away with you. Have him water plants outside with a hose or a watering can. Make a big sandbox outside and have him dig in it. My daughter loves it if I have the hose trickle water into her sandbox while she plays...she makes a pond and rivers around her castles. My son loved it if I made an obstacle course in the house. We had a small indoor trampoline and he loved that thing. He also loved it if we built forts in the house. He loved making newspaper construction projects in the livingroom. You roll up newspaper into tubes and tape them together like it shows you. You can make huge structures to play in. At age 5 my son was obsessed with riding his bike, push bike, and scooter. He had a tiny ramp made with an old piece of plywood in the garage and he'd want to ride up and down the ramp all the time or peel out in the dirt. He also was obsessed with car tracks (like for matchbox cars) and ramps for his little cars. He also loved to dance and rock out if I put on popular fast paced music. He hated board games and he hated cooking with me. My daughter loves these things.



answers from San Francisco on

There are good suggestions here already. Some of the other things I do with my twin 4 year old boys is: play-doh, drawing/painting on an easel, playing indoor soccer with a very soft stuffed soccer ball, playing indoor hockey with some foam based sticks and soft balls/pucks, indoor hide and seek (sometimes with flashlights and all the lights out if it's dark enough), big cardboard style blocks, lincoln logs, legos, Thomas the Train type tracks, and board games/puzzles.

If it's a free play type thing and I'm "not doing it right", I tell them they need to tell me or show me what to do. For games and such, we typically work on playing by the rules, although sometimes we relax the real rules of the game to make it more age appropriate for them. Or we say, let's play by the game rules first, then we can play by your rules. That way they learn about taking turns and following rules.

We also use the timer a lot for setting time limits or giving them a feel for when something might happen. If they want me to do something and I really need 5-10 minutes for something else, then I will tell them to set the timer and then I will play. Or I may say that I can play for X minutes and then I need to do Y and I set the timer so they know when time is up. Plus, then it's not me telling them they need to's the timer.

We still work on independent play though. Mine will sometimes play together, but they frequently want me to play too (or they want me to play different things with each of them). I find play-doh can give me a decent chunk of uninterrupted time. Setting up Thomas the train tracks (or knock-off brand) can also give me some free time. My kids like to play "traffic" with all their matchbox cars. So they line them all up and pretend there is traffic. That can give me some time to do something else. If you can find a decent sized cardboard box (big enough to sit in), you can give him crayons and stickers and have him decorate it. The cardboard blocks are good for different things. We've made them into roads or tunnels for the cars. We build them up into a big tower and they knock them down. We've set them up and put small stuffed animals or other toys on them like an Angry Birds set up and let them throw bean bags to knock them down.

Oh, and one of my kids loves a small figure set called Hockey Guys. They have them for other sports too. At first he didn't know what to do with them, but then I sat and pretended to have a game with the figures with a player scoring or the goalie blocking, etc. I exaggerated it like a TV commentator might. Since then, he plays with them on his own quite frequently.

If you can arrange for some play-dates, that would give him some time to play with another kid. It may not give you a lot of free time, but you might be able to sit and semi-relax with another adult (the other kid's parent) while the kids are playing.

And if he isn't in pre-school, maybe find a class he can participate in. Soccer is good if it's not too cold (or if it's indoor). We also do a gymnastics type class and ice skating. Occasionally we do a music/dance combo type class. This helps split up the day because you get to go somewhere and if you pick an active class, it can help burn up some energy so that you may be able to do a more quiet activity when you get home (like books or coloring, etc).

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