Playing with Your Kids

Updated on January 18, 2011
E.L. asks from Herndon, VA
21 answers

I'm doing some things differently from the way I was raised, one of which is I play with my children. Apart from card games when I was older, neither my mother or father ever played with me.

But my kids just can't seem to get enough. On a weekend day, I am constantly being asked, "Mommy, will you play with me?" I play with my kds for probably an hour a day each, but it never seems to be enough. And they follow me around from room to room, which drives me bananas. If I'm gone for more than a few minutes, I hear one of them say, "Where's mommy?" Then they come find me.

I am glad my children love to be with me, but it's getting to be too much. Mommy needs personal time! Any advice on how to change this dynamic without giving up fun time with my kids?

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So What Happened?

Many asked how old my children are. They are 2 and 4 years old. And playing with them an hour each a day, I should have said that I spend 2 hours on a Sat or Sun dedicated to them doing whatever they want to do. I still interact with them all day, but I do give each of them my undivided attention for an hour a day which means I'm playing dolls or Thomas the Tank engine or horsey (i'm the horse) for two hours. It's not easy. Kudos for those who spend more time, but I have a house to keep clean, errands to run, meals to cook. I barely have time for myself as it is. Personal time for me is the opportunity to read a book or even watch adult tv for 15 min in a day. That's all I'm asking for.

I will try to get them more involved in helping, although that seems to slow everything down to nearly nothing accomplished. And my husband expects a clean house all the time, which is hard to maintain!

Thanks to all who responded.

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answers from Honolulu on

After I play with my kids I tell them, "ok, mommy is all done playing. Mommy has mommy things to do." and leave. If they follow, I give them the choice of helping with mommy things or playing by themselves. I given them a broom to sweep if they want to help (they are no help, but it does get them used to helping...), or have them sort the clean silverware, or hand me the dished that are low (unbreakable things go lower down in my house for this reason). My kids also can take washcloths and wash the bathtub with windex/glass cleaner. The kids don't know they are not playing most of the time. They really do seem to like to help.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Stockton on

My youngest is now 4 and is the only one not in school so he's used to having my full attention. When I'm doing housework he understands that I can't play with him. But when I need a moment to myself I end up having to tell him "mommy is on a break, when my coffee cup is empty we can play" that way he's not constantly coming back and asking, he can just look at my cup. Some days I drink reeeaaaaal slow, just kidding. But it does help. ; )

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Modesto on

You play an HOUR? I think I played one on one with the boys anywhere from 4 hours or more per day (they were my job). Maybe not "play" playing the entire time but having them do things "with" me, like the laundry or the dishes or the cooking or any other chores. I cant imagine just spending an hour with little kids and then telling them they have to spend the rest of the day without me..... They are little kids. They love to hear you talk they love to see how YOU do things, they are learning from you. They are curious sponges. I'd say teaching them to read would be a good thing. Mine read at a very early age, so when I had to do things that I didnt need their help with all I had to say was "go read some of your books while mommy does X". They had a bookshelf that was FILLED with books.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm a little troubled by all the implications that if you are not *playing* with your child for more than an hour a day, that you are not giving him attention. i disagree.
it's hard to quantify just what playing is in most households, but i can tell you that i didn't actually *play* with my kids any more than that. for many moms, getting down there and having tea parties and vrooming trucks is a huge part of their mothering experience. but it's not the case for all of us.
i spent hours every day reading to my kids, talking and listening to them , walking, biking, hiking, riding horses, gardening. some of this was completely undivided, some casual, mostly a mixture. just because you're not in the midst of the 'let's pretend' games doesn't mean you're neglectful.
i suspect you and i are of a similar temperment. i really need a degree of solitary time every day. it's cool to be a mom who is so selfless that she never has a moment that isn't child-focused, but there's a price to be paid for that too.
just as one needs to create boundaries in other areas of life (and we read about them all on this site), one can create loving boundaries with children. you're not a bad mom to say 'i have to scrub the bathroom now. wanna come talk to me while i do it?' and if they don't, they can go play. and sometimes it's just as okay to say 'mommy is going to read (scrub the bathroom, fix dinner, do laundry etc). you know where i am if you need me. but you need to go play by yourself until the big hand is on the 12.' independent play is such an overlooked vital skill. parents actually seem to take pride these days in their children always having a parent glued to their sides.
it may take some time for them to get used to the boundaries, but please be assured that you are not doing them a disservice by teaching them this. it's good for THEM (independence) and good for YOU (a relaxed mom makes the whole household more relaxed.)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

How old are they? An hour, is not very much time. I think they can't get enough, because maybe they aren't...
Set apart blocks of time to play with them. Time they know is play time. If they have designated mom time, that they know is coming they might not ask as much. Give them more time and they won't feel the need more.

I completely agree with Grandma T. He answer is what I was going to say.
I play with my 20 month old, for probably 4-6 hours out of the day.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

For starters, there is plenty of time for your house to be spotless, and that time is not now, especially not with a 2 yr old and 4 yr old.

Our son it 2 1/2 and he is our world. If you stop by unexpectedly there are toys from one end of the house to the other and probably dirty dishes in the sink. Before we leave the house, before nap and before bed we have him put his toys away, but its his house too and he needs to be able to play.

Only spending an hour a day playing isn't enough. We you choose to have a child, you are choosing to dedicate your life to that child. That's not to say you have to give them your 100% undivided attention 24/7, but if you're doing something and your child needs you, then your child comes first.

Kids are sponges and are so interested in how the world works that you can turn even the most boring chores into fun and educational moments.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

One hour of dedicated play time is awesome! I am pretty sure the original people answering weren't 'playing' for 4-6 hours a day! That is half the day doing nothing productive....,maybe they 'spent time' with the kids that much, but I am pretty sure you do as well....but not everything you do is 'playing!' And I agree with more recent posts that you can involve them in what you are doing without feeling guilty for not doing everything kid-oriented. Or give them something to occupy them while you are cleaning, cooking, etc. So they can have a mini kitchen to pretend to be they won't interfere with the actual cooking...or give them a Swiffer duster to use while you are dusting or a corn popper thing that they can 'vacuum' with....and I also agree with Suz that they need some independent time and they can also play together....set them up with some toys in a safe area and start them playing on something they can continue without you. If they come and find you in a little while, that is normal - they are just checking in because they feel close to you and dependent on you - because they are! Just give them a hug to let them know you love them and tell them they can continue playing such and such. Also, staying in view of them is helpful too - if you are always in the other room, they will get curious...or bored. But if you set up activities for them wherever you are, then they will be less likely to wonder what you are doing and where you are. Asking you to play with them is probably the only thing they know how to say to get you to be around them....they will learn more independence as time goes on - especially when they get a bit older and into school and can write, read, color, etc on their own...then you can give them more crafts and worksheets, etc to do. In the meantime, maybe you can even get the older one to be mommy to the little one and teach her things....that would keep them occupied for a while. :) One more suggestion - get them some toys that they may like on their own...for whatever reason my DD likes anything that is NOT a toy...and the kids in my church nursery usually like playing with a bucket instead of fancy you never know what will peak their interest!! Experiment with various items - even household items - and see what they may like. Also, instead of playing inside, take them outside more and they may get more exhausted and want to chill out and have some downtime.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Careful what you wish for - they get older and then they do not ask you! Talk to your kids - schedule time that works for you. I know it's hard - but try to see the joy in what is happening in your life. You do not want that time to pass you by!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Just to respond to your husband - he has two preschool-aged kids. This is not the age to ask perfection. If he wants something done differently or "better" he can pitch in, too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

At that age it is hard to expect them to play independently for the rest of the day. You don't say whether you work outside the home or not. 1 hour on a weekday if you work outside the home is a decent amount of focused time with them. If you work in the home, 1 solid hour is not going to seem like enough to them. I have a home daycare and honestly on the weekdays I get very little done in terms of housework when the children are here--by design! My job is to engage and enrich them. Yes I have guilt about the undone chores but my husband supports me in how I care for the kids and knows how hard it is with just one of our own on the weekends, much less the 4 I usually care for. Some suggestions for you:

-Try 15-20 minutes of directed play with them (set a timer if it helps) and then say Mommy needs to do __________. Set the routine like this and be consistent. If you have a playroom, put a gate up if you don't want to be followed or fear the little one will do something unsafe. When I have little things I need to do with 4 kids in the house (ages 1-3) I gate them in the child proof playroom, run a clean up the table from meal or warm up the meal, take one or two to the potty, etc. They know the routine and they are told to respect the gate when it is up because it is there to keep them safe. One of the kids does not have those boundaries at home and runs his parents ragged and he has learned at my house this is what happens--any child, no matter how spirited can learn with consistent repetition of a reasonable routine.

-Try activities where you are doing chores nearby and can encourage, check in etc. I do not actively play pretend and do the playing for 4-6 hours a day! Good for those who can actively play for that long. Most of my involvement is through conversation about what they are doing, providing new stimuli for them and observing, not directing their play. Open ended art materials (try a diff. medium each day) like clay, playdoh, dot paint, water color, markers, colored pencil, dry erase, chalk with and without water can occupy them for 20 to 30 minutes at a time where you can load the dishwasher, sweep up , vacuum etc.

-Try writing down a routine for you and the kids if you are at home with them. Weekends are honestly harder for me because we are off our routine and my daughter needs that structure! Most kids do! If they know what to expect, they respond better. Loosely schedule meals and snacks, outside play time, "art" time, storytime, free play, Mommy play, naptime and stick to it within reason.

-My husband has no illusions about how much housework I can get done and is completely fine with it. I suggest you give your husband a taste of what it is like to actually care for 2 young children while doing all that very essential housework. Leave him with them for at least 3 or 4 hours (not during nap time) and when you return calmly discuss how it went. I think very little housework would get done ...discuss how the pressure to keep a perfect house is not far to you or the children. He should be willing to divide chores differently and take on more to keep up his level of cleanliness or he should learn to relax his standard.

Hang in there! It will take cooperation and change from all parties involved to find the right family balance:) I try to tell myself that at 15 my child won't be clamoring for my attention and that I need to relax and enjoy it.



answers from Washington DC on

Kudos to you for spending so much focused time on your kids! I have the exact same problem - mine are 2 and 5. I am like a magnet for them. My husband tries to help out, but they just want mommy, mommy, mommy, all the time! It makes it very difficult to get anything else done or have any time to myself. But I understand that is the nature of the job. My way of dealing with it is like some other people said - I try to think about the future and realize that I should treasure this time in their lives when they actually want to be with me and I also try to get them involved in what I need to do around the house. Sure, it would be nice if I could play with them all day, but I work full-time outside the home and I need weekends to get everything else done!



answers from San Francisco on

Set yourself up with a block of time, for example, an hour and after you've had that time to yourself, then play with the kids. And if the kids can't go by the clock, then use a timer. It's great that your children love playing with you! In order to fit what you want and need in a day, then your time needs to have some structure. Good luck!



answers from Pittsburgh on

How old are they? Try the approach of 'filling their cups' with some undiluted focused time with them, then let them know you will need x amount of time for something else. For example, let them know you will play lego (if I never saw another lego it would not be too soon) for 15 minutes and then you will need to do laundry. You can also have them help you with your chores - DS likes to sort laundry - so he can still be with me while I do it. He also LOVES to do dishes, whisk anything we are cooking that needs to be whisked and crack eggs. An hour of play a day does not sound like that much to me but it sounds like you have more than 1 child so they can play with each other.



answers from Lynchburg on

I saw you got a bunch of answers and I didn't read through them all. One thing my kids do is have clean up time in their rooms and the toy room. This has been going on for a while, and my daughter is 2 (will be 3 next month) and my son is 5. It takes them forever but I don't push it-I let myself relax during that time. They also help me with some aspects of cleaning. I was made to clean a lot, do my own laundry, iron, etc, at a young age so I felt like a servant, and I refused to do that to my kids, but I have really stressed that one way we show thankfulness is that we all work together to keep the house clean. Keeping it clean and organized helps us when we play and it helps to keep us healthy, etc. My kids enjoy helping me clean (vacuum or pushing the wet mop over the floor in the kitchen), so I allow help, and sometimes I ask for it. Maybe you could have them help you clean, doing jobs they can do, and get some of the work done faster. Then tell them they need to play by themselves for 20 mins. It's great to always play with them and for them to play with each other, but it's also good to let them play by themselves. I don't know your view on tv/movies, but perhaps even once or twice a week you could let them watch a 30 min show or movie. Or you could have a family quiet play time, where they could color or look at books while you read. You could have some combination of all of it throughout the week, but if you do that, I'd suggest having it at a set time. For example, on Monday and Friday have family clean-up. On Tuesday and Thursday have quiet play time, and on Wednesday have a movie (VeggieTales, or a Disney show, or a PBS show-you can find things that are educational or teach moral lessons and the kids will love them.) Then on Saturdays and Sundays you could have individual play, which would give you and hubby a little alone time each day-for both of you to read or do something else individually or to do something together. Whatever you do, good luck!


answers from San Francisco on

We have "quiet time" in our house. It's an hour where my son is expected to play quietly in his room. It took awhile for him to get the concept and some days he has a harder time with it than others but making it part of the routine is what makes it work at all.



answers from Cumberland on

You've created children that love you and want to be with you-how awful-enjoy it-it doesn't last. Someday, before you know it-they will think you are annoying and you will be tracking their whereabouts with a service from your cell phone provider and pray their phone is on! In the meantime-talk to them about it. I used to call it "grown-up" quiet time for me and time for them to foster independence for them. Schedule the time you will be with them-and post it if you need to. Enlist their help doing chores-believe me, they will scatter and soon be dodging you like you have the plague!



answers from St. Louis on

So it's not my kid, but my boyfriend's daughter is the SAME way every weekend we have her. She's also an only child and is used to playing by herself a lot, which I know she doesn't enjoy. I always want her time with us to be fun and enjoyable so I try to play with her a lot (as dad hasn't quite digured out still how to play the girl games, although he tries lol). Recently, since I've been so tired from everything I have to do and the fact that I'm 9 months pregnant I've basically had to just tell her "I really need a break right now. How about I get you some stuff to color or I put on a movie for you for a little bit and then we can play later." I have tried to connect it to an activity (i.e. we'll play when the movie is over, we'll play after I do this or that) as she doesn't seem to have a grasp of time length and thinks that 1 minute is the same as 20 minutes. She always seems to be okay with this. I have also incorporated her into some of the things that I have to do for the day to help me get things done (she's a great laundry folder even at 4 and she ALWAYS wants to help me with it lol). Good luck though, as I definitely have the same problem and I don't even see her everyday!



answers from Houston on

You didn't say how old they are, but if they are old enough maybe get a timer or a clock for them to read? Maybe say ok, now it is time to play in your room until timer goes off, or x o clock is game time, go play with your toys now and we'll have game time at ....

My kids always want mommy's attention too but now they are old enough to understand that sometimes they are expected to play by themselves for a bit.


answers from Columbus on

Try to get them involved in stuff that you need to get done. My son was able to help me fix meals from the time he was 2 years old, and now that he's 3 he can use the dustbuster and help me fold laundry. He takes a lot of pride in helping, and he likes spending the time together. It may be as simple as telling them "mommy has to do something right now, so you can help me or you can go play by yourself." Or you may need to balance it out, "if you help me with this chore, I'll get done faster and I can play with you."



answers from Pittsburgh on

Depending on how old they are makes a difference, and it's not clear what kind of "personal time" you are looking for, but if you just want to unload the dishwasher in peace and things like that, play dough and paints work wonders. You can still talk and chat with them, and admire their creations with out having to be so "involved" at that moment. If you mean you walk into the bathroom and they follow you 2 seconds later (which happens to me almost everytime)....At those times I just say "Yes, I'm here, and I need 5 minutes, back to the living room,, I'll be right out." When I need time to do bills or something, i let the kids watch tv. Good luck!



answers from Boca Raton on

So funny you posted this now as my 3yr old and 8yr old both just came and said mommy when r u getting off computer so we can play a game with you! I totally understand and as a mom of 3 I don't think we have to always play or interact with them all the time on weekends..If your kids r old enough have them go to another room and play with each other (watch movie, play easy game, look at books together, play doctor-we have a doctor kit that they take turns being nurse and doctor, etc.) or if there little they can be in room with you but playing by themselves with each other....I rarely get any time to myself so take a few mins. here and there when you can as they won't be little that much longer...Hugs Mama.

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