Suffering from parental boredom? Sometimes playing with kids get tiresome. Here are tips for those days when you’re bored playing with your kids.
On many days, I’m on top of my parenting game. I read with the kids, make a few crafts, and encourage them to help me cook in the kitchen. On those days, I’m an A+ mom.
But then I have the other days… the days when being a parent can get, admittedly… boring.
These are the days when I can only take so much of fiddling with a puzzle over and over and watching them play with crayons and dominoes. Days like these, I’m ready to either conk out with exhaustion or itch to get through my list of tasks.
It doesn’t help when I’m home with them all day with nowhere to go (though this is when having a backyard comes in handy!).
How do you cope with the boredom—and even the guilt that comes from that boredom?
When you’re bored playing with your kids
I’m certain I’m not alone. We’ve all been bored playing the same board game or round of basketball. Never mind that your energy comes zooming back in the minute your kids are down for the night. Some days, boredom takes over so much you’re barely awake while you’re reading a book.
So, how do you cope when you’re bored out of your mind playing with your kids? How do you stop feeling guilty when you’d rather do something else?
1. Compromise and limit play time
Does it drive you nuts when your kids beg you to play a game right when you’re in the middle of (or just started to do) something else? I’ll literally sit down at my desk to squeeze in some work when someone will ask to play or read.
Of course, kids should be playing and reading, but trying to get other things done can make spending time with them difficult.
A compromise? Agree to play but for a set amount of time.
Maybe you let them know you can play Crazy Eights for 15 minutes, or that you’ll read four books before making dinner.
It seems harsh, but putting a time limit helps in several ways. For one thing, you’re able to do both things—play and other tasks—even if in limited amounts of time. You’re also setting expectations so that they know either when you can start playing or when you’ll need to step out of the game.
And lastly, you’ll probably enjoy your time instead of itching to do something else, especially when you know you’ll have time for both.
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2. Play activities you actually enjoy
Parental boredom often happens because we subject ourselves to activities we don’t enjoy. For instance, I’m not a “roughhousing” kind of parent, much less playing catch or soccer outdoors. I dread when my kids want to play hide-and-seek or ask me to chase them around the house.
But I do enjoy reading books, creating with play dough, building with blocks, and playing board games.
If you find yourself bored out of your mind, suggest activities you enjoy, or at least don’t mind. You might not like playing pretend dolls, but you love having the kids help you cook in the kitchen. Or perhaps you can’t take another puzzle, but you’re fine building Lego pieces with them.
3. Take turns with your partner
Remember how I don’t exactly love roughhousing with the kids? Thankfully my husband is more than happy to oblige.
If you and your partner have certain preferences for how to play with the kids, take turns playing with them in activities you each enjoy. Let’s say you dread playing “house” or make believe, but your spouse can play hours of it with your toddler.
And perhaps he’s not in the mood to play hide-and-seek or Simon Says, but these are games you actually enjoy. Tag-team with each other to find which activities you like to play with your kids.
4. Involve your kids in your world
Some of my happiest days are when my husband and I can go through our regular day with kids in tow. Kids wanted to pull weeds from the yard? Score! Five-year-old helped us cook dinner? Awesome.
Playing kid stuff isn’t the only way to “play” with your kids. In fact, they benefit so much from being involved in your world. Why?
- They learn life skills like cooking and comparing grocery prices.
- Kids are always playing or learning. Pulling weeds and planting seeds in your garden is your task but their imagination land of bugs and dirt.
- If you’re happy, they’re happy. Involving them in your world helps balance your needs too.
- And perhaps most importantly, kids learn that other people have needs as well. They are not, in fact, the center of the universe.
5. Involve your kids in activities you don’t like
It might seem strange to combine playing with your kids and an activity you don’t look forward to. But I’ve found that these dreaded activities turn out not-so-bad when my kids are actually around.
Folding laundry might be more fun because your kids are nearby to keep your company. After all, “play” is anything fun to them. You might play peek-a-boo with the baby using laundry clothes. Or sit your toddler in the hamper while you toss clothes over her head.
The result? A boring task now isn’t so bad, you got the job done, and you and your kids played together.
6. Let your kids play alone
We don’t always have to entertain or be with our kids 24/7. Remember that time alone is good for them, as it allows them to tinker, develops independence, and encourages them to think creatively.
Playing “alone” doesn’t have to literally mean alone. You can pull out a book and read near your toddler as he plays with a toy. Or take notes and write in your journal while they play Battle Ship. You can even do chores as they run around in the yard.
An extra perk of letting your kids play alone? Not only do you finish tasks you want or need to do, but they see you doing so. They learn plenty from seeing you read for pleasure or commit to finishing a pile of laundry.
7. Find new activities
You might be bored playing with your kids because you’ve been doing the same thing every day. In other words, you’re stuck in a rut.
Find new activities you can do, whether through a quick browse online, or by writing a list ahead of time and going through them each day. Keep the new activity simple, and to one activity per day. Maybe you’ll open a box of new watercolors, or bring out the old sticker book stashed in the drawer.
You can even create an agenda and assign “subjects” like math, reading, and social studies. And rotate toys so that old ones can get played with again while putting your current ones away for now.
8. It’s okay to not like playing
Our play-obsessed western culture values playing and hovering more than other cultures. This is all relative—what is enough play for one family may be different from another. In other words, it’s okay if you don’t like playing with your kids all the time.
Because you’re not five-years-old. You don’t get the same excitement out of peeling stickers or jumping on one leg or building rocket ships. You probably did in the past… when you were five-years-old.
Playing with kids draws out the kid in us, but it’s also okay to play along and not feel as excited as your kids. You’re there to guide them through their enjoyment, not to enjoy it with the same zest and zeal as they do.
9. Enjoy it while it lasts
Lastly, keep things in perspective. By far, this is the tip I tell myself anytime I complain about my kids, playing or not. Whether they’re clinging to my leg or begging to play, I remind myself that this won’t last forever. Soon they won’t want to play these games at home or insist on having my attention.
And those moments when we play—even when I’m not excited about it—will be a memory.
Enjoy the moment, the puppet play, the building blocks, the zillions of times they want to keep dancing or racing from one room to the next.
When you know how finite time is, you’re more likely to enjoy it.
I love my kids, but I still have those days where I’d rather be alone than play with them. Thankfully, we can find ways to cope with the boredom.
For one thing, compromise and limit play time so you and your kids have clear expectations of when it’ll end. Play activities you actually enjoy, tag-teaming with your partner for those you don’t. Involve the kids in your world, including those you don’t exactly love (having them around might make it more fun!).
Let them play alone, even if you’re sitting nearby doing something else. Find new activities to break up your routine. Remind yourself that it’s okay to not be as excited about play time as your kids. And lastly, enjoy it while it lasts—the ultimate reminder that this is all temporary, boredom and all.
Get more tips:
- Why Too Many Toys Can Be Bad for Kids
- How to Nurture Your Child’s Creativity
- 10 Awesome Physical Activities for 3 Year Olds
- Characteristics of a Resilient Child
- Why Boredom is Good for Your Child
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