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4 YO Needs Constant Attention/Playmate - Ideas?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
My DD (will be four in a few weeks) has always been rather high needs. Very happy kid as long as she's healthy but HATES to play by herself. She's quite imaginative and plays well with other kids and does well in her camp and preschool (four days a week from 9-2) but once she's home from camp or on weekends, etc she's just acting out and looking for me (since I'm often the only one here) to play with her.

She has some really nice toys that she asked for - dollhouse, Barbie computer, Legos, etc - but unless someone (be it myself, DH, her friends) are here and playing with them with her they go wasted and she just whines for me or someone to play with her. Any ideas/thoughts? We have play dates when we can and I try to play with her when I can but I also need to take care of DS (almost 7 weeks) and cook, etc. How can I encourage her to play with some of these toys she wanted by herself for even 15-20 minutes a few times a day?

BTW - this isn't a new problem, she's always been this way - so it's definitely her personality but makes days rough for both of us.

post #2 of 17
I had one of those kids. Then I adopted a 21 month old when he was just over three, so the problem went away for the most part because he has her to play with.

I used to set a timer and say "Ds, I need to do something by myself for X amount of time. When the timer goes off I'll give you my undivided attention." It worked. Now, at almost 5, he plays for long stretches of time alone while his little sister is napping. There's something about a timer that takes the emotion out of things and keeps it easier for kids to deal with, I think.
post #3 of 17
We need to get our kids together! My DS of the same age sounds exactly like your DD. I have a DD that is 8 and she will play with him at times, but not to his level of roughness or satisfaction. I told DH the other day if I had known what things would be like, I would have tried for a younger sibling for him when he was a year old or so. I thought I was doing my children a favor with the four year spacing, but now I really see the other side of the coin. In fact, earlier this week DS asked for a little brother, but when we explained how long it would take, he told me forget it. We live in the country and there are not any other children around us. We try to do play dates as well, but this kid could interact with other littles every day.
I am going to try the timer as well as encouraging DD to play more with her little brother. Pre-school starts in a month or so and I might have to go to five half days rather than three to preserve all our sanity.
Let me know of anything else you find that works.
post #4 of 17
Some kids are just like this. I don't think I played by myself until age 5, and dd seems to be following the same path at 3.5. What works for us is involving dd in household chores and then we play together. Since you have a little bitty one, I don't know if that is an option. Our week looks something like:

Monday--Cook a main dish that will last most of the week; Do laundry
Tuesday--Clean house (this takes one hour)
Wednesday--Make a special dessert
Thursday--Free Day; Do something different for dinner that is quick and easy

None of these activities lasts more than an hour or so, and dd is pretty good about helping, especially with cooking. She loves to measure ingredients and whisk eggs. Perhaps you could do your chores while your baby is awake, and then when he goes down for a nap you could have playtime with your dd. I've tried the timer thing and it just really upset dd, so we stopped that. I know that eventually she will want to play by herself but for now, this is just our life and I try to accomodate us both.
post #5 of 17
I have a DD almost exactly the same age (08/29/05) and who also demands constant attention/playing. She's an only child and does not go to preschool. I have no advice whatsoever, just commiseration.

Well, the one thing that works for us pretty well is cooking. I love to cook and she loves to sit on the counter and help. I'll measure flour or whatever and let her dump it in the bowl. I let her give things a few stirs. Or if I'm chopping something I'll let her take it off the cutting board and dump it into the bowl/whatever. She loves the activity and attention so much that she frequently announces (totally out of the blue) that she loves me, while we're cooking together.

But she also really really wants one of us to tromp around a dinosaur and make it talk for her. All the time. Drives me to tears with boredom.
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone! It is hard to do some of those chores with her since my 7 week old needs a lot of time/attention (of course) and because she's in camp (and Pre-K in the fall) 9-2 four days a week. But she does love to cook and I'll try to do that more with her. Part of the problem is that she is SO tired when she gets home from camp that she is even less able than usual to occupy herself and extra whiny. And DS has his fussy time from like 5:45-7:30 or so - so that definitely cuts into her time/what I can do with her as well. Hard to let her help me cook dinner (which we usually eat at 6:30) when I'm already cooking with one arm trying to calm down and/or feed a fussy, overtired LO!

She will read books in her room by herself for 30 minutes or so and she is good in the bath by herself for 15-20 minutes usually. So I know I'm lucky with that.

I feel badly getting so frustrated with her/not wanting to play with her - but will keep working on it! Any ideas for good toys/activities for her to play with by herself in the meantime? Her birthday is in a few weeks and we are getting her a Barbie dollhouse (her choice) so hopefully she'll play with that alone some. Plus her grandma is getting her a new playdough set so maybe that will help? What about Lite Brite at this age?
post #7 of 17
Originally Posted by kamane18 View Post
What about Lite Brite at this age?
I saw one at the store the other day and knew DD would love it - but passed on it because I cringe at the idea of that many little pieces being scattered around the house! We're not the sort of family that requires everything to be put away every 10 minutes, and DD likes to take pieces from one activity and use them for others (like she would enjoy using the little pieces to stuff into her "purse" and then pretend they were "treats" - she wouldn't eat them or anything, but my point is they'd be all over the place!!).

You already mentioned baths, but we found we can get at least 10 minutes out of filling up the bathroom sink with water, pulling her stairs up to the sink and letting her go at it with toys. But she's a neat child and I know some kids would create disasters with that. She especially loves to play with this Ariel doll in the water.
post #8 of 17
I so feel your pain! I have a 4 yo DS who is the same way and a 7 week old daughter. I've been using the timer too, the problem is that we get involved in something and I'm not done when the timer rings, so we keep going until I finish helping him, then DD wakes up and I have no time to accomplish anything around the house. It has been really hard for me going from one kid to two.

I'll be watching this thread for more ideas! I hope it gets better soon!
post #9 of 17
Oh, I feel your pain too. ds (3.5) is completely unable to play by himself for more than 30 seconds...it drives me nuts too, esp when I have another LO to deal with.

Just one thing: get yourself a mei tai or Ergo!! This will let you do your cooking and other chores with baby in tow; could help ease the fussy time (swaddling & swaying--ie, babywearing!--are two of Dr Karp's suggestions); you can nurse him hands-free...and so on. I couldn't have survived without my Kozy (esp parenting newborn dd with a 2.5yo to chase), and it might really help you.
post #10 of 17
This is a good exercise for me, since i'm always thinking that I need to make a list of good activities that dd enjoys on her own. She's 3.5 and can entertain herself for quite awhile doing sensory things (she loves imaginative play, but not on her own) Some of the best here are:
--"washing dishes" in the kitchen sink (she loves playing with the soap and sponge)
--"cooking"- I have some old shaker spice cans that I fill with flour, rice, etc. (cheap ingredients), measuring cups, etc. and she will measure, shake, and stir for AGES
--painting/play-dough/GLITTER GLUE
--muffin tin with lots of little things to sort (beads, dried beans, etc.)
--lots of any little things and bags to put them in
--packing her little suitcase with clothes, etc. for vacation
--outside the sand/water table is still a huge hit
post #11 of 17
Ds1 is like that too (aged 4). I tell him its time to play by himself and give him lots of ideas, and he can play or not. Sometimes he pouts for a bit first....eventually he will find something to do.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone! It's also hard for both of us because (1) she's definitely in a "not-listening" phase, made worse by being overtired from camp and from not napping anymore; (2) her non-stop talking, which exhausts me - I'm definitely a bit introverted and (3) the fact that I enjoyed playing with her more as a toddler/baby - probably because she wasn't non-stop talking then and I enjoyed the low key games more. But I know I need to make more of an effort to set aside a few times a day to do what she wants. I just wish she would go back to napping - her mood is so much better than and then I enjoy playing with her more.

Must dash - DS is hungry and she's playing with soapy water. LOL.
post #13 of 17
My DS was always the same way and I always felt guilty that I couldn't play with him as much as he needed, but just a few months ago I realized....I'm his MOM, not his PLAYMATE. He has plenty of other people to play with (2 grandmas, dad, a few friends, ect) so it's not like he's neglected or anything, plus, he does need to learn to entertain himself. Once I let go of the guilt, I started to be a little more firm with him. I did it the same way I weaned him. I would just put him off for a bit so that it got to the point that he wasn't asking so much.

I still read to him a lot and we do puzzles and games and I try to actively play with him for about 1/2 hour a day, but for the rest of the time, he's on his own. I will stop what I''m doing to help him transform a transformer, but I won't sit down with him in the middle of cooking dinner. He knows now that I can't play all the time. And when I do play, he appreciates it more I think because he stopped throwing fits that I'm "not playing it right".
post #14 of 17
Have you tried water play? My ds can occupy himself with a few inches of water in the bathtub and some toys for several hours. Or he washes his cars in the powder room while I cook in the kitchen. Or we go outside and he waters all the plants and then fills up his water table for more play. Good luck.
post #15 of 17
Originally Posted by LuxPerpetua View Post

Monday--Cook a main dish that will last most of the week; Do laundry
This is completely OT, but I have to ask, what kind of main dishes do you cook that last a whole week? I need to know this! I cook three meals a day plus snacks and my family eats and eats. Nothing ever lasts more than a day around here!
post #16 of 17
On not napping- Even if she chooses not to nap, I would institute a daily "quiet time" after lunch where she can lay in bed and look at books, but has to lay down and rest.
post #17 of 17

mothers helper?

I kinda gave up on my guy playing alone, though he does sometimes and for longer stretches as time goes by. But one thing I have done is get mother's helpers, which is basically a paid older friend! You can find an 8-yr old or 10-yr old who wants to be a mother's helper, and pay him/her a few bucks an hour to play with your child! My son loves his older friends and it allows me to take care of our babe, clean, etc., while still keeping an eye on my son and the "paid friend"!
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