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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, I am ready to start putting off the housework and playing more with my kids. The mommy guilt is overwhelming me.
I came from a family where the kids played and the adults did their thing for the most part. I was hoping that some of you might share some creative ideas for play with 2 and 4 year old girls. Our play right now consists mostly of coloring, cutting, stickering, reading and occassionally I join in with their kitchen play (with their toy kitchen set), but right now we are in between homes and without their toys for at least 4-6 more months so I need some ideas. I can't go buy a ton of stuff because we won't have space in the car to move it to our final destination. Help! My kids are bored! I realized today that their increased bickering must be due in part to this boredom as well. TIA!

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Uno is a game you can all play (though you and your 2yo may have to team up). I bend the rules to work for the littlest ones. Other card games work too. Finger puppets, water color painting, making sock puppets, rock painting (w/tempra paints), you can also make games like matching with cutting out magazine pictures and using index cards to make memory (two kinds of pianos, cars, birds, dogs, computers, houses etc.). They love to make them, and use them! I think it's best to leave little ones to their own imaginative play, you can guide them in learning games (identify, art, memory, learning numbers, etc.). Also simple things like sorting different types of beans into paper cups, washing up activities, cutting with scisors (safe ones, obviously), and tracing things in dirt/sand are all fun and educational. You don't need to spend time playing THEIR games, bring YOUR games to THEM!

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When my kids were 2 and 4, I would sometimes start them off on play, for example, get out the Duplo or drape some sheets and pillows for a fort, and then have them play.

In the playground I would sometimes sing things like "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush" as they circled poles, or play tiger w/ them and other chasing games.

But, overall, I didn't like to play much. Instead, I would try and facilitate their play.

Problem is, a 2 year-old is still rather young to be a good play companion for the 4 year-old.

Play ideas w/ few toys that I used to do:

* Chasing games
- You are the lion or tiger or bear. You roar or growl and they run. You catch them and either switch (they become the lion or bear) or give them a kiss or something.

*Tickle game -
You explain to the 4-year-old that you will start to tickle her when she says "start" and will stop when she says "stop. Then do so. It's great in that it's easy, and they are in control of the game. It also helps teach the kids the concept of "stop" because YOU stop when they say it.

*Sleeping Lions
- the girls lie down on the floor and must very quiet and not move. You walk around them and by either your movements or words try to make them giggle or move. The first one to do so must be the the walker and YOU get to lie down and be a Sleeping Lion.

* Bath fun
- Put the girls in the tub and give them plastic cups or other things that float. Explain that the game will end if lots of water ends up on the floor. You can read something while sitting on the toilet (top closed) or a stool and make sure they don't drown or scald themselves.

- Put on music YOU like and dance w/ them. At this age they are too young to think that mama dances funny.

* Get out of the House
- Is there a library w/ story-hour nearby? Make that a regular part of your routine.

- Do you have any friends or acquaintances w/ kids about your age. Meet your friend at your place or her place and let the kids play while you have tea/coffee/wine/juice and chat.

- Go for a walk and play "wild-life biologist" and observe insects or local dogs or interesting leaves.

*Give yourself a break
- [If you have a TV and no moral or pedagogical objections] put on Teletubbies or something and let them watch while you read a book or magazine or get on the computer.

Hope some of these ideas help.

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I take my kids to the library, or go for a hike or just for a wlk when the big one is too bored. But mostly I expect kids to be able to entertain themselves and thus far it's worked out for me to do so.

Play with your kiddos if you want to (I do play for about 20 minutes a day with each) but don't feel guilty if you don't. You are their mama not their playmate.

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My mom HATED *stuff*...Toys and things with parts and clutter were kept at Grandma's house..

We used to play games like "I-Spy" (I spy with my little eye..something GREEN,,remember that game?), Charades...

We also used to make our own "radio shows." with a blank cassette tape and tape recorder. We'd interview eachother...Or just tape ourselves being silly.

We'd play model with a poloroid camera--Could do the same with a digital camera and load the pictures on the computer. (Plus would be lots cheaper than the poloroid was!) We'd dress up and take pictures. Or just take silly pictures if you don't want to dress up...I have a great one of me and my mom standing on our

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I play active games with my 2 yo - chase, hide and seek, piggy back rides, talking to her about the mulch she's playing in. Sometimes she'll bring me things and say "mama do", and I'll play an instrument or swaddle a doll.

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1,605 Posts
I fight the mama guilt too but I like the concept of having kids join in adult activity if they need time with me, or I read books. They play a lot together now that they are 3 and 5. One game they request is "hotdog" . Put pretend fillings on the whole length of their body using different hand movements the wrap them up in the bun (blanket) really tight. Good sensory game- helps calm down at bedtime.

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728 Posts
I think it's important to play with kids. Of course we want them to be able to entertain themselves, but kids want to play with the people they love, including their mom.

If you don't have their toys right now, you can have plenty of fun with a bottle of bubbles! We do bubbles in the tub when it's too cold or rainy to go outdoors.

When a child has your undivided attention they are in their glory, you don't need to have any store bought toys, you can play with anything. Make puppets out of socks or paper bags, play hide and seek, play catch with something soft if you are indoors, get out some of the real kitchen stuff and have a pretend tea party or play music on the pots and pans with a wooden spoon.

Let them lead the way, just sit on the floor with them and let them know it's mommy play time and they have you all to themselves for however long. They will come up with plenty of ideas!

My daughter is turning 4 and she still gets excited when I give her the empty TP or paper towel rolls. You can play with dry pasta, color it with food coloring and make necklaces, or let them make a pot of play soup, with water, dry pasta and a handful of frozen veggies.

If they are bored in the day, an afternoon bath with tons of bubbles can be fun. When there is no time pressure bathtime can be play time. Give them a funnel and some plastic cups etc and they can make bubble soup in the tub.

You can hide and seek a toy in the house. Make some bean bags, you can do that together and then they will find endless uses for the bean bags.

My mom didn't play with us either. She plays with my DD all the time. I wish she had realized back then that it was OK to sit on the floor and play, it would have made my childhood and our relationship much better.

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I honestly don't know if how I interact with my son is playing or just interacting. I don't do puzzles with him or build blocks or make believe with his animals but I have helped teach him his letters, his numbers, we read, we paint, and we go lots of places. I'm totally happy teaching him how to groom a horse or taking him to the aquarium and learning all the fish and touching crabs in the touch tank or digging in the garden or letting him cook with me and bake with me and just DOING something. But I don't sit with his playthings and play with him. I just can't do it. My mind wanders almost instantly and I feel anxious. Is that totally weird?

And yet my hubby can plop right down and play pretend whatever and play with his toys with him all day long.

I don't let it bother me too much becasue I feel like at least we're doing other quality things's just not traditional play. But when he's older it will totally be me showing him to build a proper tree fort and how to climbsaid tree.

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i have only one child.

so i am her mother as well as her playmate.

i think for her the most important role i played was 'audience'. she needed someone to see her new thing. or improved old thing. or something.

i play mostly physical games with her.

i mostly never say ok ets go play. i usually wait for her to ask me. or when i can feel she is about to ask me i start before she does.

we do a lot of pantomime. for us it was one of my best parenting tool. the object of most of my games is laughter.

but no. i dont suffer from mommy guilt. somedays i can play, somedays not.

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7,241 Posts
When dd was younger-
pan of rice
dance party- just turn on music and dance
sidewalk chalk
blow bubbles
dig in dirt or sand
read books
store- put prices on things in your house for your kids to buy or let them be the shop keeper
making things out of boxes
play I-Spy- good for finding colors, shapes, letters, textures
color hunt- fill up a basket with things that are blue for example
bake cookies- aggression cookies were a favorite
wheelbarrow/wagon ride
computer games
making books
build temporary fort- cushions/sheet
dress up

call someone- not playing but it always distracted my dd for awhile

You might find some activities here-

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133 Posts
I have only one child too and we do a LOT of pretending, for building, and wrestling. Right now we are in a big fireman phase so there are a LOT of fires to put out in our house. But generally, I try to include him in what I'm doing - he loves to garden, do dishes, and fix stuff around the house, etc. But basically, we just go along with whatever he's into - he's pretty good about asking for us to join his play when he wants us there.

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1,517 Posts
Outside Game Ideas:

Red Light/Green Light: Have children run around during green light, go slow for yellow light, and stop for red light. Have fun and play "opposite day" where red means go, etc.

Mother May I

Follow the Leader

Choo Choo Train (one child be the engine, one the freight car, you be the caboose, and have the engine run and do silly things and everyone try to keep up)


Indoor Play Ideas:

Fingerpainting (on paper, in the sink, on a cookie sheet, whatever you've got)

Glass of water, food coloring, eye dropper or pipette, paper towels: Let children put food coloring in glass of water and use eye dropper to squirt onto paper towels.

Make homemade playdough and use butter knives, forks, toothpicks to make patterns and cut. Make "cakes" in cake pans or any other kitchen tools that you've got on hand.

(For bathtime) Shaving cream, pie pans, spatulas, funnels

Bake together (Breads and muffins are usually easy for this)

Clean together (DD loves doing baking soda and vinegar in our toilets)

Plant a pot garden

Hide and object and have children find it doing the "you're cold, you're cool, you're red hot" trick.

Easy Toys:

Empty Paper Towel rolls (spyglasses, ball shutes--you can make balls out of aluminum foil--etc.)

Acrylic Felt from craft store (cut into lettuce, carrot slices, green beans, cheese slices, etc., and use with real pots and pans for pretend kitchen). You can also fill old spice jars with dry pasta and beans and cinnamon sticks for additional "ingredients".

Wooden beads from craft store (you can string these or use them as pretend play food, etc.)

Stuff and old sock with cotton, sew ends onto old washcloth and have children draw faces and glue on yarn "hair" for dollies

Use shoe boxes for stacking and making a dollhouse (make miniature dolls from clothespins or wooden pegs from craftstore). Children will enjoy decorating rooms with markers, cut out paper, etc.

Fill a cardboard box or a Rubbermaid container with birdseed or sand. Dig with garden tools or spoons, fill up cups or buckets. Hide rocks and sticks and dig them out.


Old spices for shaking, a bowl of water, a spoon to make "soup"

Build a fort with fabrics or blankets.

Pull cushions off couch and make a hideout or jump on cushions.

Mix cornstarch, water, and food coloring for a neat effect.

Pull out binoculars, tape measure, digital camera and let children play.

Pull out toolbox and discuss the different tools.

Make musical instruments using toilet paper rolls, paper plates, rice, and stapler.

Mix oil and water in a jar.

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Other ideas:

Make a book with blank paper, staples, and stickers (or have kids draw pictures).

Do a scavenger hunt outside

Take kids outside with a small garbage bag on a windy day. Have them hold one of the open ends and let it puff up. If they let it go that can chase it while the wind blows it. Afterward use the garbage bag for picking up litter on a walk.

Get a hole punch and glue stick and construction paper. Punch holes and let kids glue them onto a piece of paper.

Collect rocks, pinecones, and sticks from outside for playing with inside (you can use them for making forests for telling stories, etc.)

Buy a bag of mixed shelled nuts at the grocery store and pretend they are forest animals.

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My daughter is almost 21 months old. She loves looking at pictures of people, so we do a lot of that.

We also make up verses to "The Wheels on the Bus" based on the people that she knows. She calls out the person, I start singing the verse, and then she tells me what they say. We love to sing songs together.

Ever since she got a tea set as a gift last month, we've been playing tea party a LOT. She loves to mix with the spoons, and then serve me. You don't need a tea set, of course, you can use real dishes.

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I have a visceral aversion to pretend play that lasts more than 5 minutes, so stuff I do with my kids includes:

Reading books
Board/card games
Listening to music/dancing
Going for walks/bike rides
Laying on the lawn playing "I Hear" (like "I Spy" but with our eyes closed)

And they have to find stuff to do on their own sometimes. Lots of times I'll sit in the backyard with some iced tea and a crossword puzzle and just let them play with their toys -- they'll play for an hour or more sometimes, especially if I get out something fun/different like a big tub of water and their sand toys for them to play with.
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