When You Don’t Want To Play With Your Kids

I made a list of 15 mom-guilt-free “excuses” for you to NOT play or do whatever your child wants you to do right now. You’re welcome!

Noooo, I Don’t Want To Play

I’m gonna be the bad honest mom and just say it — I don’t like playing with my child. Don’t get me wrong, I adore her. She’s amazingly cute, intelligent, she has her dad’s sense of humor and my surpressed sassiness. She is everything we prayed for in a daughter (be careful what you pray for) and I love spending time with her. But when she says, “Come play, Mommy,” I automatically feel a tug of war. And I do mean war. My heart pulls… So. Cute. Must. Play. Be. Good. Mommy. And my mind tugs… Not. Practical. No. Time. Let her. Down. Gently. 

The fact is that oftentimes when my little one asks, I’m not really in the middle of something that I can’t step a way from for at least few minutes to give her my undivided attention. And it’s not that I don’t want to hang out with her or have her around me (except when I don’t). It’s just that I don’t want to “play.” I don’t want to do blocks, or play with her Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood figurines, or whatever it is she wants me to do. I want to do what I want to do. I want to play on my own terms. If I want to color one day, that doesn’t mean I’ll want to color the next time she asks — especially if she asks. #ConfessionsOfASelfishMom

I call this “sticker henna.”

Sometimes We Need To Be Selfish

Yes, it’s kind of selfish. Wanting to say “no” when you’ve been at home with your child all day (feeding, and cleaning, and clothing, and disciplining, etc.) for no other reason than, “I don’t want to play,” is selfish. Wanting to say “no” when you’ve just come home from a long day at work or school is selfish.

Yes, sometimes thinking of yourself first is good. When we manage our energy well, we can give more to our families and generally better use our gifts and talents for God’s glory, but the truth is, that’s not what our kids care about. They’re selfish too.

Sure, we could make these moments teachable and have our kids suck it up and deal with the fact that it’s not about them, but we could be missing out on another opportunity: to pick up our crosses, die to ourselves, and show sacrificial love in a way that our children will receive and understand now. Not later, when they themselves are parents and being under appreciated and can finally appreciate all the things we did for them. Now. While they’re self-centered. We could be missing out on an opportunity to love our kids more like Jesus would. Maybe that’s why he calls them the greatest in the kingdom. Maybe that’s why he said, “Let the little children come to me.” Loving them on their terms is inconvenient… and miraculous. It does a miraculous work in us and in them.

Let’s Make A Compromise

Now, before your mom-guilt kicks in, don’t worry — the title of this article is not click-bait. I fully intend to give us a list of “cop-outs” for when we don’t want to play with our kids — I gotchu! But I wanted to say all of that to help us keep things in perspective. These alternate ideas should not be the default response, the should be the last resort.  As we consider these alternatives to saying “yes” to play, we must remember that they are, in their own way, a “no” — even if the substitutes satisfy our children’s desire to spend time with us, create, learn something new, or make us proud. We are making things more comfortable for us and taking away their chance to lead us and show us their world. Let us make these other options a gateway to more “yeses” in the future.

Here are 15 compromises you can make when you don’t want to play with your kids:

1. Pick something else you don’t mind playing with them.

So you’re not into blocks today? Play with the stuffed animals instead.

2. Make a snack together.

I love teaching my baby girl how to cook. This can be a nice way to entertain your child, teach them some valuable life skills and give them an end product they can enjoy.

3. Have them help you.

Are you in the middle of something important? Not that playing isn’t important, but we have many other things that need to get done. Is there something you can get  your child to help you with that they’ll enjoy? Or can you make what you’re doing into a game by having your child mimic you or pretend to do what you’re doing? I have raised a child who loves to load the washer and dryer and diswasher (for now). #TrainUpAChild #Winning #MomGoals

4. Make art.

Try to use what you have at home to make something abstract or recreate something you find on Pinterest. Maybe the very de-stresser you need is to color or sketch, or finger-paint something like this super easy cross craft.

5. Read together or read to your child while they play.

Sometimes I want to feel like I’m “accomplishing” something while I play with my daughter, but there are few times that make me feel that way. When I read to her while she plays, she gets the quality time she craves and I get the satisfaction of teaching her something.

6. Sing & Dance.

Throw on some of your or your child’s favorite songs and sing and dance. It easily becomes a family worship set if you play Christian or Gospel music.

7. Snuggle.

Like most moms, sometimes I’m straight-up exhausted and need a break. And like most moms, I suck it up and deal with it because life goes on. In those moments where I just can’t go on, I ask my daughter straight up, “Mommy is tired, can we snuggle and _________ instead?” That can mean we read a book together, watch a movie she likes, or even play pretend bedtime where she tucks me into bed and I snore really loudly. If you don’t overuse this one, it can be a great option.

These are the kind of shenanigans we get into during snuggle time. Go ahead, leave your snacks on mommy’s lap… No problem!

8. Play with your favorite music or an audio book in the background.

If you have younger kids this can feel like killing two birds with one stone. Get on the floor and play the game your child wants to play, but have something going in the background that can keep your spirit up or feed you intellectually during the process.

9. Play outside.

Go into your backyard or a local park and let your child run around and explore. The change of scenery may make them content enough to play on their own, or make it more fun for you to get involved.

10. Go somewhere.

Do you have errands to run? Make it an adventure and give your kid a special treat at the end of it. Or go to the library or some other exciting kid-friendly place. Or just go for a drive and play “I Spy” or carpool karaoke.

11. Exercise together.

Sometimes when I don’t want to play, I invite my daughter to do some yoga with me. (I follow this awesome Christian yoga teacher on YouTube, Caroline Williams, you should check her out!) Find an exercise video to do together or make up your own routine with jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, and squats.

12. Organize a play date.

Do you have a friend or neighbor with kids who you can call to do a last-minute playdate? Set it up! Do you have a friend who you enjoy spending regular time with who can make playdates a weekly occurrence? Do it! I have a friend who brings her daughters over to play almost weekly, and another friend who I go to a Christian mom group with where kids are welcome and they play while the moms gather together. That’s two days of easy playdates for my little one so I can build up my energy to play with her when she asks.

13. Teach them something.

Do you have a toddler who will be preparing for preschool soon? Work on the alphabet or counting and make it fun! Is there an interest that your elementary-aged child has that you can research and learn more about together? Google and YouTube away!

14. Let your kids do the thing you don’t want them to do — within reason.

You know that thing that normally you would make a big deal out of them doing, but if they did it wouldn’t really harm anyone. Let them do it. Let them play with the pots and Tupperware. Have them sort through the canned food. Set them up in front of the TV. Allow them play with water using bowls and spoons. Let them make a mess (and remind them that they will be helping with clean up). You’ll buy yourself some extra time doing whatever you’re doing (or not doing) until you’re ready/able to play or it’s time for the next thing on your schedule.

When your kid wants to throw a fidget spinner on the ground so it falls apart, just so that she can put it back together and repeat over and over again… let her!

15. Study God’s word together and make it fun!

Read a Bible story and make a snack and/or craft to go with it. Turn it into pretend play by acting out the story. Try memorizing a verse of Scripture and make up hand motions or a game for it. Play trivia based on the story you studied.

16. Say YES.

Oftentimes we need to just say yes to our kids while they’re still young and still want to hang out with us.  We’re helping them learn, solve problems, be creative, and building trust with them when we play. When we play with them on their terms now, it’ll pay great dividends later, especially as we are inspiring them into a relationship with Christ.

Your turn: What do you do when you don’t want to play with your child? (Or am I the only monster mom who feels this way?) Is this an only child thing? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! ⭐

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