8 games to play with your toddler when you don't want to play any more

You don't have to be an all dancing, all singing entertainer every moment of the day.
You don't have to be an all dancing, all singing entertainer every moment of the day.  Photo: Getty Images

It's been a long day: you've been Spiderman and a princess and the mum and the dad and a pirate, you've done puzzles and coloured in and made a hungry caterpillar with egg cartons. Now you just want a quiet cuppa, uninterrupted.

The good news is that you don't have to be an all dancing, all singing entertainer every moment of the day. Your child is blessed with a wonderful imagination: he will survive without you being his best playmate, at least long enough for you to have that quiet cuppa. But try telling that to a bright, active child who is home alone with you!

If you're all played out but your child isn't, and you don't want to resort to TV, it's okay to cheat. If you are feeling desperately in need of some time out,  try these ...

1. Hide and seek

Boil the kettle, then tell your kid, "Let's play hide and seek. You can hide and I'll come and find you – I'll count to 100 (or 20 or a 1000 if you like, whatever sounds fabulous to a child with a great imagination – and depending on his age). Then I'll come and find you."

Sit down with your lovely hot drink and count – very loudly and slowly. Comment, "I wonder where he is hiding? I bet he's found a very secret hiding place! I can't see him anywhere!"

2. Paint the fence

Set your little pocket rocket up with a shallow bucket of water and a large paintbrush (the kind you paint houses with). Sit back and watch him paint the fence or the verandah while you enjoy your cuppa – while it's still hot!

3. Tattoo the legs

You don't want a cuppa but you're so damn tired your eyes are almost closing. You just want to lie down. Grab some markers (washable – hide the black sharpie!), roll up your trousers, and lie back on a towel or old rug (even washable markers can stain a good couch) – then let your kid draw on your legs.

You may want to wear tights or jeans for a few days until the colour completely washes off ... unless you're so exhausted you don't give a crap who sees your rainbow legs.

4. Massage mummy

Your fantasy includes a luxurious massage at a day spa but it's not happening any time this afternoon. So if you've given your littlie massages since he was a baby, now it's payback time!


Pour a little safe vegetable oil into a saucer (a whole bottle of oil would probably buy you time to have a 2 hour nap, but you might not feel relaxed when you wake up to the results of your tot's 'adventure'). Lie on a towel on the floor with your top off or your trousers rolled up, then let the little person massage your back or your legs. He'll have a great time 'making you shiny', you'll get to relax (pretty much),  and at least you will know exactly where he is.

Tip: If you feel guilty about slacking off, remind yourself what a brilliant sensory experience you are providing.

5. Dead fish

This game is great if you have more than one child. Get yourself a drink before you start – you will need to supervise, but it's pretty simple. Get the kids to lie on the floor and be 'dead fish'. They have to lie very still – the one who keeps still the longest is the winner!

Tip: You can play it over and over so each one gets a turn at winning.

6. Play doctors

Your kid gets to be the doctor while you get to lay on the couch with your eyes closed. He can take your pulse, listen to your heart (give him a toy stethoscope) and put bandaids all over you while you snooze.

7. Bubble bath

No, you can't leave your child alone in the bathroom, but you can take your cuppa and drink it while your little one plays with cups and sponges and bubbles. Or you can have a bubble bath together – often a good splash and some bubble play will help you both to relax. Your child's emotional tank will be filled so he will be less 'demanding' and you can dress him (and you) in your pyjamas afterwards.

Bonus: You won't have to face the evening bath routine when you are both exhausted.

8. Chip away the ice

Fill an ice cream tub or similar container with water and some small plastic toys  or creatures, then keep it in the freezer for 'one of those days'. On a warm day, get out the frozen block and let your child dig away with spoons or a small hammer and screw driver to get the toys out of the ice. Sit back and have your cuppa as you supervise – you might even have time to munch some biscuits too!

Pinky McKay is a mum of five and best selling author of Toddler Tactics