I am not good at playing. I don’t know if it’s just me, or maybe my kid, but I find it REALLY hard to sit on the floor and play trains or cars or whatever with my three year old.
I try to make the effort to play, but three year olds have some crazy ideas that are pretty hard to follow, and my son is especially talented when it comes to shooting down my ideas.
Just today, we were playing with his trains. He built a long train and was driving it around and then stopped, so I swooped in with James and took some of the cars.
Me: “Oh no! James has stolen the train cars! Chase him! Get the cars back!”
3yo: “No. Thomas left them there for James to pick up. James was just doing his job. ”
This is how most games go, he just blocks my every suggestion like the world’s worst improvisor. So we alternate between me just sort of sitting there watching him and letting him do whatever he wants, and me trying to force my own ideas on him while gently explaining to him that when he’s playing with someone else he has to listen to their suggestions, too.
And as fun as it is to spend an afternoon saying, “NO. JAMES STOLE THE TRAINS. I GET TO PLAY, TOO!”, I like to find other ways to connect with my son so he can play alone and get his attention from me in other ways.
I have some suggestions. I do not claim that any of these are new or innovative, but they are SIMPLE and require very little skill, and I am listing them because sometimes the interwebs lead you to believe everything in your life should be shiny or grandiose, and that is Just. Not. True. So:
This one is my favorite. I started him young with mixing and he has worked his way up the ranks to egg cracker.
He has proven himself to be a marvelous beater-licker and batter taster. Baking is a lot of fun for me normally, but even if it isn’t your favorite thing I suggest you at least give it a go as you might be surprised! Adding a toddler can be a little trying at times, but just expect a mess, little hands to be put in the batter, and possibly eggs broken on the floor and at least you’ll be prepared.
I get all the ingredients laid out before I put my son up on the counter (I know, I know, kids shouldn’t be on the counter.. go ahead and buy one of those proper counter helper things and be a better mom than me… Win one here til June 2) and I try to stick to fairly simple recipes. If you’re a perfectionist and hate mess, just pick up a muffin or cookie mix where you only have to add water, egg and oil, rather than braving an entire recipe from scratch.
Also, naked is best. (for the kid, not you, although it’s your house, do what you want). My son usually ends up covered head to toe in a variation of ingredients, so it is easier when you can just sponge them down.
“My 3 year old is too young for board games!”, you exclaim.
Seriously, look into it. There are some great games that I absolutely love and my oldest son seems to as well. A great one is this Sneaky Snacky Squirrel game. You have to use the Squirrel grabber (like giant tweezers) to grab acorns that correspond to the symbol on the spinner and put them in your log. Very simple concept but teaches all sorts of great skills. My son doesn’t exactly love having to spin, he prefers to just yell STORM! all the time (if the arrow lands on the storm picture, the wind blows all the acorns from your log). Still, it’s lots of fun, and the point is connecting, not perfection.
Other games we love include Honeybee Tree and the unforgettable Let’s Go Fishing game where you have a little rod and have to catch the fish who spin around with their mouths opening and closing. Even my 14 month old loves the fishing game, though usually gives up on the rod after a few seconds and goes straight to sticking his finger in the fishy’s mouth.
**If you want to buy any of these games, you can do it through eBates.ca. Order from Indigo-Chapters & get shipping to the store, plus 5% cash back from your purchase (as of the date of this post). You can order through Amazon.ca if you prefer but the cashback is only 2%. And no, that’s not an affiliate link but I do get referral cash if anyone signs up through my personal link, so click away! (That is not because I have a blog, anyone with an Ebates account can get cash for referrals)
Arts & Crafts
Now, as you know I’m not a Pinterest mom, so arts and crafts time at my house usually means saying “here’s a piece of paper and some crayons”. But every once in awhile I go nuts and do something different.
Different, but never difficult.
(This should be my catch phrase).
We made paper bag puppets the other day (without bothering with glue and googly eyes or anything, just a straight drawing-on-paper-bag type deal).
I was actually super proud of this particular puppet as it was the very first time my son’s art had actually resembled anything. Like, he put eyes and a mouth and ‘the insides of a mouth’ on it!
Do whatever level of craft you want to undertake, but if you keep it simple, it stays stress free. Even just getting a piece of paper for each of you and colouring with your child is nice. And those adult colouring books are selling like hot cakes so you can even claim to be on trend. 😉
This one is less fun but you have to do chores anyway so why not involve the kids and make it a win-win.
My boys love helping me clean bathrooms (they get to use the spray bottle), take out garbage, spray water in the tub, put soap in the washing machine and dishwasher, vacuum, hold the dustpan etc. Yes, it makes things take longer when they ‘help’ but if you slow down a bit and give them an easy task after awhile I have found they do get bored and move on to something else, leaving you to complete the actual cleaning in (relative) peace.
Warning, though: your kid may think the toilet scrubber is the coolest thing around. I fought and fought and fought to get my preschooler to stop grabbing the darn scrubber every time he was in the bathroom, but eventually I just gave in because honestly my toilets have never been cleaner. I do need to keep the plunger out of the baby’s reach, though.
Make a Project
One of our neighbours had a new washing machine delivered and I asked the delivery guy if I could snag the box. I had dreams of making it a perfect playhouse but in reality, he cried when I cut a door so it spent a day on it’s side so it could be a ‘hiding place’ til I finally convinced him it could be an even BETTER hiding place right way up.
He helped me cut the doors and windows (sort of. I mean, I was using an X-acto knife so really he was just cheering me on) but the fun came when I suggested he paint it. Painting on paper keeps him entertained for a few minutes at a time but painting this box kept him entertained for 30 minutes plus on multiple occasions. I painted the roof with him (yay bonding!) and then disappeared to clean the kitchen and he kept at it.
Of course, it’s now an eye sore sitting in the middle of my living room but the kids love hiding in it and it was a great opportunity to do something exciting with my son.
We’ve also made a cardboard car, bird feeders, etc. Never anything that’s actually nice because then I don’t mind if it gets destroyed and believe you me, I have two boys, everything is ALWAYS destroyed very quickly.
That’s my short list, but there are so many others… story time, playdoh, and blanket forts have not yet gotten old for us.
Just do the super easy, stress free, kinda craptastic versions of stuff and it should be fun rather than stressful to play with your little people. And they will love you for it.