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Lazy Parent’s Guide for Entertaining Toddlers with Pretend Play

As a busy and emotionally drained mom, the thought of playing Frozen, Minions, or Annie with my 5-year-old is overwhelming. I haven’t been 5 in twenty years now and the idea of pretending to be someone else for a whole hour just sounds exhausting. And even if I did try to get into it, I’d probably just end up being a supporting character like Olaf. If you’re a parent who has the energy and patience for that kind of thing, more power to you. But for the rest of us, here are some pretend play scenarios that might actually be enjoyable.

1. Restaurant

No, not with that damn plastic food that is in every corner of the house. Bring your mother a sandwich. I don’t care if you can’t reach the cupboard, that’s why chairs exist. Hurry or you won’t get 20 percent of the tip. The working world is a tough place, kid.

2. Nail salon

Before you start massaging Mommy’s feet, they must soak for at least 10 minutes. During this time, you can ask me nosy questions like they do at a real salon.

3. Cinderella

In this pretend play scenario, you can be Cinderella, as you always want to be, and I’ll play the role of the evil stepmother. I’ll give you a Magic Eraser and tell you not to come out of the playroom until the walls are spotless. And don’t worry, it’s totally believable that Cinderella had a magic eraser in the fairytale – after all, it has the word “magic” in it! This scenario allows us to have some fun with roles and creatively incorporate household objects into the play.

4. Sleeping Beauty

You know the drill – lay down at nap time, pretend to be asleep for three hours, and then let me wake you up with a kiss. Wait, what do you mean we always do this? Oh, right, because WE’RE ALWAYS PLAYING SLEEPING BEAUTY. I mean, seriously, didn’t you know that by now?

5. The Lorax

Plant these flowers that I bought at Home Depot. We’re helping to reverse the terrible destruction caused by evil industrialists! Can you sing along?

6. Debate club

This is where people argue incessantly about a topic, trying to outdo each other in logic and facts, as well as the power of charm and persuasion. A good example is “You should stop watching TV because it’s bedtime” versus “No, you shouldn’t”. Wear Suits.

7. Dentist

It’s time for your dental appointment! You be the patient and I’ll be the dentist. Now, let’s bring out Mr. Water Pik and Miss Floss. What do you mean, this isn’t as fun as when the hygienist does it? She’s 25 and perky, what did you expect? … What? Oh, right, I’m also 25 … but I’m 25 with more life experience. Being a dentist is a serious business, and we can’t all be as youthful and enthusiastic as the hygienist. But don’t worry, I’ll take good care of your teeth.

8. TV critic

Here, we watch TV and then write about it for a newspaper. I think this season, The Walking Dead is a bit much. The character development is — why are you under the couch? Listen, this job is not for the weak of heart.

9. “Pinterest mommy”

Here we look at “homemade play dough,” “DIY dream catchers,” and “bubble wrap made from random things found in the garage,” and then we create these kid-enhancing projects while smiling a lot, wearing cute clothes, and posting Instagram photos of us laughing. What do you mean, we didn’t take pictures of each other? Just be quiet and look at your dream tooth with an expression of joy and conversationalism.

Well, there you have it – nine pretend play “games” that even the laziest of toddler parents can enjoy (or at least tolerate). Just remember to keep it low-key, use household objects to your advantage, and never underestimate the power of playing dress-up. And if all else fails, just throw on some Frozen and call it a day. Happy pretending!

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