How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play

Do you shudder with fear when your kids ask you to play with their teddies? Do you think of an excuse - like housework - every time your kids want you to play with cars? Not playing with our kids makes us feel guilty, and those of us who don't like to play feel guilty because we make excuses to get out of playing. But what if I told you you could still engage with your kids, eradicating that guilt!

I'm not the kind of person who can get on the floor with my kids and make brumming noises while driving a toy car around a fake road. My boys learned fast that I didn't really like to play with their toys with them, but that didn't stop us spending time together. I may not have played with their toys or put on voices, but I was still there spending time with my kids.

Here's how to play with your kids when you don't like to play

How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play | You can still play with your kids - just in different ways.

Build forts together

Building forts is great for your kids and you. You work together to build, using household things like blankets to make an imaginary Fort or Castle. My youngest son is 10 years old and we bought him a set where he uses sticks and special balls to build a frame (I think it's called Crazy Forts) for a fort, we also bought him 2 large tarpaulins to go over the frame. He loves that he can build a fort, and recently he invited one of his friends for a sleepover and they slept inside the fort! He can't wait to be able to do that again!

How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play | Build forts! They're great, and they'll keep them busy!
Building forts will keep them quiet for hours!

And I've been invited into the fort more than once - he just likes me to go in and read stories with him. It's a great way to spend time together without "playing".

Read stories

For years I would read bedtime stories to my boys, and now that they're older and don't need me to read to them I'm a little bit sad. They don't ask me to read to them anymore and I miss seeing their little faces when I tell them about the magic in the story. But bedtime stories aren't the only time you can read with your kids.

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

Albert Einstein

Why not just take a little time during the day, or after school, and read a story together? If you have younger children you can read to them, but if they're older and get a little bored listening to you why not get them involved in the reading?

You can sit together and read, and then when you've finished you can talk about the story. You can even make up your own ending - letting your kids' imagination run wild!

Play with their imagination by writing stories together

Those of you who are writers will love this one I'm sure. And it's always good to encourage your kids to write isn't it? 

One thing to be wary of here is making it sound like homework or a chore. You want it to be fun for you both. So sit down, and brainstorm ideas to start with. And to be honest, you don't have to write things down - you could just talk about it. Or have a computer or tablet to hand so you can type ideas.

How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play | Writing stories together is great fun.

The point is to spend time together "playing" with your ideas. Get their imagination going, let them do whatever they like with the story, and get involved yourself too. Suggest ideas. Come up with crazy scenarios. Join in. This way you are working together to create something, but something they have had good input into. 

If you're struggling to think of a prompt to start off check out these 300 fun writing prompts for kids - I'm sure you'll be able to find something that will get their imagination flowing!

With an older son (15 years old) who loves to write I tend to spend time with him talking about his stories. We discuss what is going on, how he can move on from somewhere he's struggling, and what could possibly happen next. It's a great way to get them talking to you as well as spending time together. And while it doesn't seem like it, you're playing with your kids when you don't like to play!

Play Video Games with your kids

Playing video games are a great way to play with your kids, especially if you like the games they play. I'm not a huge Fortnite fan, and it's not something I would ever play, but it is something the Hubby plays. As a result he plays games with both our boys and they spend a lot of time talking about the game. So even with boys aged 10 and 15 we still play with our kids - it's just in a different way.

There are so many multiplayer games out there these days (Minecraft, Fortnite, Overwatch), and they can actually be good for your kids. So why not check out some of their games and see if it's something you could enjoy too?


Put music on loud. Get off the sofa. And move your body!

How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play | Dancing will make you feel good and your kids will smile.

Your kids smiles will be epic and you'll all have a great time. Choose music that makes you smile, but not something the kids have never heard. Get them involved in the dancing. Do the conga around your lounge, walk like an Egyptian in the kitchen, or just hold your kids' hands as you wiggle your bottom. 

The kids will love it, you'll love it. And you're playing with your kids without even realising it!


Adult colouring has taken off, people are recognising that it can help with calming. No wonder kids have always loved colouring!

Which makes it a great activity to use to play with your kids when you don't like to play. Grab a colouring book each or one to share, use some fun colouring pens or pencils, and chat while you colour in. Talk about the colours you're using, and why. Chat about what they think the picture is about, for example if they're colouring a fairy hovering above a flower what do they think the fairy is going to do next?

Our thoughts and imagination are the only real limits to our possibilities.

Orison Swett Marden

With boys it's a little harder to get them to colour - at least it was with my two. I had lots of books of Marvel characters and things they knew, but when we spent time together colouring it was usually using a book where there were pictures of children playing. Children playing in the snow in winter, playing in a park in the summer, etc. It was always fun chatting to them about what they thought the children were doing though, they'd come up with some great ideas.

Play Board Games

Older kids love board games. But that doesn't mean you can't play board games with younger kids too - you just have to have them on your 'team'. That's what we used to do with LP when he was too young to play the games by himself. He learned a lot during that time and now he's one of the best players in the house when we play games like Cluedo! 

Playing board games teaches kids about strategy, how to have fun even though you're not using your imagination, and how to spend time with the family without having to get out a set of cars or a tea set.  Our youngest is always asking when we can next play a board game and we have a huge collection of games we have yet to play that he's excited about.

How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play | Board games a great way to get family time.
We often play board games and LP loves it!

Start with simple games like Connect 4 and once they've learned the rules you can move on to more difficult games. These days we love Scrabble, Catan, and Carcassonne, amongst others.

You don't have to like to play to spend time with your kids

Like I said, I was never the "playing" kind of mum, I couldn't stand getting down on the floor and driving cars around. It drove me mad. But I spent time with my kids doing other things, bonding and using their imagination in similar ways.

You don't have to like playing. You don't even have to do it. There are so many other ways to engage with your kids that mean you don't have to put on fake voices or drink fake tea from a teeny teacup. In the list my favourites have to be writing stories with my kids, building forts, and board games. The stories they come up with are great and sometimes make me wonder about my own writing! Building forts together makes LP so happy that I don't mind spending a little time inside when it's finished. And board games are just awesome.

How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play | You don't have to drink fake tea from teeny cups to have fun with your kids.

And if you're still feeling guilty about not playing with your kids check out this article from Psychology Today which talks about parent dominated play as well as child dominated play and discusses whether it's good for you to to play with your kids - Playing with Children: Should You, and If So, How?

So how will you play with your kids, when you don't like to play?

How To Play With Your Kids When You Don't Like To Play | Why not try out the Fun with Anipals! activity book together?