We love our children. We also really LOVE sleep. Being home with a toddler and a baby means sleep has become a foreign concept.
Why, oh WHY didn’t we take advantage of all those pre-baby mornings we were able to sleep in? The gym could easily have waited. Looking back, we were so naive and foolish.
Since having kids we’ve been forced to be really creative at sneaking in a little siesta here and there (it’s called survival).
Here are 10 games we swear by to entertain an active toddler while you close your eyes and rest:
1. Guess the Food Item
What you will need: lots of different play food items. Proceed to lie down. Close your eyes. Ask your toddler to “prepare” food for you and feed you one item at a time. You will guess what they have prepared. Complain if they feed you too quickly. You don’t want to rush a good thing.
Tip: Make a lot of “Mmmmmm” and “Nom nom nom” noises. Buys you a lot of time and requires very little effort. Long periods of “Hmmmm-ing” while guessing also prolongs the game.
2. Santa’s Little Helper
Don’t be thrown off by the Holiday theme. This game can be played all year long. What you will need: random toys from around the room and a large box (i.e. laundry basket, cardboard box etc). If you own a Santa hat, now’s the time to pull it out. Lie down and explain to your child that it is the night before Santa has to deliver toys all over the world. He needs to get A LOT of rest to make the big trip (we wouldn’t want to disappoint all the little children, now would we?). He needs your help to prepare for the trip by gathering all the toys in the room and putting them inside his “sled” (this is where the box comes in). Be sure to act like Santa by shouting out, “Ho ho ho!” periodically.
Tip: Seize this opportunity to get that playroom in order! This is basically clean-up in disguise. How festively deceptive.
3. Hide Mama/Dada
This is a favourite in our household. What you will need: lots of pillows/ blankets/ clothing etc. Proceed to lie down. Close your eyes. Ask your child to bury you completely using the pillows/blankets/clothing. They find this hilarious for some reason. Bonus points if you can convince your toddler to play this first thing in the morning so you can do it in the comfort of your own bed.
Tip: Take advantage of that pile of unfolded clean laundry. Before folding, have a little lie down by playing this game.
4. Sleeping Monster
Another crowd pleaser. What you will need: a soft surface with some space around you. Proceed to lie down (we prefer face down) in the middle of the space. Explain to your toddler that you are a sleeping monster that does NOT like to be disturbed. If they come near you, you may grab and eat them. Close your eyes. Whenever you hear your child approach you (there will be lots of giggling), blindly stick out an arm and try to grab them. You should hear squeals of delight as they retreat and then come back for more.
Tip: You don’t have to exert yourself very much when grabbing. Just the motion of your “monster” arm going towards them will send them into hysterics (it doesn’t take much, thank goodness).
5. Three Billy Goats Gruff
Basically sleeping monster kicked up a notch. Prepare children by reading them the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff on a night when you are alert. What you will need: an elevated soft surface such as a couch. Park yourself on the floor next to the couch. A shag rug or blanket makes this an even more restful game for you. Tell your children you are the troll, and they (the goats) must cross from one side of the couch to the other without being caught by you. Flail your hand randomly on the couch periodically while they run back and forth. Keeping your eyes open and roaring is completely optional. Warning: you may have children fall on you in their haste to escape the troll. If this happens, pretend to eat them and send them back onto the couch.
Tip: If you have more than one child playing this game, train one child to be the troll so that they can play this game independently while you lie silently in another corner of the room and “supervise”.
This is a life-size version of that game we loved as kids. What you will need: random objects, tongs and a bucket. Proceed to lie down. Place objects randomly all over you. Explain to your child that they have to remove each object from you using tongs (no hands allowed! We want them to take as much time as possible) and place the objects in the bucket.
Tip: If you want to buy more time, have them replace items that they dropped accidentally (feel free to make that annoying buzzing sound) and make them try again! And don’t feel bad, hand dexterity is a great skill to develop.
This is a no-brainer. You need an extensive physical and your toddler is more than qualified to get the job done. What you will need: a play medical set. Proceed to lie down. Tell your child you are very sick (fake cough at this point) and you need them to make you all better. Close your eyes and occasionally call out body parts that have a “boo-boo”. The more body parts you call out, the more time they will spend playing.
Tip: Kids love band aids. Our kids use them like stickers. If you’re feeling especially sloth-like, give them a box of cheap ones to use on you. Guaranteed to buy you a lot more time.
8. Put Daddy to Bed
Yes, one of our “creative” (note the sarcasm) husbands came up with this game. What you will need: a bed/couch, blanket, and storybook. Your child goes through the bedtime routine with you: tucks you in, reads to you, etc. It is surprisingly effective and time-consuming. Kids enjoy pretending to be the grown up.
Tip: Pick a LONG storybook for your child to “read” to you while you rest.
9. Excavate the Dinosaur Fossil
Good for toddlers who are paleontologically-inclined. What you will need: brush (like a paintbrush or small broom) and shovel. Lie very still in a dinosaur-like manner (i.e. whatever way you want). Toddlers can use a shovel to pretend to dig dirt from around you. Have them go all the way around you to keep them extra busy. Once they’ve dug the large dirt piles, they can pretend to brush the dirt off you as they discover all the bones.
Tip: Show them an actual dinosaur fossil excavation so they know how SLOW and careful to be. Also consider having them guess what kind of dinosaur you are. The more knowledgeable your child, the more you get to lie down and say, “No, I’m not a <insert dinosaur name here>. Try again.”
10. Sleeping Beauty
A classic. You’re Sleeping Beauty. You sleep. No special materials required. Tell your child to explore the forest to find you, and give you a kiss to wake you up. Repeat as many times as they’ll let you.
Tip: For kids not interested in princesses, consider being a favourite superhero in need of a special antidote to wake up. Hide an empty antidote bottle somewhere in the room and have them find it to save you. Think of a good hiding spot if you want to maximize your R and R time.
What games do you play when you want to lie down on the job? Feel free to let the creative juices flow and come up with your own variations on these games. You can thank us for the extra sleep later. If you come up with something spectacular, please share it with us. We accept any, and all, contributions to the sleep bank.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.