Motherhood

4 Games to Play With Kids While You’re Lying Down

I Love Lucy

Yesterday afternoon, I was bone tired, but five-year-old Anton wanted to play ALL THE GAMES. Hide and seek! Magna-Tiles! Battle! Suddenly, I remembered a brilliant solution…

“I’m always looking for parenting ideas that let me sit still,” a reader named Emily had commented a while back. “My favorite one I’ve heard is called ‘What’s on my butt?‘ where the parent sprawls facedown on the couch and has to guess what objects the kid is setting down on their butt.” A toy dinosaur? An orange? Who cares, you’re lying down.

Another game to play horizontally is “doctor examining an incredibly sick patient — so sick that she can’t move and can barely talk,” suggests Raquel D’Apice, as well as an art class where the kids draw a woman in repose. Writer Michelle Woo recommends “Ninja training,” in which you close your eyes and have kids try to walk past you as quietly as possible. If you hear them make a sound, they have to go back to the starting line.

Once, when we were growing up, my mom was so exhausted, she paid my sister and me $10 each (which is approximately one billion dollars to nine-year-olds) NOT TO TALK for the entire evening. The two of us tiptoed around, like the twins in The Shining, while my mom read her book and drank a glass of Chardonnay with ice. Well played, Jean. Well played.

What would you add?

P.S. What parenting is really like, and going from one to two kids.

  1. Sam says...

    I love playing “Lazy Hide and Seek”. I lay down on the couch and they go hide. Then I yell out my guesses for where they are hiding “Are you under the table??”. They yell out ‘no’ and I keep guessing, without ever moving from the couch.

  2. Emmie says...

    My mom would lay face down on a towel on the floor and let me water color on her back while she napped.

    • Maiz says...

      That is next-level awesomeness.

    • Jess says...

      Omg!! That is a wonderful idea!!!! Thank u for sharing! I will be doing this with my 3 yr old!!!!!!

  3. Misa says...

    My 3.5 year old loves moving all our furniture around and playing train. I’ve convinced him our big comfy chair is the “relaxing car” and he just “hooks” it up to the rest of the cars and I’ve got a a comfy seat for our game.

  4. Cassidy says...

    When I was in high school and a young camp counselor, I used to sometimes play the game “graveyard.” Everyone lays on the ground and pretends to be dead, and if I saw someone move, they lost! It worked on hot afternoons with cranky kids!

  5. Mary says...

    First, the title of this post made me laugh so hard. So thanks for that. I have a 5 year old and 18 month old. I’m tired. Sometimes I ask my daughter (the 5yo) to make cookies on my back. Using only her hands and imagination she has to go through the motions of pouring the flour, sugar, salt, chocolate chips, etc. cracking the eggs, rolling them into balls then putting them in the oven and then simply waiting. I usually get a back rub (rolling into balls) or at least some karate chops (cracking the eggs) out of this game too. The bake time is always the best part: set an actual timer and don’t touch the oven (my back) for a good 18 minutes.

    • Mary says...

      I should add that I often do this for my daughter when I want her to be quiet or calm her down – during church, trying to get her to sleep on a plane, waiting at a restaurant for a table, etc.

  6. My kids and I play a game called “Whoever.” Whenever I tell my kids that I love them, they always try to convince me that they love me more. Someone starts the game by dramatically saying, “WHOEVER……..” and then finishes the phrase with something like, “…tickles the other person first loves them more!” We always wind up chasing each other around the house until someone wins. We all end up in fits of laughter, feeling very loved… :)

  7. Veronica says...

    So funny!!

  8. alex says...

    i love looking back at “games” from your childhood through adult eyes. my parents would have me and my sister “race” to put our pjs on. it completely eliminated the whining and fighting and we were both ready for bed in record time. pro tip: you got disqualified if your clothes didn’t wind up in the hamper.

    • Katie says...

      I’ve totally been doing this lately!

    • Fernanda says...

      Just made me remember my mom held a competition between my brother and me every few days.
      Who is going to leave less food on the plate… who gets ready for bed time in less time… and we’d be thrilled!

  9. Meghan says...

    It’s not a lying down game, but when I was growing up and we’d go on long car rides, my brother and I would play “close for the distance.” One of my parents would choose some random point in the distance (an overpass, the next town, etc.), and my brother and I would have to close our eyes and our mouths until we thought we’d reached that point. I’m sure they hoped we’d fall asleep in the process!

    • Haylee says...

      This is absolute brilliance.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m often a very sick patient for my little doctors, but my favorite is beauty parlor where they just do my hair however they like. My six year old is pretty good at it and I get a nice scalp massage. My three year old, however, mostly yanks my hair agressively and says “does it hurt?” But that’s I price I’m willing to pay to parent from the floor.

  10. Jen says...

    My two year old just walks into the room pointing at us and says “lie down”. She then jumps on us. It’s very sore. However she loves it and I get to lie down. Win win :)

    • Leah says...

      I’m glad to hear this is normal. My 2 y/o has a radar that alerts him any time I am horizontal. He finds me and then absolutely delights in “jumping over” me which is actually him attempting to clear my body but landing time and again on my midsection.

  11. Cat says...

    “Hair salon” is my go to. I sit on the floor or lay on the couch while my kids bring every brush, barrette, bow, and rubber band we own to their workstation and go to town on my hair. Sure it hurts a little when one of them gets overzealous combing a knot out, but it’s worth it for the R&R and free styling service.

    • Leslie says...

      We play massage. I lay down and they work on my tired body. Their little hands don’t get the knots out but at least I get to lay down and they love making me feel better ?

    • Cat says...

      Ha! Leslie I am totally adding “Spa Day” with massages to my rotation.

  12. Even the title made me laugh so hard, before reading the article. Brilliant! Love,
    Silent reader from Germany!

  13. Megan says...

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I think the “What’s on my butt?” game comes from Hillary Frank’s new book, Weird Parenting Wins! I LOVE her and can’t wait to read it.

  14. Katherine says...

    Hilarious. I love this.

  15. Ashley W says...

    This reminds me of a game my best friend and I played growing up, which was to write a word on the other’s back, and they had to guess. It was such a soothing feeling, too. It’s such a sweet memory, and would be fun to play with kids to get them to sit still and think!

    • Jen says...

      My brother and I used to do this!

    • Sara says...

      My sister and i used to do this, and now i do it with my kids. They’re still little so it’s ‘Guess the Letter’ :)

    • Crystal says...

      My cousin and I used to do this! Only, it was pictures! If you guessed right, they had to draw another picture lol.

  16. Emily says...

    My sister and I invented the “santa game” and used to play it with all the kids we babysat – choose one kid to be santa, everyone else turns out the lights and lays on the couch or floor, “pretending” to sleep. Santa runs around the house picking out a toy to give to each person, then everyone wakes up excitedly, admires their toy, pick a new santa, repeat. This could go on for a while, especially if you add in some drama like someone waking up and catching santa.

    This is probably my greatest idea to date. Although it originated during the holiday season, it is no less thrilling in the middle of summer!

  17. Molly Dansby says...

    First, your mom is genius! When I was a kid my mom would have me draw letters on her back with my finger and she would guess the letter. Looking back, this was pretty smart! She could be still and rest, have a tiny message, and I was learning how to write letters! Moms, man!

  18. Alyssa says...

    My dad invented “Bear Trap,” where he would lie on his back or stomach, arms splayed out, as the trap. We would march around him, inching closer and closer until he occasionally snapped his hands or legs together to catch us in the trap! We must have played for hours and he got to basically nap while we giggled. Genius.

    • Ro says...

      Love this. It’s funny to think back to your own days as a kid and wonder which sweet memories were formed simply because your parents needed a nap haha

  19. Michelle says...

    Sometimes before bed, my kids and I play a game where we tell a story, and each person contributes the next sentence a la Whose Line is It Anyway. It’s really fun to see where my kids go with each plot development.

  20. Leah says...

    My dad invented “bunkbed” when I was little. Parent lies on his/her stomach and child clambers on top of their back to lie faceup on the “bed”. Parent must make blustery noises about “who is this person?” and “why is someone on me?” and (most importantly) “what do they think this is, some kind of BUNKBED??” and then roll the child off sideways. Gales of laughter. Repeat as needed. Dad says I would often forget to climb back on, or would just lie there peacefully, enabling him to get those micronaps that are so very key to making it through the day. I played it with both my girls!

    • Haha, my kids and I play something similar that we call “lumpy couch.” The child sits on the couch, and the adult sits down and lays back on the child. The adult wriggles around, gently smooshing the child behind them, saying, “Wow, this sure is a LUMPY COUCH!” and, “Oh man, why is this couch SO LUMPY?!?” Both of my kids adore this game, and it never gets old! I don’t even remember how it got started, but it’s a keeper in our house.

  21. Cindy says...

    Genius. Seriously genius.

  22. Tilly says...

    Myself and my two boys spend about 20 minutes every evening on my bed discussing our days, something we have done for years. They will usually do tumbles or we throw a stuffed toy back and forth, and on Fridays we look at funny pictures and videos on Instagram, but the whole time I’m just lying back against the headboard relaxing. It’s the perfect way to close the day, and get all the school gossip! I’m definitely going to incorporate “What’s on my butt?” this evening! LOL.

  23. Kate says...

    I love this whole comment section….winter is coming (in aust) so I will probably give all these tricks a whirl.

    One game that I play with my nearly 5 year old is hide and seek but with one of his toys. So he goes out of the room, I take a reallllllly long time to hide his toy, and he comes in to try and find it. I offer a hot, cold, warm to guide him and sit and drink my tea on the couch while he searches.

    This game can go on for such a long time. I hide them in alternating tricky/easy spots so that he doesn’t loose hope. He Loves it!

    Also on warmer days, the kids love paint the fence, a paint brush and a bucket of water and the kids paint the fence….once they finish one end the start is dry and off they go again.

  24. Victoria says...

    hahahahahaha, brilliant. A mother does what she has to do! Right Jean?
    It may not be a game but one of my rules at home is an asking question prohibition from dinner and on,…I´m not able to even speak by then ;-).

  25. Kay says...

    I often played Buried with my kids as toddlers. I would lie on a flat surface, usually the floor, but I was desperate and not picky, then the kids would bring all their stuffed animals and try to arrange them on top of me so I was buried and completely hidden. Always took much rearranging and adjusting to hide gaps. A shift of the legs could cause an avalanche requiring a long repair. Rinse, repeat.

    • Kristin says...

      This sounds great. Put all those stuffed animals to use :) Thanks!

  26. Jillian says...

    I babysat almost every day every summer of high school/early college to save money for school, and while maybe I should be embarrassed to admit this, I used to play a game that various kids called different things, but mostly The Announcements, in which I a) laid in a hammock (…like I said, embarrassing to admit!) b) would enthusiastically give directions like “run to the fence like you’re a penguin… BUT NOW THE GROUND IS LAVA, but you’re still a penguin! and then run back like you’re a kangaroo, but you have to build an igloo, but wait, forget the igloo, turn around! you just hit a home run! but you’re still a kangaroo! Now you’re on the moon and are dribbling a basketball- YOU MADE A BASKET! But now you have to run from a monster back from the fence but also pick flowers!” It was complete nonsense but KIDS LOVED IT. My sister babysat for some of the same kids who would request the game and she would text me asking: “…did you just make them run suicides…?!!?” No! …I helped them practice creativity! (And they also slept GREAT after a few hours of that). Anyway, give it a shot– I have dozens of lines, and while it takes some mental energy, but you can play with kids of a bunch of different ages at once and BEST–you can sit/lay still for a loooong time with this one.

  27. Shannon says...

    When my husband was little his grandfather would send him into the backyard with a salt shaker – if he could get close enough to sprinkle salt on a bird’s tail it would automatically become his pet. Genius.

    • Molly says...

      At first I was cringing thinking it was going to be salt shaker + snails=death, but I am now laughing out loud at this. Hilarious. I am going to try this one this week.

  28. Lynn says...

    When my twin daughters were little, I would legit play fetch with them. I would sit on the floor with my back against the couch and throw a ball into the dining room. They would get the ball and run around the table however many times I called. Sometimes pretending to be a dog, or a cat, or a duck, pig, horse, whatever! The game went on until they were as tired as I was! The first time my husband witnessed this he said, “Are you playing fetch with our children? That’s amazing!!!”

    • Shakti Wood says...

      oh my gosh, this post and these comments are too hilarious!!

    • T says...

      Ha, just reading this now! I currently play fetch with my 2.5yo daughter (or rather, with her alter ego – puppy named “Ruffy”). :)

  29. Lynn says...

    This post literally made my day. It made me laugh out loud after really tough day parenting and just all around. Thank you!

  30. Lou says...

    So many good and funny suggestions! When pregnant with my 2nd I was bone tired and came up with “Mama Mountain” in which I would cover myself in a blanket (including my head!) on the couch and my then 3 year old energizer bunny would alternately ski or snowboard his legos or other toys around OR drive his cars and trains all over the mountain. We also played “Rocket Ship” in which you had to lie completely under a blanket (your rocket) on the couch or even better, the bed, and he would have to pack everything for our trip in the rocket and then drive us around space where I would send him off on exploring missions while I waited in the rocket. He would spend forever playing both of these games and I was able to get actual naps in wherein I just had to mumble answers to him occasionally. He still asks to play these games often which is a win for me!

  31. Jessica says...

    Oh gosh, paying a kid to stay quiet works exactly once…and then they start bargaining with you! When my youngest sister was about 5, she just would. not. stop. chattering. for the entire drive back home from the beach (about 45 minutes). Our dad bribed her with $1 and it worked perfectly! But the next time he tried it, little sis countered with “how much are you gonna pay me this time?” Guess the going rate for peace and quiet is not subject to inflation!

    (P.S. my sister also reads this blog so there’s a decent chance she’ll see this story and offer something equally embarrassing about me.)

    • Alex says...

      Ha! One time we went on a family vacation that involved a 13 hour drive. At the beginning my dad told my sister and me that he would start us each off with $20, and every time we asked a question like “Are we almost there?”, “How much longer?” etc. etc. he would deduct $1. I think we each ended up with around $10, which felt like a major victory.

  32. Margot says...

    Ok, I love this.

    • Ali says...

      These are hilarious. My little guy is only 4 months – filing away for a few years down the road!

  33. Hillary says...

    I remember crawling into bed with my mom in the mornings and wanting her to talk and play. Eventually, she came up with “Hanny”, which was literally her balled up fist stuck out of the covers that was my baby to feed and talk to. I have a feeling that Hanny will be making a comeback for my children.

    • Jo says...

      This one is hilarious!!!

    • Renee says...

      I’m cry laughing at this! I can SO relate to your mom! Brilliant!

  34. Allison says...

    Tip from someone who just tried to play “What’s on my butt?” with my six and two year old sons: ESTABLISH GROUND RULES ON ITEMS ALLOWED TO PLACE ON BUTT. I unknowingly ended up with a potted plant perched on my butt and the game quickly turned into “Let’s vacuum the dirt off the couch and carpet”.

    • Lou says...

      This made me laugh out loud (sorry) and also thanks for the tip because I can definitely see my four year old doing this. Ha.

    • Crying ?

    • anita says...

      Hillarious!

    • Julie says...

      Oh no! Lol

    • Leigh says...

      I was about to try that game with my 2.5 year old. Thanks for the warning! And the good laugh :)

  35. Heather says...

    When we play hide and seek I ALWAYS hide in a bed, lying down with the covers on. Usually I’ll throw them off the scent by opening the backyard door and shutting it loudly so they spend a good ten minutes looking for me. Sometime they even get distracted and stop looking ;)

  36. Emily says...

    After a very long and anxiety filled day, this has cheered me right up! So glad to see what’s on my butt making the rounds and can’t wait to try some of these other brilliant suggestions! ❤️

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Thank you so much, Emily!!

  37. Teresa Keenan-Krueger says...

    As my family of nine siblings grew, adding spouses and grandkids, our family gatherings got large and loud. When we were all ready for some “quiet” time, my husband created the game “Coma”. The kids would lay on the floor in silence. Up to as many 20 kids would spread out on the floor and as they made a noise, they were out. During a really good game, some would even fall asleep. It was a game played for many years, many holiday get togethers.

    • Lynn says...

      This made me laugh out loud, thank you!!

    • Katie Vowels says...

      My husband’s family called it cemetery! ?

  38. Memrie says...

    I play tractor or digger with my two year old; I lie on my stomach and he sits on my back facing my feet while holding on to my legs and driving them like he’s controlling a backhoe scoop. For tractor he faces forward and I go “buhbuhbuh” then make weird noises to “break” or run out of gas and he hops off to find a toy tool to fix me, rinse and repeat.

  39. Beatrice says...

    Best post ever.

  40. S says...

    My dad had an older peer during his law school days who had a few kids. He would come home tired from school and play a game with his kids called “Run Around Dad”. He only had to lie on the living room floor while they, well, ran around him- ha!

    • anne says...

      lol

  41. Elise says...

    your mom is a genius.

  42. Amanda says...

    My son loves to pretend we are bears and he is totally okay with me saying it’s winter and we need to lay still and hibernate in our cave.

  43. Emily says...

    Toothy Fairy! My daughter and I played when I was at the very end of my pregnancy with my son. I was just so exhausted and could barely keep my eyes. I would nap and she would stuff little goodies under my pillow. It worked like a charm!

  44. Tracey says...

    My brother and I fought a lot. Dad taught us a superstition to hold your breath over bridges. We had the LONGEST, BIGGEST bridge near our house – except when I revisited as an adult it would have taken maybe 3 seconds to cross it in a car – turns out – Dad would bring the car to a crawl while we puffed our cheeks turned red and held our breath for close to a minute of rare, precious silence.

  45. Justine says...

    Oh my god the title of this post. Yes. Exactly.

  46. Bridget says...

    Hibernation. Get into your bed with the kiddo and pull the covers all the way over your heads. You pretend to be hibernating sleeping bears. These bears are very quiet. It may only last a couple of minutes, but being under the covers is a bonus!

  47. Kelsi says...

    Just here to say thank you for all these great ideas!
    Signed, two tired teachers on “spring break” with a wired four year old. Aka no planning time and no lunch alone. ?

  48. Laura C. says...

    THANKS from the bottom of my heart for this post and its comments. You’re being so helpful! I love you!

  49. A friend of mine years ago told me what her parents used to do when her and her siblings were kids, so they could “play” but their parents never had to move: “HIDE AND GO THINK.” Basically it’s hide and go seek, except the kids have to go and hide and then stay their a while and think *really really really hard* about where they’re hiding so they can telepathically communicate it to the parents. Then they come out and the parents guess where they were hiding. The best part is that the longer it takes the parents to guess the hiding place, the longer the kids would “hide and think” next time they went to hide. SO BRILLIANT. I fully plan to implement this strategy when my kids are old enough and I need intermittent five minute stretches of peace and quiet. :D

    • FGB says...

      THIS is hysterical!

    • marie says...

      aaaaaaahahahaha these comments though. amazing. wonderful post.

  50. Jenny says...

    Not a mom but I read every comment because I’m amazed at how tough, resourceful, hilarious, creative and weird you amazing women are. Sending my mom some flowers rn because I definitely remember her letting me play Atlantis, where I made towers with legos in the full, soapy kitchen sink underwater, or string cheese in which my sister and I would compete for the skinniest full-length-of-cheese string of string cheese, or “who has more hair” where we competitively counted all the hairs on our heads…forever. Thanks, Mama Berl!

    • Liz says...

      What a good mama!!

  51. Erin says...

    I keep forgetting to donate Chutes and Ladders, the longest and worst game EVER that my kids always want to play! I will play ANYTHING else!

    • Elisabeth says...

      Hahaha I Kon-Maried Chutes and Ladders last month. I DO NOT REGRET IT.

  52. Sarah A says...

    I love these! I’d like to add playing spa. A couple ways to play it. Your kid is in the tub and you are supervising, so you put your feet in so they can pretend they work at a spa and are washing your feet for you. This usually involves lots and lots of soap. Another is to put on spa music and sprawl out on the couch and they keep coming in asking quietly how you are doing and if you need anything and occasionally pet your back or put lotion on your feet. Ahhh….

    • Liv says...

      Sarah, you are a genius.

  53. Rachel says...

    My mom would have us all play “sleeping lions”. We all lay down and tried to stay as still and quiet as possible so the “hunter” wouldn’t find us. Most often, my dad was the hunter…without even knowing that he was playing a game!

    • Anna says...

      YES! We played this too, but we called it “sleeping dragon.”

    • Anna says...

      My aunt entertained my sister and I for two weeks playing “Mona Lisa” driving around France. We would pose like Leonardo da Vinci’s classic piece and my aunt would critique us–“Smile a little less, rest your eyes…” BEST GAME EVER for 7 year olds!

  54. Julie says...

    I used to let kids I was babysitting draw all over my body with face paint. They loved it! I got to lay on the kitchen floor in shorts and a shirt and they’d paint all over my arms and legs. Yes, you have to shower later, but the paints feel like a light relaxing massage too!

  55. Isabelle says...

    The step game; ask your kids to cross the room with mouse steps, giant steps, bunny steps, Charlie Chaplin steps, el
    grandpa steps, to tip toe, walk on their heals, and so on. Works well too when they’re complaining about the walking.

    • Laura C. says...

      Life saver advice.

  56. Caitlin says...

    My dad used to play “steal the pillow” with my sister and me when we were very young. He would lay on the floor watching TV with a pillow under his head, and we would try to yank the pillow out from under him. I don’t think we were ever successful but I have fond memories :)

  57. Erica says...

    I was once a nanny for a 2 and 4 yr old sisters. I would start every morning with the game “Statues”, where you had to stay as still and quiet as possible (as a statue), or you lost the round. I even had stickers. I would sit on the floor and sip my coffee, looking like I had an eagle eye on them, when really it was my it’s-too-early-dead-eyes.

    • Nicole says...

      This is the best. I played a version called zombies. Where the first person to move or talk lost. Best game ever.

    • Michelle says...

      I play this with my son on the bus when he’s hyper and I get desperate. He loves it, as does every adult within 10 feet of us.

  58. Meghan says...

    Oh my goodness. This hit so close to home. I wrote this after a particularly exhausting week w/ my toddler–

    “Let’s have a work party! I will work on my book, and you can work on your coloring book.

    Now, let’s pretend Mommy is a tree, and my bottom is rooted to the ground.

    Let’s pretend Mommy is a robot who doesn’t have any batteries.

    Yes, I agree that wasn’t a very fun game. Okay – let’s pretend we are things in nature. You can be a bee, and I can be a very heavy boulder.

    Now let’s pretend Mommy is a caterpillar. Wrap me in a blanket and leave me here for a while and in theory I will turn into a creature that moves.

    That was so fun, and yes, metamorphosis isn’t always successful—that’s an important biology lesson.

    Now let’s go on a pretend camping trip. But this time, you’ll be the one tucking me into bed and telling me a story. Cover me with, yes – that blanket. Now let’s pretend I am going to sleep for 18-36 hours.”

  59. AY says...

    Ha! Read all the comments to see if anyone had my favorite. Lots of ideas I can’t wait to use! One of my proudest accomplishments in 16 years of parenting is convincing one of my kids who loooved uno and war that he could play his turns and mine. I would doze on the couch holding my cards, and he would happily play for both of us. Sometimes I even won!
    (Also, this reminds me of.how proud I feel every time I successfully skip a line or PAGE while reading the same stupid….cough Ninjago cough
    …book)

    • Kersten says...

      My three boys, now aged 10,9 and 6, used to love a game we made up called “mole”. I think it started after watching Wild Kratts episode about burrowing animals. It consisted of us all burrowing under the covers of the “big bed” aka mine and my husband’s king size bed. They’d go deep under the covers and I’d get to lie still with my head blissfully above the covers while they rooted around underneath. Best game ever when I needed a few minutes to lie down!

  60. When I was a camp counselor, my 8 to 11 year-old campers and I got stuck in our cabin because it was pouring rain and cold out, and we had no games, no cards, no nothing. I put on a bathing suit, pulled out my Crayola markers, and told them they could cover me in drawings. I’ve never seen a group of kiddos more excited/giddy haha.

  61. Christine says...

    Another good one is Sleeping Beauty who takes awhile to wake up.

  62. Holly Bates says...

    I need this. THANK YOU!!!!

  63. Loesie says...

    Not really the same, but one of the comments made me think of this (IMO) genius tip I once heard a guy on the radio say:
    He said his parents told him every day to go bed right after Sesame Street, and so he did. Only for the guy to find out 30 years later they had a VCR-tape of Sesame Street they just played whenever they thought the kid should go to bed.
    I think this is so genius!

  64. Jen says...

    Well played indeed! “Tiger with a Problem” rings a bell as a good lying down game.

    I remember once babysitting a couple of Very Energetic neighbor boys when I was in high school. They were keen on the idea of playing “Mattress” with me–where I would be the mattress and they would lie down on top of me. It definitely seemed kind of weird/inappropriate to me at the time, and I definitely suggested a different activity (and also didn’t sit for them ever again). But now I’m realizing that their tired mom had probably just invented a genius “game” for them to play so that she could take a minute.

  65. Sarah Beth says...

    yes! I am 38 weeks pregnant, so I am relying a LOT on tactics to stay involved with my darling 3.5 year old daughter but also get perilously close to sleep, at the same time. The best one I’ve found is simply to go to my own bed and let my daughter “put me to bed.” She doesn’t get to spend a lot of time in our room, so it’s thrilling for her to get to push the buttons on our fan and humidifier, practice climbing up and down our tall mattress, inspect my various night gear (earplugs, bite guard, glasses), and generally adjust my covers and pat my head. She loves getting to come in our room; I love getting to supervise her and spend time with her with basically 1.5 of my eyes sleeping.

    • Kate says...

      That’s such a gorgeous image, what a sweet idea. And she would be in her element for sure, looking after Mamma!

  66. Rita says...

    I once talked my much younger sister into 10 minutes of silence in name of the victims of something or other. Not very respectful, in hindsight, but I was also very young and really needed some silence. Also, it is never to early to introduce an interest in politics and world affairs…

  67. Becky says...

    As I nanny I have found kids love playing with hair. Many of the boys I have sat for love to style my hair with their tools or trucks or use my arms and legs as roads as well as my head. Its entertaining and I get at least 5 to 10 mins of sitting, much appreciated so I can recharge my battery!

    • Isabelle says...

      The pizza game, my girls used to play that with my stepson who’s a couple of years older: lie on your stomach and have the apprentice pizzaiolo knead the dough (your back), pretend to spread tomato sauce, sprinkle the cheese, olives and so on, it used to go on forever!

    • Cynthia says...

      I would simply lie face down on the rug and “let” my boys use their small cars to ride over all the lumpy roads and mountains of my flesh. Rest and a massage!

  68. Elise says...

    THIS IS MY FAVORITE

  69. FAVORITE POST EVERRR! And I will be utilizing these after my daughter is out of school today.

  70. Marlena says...

    Growing up, my dad was a bricklayer and would come home achy a lot so we had a game that we called bridge where he would lie down on the ground and my brother and I would walk all over his back and see who would fall off first. Looking back I can imagine him lying there thinking he was the smartest dad ever. Ha!

    When I became a mom and when my kids were tinier, I would lie on the ground and they would walk in circles around me, stomping on my back when they crossed over me. Every time they stomped on my back I would quack like a duck. It was the simplest thing in the world, but they busted a gut laughing every time and it gave me some seriously needed downtime. :)

  71. LPD says...

    When my daughter was little and I needed some quiet time, I’d invite her to create a fort somewhere in the house — like in the hall closet, under the dining room table or, when she was older, on the front porch. She could use every single soft item we had in the house (i.e., cushion, pillow, sheet, blanket, towel, coat, socks, etc.). I’d help her drape a few sheets up high, then leave her to get on with it. She’d create wonderful spaces then drag all her toys and books inside. She loved it. So did we. We’d often leave her creations up for days.

    • Lauren E. says...

      Something so magical about a fort. I’d drape a blanket over a bookshelf and a chair and sit inside for hours as a kid. Bringing snacks in was the ultimate treat.

  72. Surabhi says...

    Pure genius!

  73. Rebecca says...

    This post, and the incredible comments = BEST THING EVER. LOL/Snorting into my salad at work. Wish I had these ideas yesterday, when I was sick and home alone with my two rambunctious, yet utterly adorable, little stinkers. Keep up the great work, Joanna and readers!

  74. Paula says...

    These are great! I typically asked my older one to play with my younger one but now the older one disappears with her friends, I’m left to play games! I do similar activities: lots of doctor play where I’m the patient that cannot move. I often put on classical music, because she’s obsessed with ballet, so she puts on her costumes and she dances while I’m “teaching”, horizontally from the couch! I also sometimes hide a bigger toy, and then I bring it back out (stuff she isn’t actively playing with, I’m not like some weird mean mom that hides crap! lol) – for example, I recently hid all the pots and pans from the play kitchen. Then one day when I had to do some emailing for work I said, look what I found!!!! Sure enough, what followed was a glorious 40 minutes of quiet play with “new” toys :)

  75. Janey says...

    My kids are 12 and 14 now….sometimes I miss the days they wanted me to play with them but then I remember the mind numbing hours ordering pretend food from the pretend cafe owner (which he always took approximately 3 seconds to cook) or the long car journeys quizzing them on dinosaur facts and get over it pretty quick!

  76. Ceridwen says...

    This is GOLD!

  77. Matta says...

    My dad invented an amazing game, where he would lie shirtless on his stomach and I would paint his back with watercolors. I then used a wet sponge to erase my painting and create a new one. My dad would fall asleep in minutes with the brushes stroking his back and I loved drawing on a human canvas – it is really a pity that I didn’t become a tattoo artist.

    • Renee says...

      Love this!

  78. Justine says...

    Love this post so much! When I was little, my mum would offer me 10 cents a minute to be quite. She never once had to pay me though…apparently my need to pontificate outweighs my need for money, lol.

  79. Katie says...

    I sit at one end of the dining table, they run laps and try and make it through the “chopper.” Clapping hands or a pool noodle. Never a bad time

  80. I love when my daughter wants to play “going to work,” because my job is to sit in her room and cry (I say the occasional “wah” every few minutes) but I just space out or check my phone (lying down is OK!) while she putters around the house in my shoes, pokes the computer keyboard, etc., for like 5 blessed minutes before coming home and reassuring me that “grown-ups come back” (sung to the Daniel Tiger tune).

    Also I just read this piece about NOT playing with your kids and thought many of us would find it interesting! There is so much pressure these days to play with our kids (I feel it double because I have an only child…I didn’t “give” her a playmate). Here’s a good paragraph from the article:

    “So, how to change your relationship with your child’s pretend play? First of all, don’t do it if you feel annoyed, bitter, or “off” about it. The Sutton-Smiths began their book with the caveat: “You do not have to continue playing night and day. In fact, the ruling principle in this book is, ‘If it isn’t fun, forget it.’ ” Say no to play, they wrote, “if you feel like you are intruding, or you feel it is a duty, or you are too grumpy, preoccupied, or just plain exhausted to enjoy the fun you are supposed to be having together.” Every contemporary source I consulted, from the people who wanted parents’ hands off children’s play to the adult-child play cheerleaders, emphasized the idea that you should not play if you resent it. “Kids pick up on inauthenticity,” Lillard said. “And what a sad message that is, if a child picks up on, ‘They don’t really want to play with me.’ ”

    https://slate.com/human-interest/2019/03/parent-child-pretend-play-expectations.html

    • Katie H says...

      Interesting article! And I totally get the only child playmate guilt.

  81. Chrissie says...

    At the risk of sounding like an a-hole: I vote for just not playing with them! I have three kids and yes, with my first child I played with him but then I had another one, and then another one. I tell them to play with each other or spend some time playing alone! Sure, I’ll partake in a family board game or a family kickball game but as far as playing dinosaurs or dolls with my kids? Aw hell no. When I was a kid my mom did a lot of reading a book while I played in the yard/played barbies alone/played with my dog etc. BUT she was always there when I needed a hug or to talk. She would say “my job is not to entertain you” and it never bothered me at all. I’m proudly carrying on the tradition of not playing with my kids!

    **I know this may not an option for people with only one children or parents of kids with special needs!!

    • Renee says...

      At least you’re honest! Aside from board games I was pretty much the same way when my boys were little.

    • Elisabeth says...

      I have an only child and there are times when I play with him, and there are times when I tell him that he can find something to do on his own (and help him think of things to do by himself). I’m always there when he needs me, but I also think it’s important for kids to learn the magic of boredom-inspired creativity. So many adults I know don’t know how to entertain themselves without their phones, and I’m not gonna create another one.

  82. Hilary says...

    This is my favorite blog post ever, anywhere, on any blog. And I’m snort-laughing into my salad at these comments. Whenever I think of my fellow tired mamas, I’m also going to remember that sometimes, from exhaustion, springs absolute and utter genius!

    I have tricked my toddler (who is obsessed with my makeup bag and loves to rummage around and look at my ‘cool stuff’) into putting lotion on my legs in the morning. At first I felt a little weird about it, but now I see that I’m just one of the tribe around here ;)

  83. Denise says...

    My friend always tells the story of when she and her siblings were young and her mother really wanted a chance to sit in the sun on a lounge lawn chair and read her book. Their lawn backed on a bit of woods, she would buy a large bag of wrapped penny candy, throw it as far as she could into the woods and her kids would spend the afternoon searching for the candy while she read her book. Ah…the 1970’s were a magical time.

    • LW says...

      omg, this is hilarious!

    • Neen says...

      This is brilliant. I’m stealing this. A little dirt is good for the mind + body :)

    • Margaux says...

      i’m totally stealing this.

    • Justine says...

      Hahaha yes!

    • Janell says...

      When I was pregnant with my second, my first loved to hide from dad. Starting at 4:30 everyday, we’d get under the covers of my bed in order to “scare” my husband who usually returned home around 5:30. I’d doze and my little guy would patiently wait like the angel that he was. Could never get my other three to play that game ?

  84. Nancy says...

    On long car trips, my dad would pay us a penny for every minute we slept. Of course, we only pretended to sleep and thought we were tricking him!

  85. Sarah says...

    This post is AMAZING! And that photo is perfect.

    A few Saturdays ago we were at the children’s library and there was a dad lying on his side that kept nodding off while his daughter played. By the time we left he was straight up lying on his back sleeping deeply. Might not work with every kid, but I guess “Go To The Library” is another game-you-can-play-lying-down.

    • Paula says...

      I legit LOL. Also, I swear they make the library sooo hot. I always feel very sleepy there.

  86. Caroline says...

    Brilliant!!!

  87. Abbey says...

    When I was a kid my mom would give me unfettered access to her makeup bag, lay down on the couch, and let me do her makeup. Whatever I wanted, for as long as I wanted. She got a nap. I was in heaven. She was, and still is, a genius.

  88. Rebecca says...

    When I was pregnant and SO tired all the time, my 2 year old would love to play stickers – putting them all over my belly while I rested on the sofa. When my husband would bring him home from daycare (and I wasn’t home from work yet), he’d point at the sofa and say “Where’s mommy?”

    Now that he’s 4 and his brother is 2, I am still looking for tired-parent games. My older son will make handmade cards for a full hour if the supplies are out. For my younger son, I put some dish soap in a big bowl and drop in his matchbox cars. He uses a spare toothbrush and washes the cars. He will also do this for at least an hour. :)

  89. Amy says...

    A lying down game we play:
    I give them tasks…
    Pretend you are a rooster.
    Pretend you are a snake.
    Hop on your right leg all the way to the kitchen.
    Do 20 jumping jacks.
    Pretend you are a ballerina.
    Run in super slow motion to your bedroom.
    Pretend you are skiing.
    Silly dance until this timer goes off.

    Burns a bit of energy for them and I have a sort-of rest. They LOVE this game.

  90. stefana says...

    My dad invented a very fun game called “tali-piti-bufta-rafta” (the name doesn’t make any sense in any language). But each of the noises matched a massage-type hand gesture – “tali” was for karate chops, “piti” was for poking, “bufta” was for light pummelling and “rafta” for kneading. And my dad would lay on his belly and my brother and I were on top of him asking enthusiastically “tali-piti-bufta-rafta”? And he’d say one of the four and we’d massage his back with that hand gesture. We had the best time ever and he’d get a free massage out of it.

    • Marlena says...

      This is so funny!! I am extremely curious as to how he came up with those words!

    • Kristin says...

      As a single dad, in order to sleep-in longer (my sister and I are 1 year apart), my dad would go to bed in a white t-shirt. Our “treat” on Saturday mornings was to use a new box of washable crayolas and draw on his t-shirt. When we finished with the front of his t-shirt, he’d flip over, and catch some more sleep while we drew on the back. I believe there was always a colouring “contest” involved so we spent a long time colouring carefully and using lots of colours. Smart man!

  91. Natalie T. says...

    I’m not a parent but this is hilarious! It reminds me of why my bathtimes were really, really long. Like my mom would just leave me in the tub to soak while she probably watched TV. ha ha I get it now.

    • Paula says...

      cheers to your mom. My kids come out of the bath looking like dried raisins! While I might be doing dishes downstairs, there’s Netflix on, and a glass of wine in hand :)

  92. Stephanie says...

    I was an au-pair for a very energetic five year old one summer. My best lying down games were ‘Sleeping Lions’ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_lions (I often just left out the hunter part of the game…) and the classic ‘See how fast you can run around the garden – I’ll time you!’ Of course he then had to run around the garden again and again and again to get a faster time ;-) tiring the wee one out as well as giving me a break…win win!

  93. Erin says...

    My 3-year-old daughter and I play the same game every night before bath. Something about the window between dinner and bath time makes her bonkers, she just wants to run around and get all the crazy out. But mama is tired. Mama needs rest. So we play a game where I turn the lights out and crawl into my bed. She gets in with me for about 10 seconds (‘sleeping’). Then she jumps up, makes sure I’m completely covered by the blanket, instructs me in a firm voice to ‘be sad’ and ‘miss me when i go’ then she races out of the room, into her room, where she ‘eats breakfast’. Thirty seconds later she’s back in my bed. Repeat forever, or until dad says the bath is ready.

  94. Christy says...

    My dad used to get us excited to play “who can be the quietest!” Apparently my brother, sister and I were very competitive, because this could last for 15 minutes to an hour. And there was no prize, other than being deemed “the winner” for being quietest the longest. Genius parenting move!

  95. sarah young says...

    Hide and Seek – I always hide in my bed under the covers, I can close my eyes for a good 1-5 min.

  96. Ramona says...

    What’s on my butt is hilarious.

    We play a game where I take the role of myself as a child and my daughter plays the role of my mother. She puts me to bed, and then comes over to me repeatedly to say “Is anything wrong, honey?” and then I have to say something that is wrong. It’s a total minefield because I don’t want to give her any actual bedtime-avoidance ammunition or create new fears like monsters under the bed. But then the most hilarious part is her response to whatever lame thing I say (my toe hurts!), when she rolls her eyes and tells me in this blase voice that I just dreamed it and am fine and then flounces out of the room (NOT her own mother’s response to nighttime drama, although perhaps I could learn something from her!). But at least I do get to lie down while playing!

  97. Nina Nattiv says...

    Spa day: they take a ridiculous amount of cheap lotion and slather it on my arms (and unfortunately sometimes my face). They force me to lie down and keep my eyes closed. I’d like to thank Fancy Nancy for this one.

  98. Erin says...

    You can sit down while the kids play “Run around Mommy.” (This is a game for bone-tired parents of toddlers who have lots of extra energy.)

    You sit on the floor and sing “Run around, run around, run around Mommy! Run around, run around, run around Mommy! Run around, run around, run around Mommy! Run, run, run, run, run!” Then you switch the action: hop, jump, crawl, skip, etc.

  99. Laura Ruch says...

    Totally agree with Jennie. I think this could be my favorite blog post of any blog. Ever. I am absolutely going to play many of these games while watching my boys (ages 1 and 4) on weekend mornings! Thanks, Joanna. :)

  100. Rue says...

    As a tiny kid I “invented” a game called “Lie Down Doggy.” My understanding/recollection of this game is that I’d shout at my dad, “lie down, doggy!” Dad was I guess being the doggy and had to lie on the ground, and then I’d just climb all over him. I loved this game so much that my family had to make a rule that I couldn’t play the game immediately after a meal. (crying-laughing-emoji when I think about this now as an adult.)

  101. Jennifer says...

    Rub lotion on the mommy. I played this with my daughter when she was 2 or 3. Lie on the bed in a towel. She gets to rub AS MUCH LOTION AS SHE WANTS all over me. Best game ever.

  102. Kim says...

    As a camp counselor I used to get kids to walk on my back. They think it’s hilarious and you get to lie down AND get a massage.

  103. Charlotte K says...

    OMG, the guessing items on the butt game. That is a hoot.

    A fun and relaxing game my mother and I used to play (before I started school and before she went back to work, so I was around her ALL the time), and she played it with her mother when she was little: get a pad of paper and something to draw with–we just always used a pen or pencil. One person draws an abstract shape, not TOO complicated. Then they pass the pad to the other person and they turn it into something else (non-abstract in our case, though I suppose you could play it however). Take turns drawing the initial shape. I could have played this for hours and I think my mother didn’t get bored out of her skull doing it unlike games like Hide & Seek. Every kid I’ve ever played this with since loves it too.

    • Briana says...

      Oh my gosh! My boyfriend and I play this game all the time! A bottle of wine (or two) and we can keep drawing for hours without realizing the time. Sparks a lot of creativity and is so comfortable and relaxing for a night in. We also play the game on flights as well. Some hilarious scenes have been created, and we even have a couple of our favorites up on the fridge :)

    • Tracey says...

      Google Mr Squiggle, it’s a retro Australian kids show with amazing puppets that is basically this. I LOVED it. There’s a surly blackboard, a sassy snail, a dopey steam shovel, and an alien with a pencil for a nose – best!!

  104. Meghan says...

    Y’all really are some geniuses.

  105. Ann says...

    When my boys were little and I would have a migraine I would ask them to be really quiet and lay on top of me like a human blanket on the couch. Sometimes one of them would fall asleep too. They were so cute whispering to each other. I would usually have PBS or a train video on really low.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i actually LOVE the feeling of someone lying on my back. sometimes if i’m stressed, i’ll ask alex to lie on my back for a minute or two. it’s like a human weighted blanket :)

  106. Cheryl says...

    My friend Dorothy, the parent of now-grown twin boys, invented the game “dead flies.” As in, “let’s pretend we’re dead flies.” Nuff said.

    • gfy says...

      soooooo funny lol

  107. Bethany says...

    My mother can SLEEP!!! My sister and I took so many pictures of her asleep as kids that we often drew ZZZZZs coming out of her mouth. Which is not to say she wasn’t active–she was the mom up at 4 a.m., sewing a wrap-a-round skirt. Still, I remember her paying us to brush her long hair, while she lay on the couch, asleep, and also I remember putting lotion on her back all the time and writing words or drawing pictures for her to guess! She’d mumble something in her sleep, that was never the right thing, and we’d get annoyed because, why couldn’t she guess that!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      lotion words = genius!!!!

    • holagranola says...

      i love this. so cute!

  108. Monica says...

    These are so great. I remember my Dad would always say, “Let’s play Sleeping Beauty. I’ll be Beauty.” Then my brother and I would go around the house pretending to be making our way to the castle while my dad laid on the couch under a “spell”. Haha.

    A slightly different way to get us burn our energy when we were bouncing off the walls was called, “I’ll time you while you run around the house”. Dad would sit on the front porch while we ran around and around trying to beat our fastest time. We’d be so exhausted, but it was a game! Genius. ;)

    • Sheila says...

      We call that game “Beat the Time.” We use the stop-watch on the phone and watch the kids try to beat their previous time. The 11 year old figured it out a few years ago. But the 4 year old will still play. She’s who we need the game for these days!

  109. Heidi says...

    I cannot wait until after I’m done with work today so I can go home and play “What’s on my Butt?”
    Cup of Jo, doing the Lord’s work here once again.

    • Mel says...

      YESSSSS

      Cup of Jo, doing the Lord’s work here once again. = DYING

    • Kari says...

      “The Lord’s work” LOL

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha just emailed this comment to our whole team :)

    • Hani says...

      This made me LOL. Accurate AF

    • Brooke says...

      Heidi hahaha!! Truly laughing helplessly. It’s “the Lord’s work” after “what’s on my butt” that really brings this home ?.

    • Leigh says...

      Hahaha. Amen!

  110. Kellie P says...

    OMG, being 33 weeks pregnant with a 5 and 3 year old, I needed this!!! I’ll just have to lay on my back and close my eyes while they put stuff on my belly. ;)

    • Kay says...

      This comment had me briefly confused as to how you could be 33 weeks pregnant with a 5 year old!

  111. ND says...

    I came up with: if you read for an hour then you can play on the iPad for an hour. Now my kids think you have to read to get time on an iPad, so its win-win, right (as I get two hours!)?

  112. Karen T. says...

    Beauty school! Which includes my two boys competing over who can execute the best braid (on my head, of course). Also, drawing letters or pictures on each others backs (preferably mine) and trying to guess the shape. Both of these constitute games where I exert little to no effort (beyond witty responses) and include built-in back rubs/head massages!

  113. Claire says...

    Just this morning I was playing Horsie with my two year old, where I get to sprawl out on the floor on my belly and close my eyes while he sits on my butt and bounces himself lightly up and down. All I have to do is give an occasional halfhearted neigh. Perfect Monday morning activity with the bonus of the bouncing actually kind of massages my butt which is always a little sore after my long run on the weekend!

    • Bex says...

      this mental picture made me literally laugh out loud, thanks for that, I really needed it!

  114. Sarah says...

    I’ve 100% been there–that “I can’t possibly hold up my own head let alone entertain anyone else” feeling. My favorite game to play when my kids were toddlers was the nap game: they’d set up a “bed” for me (pillows and blankets on the floor) and tell me to get in and close my eyes and pretend to sleep. Bonus if they set everything up in front of one of our warm air vents. I was SO GOOD at playing that game! There’s also always the building of forts: it’s fun to give them the task of building a fort AROUND me (even better if they can find a light source for a reading nook inside). Finally there’s good old-fashioned screen time, which I like to use as a last resort if my kids haven’t used up their daily allotment: I prefer video games (so I can play with them without having to move my body), or a fun nostalgic show I can enjoy with them (like Bill Nye The Science Guy or Bob Ross).

  115. EC says...

    Similar to Ninja Training, my dad invented a game called “Sleeping Giant”, where he laid on the sofa pretending to snore and sleep. My sister and I had so much fun figuring out ways to try sneak by without waking the giant – I slithering by on the ground, dressing up as little old ladies with canes, and running as fast as we could. But we were never able to get by without waking the giant!

    • Sarah says...

      They would get by without waking the giant every. single. time. in my house.

  116. t says...

    such good ideas!

  117. Claire says...

    This is hilarious and completely genius!

    When I was a camp counselor, I was so tired all of the time (up at 6:45, asleep by 11, with only 1 hour to myself in the 24 hour period each day). I was always on alert and it was exhausting for 17 year old me! So, to combat my sleepiness and rest my eyes every now and then, I invented the following game to play outside on the grass on a summer’s day: Extreme cloud watching.

    The rules of play are very simple. So simple, in fact, you could get away with nary a cloud in the sky. The trick is to psych everyone up to the point all parties believe that this will be the greatest. thing. ever. So great that the children should question if something is wrong with them if they don’t immediately love it.

    1. Find the best patch of grass for yourself and immediately lie down. Sunglasses recommended (to shield your closed eyes).
    2. Instruct children to do the same, lying on their backs.
    3. Look at clouds and randomly identify them (eg. it’s a unicorn! a donut!)
    4. Nap.

    Should it be winter, or any other time of year in which lying on the grass in the outdoors sounds unappealing, locate the nearest child’s bed. Crawl under the covers and pull them up over your head. Announce that you are now in the ocean, swimming, floating, being a starfish at the bottom of the sea, etc. Have the child do all the work of acting out motions for swimming, etc. while you close your eyes.

    Still not a parent, but after 10+ years of babysitting, camp counseling, and working in schools, you do what you gotta do. Coffee helps.

  118. Ine says...

    Have them draw something on your back with their finger. You are supposed to guess what they are drawing, if you are like me you will need sone extra drawing before you can guess the right answer ? Most comfortable game ever!

  119. Mekhala says...

    I just about choked laughing at the sheer brilliance of these games! Must try!

  120. Kerry says...

    Ahahahaha! I love this so much. I just invented a game for my 8yo in which I lay in bed and try to nail him with a ball as he runs past the doorway. Yes, there’s some activity involved on my part but I AM IN BED. And usually, by the end of it, we’re both re-energized.

    • Mal says...

      Genius

    • Emily says...

      Lol! And he’s in charge of retrieving the ball to give back to you to try again, right?! Brilliant!

    • Kate says...

      When pregnant with number two I had my daughter practice being a big sister ‘cause baby’s sleep a lot and we need to be quiet so we don’t wake the baby! I would always have to be the baby because that is boring. My daughter would practice finding something quiet to do while I pretended to be the sleeping baby! Best game ever!!!

    • Nikki says...

      I teach and an aftercare favorite game is adult dodge ball. The adult all sit in rolly chairs and roll around and pelt kids running around us with balls. The kids toss the balls back when we miss. It’s gratifying throwing balls at kids that are challenging and they also get to sit down. The kids LOVE this game

  121. Jill says...

    With my three, we would play the “quiet game.” It is easy to play and there is a wonderful surprise for whoever was the quietest for the whole hour… a mint, extra scoop of ice cream, the ability to stay up an extra 15 minutes. Inevitably, someone would end up in tears which began quietly but escalated to full on screaming because the other two were making her laugh or not be quiet!! Sounds crazy but I tried this game with them all the time until my middle said to me one day…”Mom, this never works!”

    • Julia says...

      My dad would play The Quiet Game with giggly me, my giggly sister, and our giggly neighbor friend ALL THE TIME…and it took me until I was an adult to figure out what he was actually doing! Haha!

  122. Marie Monroe says...

    I read about a great game like these in the book written by Bill Gates’s father. I think it was called “Round Rock” and it was to be played anywhere outside where rocks were present. The object of the game is for the kids to look for the roundest rock they can find. Each time they bring one to the parent, the parent examines it and suggest a rounder rock is out there waiting to be found.

    • Carrita Thomas says...

      This is hilarious! This sounds like the parenting style I aspire too.

    • Cindy says...

      I played a game like this with my boys at the park. But we called it “Moon Rocks.” They had to find all the white rocks among the pebbly stuff they put around the swings. I would sit and they would bring me rocks, then we would eventually decide which one most likely came from the moon. (Not lying down, but when you’re at the park and don’t have to push a swing, that’s like lying down.)

  123. R says...

    My friend used to play “who can stay silent the longest or not a peep ” game with her kids..I can’t believe how many times it really worked haha !
    They do teach a little bit of yoga in my son’s pre K class and seems like savasan is all time fav pose ;)

  124. Amanda says...

    My 4yo son has been asking me to play “Santa” lately. I get to sleep while Santa (kiddo) delivers toys to my pockets. Then I wake up and pretend it’s Christmas morning. Sometimes as he’s gathering toys in his room he forgets he’s playing and I get an honest-to-God nap in.

    • Hallie says...

      Ha we do the same! We call it Christmas Morning and I say out loud my letter to Santa and mention three or four toys and then I “go to sleep” and my kids (Santa) have to find all the toys I asked for as quietly as possible so I don’t wake up and see Santa/then. They then place them in front of our fire place and then they announce it’s Christmas morning and I wake up and we do it all over again!

    • Emily says...

      This was my son’s favourite along with Easter morning. We would get out the plastic eggs from the storage bin under the bed and he would spend at least 10 minutes hiding them while I napped.

    • CS says...

      Inspired by a book called Pete’s a Pizza, we recreated the story while waiting in a patch of grass at a local festival. Basically, lie down while your child makes a pretend pizza out of you. Your child rolls you out (bit of a massage!), spreads sauce with their hands, sprinkles cheese (grass ripped out of the ground) and other toppings, puts you in the oven, cuts you into slices with their arm, and tastes their delicious creation! (You could also call it Piece of Pizza, if there are no Petes in your family!)

  125. Jennie says...

    I have been reading this blog for 10+ years and this is my favorite post. EVER.
    Not my favorite parenting post. Not my favorite funny post. My favorite post, period. Every single women mentioned in it is a brilliant genius, and also a saint. If I was not 45 and not in my not giving a fuck years, I might feel guilty for just telling my kid to go play while I take a nap after reading this. I love you Cup a Jo.

  126. Alison says...

    Once I sat between my niece and nephew in the back of a minivan for a long car ride. I was so tired of them bickering so I told them to play the quiet game and set a timer for 10 minutes or something. They didn’t ask when time is up, so I didn’t tell them and they went on for at least 30 minutes!

    I kept saying things that they knew weren’t true about their favorite topics (For my space-obsessed nephew: “There’s 15 planets, right?”) to see if they would break, but they both really wanted to win and wouldn’t talk. Finally, my niece fell asleep and my nephew didn’t have anyone to argue with. I felt like I won the game.

  127. Lorraine says...

    My 6-year-old loves maps, so I granted him a long amount of screen time one afternoon when I was feeling positively flu-ish (and he didn’t feel like going out with my husband & daughter). He laid next to me in bed and we pretended I was taking an Amtrak train to Albuquerque! I was in the sleeper car. On Google maps, he swiped through the whole path from NJ naming stops along the way. We did this for THREE HOURS and he would let me doze a bit while he named stops. It was amazing.

  128. Andrea says...

    This is hilarious.
    We were having another family, with children ages 4, 6, and 8, over for dinner. My fourteen-year-old daughter was overwhelmed with requests to “play (fill in the blank) with me!” and “spin me around the room!” Finally, when she could no longer handle it, she went to the closet, got a container of tennis balls, and told them it was a contest to see who could hold the ball to the wall with their forehead the longest. We didn’t hear a word from them for at least thirty minutes.

    • Liz says...

      Brilliant!!

    • Margaret says...

      I’m crying I’m laughing so hard. SO GENIUS

  129. Jenna White says...

    I offer to play hide and seek. They hide. I lie down.

  130. Madeline says...

    When I was pregnant with my 2nd, my then 2 year old loved to play “Mama takes a nap” where she’d cover me in a lot of blankets and pat my back. It was the best game ever.

  131. christine says...

    These are amazing!

  132. txilibrin says...

    OMG, I almost cried when I read the last one :D :D :D
    I’m writting all of these down!!!!!!! My super active toddler (19 months) is a pain some days. Physical exhaustion I can live with but mental one is hard to ignore when playing with him.

  133. agnes says...

    That was hilarious to read (I am definitely inspired now!). We play a game that my son calls “ratatataplan” (why?), nobody can speak, but you can sing. He loves it! and we get some quiet time.

  134. Neen says...

    These are BRILLIANT, and particularly helpful right now as I’m home sick with a rambunctious 3-year old. And laughing out loud at “What’s on my butt?”…perfect.

  135. Maria says...

    When I asked my mom to play, she used to say “Ok, let’s play. I’ll be the mum and you’ll be my daughter”.

  136. Laura Marquez says...

    Bhahahah I am using all of these!

  137. Sara says...

    This post made me giggle. Thank you. I’m married to a loud person and have birthed two loud children as a result, and so I can totally relate to resorting to paying your kids to be quiet for an evening. It sounds like a not-terrible idea and so sweet to picture you & your sister tiptoeing around. :)

  138. Melz says...

    It’s not lying down, but a bubble bath with bath paints or shaving cream-
    I could get a good hour of sitting on the toilet checking emails or writing sub plans….

  139. Laura says...

    Love this. Some of my favorite memories of my childhood are me playing 20 questions with my nearly asleep dad as he laid on the couch.

  140. Lauren says...

    I give my toddler a soft measuring tape and lie down while she “measures” different parts of my body or things around the room. When her interest wanes, I give her assignments like “measure my bellybutton to my chin” or “measure the plant to the windowsill.”

  141. L says...

    In our house, we play “spy.” In which I read in bed and sip tea while my five year old and three year old sneak around the house and spy on my husband (or vice versa). They tip toe about silently and then report back on what they’ve seen. They LOVE it. It makes them feel so sneaky. It’s also adorable to watch.

    This is also an amazing game to play at parties with adults and kids. If you ask the kids to spy on a certain adult and report back on what they’re doing, you will have whole stretches of time where no one is asking you for anything – except if you want another glass of wine.

    • Elle says...

      Oh this! This is genius!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha love this.

  142. Rochelle says...

    I just burst out laughing in the office reading what your mom did. I’ll have to remember that with my kids. Genius!

  143. Isabel says...

    I love this! One evening, when I was particularly exhausted and lying on the living room rug while my kids wanted to play Jenga or build puzzles, I told them we could play Spa and I’d be the client.
    It. Was. Genius.
    They got so into it, my oldest daughter drew the treatment signs, while my younger two took turns giving me foot rubs, back rubs, and face treatments with wet cotton balls and creams. Together. Nothing could have felt nicer than that. And now they ask to play Spa every so often. I never say no :).

  144. Jessica says...

    This post is HILARIOUS! The title alone got me cracking up! Love it! YES to this!!

    • Jessica says...

      As the Jessica who posted directly below you, but not the Jessica below that, I’ll observe that this post was particularly popular among moms named Jessica!

  145. Jessica says...

    YOU ARE A GENIUS!

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for these suggestions. I have a toddler, so we’re probably only at “What’s on my butt” level of play here – but had I thought of that? No! No I had not!

    Thank you.

    (The one I came up, when sick as a dog, with when my kid was 1 yo was “hide from daddy” in which he would cuddle with me under the blankets and stay *very quiet* in order to hide from daddy. “He’ll never find us!” – it didn’t matter, of course, that daddy was not home.)

  146. Jessica says...

    Thank you times one million for this post!

  147. Dawn says...

    This is exactly what the giant roll of paper from IKEA is for- trace mom. **mom rolls off paper** Now color her in!

  148. Alexa says...

    Yeah, it’s taken me becoming an adult to understand what my parents saying “let’s play the quiet game” truly was. A highly competitive only child, I always won.

    …or did they?

  149. Liz says...

    I also love race track. I lie face down on the floor and the kids “race” matchbox cars up and down my back and the back of my legs. It’s like a mini-massage until they get too riled up.