Skip to Content

I Don’t Know How To Play With My 5-Year-Old

How To Play With A 5-Year-Old

The other day, Ayva said to me, “Mom, why don’t you ever play with me?”.

I reminded her about all of the things that we do together, shopping, cooking, reading books, but she wouldn’t let up.

“No, Mom. I mean, like playing. In my room. You never play with me.”

Ayva was right. I don’t ever really take the time to go into her room, get on the floor and just hang out with her. When I was a new mom, there was always someone around to give me advice on things to do with my baby girl. Tummy time! Read lots of books! No screens! Even as she got older, they still had feedback for me. Sensory tables! Playgrounds! NO screens! Now that she’s 5, though, all of the parenting experts have exited the building and I’m on my own to figure out how to play with my kindergartener. I’m not talking about cooking with her, or making crafts, or any of the other pinterest inspired ideas of ways to spend time together. I’m talking about straight up, no holds barred play that she’s asking for.

When Ayva was a baby, I’d lay on my back on the floor and lift her up with my legs. I’d engage her with stuffed animals, talk on pretend telephones or make silly voices to make her laugh. When she asks me to play now, I’ll be honest,  I’m not really sure what to do. We often do puzzles and play board games, but I think what Ayva is asking is for me to be more like one of her friends, playing “Family” (a pretend play game that her friends love), or “Work”. I’m going to keep it real with y’all, it’s hard doing pretend play with a kindergartener! First of all, it never ends. The game can go on for HOURS. Also, I’m always so amped up, worrying about what needs to be done around the house, or work, or what’s for dinner, that clearing my mind enough to pretend to be my real child’s fake mother takes a lot of effort. Sometimes, as terrible as this is going to sound,  I just don’t have it in me.

But, she asked me to play. She specifically asked me to come in her room and play with her. I know at some point, when she’s a teenager with friends who are way cooler than her old mom, I’m going to be longing for the days that she asks me to spend time with her. So, my baby wants to play? We shall play. Maybe next time she’ll let me be the daughter!

Things To Remember When Playing With A 5-Year-Old

1. Ask her what she wants to do.
2. Assure her that the play is about her. She don’t have to pick an activity to appease me.
3. Be flexible.
4. Forget about rules.
5. Be open to being silly or getting dirty.


Monday 19th of October 2020

I know this is an old post from years ago but I want to say thanks for writing it. My little turns 5 next month and I have forgotten how to play with him as he has gotten more self sufficient. My husband plays with him more and I do more activities with him. I appreciate your transparency and feel as mothers we will always find something to feel guilty about. You sound like an amazing mom!!


Friday 6th of March 2015

I also struggle in this area and feel so guilty when I don't have the time to play. I work from home and my 5 yr old is always asking me to play. It is hard when you work from home, but I have been taking time out of my busy day to play with her. She loves board games so we do this alot. Thanks for being transparent Brandi and trust me you are not alone!


Monday 9th of March 2015

I appreciate you sharing this, Iris! We all need to know that we're not in this alone!!!

Ericka Chatman

Thursday 5th of March 2015

Sounds like it's time for a little brother or sister :)


Thursday 5th of March 2015

Agreed, @Ericka! ;-)


Thursday 5th of March 2015

Thank you for writing this. I have a 6 yr old daufhrer and 4 year old son and sometimes it freaks me out whem they ask me to play because i dont know how to do it. Kids so need time for pure unadulterated play time and as parents we need to spend this kind of time with them. It lays a good foundation for the teen years too.


Thursday 5th of March 2015

I appreciate you admitting this, Wanda! You are right, too. They just need that pure play time, for sure!