Parenting in the “Entertain Me” Age

“Will you play with me, Mom?”

“”I’m bored.”Entertain kids

“What is there to do today?”

“Can we watch a movie?”

“Can you go outside with us?”

On one hand, I am really glad that my kids want to spend time with me.  And I really love spending time with them, as well.  But it seems they are constantly wanting to be entertained, for me to be leading an activity.  After a snow day like today, I feel overwhelmed, like I’m spinning my wheels.

My kids are 5,7, and 9, and I wonder if I’m asking too much of them to entertain themselves. I remember my mom being with us a lot.  She stayed home with us, and worked nights as a nurse.  But I don’t remember her actually entertaining us all the time, like my children sometimes expect. Maybe it’s because we don’t have neighborhood kids to play with.  Maybe I haven’t trained them correctly.  Maybe I’m mistakenly remembering my own childhood.  Maybe I need to suck it up and realize that being a good parent means entertaining your kids.

So I have a few questions:

1. Do you remember your parents entertaining you constantly?  Or just being there while you play?

2. Do your kids play by themselves, or do they need you all the time?

3. Do you have any ideas on how to train the kids that it’s OK for me to just “be there” while they play?

Let me know in the comments!

About Sarah Pinnix

I'm a mom, blogger, vlogger, libertarian. I love Jesus, and my husband, too. Social Media Strategist for a Non-Profit (All statements here are solely my own)


  1. Great questions! And I am curious to see how others answer because this fascinates me.

    No, I never remember my mother playing barbies or my little ponies with me, but she was a SAM and always with me. And since my sister is 5 years younger than me, I am assuming I always played by myself. Although I’m not sure how my mother pulled it off.

    My daughter is 4-1/2 and and only child, so the times she does play by herself, I think to myself “how’d I get her to do that????”


    Twitter: reallifesarah

    So it’s not just me! My oldest will go into her room and play with doll houses, and Barbies. But the younger ones… not so much. Maybe it’s just age?


  2. I try to balance the time at home… set aside some time to play one of their favorite games, then let them know I have things I have to do and maybe they can do art, read, or play a game together (just the 2 of them). And if they fight, they separate. I adore my kids and have a great time hanging out with them, but I am a bit of a “no nonsense” mom, like my mom always was.

    I do not think it is a parent’s responsibility to entertain his/her kids. I do, however, think it’s a privilege to have kids that *want* to spend time with me, so I do my best to carve out time to do things they like to do. It’s never easy to find the happy medium, but I do my best. I think that’s all anyone can do.


  3. AND I’m terrible at pretend play – Barbies, etc… I don’t even attempt those!! ha! Like you guys said, my mom (though also a SAHM) didn’t do that stuff. I pretty much remember running errands with her (sometimes this meant the library – yay!) and helping her clean the house sometimes; playing some card games and educational games; clipping her coupons (one of my favorite past times); and playing by myself for the most part.


  4. My mom was a SAHM, and didn’t play with us. I’m a SAHM, and don’t play with my kids – unless you count board games. Even the toddler plays on her own. I guess it’s because I didn’t start out playing with them? I have always let my children discover toys on their own, even when they were very small. As long as they were happy, I let them be. My older two are 16 months apart, and my firstborn has just finally grown out of expecting his sister to play with him when he wants her to. My 9 year old has been telling me that she is bored recently, but I give her a few suggestions of independent activities, and she’s busy again.

    I guess for those that have somewhat smaller kids, I’d suggest starting by giving them a few toys to play with at your feet when you are busy. For older ones, I’d simply explain that you are not able to play with them right now, but give them a few ideas of things they can do on their own.


  5. Aw, they just miss you. If you were home all the time (and they were, too), they would only ask you to play with them twenty or thirty times a day. ;0)

    Kids want to be with their parents. They want to include you. Revel in it. They won’t, soon enough.


  6. I’ve noticed the opposite – my oldest cannot play by himself, while my youngest can while away hours in his own world. I used to play with my oldest (now 5) all the time, and now he has his brother (3yo) to play with. But the 3yo has had to share me from birth, so apparently he has dealt with it better.

    I don’t remember my mom playing with us. She worked, and we were in daycare… but when we were at home, my brother and I played together, either in our basement or outside with neighborhood kids. I wonder the same thing… What am I doing to my kids that don’t have the freedom that I had to roam, without neighborhood friends? They play so well together, but when they are tired of each other, especially the oldest – he wants me as a constant companion.


  7. Jayne
    Twitter: jaynecrammond

    My poor Mum, I was one of those kids who needed constant stimulation, and I was a bit of a geek, so that meant constantly asking my Mum to write pages of sums for me to do, or test me on the meanings and spellings of words from the dictionary. Oh, and I wanted to constantly play Trivial Pursuit.


  8. Vanderbilt Wife
    Twitter: vanderbiltwife

    First I will tell you, that at 38 weeks pregnant I rely on my TWO year old daughter to entertain herself a lot. And she does! Maybe because I’ve “trained” her to do that.

    Mostly I remember playing incessantly with my sister. We had Barbies, performed plays, imagined elaborate storylands … and when I wasn’t directing her in one way or another, I was reading!


  9. We played by ourselves except for when my mom was schooling us. BUT we grew up in the country and were outside for hours every day, even in winter (my mom didn’t play with us very often – she was too busy homemaking – but she DID make us a homemade garden-hose hockey rink in the back yard every winter!). My kids are good at entertaining themselves when I’m good at setting limits. We also live in the country, homeschool, and I am a WAHM, so I would offer that caveat.

    1) We have two “play areas” set up in our house – a downstairs room with lots of active toys, like a trampoline, giant exercise ball, exercise bike, bouncy horse, balance beam (homemade – they’re easy), hula hoops, jump ropes, a swing and monkey rings from Ikea.

    2) There is also a “quiet” play area upstairs, with their dolls, toys, books, board games, etc. They are sent up or down if they start pestering me! 🙂

    3)If they complain of being bored twice in a row, they are put to work. Each of them has a designated household task that they ONLY have to do if they complain of being bored. (My 5 year old cleans the bathroom vanities, my 7 year old scrubs floors on her hands and knees, etc) They actually enjoy these special chores and sometimes ask to do them for fun if they are bored! 🙂 Some weeks my vanities are absolutely polished!

    4) I also keep an art corner in my kitchen nook because I have three girls – they retreat there often as I keep a cupboard stocked with art supplies and pre-made “kits” with art or craft projects. My son (who’s just 3) enjoys his train set, which is the only main “toy” we allow in our living space. He is allowed to set up tracks all through the front room and dining room if he asks nicely.

    Just a few tricks I have up my sleeve! As a WAHM, I have had to figure this out as I need chunks of time throughout the day to do my work – and they are all home with me. Good luck! Personally, I think you have it harder because it is a special “treat” if your kids are home from school unexpectedly, and on a snow day, who DOESN’T just want to have fun?!! I assume you have some awesome sleds?? 😉


  10. Kristy
    Twitter: quitthewick

    Great post! I spent most of my childhood outside in the field behind our house playing army with my brothers, digging holes, creating our own adventures. It is so different now, I can’t imagine letting my kids out on their own to roam the streets. It is also different because we live in such a technological time. My kids know so much about computers and gadgets. I love to ban the computer and tv and see what my kids find to do. It usually involves laundry blankets, boxes and blankets. The other day my 9 year old was standing in a laundry basket with a broom, like she was rowing a boat. She was going on a voyage and involved all her siblings in creating an adventure up and down the hallway… I say just give them the chance to use their imaginations by eliminating all other entertainers every so often and leaving them to their own imaginations.


  11. I am full-time work-outside-the-home mother of 4 so my kids have learned to play by themselves. HOWEVER, I do plan “special” times with them- it’s usually nothing big (and it’s something I would already be doing) but they feel attended to. My 4 year olds like to “play chef” and put on apron and help me bake muffins or make pancakes…VOILA, breakfast is done AND I’ve played with them! For my older ones, it’s usually scheduling time to play a board game once every 2 weeks or so OR sitting on the couch and watching a 30 minute TV show with them (a the name of “being an attentive parent”- I’ll take it!)

    All that to say, I usually respond to their requests with (1) suggestions of things they can do alone or with their siblings, (2) a suggestion that if none of those options are appealing, I have extra chores they can do, AND (3) a promise to do something special sometime in the future (for the little ones, it’s later that day..for the older ones, it could be later that month).


  12. Lua
    Twitter: MissLuluBlogs

    Growing up, whenever I said “I’m bored” my parents generally would say something like “Well, you don’t have to be constantly entertained.” LOL My son is 3 (nearly 4) and he always wants me to play with him. Being that he’s an only child, I oblige but not ALL the time…LOL I ask him to play by himself sometimes and he does. 🙂


  13. Great post and those questions made me think also. LOL. I can’t recall if my mom was playing with me when I was young. But she let us play with other kids and with my sisters.
    Now, I have one kid. He wants me to play with his game cards and he makes stories out of his toys and tells me what to do during playtime. When it comes to puzzle, he wanted to do it alone.


  14. grandmabird says:

    My daughter and her husband entertained their daughter constantly from the time she was born. She’s now almost 5 and can’t entertain herself. I remember both of them playing nightly with her for several hours; my daughter entertained her constantly during the day. They were on the go constantly and never had established nap times. Today, they’ve got problems – she needs to be entertained and gets miserable and bratty if she’s not the center of attention. I played with my daughters when they were young to some degree but not like this. I think it’s important for children to learn to entertain themselves too.


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