Pretend Play: Why I Don’t Like Playing Make Believe With My Kids

There’s a lot of mom shaming and guilt around pretend play. In this blog, I’m discussing why I don’t like it, that it’s completely normal and that it’s ok if you don’t like it either!

Pretend play is a huge part of a young child’s world. It’s super important for them, it’s fun for them, and it helps their imagination grow! But that doesn’t mean I, as a grown woman, needs to enjoy it as well. Playing princesses or role playing with Barbie dolls is not for me. And if you’re a mom and you’re feeling the same way, you’re not alone! In this blog I’m diving DEEP into the world of pretend play. We’ll discuss why it’s important for toddlers and children, why parents most likely don’t like it, and other ways you can connect with your child instead of playing baby dolls, family, or restaurant.

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What Is Pretend Play

First off, let’s talk about what pretend play is. According to the National Library of Medicine, pretend play is defined as “a form of playful behavior that involves nonliteral action.” This means, any kind of imaginative play, role playing, or dramatic play falls under pretend play. This could be your one year old pretending to talk on the phone using a play banana. It might your toddler play with baby dolls, or your 6 year old playing with Barbies. It’s a very healthy part of child development and it allows them to sort through their feelings and emotions.

You might notice when your child is playing make believe that they are role-playing something that happened in real life. This is their way of navigating through these daily behaviors and taking control of their environment. It’s truly and important skill for your child and it’s something they can do all on their own! You do not need to partake in pretend play if you don’t want to. As much as I don’t enjoy pretend play (which I’ll discuss in the next section) I do play with my kids from time to time because I can see that’s how they want to connect and I can deal with it for 5 to 10 minutes. It’s usually a great way to help them transition into independent play, too, without any whining or complaining.

pretend play

Why I Don’t Enjoy Pretend Play

Here’s why I don’t enjoy pretend play and why I think many other moms do not enjoy it either…Simply put, it’s because we are grown women, we are not 3 years old. It’s ok to not enjoy things a 3, 5, 8 year old and so on would enjoy! Pretend play to me is boring, I do not like role playing either. And if it’s something I don’t enjoy, then is it really even benefiting my child to engage in this kind of play? Probably not. That’s why I use my energy to connect with my child in other ways. It’s not all about pretend play, there are a million other ways to engage and connect with your child. So if you also don’t like playing make believe, you are not alone and please keep reading!

Other Ways To Connect With Your Child

If you are like and don’t particularly love pretend play, you are not alone! And you don’t have to feel guilty about not enjoying it either or telling your child “No, mama doesn’t want to do that right now.” I mean, you’re a mom so you probably will, but you shouldn’t! There are a million other ways to connect with your child. It doesn’t have to be all about playing make believe. Since I cannot list a million ways to connect with your child, I will list a few here for you. If you have any more ideas, please feel free to leave them in the comments section at the end of this blog!

1. Reading With Your Child

Reading books with your child throughout the day is a great way to slow down and connect. It’s also a really great learning activity! Reading is extremely beneficial for your child’s development and sitting down in a quiet, calm are of your home is a great way for your both to relax and regroup, especially during a busy day.

2. Snuggling

Cuddling and snuggling with your child is a great way to connect and be close! Snuggling or hugging releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps lessen anxiety and can help your child feel safe and secure. It beneficial more moms too because of that! After a little snuggle, you’ll feel less stressed and more relaxed. That’s a win for everyone!

mom and baby snuggling

3. Going for a walk/bike ride

Getting outside and going for a walk or a bike ride is a great way to be close and enjoy something you both benefit from. We all know getting outside and exercising/moving your body is great for mental health, so get moving together!

4. Eating meals together

There are so many benefits of eating meals together as a family! Put your phones/tablets/electronics away, turn off the TV and sit at the table together to eat at least one meal a day. From getting better grades in school to lessening the chance of developing eating disorders, there is so much solid research in the benefits of this and it’s so simple! You all need to eat, so do it together.

5. Playing a board game/card game

I’ll take a board game over pretend play anyday! Some great board game ideas are Candyland, Sorry, Chutes & Ladders, Charades, and Checkers. Some card game ideas are Go Fish, Uno, Phase 10, and Old Maid.

6. Watching TV or a movie together

As much as I try my best to limit screen time for my kids, a family movie night is always a fun idea! Get some snacks, maybe build a fort and snuggle up to watch a movie! It’s a great way to share older films that you enjoyed as a kid or finding a new movie you can see for the first time together.

7. Coloring or Doing Arts & Crafts

Coloring is one of my go-to activities if my toddler asks me to play. Instead, it allows us to sit together and do something we both enjoy. It can also be relaxing and stress-reducing.

8. Baking/Cooking

Involving your kids in everyday activities is a great learning experience for them! It’s also important for their development because they are learning real-life skills. Kids usually really love baking too and some say, including them in the cooking process will help those picky eaters try more foods!

family cooking together

9. Doing Chores

Again, involving your child in the things you need to do around the house is a great way to connect! Toddlers love helping out and giving them age-appropriate chores is a great way to be together, teach them responsibility, and allow them to learn that maintaining a home is anything less than easy! It’s a lot of work, and they should know that and know that helping out matters.

10. Going to the Park

Getting out of the house is super important, especially when you’re a stay at home mom. Going to the park is a great way to adventure from home and have some fun.

pretend play

11. Talking

So simple. You can connect with your child by just having a conversation! Talk to them about anything and everything, answer their millions of questions, talk about your day, etc.

12. Building Blocks/Train Sets

Playing with blocks, or building a Brio train set together is a fun way to connect! But after the block tower is made, you’ve connected with your child that they can now play make believe with that tower, or they can chug trains around the track you created.

building blocks

13. Pillow Talk

Spending time chatting with your kids before bedtime is a great way to connect AND help your kids go to bed easier. So, add it into your bedtime routine. After PJs and reading some books, snuggle up and talk about each other’s day. Your kids are more likely to open up about anything bothering them at this time and there is a better chance of them staying in bed and falling asleep faster. That is a win for everyone!

I’m super passionate about daily routines and schedules, as I feel they can help your day go smoother and seamlessly, so I have a few blogs about them. Click for a bedtime routine blog here.

14. Dance Party

Put on some music and have a dance party in the kitchen! I’m pretty sure nothing makes anyone feel better than dancing and singing at the top of your lungs for a few minutes. If you’re not up for some cardio (LOL) you can put on a slow song and just snuggle and slow-dance. That will bring your closer together and can even help calm down an overstimulated toddler.

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For the Haters

I posted a reel on Instagram a couple weeks back about how I didn’t enjoy pretend play. It went viral and got A TON of backlash (oddly enough from childless people mostly.) But I also got a lot of comments from moms who felt validated. And because of the intense conversations had from both ends, I felt compelled to write a blog post about this seemingly very hot topic. I will share the reel below.

Maybe I was a little aggressive with my delivery on it, but it was meant to be light-hearted and silly. Moms need to find humor in their life too, people! The amount of people who told me I must hate my child or that I am broken was appalling. Just because I don’t like pretend play, does not mean I hate my child or that I do not like my child. It also doesn’t mean I hate being a mom or that I’m a horrible mom. I am a completely normal mother and a dang good one. And if you can’t find humor in something, then please move on and keep your nasty comments to yourself. 🙂

Final Thoughts

Playing make believe with kids might not be every mom’s cup of tea and that’s OK! And if it is something you enjoy, that’s great too! Keep it up. But I know many moms who just don’t find joy in pretend play and that’s what sparked this blog idea. I think it’s something that more moms should be able to talk about without feeling shame over it or letting overs make them feel guilty about it. I also think many moms are quiet about it because they think they are alone and that there’s something wrong with them, which just isn’t the case.

Remember there are so many other ways of connecting with your child, so leave the pretend play to them! I know you love your child(ren) more than anything and as long as you’re connecting and present in other ways, they will not grow up to resent you for not playing with them. You’re a great mom and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

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