micdesdus8's picture

My child won't play.

My daughter is almost 5 and no matter how hard we try we cant get her to play with her toys. We spent almost $1000 on her for christmas last year and she has hardly touched anything. We rotate the toys out so they last all year but it doesnt seem to matter what we put in her room. She picks it and it still is left untouched. She would honestly rather sit in a chair thats in the corner of her room all day then play. We dont let her watch alot of tv, mostly in the morning around breakfast. When whatever she is watching goes off we tell her to in her room and play with her toys. 5 mins later she is sitting in that chair. we've removed it, she sits in the floor. It's not like we dont play with her because we spend alot of time with her. I just think she should learn to play by herslef as well. What can I do?

SnglDad's picture

What can you do? That’s a great question. You could interact with her more. How fun is it to be sent to your room to play by yourself? As adults we may like the break, but to a child it could seem more like punishment. Why in her room? Why not out with friends. As a single father, I took my kids to the parks, indoor play areas, and even a local mall with a huge play area. They were not in school yet, but they still had interaction with others their own age. There were even a few parents who I swapped numbers with and set play dates. She may be acting the way she is out of boredom, or for attention. Get her out of the house and make some friends.

At this age she is a sponge. Her imagination can take her anywhere. Her mind needs stimulation. I used to take my two boys down to the bay. We would take off our shoes and socks and wade in the shallow water. We would find small crab living under rocks, small fish caught in tidal pools. The kids loved to find small crab and make the crab a house out of rocks, wood, or whatever materials we could find before the tide came back in. They were using their minds to create. Eventually they would try and add second floors, bathrooms, and (my favorite of all time from my 3 year old) a pool. Give her more than you think she can understand and watch as her mind starts to bloom. As parents we are not overseers of our children. We are their guides to this life. It is our duty to interact, teach, stimulate, and challenge their minds. No matter how much you spend on toys, they will not fill the void that this little girl feels.

concerned mom's picture
concerned mom

I agree totally w/ SnglDad. You don't need to spend all that $$ on toys for your child. Kids learn from their imaginations and their environment. My kids wld rather play w/ wooden spoons and Tupperware containers, puppets they make to put on a puppet show, or bugs and dirt in the yard. This is not to say you can't buy your child some toys, but if you see she's not playing w/ them, be creative instead. There's so much you can do w/ markers, construction paper and scissors. You don't need expensive toys to accomplish appropriate play and learning. Also, I agree that you need to spend more one on one time w/ your daughter. It almost seems like your daughter doesn't know how to play by herself b/c she's never been shown how. And being around other children your daughter's age is very important for her as well. One suggestion for when your daughter does play w/ her toys wld be for you to take out one toy at a time. Let her chose it. Then play w/ her, or have her invite a friend over to play w/ her. I think SnglDad may be right that your daughter may be bored. She may also be overwhelmed and not know what toy to play w/ first. Some kids just need that extra guidance. I know this is not always possible every second of the day, but if you devote a designated time to your child each day, I think it'll make a real difference. I know as parents that we want to give our kids everything we can, but sometimes the greatest gifts are not material things. It is evident that you love your child very much, but you don't need to buy her all these things. Be there for her, sing songs, watch a movie together, make crafts, and just enjoy each other's company. The rest will come naturally. I hope this advice helps.

junieg's picture

I agree wholeheartedly with what singldad and concerned have said. She doesn't need all those toys, she needs you. Sometimes children need to be taught how to play. It doesn't come naturally to them. You don't have to spend a fortune on special toys, indeed, you don't really have to buy any. Bits of material and old clothes for pretend play dressing up. You could dress up and pretend to be someone else to get the ball rolling with your daughter. Special toys are very limiting. They are what they are designed for and no more. A pile of boxes, paper, materials, pots and pans etc and you have the scenario for anything your child can imagine. Your child can be anything she wants to be. As has already been said, interaction with you and other children is vital for your daughters development. Children learn so much from what they see and you are a role model for your daughter.
I also agree that your daughter should be spending more time outside anyway. As long as the weather permits

micdesdus8's picture

i play with my daughter. almost every second im with her. i take her to the park and to family and friends houses who have kids her age. she doesnt have everyone of those toys in her room all the time. we store them in the garage and we rotate them out. but i have a full time job and im a full time student. how do i get homework done if im playing with her? im not saying i dont want to play or be with her. im saying how do i get her to play for 30 mins. thats all im asking.

junieg's picture

It may be a case of prioritising. What is most important in your life? Not only do you have a full time job but are also a full time student. Not a lot of time for a child there. I understand if you have to work, I also understand your need to study to better your prospects, just that doing both at the same time strains your relationship even further with your child. At her age, she doesn't really care about things like finances, just needs support. Throwing money at the problem in the form of toys is not helping at all. Perhaps she could go to a pre-school where she will have plenty children around her and organised activities and opportunities. This might help her to 'learn' to play.
You don't mention if there is anyone else in her life who can help, her dad, grandpartents etc.

wigglegigglelearn's picture

My little one was the same way and it drove me as crazy as it is driving you. I am a kindergarten teacher and know more than most about child development, brain development and the importance of play for children. My son doesn't have all of the toys that most children have because I know how important the imagination is for development.

However, he still wouldn't (at age three and a half) play even after I would model and play with him. I began reflecting on what else I could do and that what else came quickly to me.

"I need to schedule play time with peers for my son because he is an only child." Playing with mom and dad wasn't as fun as playing with someone his own size. I called a few families from his preschool class and set up a schedule to either take him to the friend's house or pick the friend up to play. We stayed on this schedule with two different friends four days a week (an hour or two each day) and within four months he was playing by himself in dramatic fashion for at least 30 minutes to an hour at a time.

He is a happier child and I... a happier mom!
Good luck!

junieg's picture

So, egos aside wigglegigg, we have a lot of people on here who are 'experts' on child development etc. You are not alone. Basically, what you are saying is what has already been offered up by a few people. Role model play and finding play dates, been said before, but possibly done in a more supportive fashion. Well done you.

joannmckean's picture

She may actually think it's a punishment to be sent off by herself. Try having her bring a toy into the room or nearby and playing near you. I don't disagree with play-dates and such, but I wasn't able to go do this and had to make do when my kids were small. I used a blow-up pool in the kitchen and used rice for sand and scoops and such. I didn't need to be THERE, just close by to appreciate the discoveries.

robinleann's picture

My daughter is exactly the same way and I am so frustrated! She has three brothers, and she's the youngest. They play with her, and her father and I do too. I'm a stay at home mom, and she gets a lot of time and attention, so that's not the issue. She gets together often with cousins and friends, and even when she's with them, she acts as though she has no imagination whatever and needs the other kids to tell her what to play. My sons are all very imaginative and they love to create games out of nothing. She can't do that at all. She has plenty of stimulating toys, which she has told me she would like me to throw away because she doesn't like to play with them. I'm a huge advocate of using imagination to come up with things to do and play and I don't think a lot of toys are necessary, but it seems very strange to me that she doesn't want to play with *any* of her toys. I don't understand why she is this way, and I'm watching this thread to see if you're given any great advice. I can totally empathize with your situation.

EasyTherMac's picture

I used to play with rice as a child every time my grandma was in the kitchen.