Games to Play With Your Child in Which You Barely Have to Move or Talk

I see a lot of ideas online for things to do with your child, but most of them are a lot of work.  Many of them involve an unnerving amount of craftiness and/or require going out to buy things.  Almost all of them involve moving around which, many days, is fine, but some days can be pretty rough.  Not that I don’t love getting down on the floor and playing with my kid (I love it a great deal) but I’m an adult in my mid-thirties.  I can pretend to be a dinosaur for about 90 minutes (something I happily list on my professional resume) but after an hour and a half, all bets are off.  And given that many days I’m home with my son for over eight hours, things can get a bit dicey.

I’ve taken the liberty of brainstorming some fun child/parent activities in which your child can be adventurous and creative and you can lie on the sofa reading a book.  Here’s my list so far.



paleontology the ugly volvo

Your child is a budding paleontologist and you are a fossilized dinosaur skeleton embedded in the hills of Montana (i.e. the sofa).  With a small pick and brush and instructions to be VERY GENTLE so as not to damage the fossils, have your child slowly “dig” you out of the rock, pretending to place your bones in a small dish.  Explain that this is an incredibly time consuming process and that chiseling out the bones not only takes hours or days, it should be done in total silence. Your main job in this game is to provide the initial instruction on paleontology, and then just lie really still.


Doctor examining an incredibly sick patient!

doctor the ugly volvo

Oh no, doctor!  This patient is VERY sick!  So sick that she can’t move and can barely talk, although she is inexplicably able to text without a problem.  We’re not sure what’s wrong with her but are fairly certain that it can be cured by putting a thermometer in her mouth and having someone check her heartbeat a bunch of times.


Theatre Critic

critic the ugly volvo

Relax as your child spends upward of an hour organizing and writing and choreographing a play or puppet show or dance number.  (Tell them to take a long time to really plan it out).  Before they begin, run into their dressing room and whisper, “There’s someone here from the Times!” and when the performance is completed, use an aloof voice to dictate a thorough and possibly scathing review of their efforts.


Ancient Egyptian Burial

pharoah the ugly volvo

You are a deceased ancient Egyptian king who has been mummified in ACE bandages (“Not my face, please.”)  Your children are the workers, instructed to build you a tomb-like structure out of blocks and/or sofa cushions while you lie peacefully on the couch.  If they comment that an Egyptian mummy shouldn’t be reading something while being buried, remind them that kings were often buried with things they would need in the afterlife and that on a journey through the underworld there’s nothing wrong with bringing that Amy Poehler “Yes, Please,” book you had meant to read when you were alive but that you never managed to get to because you were so busy ruling Egypt.


Private Investigator

spy the ugly volvo

Your child has just received information that someone posing as his parent is actually a suspected criminal.  Using traditional spying techniques such as hiding and looking at the person through binoculars, have your child thoroughly investigate the actions of this suspected ne’er-do-well.  Instruct your budding sleuth to take copious notes as the suspicious character makes dinner (looks like some sort of risotto?) and/or lies on the couch watching Netflix.


Drawing Class

artist the ugly volvo

Forget nudes—break out that easel and tell your child to practice drawing a fully-clothed collapsed person taking a nap in the middle of the day.  True artistry is being able to capture the folds of the T-shirt the subject slept in as well as the T-shirt itself is able to capture those pieces of Raisin Bran Crunch the subject had for breakfast.


To The Summit!

everest the ugly volvo

Your child is Sir Edmund Hilary and you are Mount Everest.  Let him literally just climb over your inert body while you lie there and wonder if you should go back to graduate school.  This does unfortunately involve your child climbing all over you, but definitely there are days when I’m like, “Do I want to actively engage with someone who’s enthusiastically screaming for me to run around like a lunatic or would I rather just lie there peacefully as he steps on my eye?”


Hair Salon

hairstylist the ugly volvo

(Your script)  Hi, I have a big, important event tonight and I need someone to gently brush my hair for a really long time and then put it in a lot of ridiculous braids and ponytails using a plethora of embarrassingly juvenile hairclips and barrettes.  Have a lot on my mind, so not looking for a lot of idle chit chat while I get my hair done.  Just a qualified professional who can calmly work on my hair in total silence.


Alan Turing Adventure

turing the ugly volvo

Your child is Alan Turing!  Give him page after page of code with the instruction that he needs to crack it in order to defeat the Germans and win the war!  Everyone is counting on him!  Make the code really complicated math problems that are a few years beyond what your child understands and then just lie on the couch calling yourself “The voice of the Allies,” saying things like, “This will change the face of history!” while also eating a Snickers.


Late Twenties

adult the ugly volvo

Have your child pretend he is in his late twenties living on his own in an apartment.  Tell him he is allowed to use the washing machine to do his own laundry (how fun!) and the upright vacuum to clean the rug (so cool and loud!).  If he asks you to somehow get involved, tell him that no, that’s not how adulthood works, you’re not just going to be around all the time.  If he insists on having some sort of interaction, tell him he can “call you.” You can lie on the couch and chat about his search for meaningful employment while you simultaneously pull out your credit card and (have fun!) book a 7 day/6 night stay in Costa Rica.


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If you want to read more of my writing I have a book coming out later this year with Chronicle Books.  It’s about the history of spaghetti.*

*I’m obviously lying, it’s about parenting.


62 CommentsComment

  1. Love it! We all need activities that require little movement! My babies don’t nap or sleep at night for that matter so I’m exhausted!

  2. Loved the ideas (except maybe the last one). It is much better than kids playing video games. Really creative and funny. Thanks for these nice tips.

  3. Let the child play doctor absolutely works every time for me!

    Now I have a few more ideas to experiment with…

  4. Avatar

    Chronically Ill

    This is awesome, I suffer from chronic pain and there are some great ideas here, feeling guilty enough about not being able to get up and be active with my little one like everyone else and for those with horrible comments you trying rearing children with an illness, just doing chores is hard enough.

  5. In order to really enjoy the greatness of these ideas, you must be able to decipher the not so subtle tongue-in-cheek meaning that most parents quickly recognize. These actually ARE great ideas for those moments of exhaustion, i.e., i’ve been up several times a night with a newborn only to be awakened at 6am from a toddler raring to go go go….or the time when i had the flu and my toddler became my bedside doctor, nurse, waterboy, channel-changer, book reader — anything i could think of to lie quietly in bed while he felt like we were playing a game. These ideas are for those MOMENTS in a day….not meant to be taken literally as this is how you play with your child all day long.

  6. I am paralyzed from the waist down, and love these creative ideas for playing with my children. It’s also great for parents who are caring for an infant and entertaining a child at the same time.

  7. These are great.
    I am ve1y sick and disabled and my mobility is severely limited as a result. I am a wheelchair user but have to spend most of my time flat on my back. I have godchildren and nieces and nephews and thought I would not be able to play with them. But it turned out that with enthusiasm and imagination anything is possible. We have played many games like the above and the kids love coming here to play.
    They themselves now come up with ways round my disability and adapt games they know.
    A recent favourite I found adorable was “imaginary hide and seek”. The child snuggled up with me on my daybed and I had to count to 10 with my eyes closed (no peeping!). I then had to look around, hum and ha pretending to think hard and ask them if they were hiding in specific places around my flat (eg are you hiding behind the door?). Of course, the game was made interesting by including totally impossible and silly hiding places such as in the fish tank, or in the fridge etc) These suggestions were met with uncontrollable giggles. Eventually I would “find” the child and we would start again!

    • Avatar


      That’s terrific. Kids are super creative and I find, in general, will do whatever they can to get to play with/be near fun adults, so not moving around is definitely workable. If they’re having a good time, they’ll want to hang out with you as much as they can!

  8. You’re a terrible parent if you think this is ok.

    You should be with your child, play with your child, spend time with your child…because in the blink of an eye, they’re grown up and they’re gone.

    Don’t waste your life being lazy and treating your kid like they’re an inconvenience. You should treat them as what they are, a blessing

    • Jason you are much mistaken to think this is not playing with children. Its a great posting with lots of fun ideas. Some mothers struggle to get through a day and love an opportunity to put their feet up plus entertain the child.
      That’s why I shared it on a Multiple Sclerosis page. Those parents loved it.
      Kindly think a little before you make these rash judgements.

    • Haha I’m guessing you’re not, and have not been, a full-time parent.

      You know how many hours there are in the day? You know how many of those a child, especially a toddler, wants to spend playing with his friends or caregivers? (Helpful hint: all of them, except when he’s asleep.) When you have vigorously played with that growing-up-so-fast child for three hours this morning and then spent one hour continually convincing him it’s okay for you to cook instead of playing with him, and now it’s after lunch and you are collapsed on the couch and he wants a horsey ride, you’re definitely a terrible parent for lying on the couch and telling him what a nice tower he’s building instead of giving him a horsey ride, right? I mean I very much agree with you that children are not an inconvenience, but goodness, it’s not like there are two kinds of parents in the world, ones who always lie on the couch and ones who never ever lie on the couch. Moderation in everything.

      Well, and also, welcome to the Ugly Volvo, a dry humor website. So, there’s that.

      Anyway, all good luck to you with your children, potential children, or grandchildren, whichever applies.

  9. I may also add designing a race track on clothes for a back tickle!

  10. Great ideas for fun and rest. Thanks.

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