Parenting can be draining and sometimes when our kids want our undivided attention, we're just too tired to play. Time to get creative. There are plenty of ways to make your child feel like you're in full play mode when really, you're half sleeping on the couch. You might even get a scalp massage out of it.

White flagTwo years ago, I made the ultimate travel mistake — I booked a return ticket from Los Angeles back home to Florida and failed to check if the 11:00 departure time was a.m. or p.m. The result? After a full day of adventure in California, I had to face a six-hour red-eye flight with a three-hour layover in between. With a baby, might I add. And then I had to return home early in the morning to watch two kids all day on zero sleep while my husband went to work. After five minutes alone with the kids and too many cups of coffee that morning, I considered taping my eyes open. "Hey Mom, can you play with me?" pleas suddenly sounded like, "Hey Mom, want to bleed to death?", and every effort I made to move felt like torture. Right before I called my husband to raise the white flag with a defeated "Come home!", I remembered the secret back-up plan for parenting moments like this — the "Just Lie There" games I almost forgot about.

I admit the discovery of one of these games, like the miracle of penicillin, came about by accident. My oldest daughter asked to do my hair one day and I let her, closing my eyes for a little bit while she brushed and gently gathered ponytails around my head. After a few minutes, I fell into a light sleep but woke up quickly in a moment of "Eureka!" I was on to something. This was a win/win play situation — my daughter was convinced I was sacrificing my time to be her salon guinea pig, and me? Well, I would pay someone to massage my head, and this new activity required nothing more of me than to sit and be quiet. And if this simple activity won my child over so quickly, there had to be more like it. I made it my mission to discover them all, and yes, it took a little creativity. In the end though, there was victory — a repertoire of games that, to your child, look like dedication of your time and attention to them but, to you, represent an opportunity to just lie there and be still — a treasured occasion in parenting. These games saved me the day after my flight from hell, and they've come in handy on many other exhausting days since.

So, tuck these away and save them for emergencies.

The "Just Lie There" Games:^


  • Materials needed: A roll of toilet paper, Scotch tape, a kid doctor kit or a box of random things from a junk drawer that will serve as "doctor tools" (medicine dispenser syringes work great as shots)
  • Cost: A wasted roll of toilet paper
  • Relaxation time bought: 30 minutes if you're lucky
  • How to play: The game begins, of course, by you lying down on couch, bed, floor, etc. Designate your child to be the doctor and make sure he/she clearly knows you are in serious condition — much too serious to move — and that your body needs to be put in a full cast, using toilet paper and tape. Child should also record your vital signs throughout the procedure and attend to any muscle knots in your back and neck. It's best you rest your eyes as well — to get better faster, of course.


  • Materials needed: Soft-bristle brush, hair ties, makeup, cosmetic brushes, baby wipes
  • Cost: Ruined makeup (worth it), your face that looks like the Joker (worth it)
  • Relaxation time bought: 30 to 40 minutes
  • How to play: This one might actually buy you a nice chunk of time as kids will be so shocked you're letting them play with makeup and ruining your hair that they'll never want to stop. It's pretty self-explanatory — lie there, close your eyes and let your kids make over your hair and face.

What's that letter?

  • Materials needed: Small paint brush or makeup brush
  • Cost: Nothing! It's a no-risk game!
  • Relaxation time bought: 15 minutes
  • How to play: Close your eyes, hold out your hand and instruct your child to draw letters on the inside of your palm with a small paint brush. All you have to do is guess what letter your child is drawing. She'll get a kick out of "stumping" you. This can also be performed on your back.

Wash the toys (an outside game)

  • Materials needed: A collection of ride-on toys, cars, bikes, push toys; hose; pail and sponges; soap; towels; a handful of quarters; lawn chair (preferably, a reclining one)
  • Cost: A small load of dirty towels to wash
  • Relaxation time bought: Jackpot=a full hour
  • How to play: The key is the lawn chair. You'll want it comfortably reclined because you might be there for a while. To pull this thing off as legit and not just an excuse for you to sit, you'll need to give your kids some quarters and tell them you're the car wash supervisor. To use your wash station, they need to pay you a quarter per car. Once they pay to wash one of their ride-on toys, you can give them the materials and they can get busy scrubbing down each trike, rinsing, drying and bringing it back to you for your inspection. If you want to buy more time, you can suggest they go back to clean up a few missed spots. Kids love washing cars, so don't feel one bit guilty about this situation. Also, the more ride-on toys you have, the longer this lasts, so you might want to borrow a few from the neighbors.


  • Materials needed: Several different kinds of lotion, notepad and pen
  • Cost: A small mess
  • Relaxation time: 15 to 20 minutes
  • How to play: This one's tricky because you have to sell this as a fun game and not just a way for you to get a massage. I'd suggest offering several different scented lotions for your child to use and give them a notepad and pen so they can record client information for you. Show them how they can use the lotion to massage your hands, feet and shoulders and offer lots of feedback to convince them it's fun, such as, "Wow, you must have gone to a really good massage school" or "I've had many massages but no one's been as good as you!" If this gets old, you might need to introduce a CD player so your child can choose soothing music or heat rocks on low heat in the oven so she can do a hot stone massage on your back.

Now relax. Who knows — maybe you'll never have to play Monopoly again.

More from Kelle Hampton

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