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Fun Toddler Games — How to Entertain Your Child While Lying Down

How to entertain your child while lying down.

By Saundra Goldman |

Being an older parent has its special challenges: Bones start to creak, hormones lag, and you can’t get yourself off the floor as quickly as you could when you were in your thirties. But as I frequently remind my daughter, there’s a solution (or five) to every problem!

In our household, the answer is for me and my husband, Steve, to move as little as possible, whenever possible (which, as any parent knows, isn’t often). Steve recently told me that I should write a book called How to Entertain Your Child While Lying Down.

A Primer for Parents in their Forties,” I snap back. It’s a joke, but like every joke there is a strong element of truth in it. Over the years we have become experts at entertaining our energetic daughter without draining our measly reserves of sleep-deprived, middle-age energy. Here are our top 5 methods for entertaining your children while sitting, lying down, or otherwise avoiding the vertical position:

Game #1: Mommy Massage Hour

Position: Splat down on your belly.

What your child will love about this Game: It involves children’s most beloved activity: getting their hands full of goo and rubbing it on their parents.

What you will love about this Game: In addition to lying down, you can take off some of your clothes, which is nice if you live in a warm climate like I do.

This game can be played on your bed or on the floor, but I recommend you cover the area in towels or place a splat mat under your belly to avoid tiresome cleanup later. When you are comfortably lying down, give your little one a tube of your favorite lotion and let them go to town. For maximum benefit, i.e. to drag the game out long enough to really kill some time, make sure they cover all areas – neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Just keep redirecting them to new body parts until you are adequately relaxed and moisturized.

Source: My stay-at-home sister-in law, who lives by the motto, “When 24/7 is just not enough.”

Variation: Mommy Salon. When your child’s motor skills are adequately developed, let them make you over with scrunchies, headbands, clips and, if you’re adventurous, a little bit of hair gel (this will satisfy their craving for goo). You sit while your child expresses her blossoming creativity on your hair, which, if you’re like me, is probably dirty anyway.

Game #2: Nurse Nightgown

Position: Lying in bed, propped up on a sea of pillows.

What your child will love about this game: The opportunity to take revenge on you for all the times you heartlessly dragged her in for well-check appointments with promises of chocolate ice cream, only to be jabbed by a harried nurse with a sharp needle.

What you will love about this game: You can stay in bed for an extra thirty minutes and even close your eyes if the attending nurse thinks you need to rest.

When your little one wakes you early in the morning after a long night of nightmares and excursions to the potty, say to her, “Mommy is sick. Nurse Nightgown, please take care of me.” And then remind her of all the fascinating equipment in the doctor’s office that the nurse gets to use. My niece actually has a cotton medical bag that she not only uses to cure her own mother, but totes around at family parties, complete with blood pressure pump, thermometer, and syringe. She takes enormous pleasure in making sure everyone in the family receives multiple injections. But if a doctor kit is not in your budget, do not worry. My daughter is content to squeeze the circulation out of my arm to take my blood pressure and give injections by poking my arms and legs with her index finger.

When Nurse Nightgown is finished caring for you, have her line up a whole clinic of patients, i.e. her stuffed animals, and she can treat all of their aches and pains while you grab a few more minutes of rest.

Source: My daughter made up this one herself, although we have encouraged her to develop her repertoire of remedies in order to prolong the game as long as possible.

Variation: While I don’t have an actual alternative to Nurse Nightgown, I would like to point out that the game can be played with children four and under on those days when they refuse to nap.

Game #3: Run Around Mommy

Position: Sitting down, preferably in an open space.

What your child will love about this game: The opportunity to run, hop, jump, and skip in an indoor space.

What you will love about this game: It will wear out even the most energetic toddler while you sit on your derriere.

To begin, just sit down and sing this dumb song I made up, which goes something like this:

Run, run, run around Mommy

Run, run, run around Mommy

Run, run, run around Mommy

Run, run, run, run, run.

If you’re up to it, you can clap your hands, too, but it’s not necessary. Have your kid do the clapping for you!

After your child runs in one direction, send him running in the other. Then have him hop.

Hop, hop, hop around Mommy

Hop, hop, hop around Mommy

Hop, hop, hop around Mommy

Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop.

Try skipping around mommy, jumping, crawling, whatever your child’s motor skills allow. Let him hop ’til he drops.

Source: I made up this one myself and, although it’s immodest to say so, I think it’s brilliant.

Variation: It should go without saying that “Run Around Daddy” is an equally entertaining game, except that during this game, Mommy takes a nap.

Game #4:The Floor Hokey Pokey

Position: On your back with your right foot up.

What your child will love about it: She knows all the words already.

What you will love about it: The opportunity to tone your arms while simultaneously lying down and keeping your child occupied.

This one needs little explanation. You know the song – just put your right foot “up” instead of “in” and use as many body parts as you can think of – elbows, knees, index fingers and pinkies. And don’t forget to stick out your tongue. When it comes time to twirl yourself around, lie still and let your child do the dirty work.

Source: This is another one of my late-afternoon brainstorms.

Variation: When you’ve exhausted limbs and other extremities, roll onto your stomach and do the Hokey Pokey with your butt. Your child will love you for it. And speaking of butts:

Game #5: What’s on Your Butt?

Position: Lying down with your eyes closed.

What your child will love about it: Butts.

What you will love about it: The roar of laughter that accompanies anything having to do with butts.

I recommend playing this one in your child’s room or wherever she keeps her toys. The participating parent lies face down on the bed and closes his eyes while the child finds an interesting object to place on the parent’s butt. Keeping his eyes closed, the parent guesses what’s on his butt. Your child will enjoy giving you endless clues in between peals of laughter from seeing Elmo or Barbie or her toothbrush riding your backside. This activity may last for a very long time as children rarely tire of seeing their parents with stuff on their ass.

Source: “What’s on your butt?” was invented by my genius husband on one of those mornings when we were cheerfully awakened by our sleepless child at 5 a.m.

Variation: As butts never cease to be funny, if you’re really tired, simply lay down, preferably in bed, and say “butt” in a serious tone. Then say it in a high voice, in a low voice, like Minnie Mouse, etc. I guarantee your child will be wildly entertained while you enjoy a few precious moments of rest.

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About Saundra Goldman


Saundra Goldman

Saundra Goldman is the former art critic for the Austin American-Statesman and the Austin Chronicle. She currently writing a memoir on her relationship with Hannah Wilke. To see her newsletter on the writing life, go to

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29 thoughts on “Fun Toddler Games — How to Entertain Your Child While Lying Down

  1. Maureen Tripp says:

    This woman is a genius!

  2. Alison Spodek says:

    Most of these my kid would see through- she doesn’t believe a game is fun unless I am running too. But I’m pretty sure, “what’s on your butt?” would be a HUGE hit. Looking forward to it!

  3. Jneal says:

    I play a veterinarian version of Nightgown Nurse this morning with stuffed animal. But I’ve also been forced to pretend to be a cat, dog, penguin with some ailment of my own. But I’m very glad to have 4 alternatives to Vet and Nurse when my daughter’s energy is overwhelming.

  4. Cari Combs says:

    @ Maureen–totally genius! I laughed so hard, I cried!

  5. Dimsummum says:

    This is spot on! Loved it!

  6. CeliaLondon says:

    Brilliant. You have really hit on my reality 100% – and with so much love.

  7. Heather says:

    Pure pure, genius. I can so relate.

  8. Rufus Griscom says:

    LOVE what’s on your butt.

  9. Blue says:

    So, so desperately needed this today, plus #5 made me laugh to tears. Coming right up, #3…

  10. Odd says:

    This was hilarious for the most part (who wouldn’t laugh at the mention of butts?) but I couldn’t help but be a little creeped out by the mommy massage time.

  11. Anonymous says:

    GREAT suggestions! Love them all! We also have a game called “put mommy to bed” wherein I lay in a dark room while my 4 year old tells me stories, tucks me in, brings me a sip of “pretend” water and a stuffed animal, gives me a night night kiss, etc. If I whine enough about needing more goodnight things, this can go on FOREVER :)

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is ridiculously practical and silly at the same time. Love it. :D

  13. Bev says:

    Love both the time wasting and laziness aspects of these games, plus, you said butt.

  14. rose says:

    Thanks so much for this! As an old(er) mom of a 2 year old, I’m in awe of your brilliance – esp #5!! I can’t wait to play…

  15. dremiel says:


  16. Mari Richards says:

    Hilarious. I will be using every single one of these. I linked up to this post over at my kids design blog: small for big. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Flannista says:

    I’m been a creative director in corporate America for more than 25 years. I’d thought I’d run out of ideas on how to “loosen” up corporate rigidity. Not any more. Can’t wait to ask, “What’s on your butt?” in a corporate setting, preferably at a large boardroom table. Thanks for the fuel.

  18. Emma Vernon says:

    Love these! Great games for babysitters with multiple jobs too!

  19. AG says:

    brilliant and fun!

  20. Anonymous says:

    This is utterly priceless. Thank you so much, especially for #5!

  21. Margo says:

    where was this advice when my kids were young? I laughed out loud reading this.

  22. Debra M says:

    I like Nurse Nightgown a lot. LOL, Butt. The adolescent version of this is to think of people whose last name is Butt. Like: Sandy Butt (too much time at the beach). Ginger Butt (sat in the sushi).

  23. Jenna Boettger Boring says:

    You’re wrong to think these are just for older moms. I’m in my early 20′s and can’t thank you enough for coming up with this.

  24. Lauren in Denver says:

    Just goes to show–even laziness takes creativity and energy! :)

  25. Sharon in San Marcos says:

    I love the “butt” game! These are great ideas for grandparents, too, of which (I am proud to say) I am one. I am sending this link to all the moms with children that I know.

  26. Rachel Federman says:

    This is insanely awesome! I’m 28, and believe me I could use it!

  27. Larissa Kosmos says:

    Hilarious. Can’t wait to play “What’s on your butt?”

  28. Sailor says:

    This artilce keeps it real, no doubt.

  29. Nelly Frect says:

    you nailed it exactly just like when i read here it was wondeful delight for all read more here

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