• Welcome teachers! Log in or Register Now for a free ProTeacher account!

Why won't my 3 year old GO PLAY?????


Senior Member
I have two girls, ages 3.5 and 2. The 2 year old could entertain herself for hours. She plays so well by herself with toys, books, baby dolls, etc.

My 3.5 year old drive me NUTS. She can be so annoying sometimes! She is CONTSTANTLY crawling on me, hanging on me, laying on me, climbing on me, begging me for a drink, blah blah blah. She won't just GO PLAY.

I have no idea why. They have a ton of toys. I mean the toy box won't close and there are things all over the rec room floor. She has crayons, play doh (which I will admit, keeps her quiet for a SHORT bit), dolls, blocks, puzzles, books, and the list goes on and on. I build "forts" for them to play with. Nothing seems to work for the 3.5 year old. She won't leave me alone! She only wants to play games where I'm involved, like "monster" where I chase them around or "jail" where she comes and leads me to a pretend area that's a jail and then I escape and she chases me..... But I can't do that all day!! Mommy needs a break! But as soon as I sit down or try to do any kind of chores, she follows me or gets right in my face. I've even tried bribing her to play by promising her that I'll take her to get ice cream later. Nothing works! Help me find some activity that my 3.5 year old can do and keep her entertained for a little while! My sanity depends on it!

Is it her age? Is it the fact that her sister is too little still to really "play" with her? Or is it just her personality? I'm at my wit's end!

And yes, I love being a mommy, but I swear, sometimes it's just so hard to get a few minutes of serenity. :(


Senior Member
3 year old schedule

I can feel you! I also have a little one that age.
Ideas**** Play babydolls, kitchen, blocks, puzzels, roll the ball, ect with her. Teach her how to do it (again if need be). If you are busy with something, she can "cook" you a snack or babysit your babydoll, or build you a tower to park your car, ect. You are still interacting with her while she is helping you.

I have noticed if we don't have scheduled activities, it gets really bad. I would schedule the day.
Morning routine
Playtime with mommy
Craft or errands
****Clean up time - you can have her "help" do the chores with you. Get her a sponge and have her wipe down the counters & tables. She can probably vacuum. Mine does :) I have to either do it first or afterwards, too. Put a little windex and mix with water. Giver her some towels and let her wash the windows. Have her clean the bath tub with some baby soap (put some in a small bottle and mix with water). Let her fold all the washrags, underwear, help match sox, put away towels and clothes to certain rooms.
Lunch- let her help prepare it. Get stuff out pantry, bring you spoon, mix stuff, ect.
Nap/Movie- We do this EVERYDAY. I put on a movie in the vcr. He naps or he watches the movie. Either one, but he stays in his room. This is my break time. I can get on the computer or do whatever uninterrupted thing I want. Even take a bath all by myself LOL
Outside playtime- Kick ball, swings, go to the park, ect.
Mommy playtime/arts and crafts/ect/errands
Cook Dinner- again let help or pull out playdoh, paper and kid scissors, pen and paper and let her make a list, ect.
Inside Playtime (while I clean the kitchen- sometimes he helps)
Bedtime Routine


Senior Member
When my older child went through a phase where it didn't seem like he was entertaining himself well, I instituted "quiet play time." I started talking it up like it was a new activity, ("tomorrow we're going to start quiet play time!") helped him plan what he was going to do, told him what the "rules" were, told him what I was going to be doing during that time, and just generally talked it up.

I started with a short time and gradually lengthened it. Honestly? We kept doing it on occasion until the kids were pretty old. If I suggested the kids go to their rooms for some quiet play time, they understood they weren't in trouble, mom just needed some alone time. (they also figured out I wasn't doing anything fun - like sitting and paying bills, etc.)

My kids liked structure, so I could generally add things in my making a "schedule." Today after breakfast we're going for a walk, then it will be quiet play time until...


Senior Member
Thanks for the replies. I actually thought about making a schedule for the kids, kind of like what I did when I was teaching. After seeing MKat's response, a light bulb went on: my 3.5 year old ALWAYS asks me "What are we going to do in the morning?" Morning to her means when she wakes up, whether it's really morning or after her nap. She wants to know what to expect. She would really benefit from a routine and a schedule, and honestly, right now we don't have one at all. On the days when we're constantly on the go (the park, zoo, library, errands) she is very well-behaved and a joy to be around. But when we stay home and there's no real activity planned, she turns into a very whiny, annoying toddler, and all of her energy goes into bugging me to death! I'm going to try to incorporate more activities at the table with crafty stuff and break the day up into "sessions" of activity. Hopefully this makes my life (and hers!) a lot better. :)


Senior Member
Age thing...

When I had my daycare i would occassionally come across kids who had this type of personality. My own son has this type of personality.

I learned that having a very specific schedule helped my own sanity. I had an actual picture schedule (since they didn't read yet) It has been a few yrs but it went something like this....

8:00-8:30 Breakfast
8:30 - 9:00 TV time (so mommy can clean up kitchen)
9:00-10:00 Play w/ mommy time (took their lead on what to play and did not multitask during this time.)
10:00-10:30 (gradually increase this time to 45 min) kid choice - I had a list of activities they helped me htink of and they would chose a diff one each day - once completed on their own they got a sticker on it after 5 stickers they got me to do one of those activities w/ them for the time.

11:00 cook lunch - put them to work. Wipe off the table, set out the plates, get the condiments from fridge, count out how many slices of bread (or whatever you are making), etc. make sure everyone washes thier hands.

then in teh afternoon we would have outside time, nap time (or lay in bed and read time), another 30/45 min of mommy only time, book time, etc. I would also try to put on some music in the afternoons and dance w/ them for 10 or 15 min very silly and this seemd to help them concentrate on doing on their own. I would also set aside time for them to figure out what to do w/ themselves between 4pm and 6pm while you make dinner. Tell them flatly - "go play" and keep sayin git until they do. It is kind of like learnign to self soothe. You have given them a schedule, your time, and plenty of interaction/activities now they can go play.

that's how I did it and it worked.


Senior Member
Find her some websites to play on and let her at it! My DS would spend hours playing things on the computer. There are TONS of educational, safe sites, like Play with me sesame,. PBS, nickjr, Disney, etc. that DS loved at that age! Although I have to admit, my DS is and always was great at occupying himself for hours. LOL

Also, she may have too many options. Put away at least half the toys in the attic /garage/closet where ever and don't bring them back out for a month or two. Roatate the toys always having about 1/2 put away. This worked great with my DS because when you bring the toys back out, it's lilke getting new toys!

I also always kept a lot of creative type stuff around. Playdough (of course) but he also got lots of interesting stuff to go w/the playdough like plastic safety scissors for cutting the playdough with, little items to make prints in the dough like a platsic fork, a bottle cap, cars w/tires that made tracks, cookie cutters or anything that would make a shape or imprint, a poatato masher, a plastic knife for cutting, an open paperclip to puncture tiny hole in the dough. I would always show him some stuff to do also, like making shapes or letters or pictures from lots of tiny punctures.

I also gave him a dishpan full of some type "sand" (not real sand) but instead it was filled with maybe cornmeal ( sit the pan on a cheap shower curtain on the floor.)and he played in it w/scoops, spoons, funnels, measuring cups, toy cars,trucks, bulldozers, etc. After about a week, I threw that out and replaced it with oatmeal, then another week I used dried corn kernels, or small dried peas, dry rice, etc. Anything to stimulate his sense of touch and to observe how different substances worked in different ways with the toys he used with them.

Of course, he always had lots of crayons, markers, colored pencils, plain white paper. I think giving plain paper is better to develop imagination and creativity. Other days, I gave him scissors and all kinds of stuff to cut and glue, or just stuff to glue like dried beans, rice, old greeting cards, etc.

He also enjoyed it when I would freeze ice in ice trays and add food coloring to them. I put them on a plastic tray, and as they melted, he made swirls of color on the tray or on a paper and watched as the colors mixed together to make new colors.

Wow! I used to do so much with my son when he was little!


Senior Member
That's one of the reasons I do not want parents hangin out in my room. All of a sudden they hang on mom and won't participate in the class. Their behavior changes.

I hate NOT wanting parents, but, I need to have my students focused on me and our learning goals.


Senior Member
That sounds just like my two (from many many years ago :p) The younger one could entertain himself for long periods of time and would actually seek out alone time. The older always had to be in the middle of everything and doing something that required interaction. Just their personalities at work ;)