Sure, it can be fun to build a sandcastle or two, or to mess around with Duplo, teddy bears, mud cakes and toy cars. But as a parent, you may get bored much quicker than your child does. If you know you'll get restless, tell yourself you'll have a play break in ten or twenty minutes, and try to be truly present during that time – look your kid in the eyes, switch off your mobile, that kind of thing.
It's easier to be a good playmate if you're doing something you enjoy.
Start them off with the game
It's often enough if you just help your child get started with a game, and then let them learn to carry on alone while you start doing something else.
You can also try playing alongside one another. Your child plays their game, while you do whatever you want or need to do. This may satisfy your child, even if you're doing two different things.
Include your child in your everyday activities
Include your child in your “games”. Here are some ideas:
• During a short training session on the living room floor: do aerobics to music, and turn your jumps into a clapping game.
• In the garden: let your child have their toys on a blanket in the shade or under an umbrella, while you potter right beside them. You can also give them some water to splash around while you're outside – most kids love going around with a little watering can to fill things with water. Always supervise children when their games involve water. Read more about playing outdoors.
• While you're cooking: ask your child to whisk and put things in bowls. If you have a cupboard at a child-friendly height which contains things children can play with without breaking them, you can work together in the kitchen. Read more about safe toys.
• Read the paper together: Let your child look for pictures of things they recognise and find in the paper. You probably won't get as much reading done as usual, and there'll be a lot of interruptions. It's important to go in with the right attitude here, and to try not to get frustrated. You don't get long to spend with your child at this lovely age, so make the most of it!
More articles on playing and friendship
The route to friendship
Games for babies and toddlers
Fun and games together
Some children have difficulty entertaining themselves and getting going with fun games on their own. And who most wants a young child as a playmate? Well, you, obviously.