“My 4-year-old wants me to play all the time”, “my 4-year-old is exhausting me”.
Let me tell you, you are not alone. 4 is the age when these kids are full of energy, yet they are still little as they seek your attention all the time.
While it’s wonderful to see their excitement and curiosity, it can also be tiring for you as a caregiver. I do understand.
In this article, I’ll discuss why is your 4-year-old wanting you to play with him all the time and how to tackle this problem?
How important it is to play with a 4-year-old?
4-year-olds may start to enjoy some time alone but they are still young and need someone to play with them.
So they look around and see options with whom they can play.
If it’s only you who is around him, he might come to you, again and again, to play with him.
Playing is the most important part of a child’s development as it helps them to learn and develop skills that will help them cope with society.
Skills like social skills, problem-solving skills, and social coordination polish when a child takes an interest in playing.
Playing with a 4-year-old can be fun if you are in a mood. Children of this age are imaginative and creative which makes the play more interesting and happening. The imaginative pretend play helps the child be creative in his way.
Playing plays an important role in child development as it allows the child to explore and understand the world around him. He develops his physical, emotional, social, and cognitive skills through playing and parents need to promote playing regularly so that the child gets all the strength to face the world.
Beat the guilt:
Playing with your 4-year-old is important but you don’t have to do this all the time. You have many other responsibilities as well.
So it is also very important for your 4-year-old to learn to play independently.
You might get hit by guilt when your child chases you around the house whining and begging you to play with him all day long while you need to finish the house chores.
But you have to beat that guilt and find a solution to balance things.
Reasons why your 4-year-old wants you to play all the time:
Following are the common reasons why your 4-year-old wants you to play all the time:
1- Developmental phase:
It is normal for a 4-year-old to be around you and ask you to play with him all the time because at this age children are still developing their social, emotional, physical, and cognitive skills.
So they look up to their parents and try to engage them all the time.
Slowly this habit goes away once they start school or have another sibling at home to play wit
2- Being an only child or age gap with other siblings:
This could be the biggest reason behind your child who needs to be around you to play.
4-year-olds crave attention, validation, and companionship with their parents and siblings.
So if he is the only child or has a sibling way younger than him, he will run after you.
3- No school yet:
Usually, 4-year-olds join the preschool and get busy with their routine.
If your 4-year-old hasn’t started school yet and stays at home the whole day, he would look up to you to play with him without realizing that you cannot play with him the whole day.
4- Nature of the child:
Some children have such a nature that they like to be around their parents for no reason. Such children want their parents to play with them, stay with them, listen to them, and even sleep with them.
5- Not having enough connection with the child:
Sometimes parents do not pay attention to such details where they can strengthen their bond with kids.
When your child feels that lost connection with you, he might crave to spend time with you and for that, he may stick around you the whole day expecting that you might pay attention to him.
6- Lack of communication:
If you think that a 4-year-old is still a baby and can’t understand your words, then you are wrong.
Talk with the child and discuss each other’s needs, wants, and availability. Discuss that you can only play with him for a specific time period and he has to learn to play alone for some time.
7- Boredom, frustration, or anxiety:
Children tend to stick more around their parents when they feel boredom, frustration, or anxiety.
They look up to you just because they need attention and validation for their feelings.
It is important to talk to your child and assure him that you are with him every time but cannot play with him the whole day as you have other things to do.
8- Being sick:
Sickness could be the reason for all the clinginess and glued children. Especially, if your 4-year-old is suddenly clingy.
When a child feels unwell, all he needs is his parents to be around him.
They get all the comfort, love, and security which they need during sickness.
So your 4-year-old may be roaming around you due to sickness.
9- Growth spurt:
When a child goes through the phase of a growth spurt, you would have noticed from his infant phase that the child becomes extra cranky for some time.
All he wants is his parent around him all the time. You will see a behavior change and after some weeks you will notice a change in their body or mind.
He will be back to his normal self when the growth spurt is over.
Just like body growth spurts, mental growth spurts also happen when the child goes through a rough phase and ends this phase with more maturity and less clinginess.
Tips to overcome this behavior:
Now, try out these tips to make your 4-year-old play by himself for some time.
1- Establish a routine that includes one-on-one time with the child:
Take some special time out for your little one and make sure that this time is only designated for him.
There should be no distraction or screen time when you are giving him one on one time.
This can help the child to overcome his habit of sticking around you all the time and also he will feel more connected, secure, and full.
It will also establish a routine and will keep the child aware of the next activity.
2- Use an alarm clock to fix playtime:
Give your little one an alarm clock and tell him that when it rings, Mommy will come to play with you.
This alarm should ring at the same time (and after the same activity) each day so that the child could also learn how to see the time on the clock.
Fixing a time would develop patience in your child while he waits for the designated time.
3- Use an hourglass, alarm clock, or sand timer to indicate the time limit you will spend with the child:
When you set standard timing for one on one play with your child, he will know that you would be able to play with him in the set timings and afterward you will be busy with your work.
Let the child know that you will be playing with him by the time the alarm clock rings again.
You can also give him the remainder 10 minutes before the time’s up so that he gets prepared and starts winding up the game or play you guys would be playing.
An hourglass or sand timer is a great option as the child can see time by himself.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosures here.
4- Provide alternate activities:
When you are done playing, provide him with alternate activities. Get him toys that he can play with independently. These toys should be age appropriate and interesting.
Following are some good toys that keep my 4-year-old engaged for a long time.
Even sometimes I get amazed by seeing how my daughter is busy with them for such a long time.
Otherwise, she would not leave my shirt. Especially, the first one; the sandbox. It’s her favorite.
Don’t they look fun?
This thing keeps my 4-year-old engaged for a long time.
She loves making figures using sand and then cutting them with a toy knife. It’s so satisfying, even I like playing with it.
This toy is age appropriate and completely safe for 4-year-olds.
The kinetic sand is easy to clean up and it never dries so it can be used multiple times.
This farmer basket is full of fruits and veggies that will engage your 4-year-old for some hours.
Velcro fasteners hold the toy food together so that the kid can cut them with the toy knife and feels accomplished cutting the veggies and fruits.
The reason it keeps a 4-year-old engaged is that it is satisfying to attach and cut fruits again and again.
My daughter hasn’t played with this toy but I think it will make a great engaging toy for 4-year-old boys or girls who love dinosaurs.
This aim-and-shoot in T-Rex mouth game is so much fun.
This not only can keep the child busy for some time but also makes his hand and eye coordination sharp.
His focus will get better once he figures out when and how to shoot toward the T-Rex mouth.
This fun game comes with soft balls which are completely gentle and safe for the kids.
The air-powered launcher is easy to shoot once your 4-year-old gets his hand on the grip.
5-Talk to the child and let him know your problems:
Talk to your child in a sweet yet firm way and tell him that you cannot play with him all day.
Tell him that you have other responsibilities too like saying things like, “If I would play with you the whole day, who will cook the food? And I know you do want to sleep hungry, right?
Or say “ If I would play with you all day, who would do the laundry? And I know you don’t like dirty clothes, right?
6- Keep him engaged in the house chores:
If he still doesn’t leave your side, involve him in your activities such as cooking, gardening, laundry, and cleaning.
This will help them learn new skills without knowing and being with you would satisfy them.
Related toy: Melissa & Doug Let’s Play House Dust. This toy can help your 4-year-old stay engaged with you while cleaning with his own toys.
7-Make him, friends, in the neighborhood :
Take him out every evening when all the neighborhood kids play outside.
Let him watch them for a few days. Ask the kids his same age to come and play something together.
After a few days, you would easily see the difference that he will no longer ask you to play with him and will play independently with friends.
8-Make sure he is not sick:
If your child has suddenly started such behavior then closely monitor him and make sure he is not sick.
If you see he is doing all this during sickness then give him comfort in those days.
9-Give him time to adjust, do not scold or yell at your child:
Always remember any behavioral change or bad habit can not get corrected overnight.
Give him some time to adjust to your prescribed routine.
Let him understand that you cannot be with him all the time. Refrain from yelling or scolding rather reinforce that mommy cannot be with you every time and that you need to help yourself in some tasks.
10-Encourage self-playing and reward it:
Make sure you provide him with age-appropriate toys of his interest and encourage him when you see him playing by himself.
Dedicate a room or a corner for him where he can be himself all time but make sure you can see him from where you are working.
Reward or appreciate him when he does self-playing or does his task without your help.
May it be any training or reinforcement, consistency is the key.
Don’t lose hope and your mind when you see him sticking around you. Just repeat, positively reinforce and remain consistent.
12. Enjoy the weekend to the fullest:
On the weekend when you are relatively free from your work, plan outings and eat out on it.
Make the most of the weekend and spend time with your child.
At the end of the weekend, remind him that we had a lot of fun on the weekend, and now it’s about to start a new week which will bring some tasks for Mommy, so I want you to play independently for the rest of the week.
It is very common for 4-year-olds to always want their parents to play with them. Its a part of their developmental phase. There can be other reasons as well. You should ask yourself:
- Am I the only one available for my child?
- What does he feel?
- How much time can I manage for them?
- How can I teach him to play independently?
- What are some things that could keep them engaged?
- What are some chores they can help me with?
By answering these questions, you must be able to find a good solution when your 4-year-old is exhausting you by wanting you to play with him all the time.
Toys recommended in this article:
1- Kinetic sandbox (Buy on Amazon)
2- Play vegetables (Buy on Amazon)
3- T-rex feeding game (Buy on Amazon)
4- Kid’s cleaning kit (Buy on Amazon)