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In parenting culture, admitting you hate to play can feel more scandalous than confessing you didn’t breastfeed or that you willingly give your kids juice. But we keep it real around here. And thankfully, there are countless ways to bond with your babes that don’t involve getting body-slammed while you pretend to be a comic book villain, or stuffing your body into a child-size teepee to serve invisible tea. Read on for ideas that—unlike you—aren’t totally played out.

RELATED: 8 Great Indoor Activities for Toddlers

play time grocery

Go grocery shopping

It’s educational (reading the list = literacy; paying = math). It’s cardio (ask anyone whose heart rate rose after losing a toddler in the cereal aisle). And if you challenge older kids to pick out a fruit or vegetable they’ve never tried before, it increases the chances they’ll actually taste it.

play time hike

Family forest bath!

The soul-soothing benefits of walking slowly through the woods cannot be overstated. And experts who fear for our screen-addicted offspring are even sounding the alarm about “Nature Deficit Disorder.” So go take a hike. Seriously.

play time kitchen

Make something messy

Yes, Marbled Oreos will blow their freakin' minds. But you don’t even need to spoil dinner to connect in the kitchen. Whether you whip up Kool-Aid-scented glitter play dough, fluffy slime (the non-toxic pre-K version of trend-tastic middle school slime) or colored shaving cream “paint”—getting messy is downright magical.   

RELATED: How to Make Homemade Play Dough

play time Date

Go out on a date

Head to the diner and eat pancakes for dinner. Try the new burger place and get ice cream after. Childhood memories are made of more than playing basement air hockey with a reluctant opponent who's itching to check her work email.

play time fishing

Try something new together

Child psychologists tout the confidence-boosting benefits of trying new activities. So go fishing, attempt water-skiing, schedule a trial horseback riding lesson or ride a roller coaster with your kid. And celebrate the courage it took for them to break out of their comfort zone.  

play time heirloom

Show her your treasures

Kids are endlessly fascinated by family stories, heirlooms (“Ooooh, this is your great grandma’s costume jewelry…”) and albums (“See how young Daddy looked at our wedding?”). Spend time sorting through tchotchkes that are normally locked away, gathering dust.

play time reading

Read to them

Not only does reading to kids from infancy “build key literacy, language and social skills,” according to the AAP; it gets you out of having to roll around on the floor pretending to be a hatching baby Pteranodon. 

RELATED: 15 Books Every Baby Needs in His or Her First Library

play time Toy

Play...just a little!

Some parents have found that even 20 minutes of daily, one-on-one floor time can significantly reduce tantrum frequency. So for those who can manage to meet that minimum, play on, player.

RELATED: Here’s Why Your Toddler Is Throwing a Tantrum

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