Rest on the Couch While Playing Games With Your Kids — Yes, It’s Possible!

published Apr 21, 2021
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I like to think of myself as the queen of what I call “horizontal parenting.” As someone living with chronic kidney disease, I knew I would have days when I couldn’t be as active as other mothers, fathers, and caretakers. Pain and fatigue made it difficult to play puppy chase or galactic birthday party or other high-energy games my kids dreamed up.

But I also knew that even during those moments when I needed to stay in bed, there were still plenty of amazing ways I could connect with my children. And since I’d guess most parents feel deep exhaustion these days and the need for a break from time to time, I wanted to pass along my favorite activities (beyond books, screen time, and card games) that allow you to engage your little ones while also taking a rest. All from the comfort of your couch, your bed, or that sunny spot on the floor of your kitchen.

Improvisational Theater

I’ll admit it: I was a big theater nerd growing up. But I wouldn’t trade my time on the stage for anything, because it offered me some invaluable skills for entertaining kids. Like improv! One of my favorite couch games to play involves a single object and lots of imagination. Have your child pick something from the room — a scarf, a spoon, a sock. Then take turns holding the object and pretending it is something else.

The more out-of-the-box, the better. Maybe the scarf becomes a mustache, the spoon becomes an oar to a boat, or the sock becomes an elephant trunk. When one object starts to lose its steam, just have your child pick out another one. Not only will this back-and-forth play keep them busy, but you may also quickly become the funniest person in the universe.  

Game Show Host

Just because you lack the energy to play a game doesn’t mean you can’t participate in it. Simply become the “host” of whatever activity they want to do. If they wish to run around, then transform yourself into the announcer of a race-course style game, giving them instructions on how many times to jump or where to climb or how far to crawl on the ground. And don’t forget the all-important winner’s interview at the end! As for older kids, whether they like building, drawing, or using the camera on your phone, provide a thematic challenge for them to complete. And of course, a time within which they must complete it.

Try creating something inspired by the beach, constructing something for their bedroom, or making a self portrait. Then have them present their finished work, pick a new challenge, and start the clock again.

Collaborative Story Time

Of course, reading tops the list of ultimate couch activities. But take it to the next level by doing the storytelling yourself. No matter the age, there are a lot of fun ways to make up a story with the help of your child. For little ones, use stickers or story cards to create a fun and funny tale of your own design. For older kids, take turns writing a sentence each until an entire plot unfolds. Or even break out the Mad Libs (or make up your own), for not only a lesson in grammar but some good belly laughs, too. 

Scavenger Hunt

Full disclosure: this one requires a little work for set-up. But it is also one of my favorite activities for little ones. Take out the pieces from a favorite puzzle (or a few puzzles). Tape them within view of where you will be sitting or resting. Then, tell your child to go on a hunt for the puzzle pieces. Once they find them all, they will need to match each piece with the correct puzzle. Which means this game checks all the boxes: it provides silliness and laughter; uses energy and motor skills; and allows you to sit back and relax while the fun unfolds.

Credit: Jaime Torres

Crafting and Building

From LEGOs to looms, knitting to origami, you can easily tackle creative projects from the comfort of a couch or bed. Have your child pick their favorite medium or learn something new together. Then snuggle up as you connect over your creations. For younger children, a cool spin on this idea is to tape paper to the underside of a table or chair. Lay beneath it together and draw or use stickers for some upside down art. With a little twist, even a simple, everyday activity becomes something wildly special.