Remember before you were a parent, and you’d imagine the wonderful bonding times you’d have with your future child, playing games together? And then you had a kid, and it was actually pretty great: a couple rounds of peek-a-boo in between those blessedly frequent baby naps, rolling a ball back and forth to each other, pretending to steal her little button nose. Good times.
But now your kid is a toddler. With her growing independence comes a whole slew of games you never knew existed, mostly because they are toddler-initiated and, frankly, the worst. These games are messy, infuriating, and played around the clock. Half the time, you’re not even aware you’re playing until you’ve already lost. Here are 11 of the very worst toddler games out there:
1. 2 a.m. Stress Test
Your toddler wants to make sure your heart’s in working order, so right around 2 in the morning, he’ll let out a single piercing wail, then fall silent again. Was it a nightmare? Is he sick? Was it a one-off cry, or are you in for an hour of soothing him back to sleep? You can’t be sure. And that’s the fun!
2. Proctologist Pretend Time
You know when you’re drying your hair after your morning shower, and you happen to still be naked, and all of a sudden, there are tiny fingers poking where no fingers should be poking without your express consent Yeah, this game is awful. But it’s your own fault for letting your guard down when you know the blow-dryer drowns out the warning sound of tiny footsteps approaching.
3. Spinal Tap
You’re stooped over, gathering toys that are somehow already everywhere at 7:45 in the morning (no doubt after a rousing round of Game No. 9 below), when a 30-pound future defensive end tackles you. I mean, what’s more fun than jumping on an unsuspecting adult’s back? Especially one that still isn’t quite right after suffering through symphysis pubis dysfunction during pregnancy? Nothing says “I love you” like promoting ongoing hip and spine misalignment.
4. Ferrari Tantrums
This does not mean throwing a tantrum in a fancy car. No, this is a magical game at which toddlers excel. They’ll be perfectly happy, playing on the floor, and then seriously out of nowhere they pitch a fit that accelerates faster than a Ferrari. Maybe you had the audacity to agree with something the toddler said, or to suggest a green Lego, or to breathe, and bam, you end up with whiplash from the toddler explosion.
5. Why Do I Smell Kid Poop?
Speaking of explosions, this is a mystery game loathed by parents around the world. You’re sure you were meticulous when changing that poopy diaper earlier this morning, but for some reason, the smell lingers. Where is it coming from? The toddler? Her clothes? Your clothes? Your fingernails? The best part of this game is figuring out whether you want to discover the source of the smell, or not.
Toddlers aren’t so much playing a game by being manipulative during their nap times; they’re simply preparing you for their imminent nap abandonment by being total dicks about the whole process to the point where you have a brief moment of insanity one day and think, “Ugh, I’m so sick of this nap crap!” Toddlers hear these thoughts and adjust their sleeping patterns accordingly. Be warned.
7. Hide-and-Seek and Call CPS
This game works best for toddlers when you, the seeker, are unaware that you started playing. The best setting for this game is a public one, such as a department store or playground, so that multiple sanctimommies have the opportunity to pass judgment on you while you run around screeching your lost toddler’s name. Pro tip: Always check under the slide.
8. Food Flippers
Whatever foodstuff was beloved on Tuesday is purchased in abundance on Wednesday and subsequently abhorred by Thursday. A classic!
9. Dump ‘n Dash
It may sound like a synonym for Game No. 5, but this pastime, developmentally appropriate though it may be, is the freakin’ worst. The toddler ventures from bucket to basket to bin and systematically dumps the toys from each one, playing with the contents for no more than 42 seconds before moving on to the next container and unceremoniously dumping that one out too.
10. Regression Sessions
Designed to keep parents on their toes, this game involves the toddler suddenly regressing from a hard-won milestone, such as falling asleep independently or sleeping through the night. A related outcome of Regression Sessions is ensuring that no parent ever feels secure enough (or has enough grown-up time) to think about producing a sibling for the toddler.
11. Psychic Hot-Whine
A throwback to ‘90s-era psychic telephone hotlines, this is less a game and more an infuriating phenomenon wherein the toddler waits approximately 11 minutes after a parent’s head hits the pillow—just long enough for the parent to start drifting off to sleep—before starting to whine and cry from her crib. Think of it as your toddler’s considerate way of prepping your sympathetic nervous system for the 2 a.m. Stress Test, which is set to start in three-two-one.