Encourage your child to play at the same thing you’re trying to do. If you are making dinner, make the kitchen table his “cooking” area, complete with a mixing bowl, “ingredients” (you may need to forfeit some old rice or flour to this endeavor), and loads of utensils. If you are working on the computer, set him up with an old typewriter or a shoebox you have tailored to look like one.
Play music—it soothes the savage beast, and it distracts the needy child.
Set up a “toy testing area,” with five to ten toys for your child to play with on his own. Explain that you need him to play with each of the toys to decide which ones he likes best.
Tell your child that you have to do some work, but that you’ll “get him started” on whatever he wants to play with. Or, do something time-limited before you set him off on his own—read a story or sing a song.
Set up a tent or a fort for your child. Kids love to crawl in and out, and the secluded nature of a fort will prevent your child from noticing that you’re not playing with him. Place lots of toys and books inside, and give him a flashlight for better exploration.
Give your child a clear play objective to accomplish, one that will take a bit of time: “Can you build me a castle? See how high you can go!” or “Will you draw a picture for Grandma?”