I am looking for a verb/idiom/expression to describe a specific mood/action of people. The term in my question is most of the time used for children in which they are not serious at all and just have fun and try to play games usually and ignore what they are obliged to do in their lives. The only verb that I have seen is: "to act playfully" which means:

— Intending to be fun rather than serious, or showing that you are having fun.

But although it works, it sounds a bit stilted to me when e.g. a mother wants to tell her child:

1) Tomorrow you have an important exam. Don't act playfully this much, sit and study.


2) Tomorrow you have an important exam. Stop playfulness, sit and study.

What would a native mother say in similar situation to both of my cases instead of what I said? I suspect my sentence works naturally.

  • to be playful is not generally ascribed to children at all.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


Not specifically related to a child, but one might say:

Stop messing around, you have an important exam tomorrow.

You could also use:

Stop playing about.

Children are playful by nature, but the two phrases you've offered don't sit right with me, I would amend itas follows:

Tomorrow you have an important exam. Stop playing, sit and study.

  • What about "playing around" @Bee?
    – A-friend
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 15:07
  • Playing around works just as well, as does messing about!
    – Gamora
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 15:12
  • playing around means kidding. "I didn't mean what I said. I was just kidding or playing around." "playing about" which sounds more British to my ear, would mean the same thing.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 15:13
  • I think, given the context, you could say any of the above and it would be understood. I do agree that in another context, it could be synonymous with joking.
    – Gamora
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 15:17

If the child is of an age to take exams, then they know the difference between playing and studying. I suggest

Stop being silly and study for the exam.

Stop messing around and study for the exam.

Sit down and study for the exam. You can go out to play afterwards.

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