Here’s a guide to help you entertain children at any age
Posted September 15
Updated 10:00 a.m. Monday
As a mom who never changed a diaper prior to having my son, I know all too well how awkward it can be if you’re asked to watch a younger family member or a friend’s child and you have literally no experience with kids. None.
Of course, when asked, you’ll want to say yes, just to be helpful. But inside, you might be panicking. I mean, you’ve just agreed to take responsibility for someone else’s child and you don’t know the first thing about how they should be entertained.
The good news is, it’s not as hard as you might imagine. Besides, kids are usually much better behaved for those they’re not familiar with, so at least you’ve got that working for you. Here are some suggested activities broken down by age group. Next time someone asks you to watch their little ones, you’ll be able to say yes with confidence.
Newborns & Children Under 6 Months
Babies up to 6 months old tend to not do much, but they do enjoy human interaction. Little babies love to be held, rocked, carried and cuddled. They also enjoy motion. Take them on a walk in their stroller. Hold them and rock back and forth. There are plenty of ways to make them happy.
Another thing to keep in mind is that everything in the world is new to them, so it’s easy for small babies to get overstimulated. Meaning they might need some time to themselves to rest, gaze and quietly process everything that’s happening around them.
Finally, be aware of those basic baby needs. Sometimes a quick diaper change is all that’s needed to turn a screaming baby into a giggly one.
Older Babies And Toddlers
This is one busy age group that tends to love all the attention they can get. But the best part? Most older babies and toddlers will think you’re hilarious if you just play simple games with them or make silly animated faces. Here are a few things you can do to step up the giggles:
Play peek-a-boo. It’s an easy way to get a good laugh or, at the very least, a smile out of the little one you’re watching. You can also play a silly game of cause and effect. You could say, “When I touch my nose, it goes HONK HONK. When I touch my ear, it goes BEEP BEEP.” You can make up all kinds of weird noises (yes, make the noises) and you’ll likely have a giggling toddler in no time.
Of course, depending on the length of time you’re watching a toddler, as with babies, you’ll also want to make sure that the basics are covered. Having a clean diaper and a full belly is still just as important for this age group.
Kids Between The Ages of 3 to 8
Three-year-old are a lot different than 8-year-olds, but the one thing they have in common is that they can now communicate, making it easier to know what they’re thinking. A fun thing I’ve always enjoyed is to ask kids in this age group questions. It gets their imaginations running and is a nice icebreaker, and some of the answers they give are downright hysterical.
Then there’s always YouTube if you both want to get a good laugh. This “Pig On My Head” song had my son and his little friends belly laughing nearly every time I showed it to them.
If it’s nice outside, it’s hard to go wrong with sidewalk chalk and bubbles. You can even take it a step further and have the child lie on the sidewalk so you can trace them, then have them draw in the clothes and face. And switch!
By this age, kids will likely have a favorite TV show or movie so, when in doubt, bring it up, turn it on and ask them to tell you about their favorite character.
Kids Age 9 To Tween
At this stage, kids are for the most part self-sufficient, but it’s still important to have an adult nearby.
Start up a conversation by asking the child what he or she is into, such as their favorite sports, TV shows, movies or games. Based on their responses, you can then partake in an activity tied to their interests. If they express that they love soccer, kick the ball around with them. If they love Pokemon, you could download the Pokemon Go app and go on a search for characters!
Pulling out art supplies is always fun, even if it’s just markers and paper. You could even teach them a few new drawing tricks. Don’t worry. You don’t need to be an artist. Just head to Pinterest if you need a few ideas.
If you’re watching multiples, (for example a 2-year-old and a 7-year-old), some games and ideas can be used for both age groups. For example, blowing bubbles. By finding an activity that everyone can enjoy, you’re sure to have a bunch of happy kids while gaining confidence in yourself.