A good babysitter can keep kids happy and entertained without ever plopping them in front of a television or resorting to video games. While babysitting older kids, keep in mind that they may resent being “supervised,” though they would welcome a chance to hang out with you. Acknowledging this subtle difference can help guide your interactions with the kids and help you plan age-appropriate activities that will have them begging for you to come back.
Activities for Girls
Girls tend to enjoy activities that give them a chance to be creative. You can give each other mini-makeovers complete with manicures, pedicures and playful hairdos, or if a parent gives the OK, try out new looks with mom’s old makeup. Listen to music by her favorite teen heartthrob and write dreamy letters to the singer’s fan club. Get crafty and hand-sew a fabric purse, then decorate it with stick-on gems or fabric paint. Braid together colorful embroidery thread to make friendship bracelets.
Activities for Boys
Boys usually prefer more active games, like building a fort with couch pillows or by draping a sheet over the living room table. You can make “telephones” out of plastic cups and string and use them to communicate between the fort and the “command post” in another room. Challenge each other to toss mini-marshmallows in the air and catch them in your mouths. Drag out all of his old racetrack sets and combine them for the longest, curviest, loopiest track he’s ever built.
Activities for Multiple Older Children
Occasionally you may be asked to help babysit groups of older children. For example, a parent/teacher organization may ask you to babysit in the school gym during a meeting, or a group of moms may ask you to babysit all of their children at one home. You can organize group games and craft activities to keep all the kids entertained.
Classic games such as hide-and-seek, tag or capture the flag can be modified to make them more exciting for older children by playing them in the dark with flashlights or by having multiple players be “it.” Simple group crafts might include building treasure boxes out of wooden craft sticks, painting with watercolors or making collages with magazines, fabric scraps or beads.
Activities for Mixed Ages
Some activities appeal to boys and girls of all ages and work well when you are babysitting siblings. During the summer, run through the sprinkler or chase each other with water guns. In the fall, set up a tent and crawl inside to tell stories. Keep the fun indoors during winter and make homemade play dough. Make mini-pizzas with bagels, sauce, cheese and a variety of toppings. After chowing down on pizza, everybody can let loose with a karaoke contest or a dance-off.