I have always loved kids. They’re cute and honest and aren’t ashamed of doing silly things. They have words of wisdom beyond their years and are full life no matter how long they’ve lived. They also make enough mistakes to put their caretakers in some difficult decisions.
Recently, I was offered the wonderful opportunity to be a nanny for a wonderful family. I was only sixteen, and we adjusted accordingly: I only worked from 9am to 3pm. My job was to entertain a six year old boy and keep him active. I was THRILLED to get such a great family and to have this opportunity. But while I was busy rejoicing in my luck, God was busy concocting a scheme to teach me a lesson.
Babysitting is hard.
My little boy was such a joy to watch. However, he was very easily distracted. While I was into the fine arts, he was into sports. We were two happy campers and were very different. The experience made me think outside the box (and outside the playground). Let’s be honest. Having fun is hard with only two people. So, I consulted the two most magical sources of knowledge on this planet: Pinterest and my mother. With their combined geniuses I was able to put together a montage of creative activities. Some of them worked extremely well… others did not. For your sake, I’m only going to list the ones that worked well. Good luck!
- Toothpicks and Marshmallows
- Requires: Toothpicks (I used a pack of 200) and Marshmallows (small work best).
- This one is a simple classic that can have a multiple variations. Simply take a marshmallow and insert toothpicks ends into them, making the mallows sticky, white connectors. Stick more marshmallows and toothpicks in different directions, and experiment with 3D shapes. You can build bridges, shapes, buildings, and harder structures such as animals.
- Make Your Own Bubbles
- Okay, this one was from the lovely blog of A Little Pinch of Perfect. Feel free to check out her wonderful recipe of homemade bubbles. Plus, this tutorial creates stronger bubbles that can be “held.” Here’s the link to the recipe.
- BONUS: I saw a post about “bubble shooters” that are super duper easy to make. Take about 4-6 straws and hold them so that their sides touch, like a bouquet of flowers. Tape each end of your straw bouquet appr. 1 inch from each end so that the straws are affectively held together. Now, take your “bubble shooter” and dip one end a little way into your bubbles. DO NOT SHAKE. Blow into the opposite end and watch as multiple bubbles shimmer into existence!
- Requires: Sidewalk chalk and pavement. Extra toys are optional.
- Let’s get our art on! This one is a personal favorite of mine because it really brings out the creativity of kids. They loved being outside! Anyway, take your sidewalk chalk and use it to draw your kids’ favorite subjects. For instance, draw different cars or trains or toys or animals. Have them draw Mom and Dad, or you both can draw mazes. Experiment! My charge especially enjoyed drawing “traps” for his army men to get stuck in. If you want to you can definitely take the opportunity to work on letters and numbers with a fun new tool.
- Make Play-dough
- Requires: Flour, water, cream of tartar, salt, vegetable oil, and basic kitchen supplies.
- I know, I know. I’m using another bloggers recipe AGAIN. However, this recipe is superb and is by far the best I’ve found. I can in no way take credit for it (darn it!) Here’s the recipe. Domestic Superhero.
- Once you’ve made the play-dough, the easiest part comes: playing. There is seriously nothing that you can’t sculpt. DISCLAIMER: make sure it’s age appropriate! This is a great way to teach the kids about other cultures and new objects. Teach them about moles (the animal. Not the other kind. That could get weird.) and other things. You’d be amazed at the simple knowledge you have that they don’t. Shape this pliable toy into disney characters and cars. Have an idea? Go for it!
- Teaching How To Write Letters
- Requires: Minimum 2 pieces of paper-preferably lined, pencil, envelope, stamp, the kids’ address and the address of the recipient.
- This will vary depending on the age of the child. If the child doesn’t write yet then try to scribe for them. If your child is just learning how to write, then scribe for them on a separate piece of paper, then let them write the real letter while using yours for reference. If your child knows how write, then your job is easy! Have them address the letter to a friend or family member. They should write 1-3 paragraphs about whatever the child wants to say. As the babysitter, proof-read the letter to make sure that they haven’t said something rude (like complaining about their parents, etc.) and fold the piece of paper so that it fits in the envelope. Write the child’s address and the address of the recipient on your piece of paper, then have them write their address on the upper left corner of the envelope, then write the recipient’s address in the middle of the envelope. The stamp goes on like a sticker in the upper right-hand corner.
- Tada! Here’s the proper format for writing a letter:
Dear recipient’s name,
Write the paragraph’s here. They can write about their week, a favorite cartoon, a trip to the zoo, something they’ve learned, etc.
6. Balloon Tennis
- Requires: Minimum 2 paper plates, minimum 2 popsicle sticks, tape/glue, 1 balloon.
- This is another personal favorite because it can be played with two people. First, tape the popsicle stick to the back of the paper plate. If you find your plate is too flimsy then tape another plate to the front to make it more stable. For the second “racquet” simply repeat the first step. Blow up the balloon to a normal size to use as a “ball.” To play the game find a large, open space, either inside or outside. Use the tape to divide the area in two. You go on one side, the child goes on the other. The point of the game is to try to make the balloon touch the other side’s ground. Hit the balloon back and forth until and try not to let it touch your side!
These fun activities were definitely a Godsend in my experience, and hopefully they can help you, too!