101 Ways to Entertain a 6 Year Old
August 23, 2012 6:50 AM   Subscribe

In a couple of weeks, I'm going to be babysitting my 6-year-old nephew for several days. What are some fun ways I can keep him entertained at home?

He's 6. His interests include: legos, Superman, hockey, coloring/drawing, not washing his hands, and making scary faces. I won't have access to a car, and the area he and his mom live are not walkable to anything - though it is a safe neighborhood to walk around and explore. So during the day, we will pretty much be confined to the house - inside and outside + yard.

We will have access to a house reasonably stocked with pillows, blankets, toys, pantry stuff, and some art stuff.

(Caveat: no TV and video games.)
posted by raztaj to Human Relations (20 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
You should make playdough with him! My grandmother used to do that with me when I was a little kid, and I loved it - storebought play-doh was cool, but getting to actually making my own from scratch before playing with it was even cooler!

Or if you have an iPhone or such, you can film home movies of him being a scary monster or something! He might enjoy coming up with storylines and acting them out and having the videos to show off to his mom later.
posted by 168 at 7:01 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Make cookies!

Make homemade playdough!

Paper mache a scary mask! (It's really easy)

Have any old socks? Sew some buttons for eyes and have a puppet show!

Lots of hide and seek!

Scavenger hunts!

Pillow fights!

Finger painting!

And, ask him what he would like to do.
posted by zizzle at 7:03 AM on August 23, 2012

Oh, or salt clay, if he likes creating things that harden and can be saved. You could make hockey-playing Superman figurines! Or invent a board game and build the pieces!

Or draw comic books together!
posted by 168 at 7:06 AM on August 23, 2012

Paper planes - bonus: have paper plane distance competitions in the yard.
Observation games: Count types of birds, or vehicles, or colors of shirts, or whatever.
Blanket tents!
posted by bardophile at 7:24 AM on August 23, 2012

- Science Experiments for kids (loads of options, easily Googleable) are a surefire hit.
- Make Playlists of some favourite tunes together with him and create a mixtape (bonus is that you get to trawl your own music library for kid friendly indie gems and he gets to hand-pick a cool mix to take home with him.
- Mandatory: build a fort of some sort to which he can retreat for a while with a torch and his imagination (to draw or read).
- Check out the "Play" section of Instructables (has a Lego channel); while he may be borderline too old for making Play-Dough, it's easy enough and he can really get his hands dirty creating moonscapes for his legos.
- Ice lolly manufacture, milkshake making, baking (green food colouring and a strategic name-change ["Monster Cakes"] will make cupcakes more appealing to a little tough guy). If they flop = instant kryptonite!
- Kid's Audiobooks
- Really simple stuff like Rock Paper Scissors or Bingo or Hide-and-Seek not to be overlooked
posted by kreestar at 7:34 AM on August 23, 2012

get him a giant box.
posted by ghostbikes at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

Kool-Aid watercolors! Add one packet to 2-3 tbsp water. It makes nice colors, and the pictures are scratch-n-sniff after they dry.
posted by Flannery Culp at 7:44 AM on August 23, 2012

At that age, my kid really enjoyed Connect 4 and checkers, probably because he stood a reasonable chance of winning both those games.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:44 AM on August 23, 2012

You should totally build a fort. But really, ask him what he wants to do. You might be surprised what he comes up with.

My nephew is six too and recently concocted a plan to surprise his mother with squirt guns. He made sure to tell his grandpa that the squirt guns had to be small so they could fit into his pocket.
posted by youngergirl44 at 8:03 AM on August 23, 2012

I came to suggest a giant cardboard box but ghostbike beat me to it. Seriously, a giant box and the abilty to colour on it and make it in to [whatever he wants] is grossly entertaining. Bonus points if you can somehow involve said giant box in a for you've made together with blankets and pillows and chairs, etc. Forts rule.

Bubbles in the yard. Hells yes. Hours and HOURS of fun to be had there.

and just ask him to see what he wants to do. They usually have a few ideas themselves. My step son's suggestions are usually "play princess" (where he picks out an outfit for me to wear, shoes for me to wear, and then has me put on a ghastly amount of makeup) or hide and seek.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:16 AM on August 23, 2012

Do 6 year olds nap? While he's taking a nap, plan a scavenger hunt around the house and yard. Make a treasure map.

Ideas for things to hide: small plastic dinosaurs, micro machine cars, glow in the dark stick-on stars, temporary tattoos.
posted by phunniemee at 8:29 AM on August 23, 2012

Nerf guns. Best uncle ever.

Balloon animals. The kits are cheap, and easy for you to learn to use to make them for him.

Make crazy jello in various shapes.

Story time: he starts the story, you say a sentence, someone else says a sentence, he says a sentence - great for the imagination.

Also: Uno.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:34 AM on August 23, 2012

Exploring the neighborhood can be fun. Plan on a 30 minute walk every day. Check out trees and plants. Meet other kids. Teach him a little about crossing streets. Does he have a bike? Six-year-olds generally do not nap but that doesn't mean you can't institute quiet time after lunch, 30-45 minutes of silent looking at books, in his room, lights dimmed.
posted by mareli at 8:54 AM on August 23, 2012

Is there any kind of body of water within walking distance of the house? A pond in a ditch, maybe? Surely there are minnows to be caught there. (Phantom minnows will do just fine, since he isn't likely to actually catch any regardless!)

It also might be grasshopper season, depending on where you live. If you aren't grossed out by bugs, catching and releasing them is perfect 6 year old fun.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:01 AM on August 23, 2012

Go for a walk with him around your neighbourhood, you don't have to go anywhere just pootle around. Talk to them about what you see. Some of my favourite times with my niece and nephew have been at the end of a nice walk when they are a little tired and they slip there hand into mine and we just walk in silence for a while.

Get some age appropriate games if you have a game console, make sure they are ones you can play together. Have fun and yell at the tv a lot.

Go mock camping in the backyard, if you can find an old tent so much the better or make one out of old blankets andrope. Go on an imaginary safari around the yard, catch bugs in jars and look up what they are online, use a magnifier if you have one, then let the bugs go.

If he has a lot of matchbox cars make tracks around the backyard, build garages out of twigs and make jumps out of dirt, have car races or just make up stories with the cars.
posted by wwax at 9:02 AM on August 23, 2012

Interactive drawing games:

-You lightly draw a big swirly squiggle. He draws over that with darker markers/crayons/whatever, picking out the shapes and forms he can find, adding detail where it's needed.
-You each make a drawing, trade, and have to make each other's creation in legos. Highly open to interpretation, of course.
-He draws a bunch of different characters and objects, you create "rooms" on a roll of paper. Help him cut out his characters and attach to sticks, act out comics. If you have a camera, you can add word bubbles and take pictures and make a slideshow story.
-Teach him about pattern and texture, sneakily: Instead of coloring normally, fill in pictures with areas of different patterns (stripes stars dots little flowers bricks whatever). Double dog dare him that he can't think up more patterns than you can.
posted by Mizu at 9:17 AM on August 23, 2012

Oh Pinterest..... I hate you.

Shower cap on adult. Spray on Cool Whip. Toss Cheetos and see how many stick.
Shower cap on child. Spray on Cool Whip. Toss Cheetos and see how many stick.

Person with the most Cheetos on top of head wins.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:35 AM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

My kids, both boys, loved Legos, and did not enjoy making puppets, baking cookies or other craftsy stuff other than playdough or clay, though I would have. Which is just to say that kids are different, and he may not take to some things. That's okay. Follow his lead.

I would ask his Mom to bring his Legos and have a big tub for them so that he can build stuff and even move it without taking it apart if he wants. He might want to show off one of his creations to Mom later.

I'd also always recommend fort building! If you have some old blankets and towels, have them set aside along with a flashlight.

Hotwheels are cheap, and fun to race or crash into each other.

Have a lot of easy, hands-friendly snacks, like apple slices, cheerios and cheese string, things he can eat on the go. Little kids have trouble sitting still for very long.

And make sure he washes those hands! If you have a stool to put by the sink, that would be great to help him reach the water. Teach him to sing Happy Birthday to himself while he washes his hands. It's fun, and he'll at least have his hands in the water for ~20 seconds.

You have a yard! It's Summer! Do not underestimate the joys of simply adding water. Running through sprinklers! Water guns! A makeshift slip-n-slide! Most kids LOVE to get wet. Make sure he has a bathing suit when he comes over. Bonus idea: Sidewalk chalk (if you have a driveway or similar surface outside), followed by the water stuff to clean it all up!

Nerf guns! One of you is the bad guy and the other is Batman or an Avenger. They also have Nerf bows! You could draw bullseye targets together and stick 'em to a tree.

Do you have an ice cream man?!

Pro-tip: any melty, popsicle or cold snack on a stick is easy with a small paper plate as a "saucer" to catch the drips. Cut a slit in the plate and push the stick through. The saucer will keep his hands from getting all sticky.
posted by misha at 11:03 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Design and then run an obstacle course, perhaps with some theme. Obstacles -- to jump over, to crawl under, to go through, etc -- can be dressed up with paper facades of "buildings" (so he can leap them as Superman, eg), or "fire" or "shark infested waters" or other exciting stuff.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:23 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he likes drawing, he can make his own "zoo" (or aquarium, or superhero lair, etc) by drawing a ton of different animals/fish/superhero gadgets and then deciding how they should be arranged on the wall. Then you can play zoo, and he gives you a tour, you ask questions about the animals, maybe a volcano erupts and Superman has to come rescue the animals, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:25 PM on August 23, 2012

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