Help me entertain a 8 year old boy for the next 7 hours.
September 5, 2019 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Hurricane Dorian has closed schools where I live. My good friend who recently moved back to town was in a pinch for child care, so I am sitting at her house with a 8 year old boy for the next 7 hours. Complication: RAIN.

I am a 48 year old woman with no kids. He's a good kid who can entertain himself, but I'd like to do something with him so that he doesn't spend all day playing first person shooter games like he is currently. But what? I would not be surprised if we are in the same situation tomorrow.

More info about the kid: he's sporty and likes baseball and soccer. He went to a lot of camps this summer, and enjoyed them to varying degrees. I have some but not necessarily a ton of cash to throw at the problem. Example: the first thing he did this morning at about 7:30 was to put some black under his eyes and gear up fully for baseball--uniform, gloves, shin guards, helmet, the works. Then he went outside to the park across the street to practice hitting balls. He was out there for 12 minutes. So I looked up batting cages, but they're $35 for a half hour, and it's not clear if we can just drop in.

First thoughts:

What else do you got for me?
posted by Stewriffic to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Bowling is a great idea but I'd add board games, card games, do some baking or cooking together, download and print some word games/mazes/colouring pages or there are a bunch of crafty-paper type things you can download (link goes to a space shuttle) - you could create a whole little world.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:35 AM on September 5, 2019

Cook food - see what you can find in the cupboards that involves a lot of mixing
Clean - is there laundry to put away? Windows to wash? Dusting? Vacuuming? Stuff you can spray and scrub? Put on a little music, make it a game/race, see what you can get done as a gift for his mother.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:35 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

A movie or bowling sounds great. A trampoline park is another thing a lot of kids would love.
posted by Redstart at 6:36 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Do you have any old-time arcade places? With pinball and the like? When my son was that age, I used to take him to one that had those games, and he loved doing things like The Claw, shooter games, Donkey Kong, and anything that earned him tickets to get cheap prizes. Think they had Skeeball as well, which might be more fun for a boy that age than bowling.

He also loved helping me bake, especially cheesecake, but you could get a cheap cake mix and make cupcakes and let him decorate, and eat them & give him some to take home and share with his family.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:36 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cooking/baking -- cookies, brownies, English muffin pizzas, tacos. Get a bunch of different toppings for your cooking project and load them on as appropriate. Let him choose his own stuff to put on it.
LIBRARY! Libraries are awesome and free and full of stuff for kids.
Bookstores work sometimes if libraries aren't available
If you have something like a trampoline park, those are often drop in and a lot of fun. An hour of jumping around at a Sky Zone or Get Air is worth far more than what you pay for it.
Movie again. It's really okay to do one or two movies/a day in situations like this. For comparison, when we have snow days, it's all video games and tv shows all day.
Board Games! Sorry, Clue, Checkers, Trouble, or even card games. Cribbage is super easy to learn, fun, and my ten year old boy loves playing.

And my final suggestion if the video gaming is a bit out of control is the, "Time to do something else not on a screen." And let him figure it out on his own. You don't *have* to entertain him the entire time.
posted by zizzle at 6:38 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Bake and decorate cupcakes? Remember to put 1-2 aside for your friends when they come back to pick up the kid.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well shit, he's only 8. My bad. 3rd grade. Transitioning from a fancy private school in Europe to a lower income public school in an urban-ish setting in the Southeast US. I just had a quick conversation to see how school's going, and he doesn't like it much yet. No friends in the area. All the boys hate each other except for these two guys who are jerks and are friends with each other. The girls all get along.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2019

A puzzle might be fun and something you can pop into and out of through the day.
posted by mdonley at 6:40 AM on September 5, 2019

If he likes Lego, a new set can take up a good amount of time. Making slime is also popular (glue, baking soda, food coloring and contact solution) and can take a while, especially if he makes a few different colored batches, with and without glitter, and swirl them.
posted by xo at 6:52 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

How about Hero Kids?

Download the PDF for, like, $6. Download a dice-rolling app on your phone (there are a number for free or almost free). Spend about half an hour reading the rules, and then take it out for a spin with him, where he gets to be an adventurer in a basement fighting rats that's like a fun, more talk-y version of a FPS that doesn't involve so much graphic violence.

(It's a tabletop game. If you aren't familiar with those, it's basically group storytelling where you tell the kid(s) the general background or setup, they tell you what they want their characters to do, and six-sided die get rolled to figure out whether they're successful or not. Additional adventures available here.)
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:55 AM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Fancy lunch. Go to the grocery store and pick up ingredients for whatever you feel like making. Chicken leg quarters? Giant salad with potentially new ingredients like hearts of palm? Box mix cake or one from scratch? Brownies? Blondies? Bundt cake? Cookies? The trip to the store alone can use up an hour of your time. And then when you're done cooking you get to use up some time with cleaning.

Did he go out to play ball alone? If so, he might enjoy having company for it. He could teach/explain to you what he's doing. You could (learn to) play catch if you have a glove.

I bet there's a Target or other big store near the grocery store. If you want a baseball glove, you can probably get one if the stores are open. If you don't want a ball glove you might get a board game that's suitable for 8 year olds. Or you could set a budget of $10 each and challenge to find something useful for a particular imaginary task. Or pick up a few packs of socks or toiletries with the stated intention to donate them to a local organization that helps folks in need. This way you can escape the trap of "consumerism solves boredom" and instead move him toward "doing nice things for other people solves boredom."

Watch a suitable movie from your childhood? Make popcorn on the stove top or get envelopes of pre-mixed.

Nature movies - YouTube usually has some David Attenborough.

Find some wikipedia stubs and edit them into real pages together? Since he likes baseball maybe there is a team he loves or a player or a ball field? Even just adding one piece of information could be gratifying. Same for soccer, or an activity from camp that he likes or has questions about.
posted by bilabial at 7:25 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

in light of your update - do you know anyone else with kids that age or close? say up to 10 years old? If so, maybe meet that family for bowling and do a double duty with allowing him to meet new people.

There is a place here called HEYDAY that has bowling, laser tag, arcade, food, mini golf etc. you can either do one thing or get a pass for all things. There is possibly something like that near you. Or some place like Dave and Busters with games.
posted by domino at 7:30 AM on September 5, 2019


main event
is one that has locations across the us.
posted by domino at 7:35 AM on September 5, 2019

My kid likes experiments of the baking soda and vinegar level. Make your own spice blend for popcorn.

War for card games
Rock paper scissors with low stakes prizes (cookie, bragging rights etc)

My kid also likes me to tell made up stories and takes over about half way through. Even better are stories from your childhood (of course ask if he is interested)
posted by typecloud at 7:46 AM on September 5, 2019

Has he seen Star Wars yet? (The original.) That was my no-fail babysitter choice.
posted by sallybrown at 7:50 AM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you end up stuck in your house for a while, and he likes being physically active, maybe get him to do stretches/indoor exercises like push-ups or jumping jacks? See how long you can both plank? Teach him your favorite yoga poses?
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:50 AM on September 5, 2019

Update: He's really good at entertaining himself. I told him that in 30 minutes he was going to need some non-screen time, and he stopped right at that moment. We discussed things around the house that he can do to keep himself busy (i'm sorta-kinda working), and we decided on seeing The Lion King after going out to lunch. He just washed his baseball cleats and asked me for my advice on getting them dry. This is no prob at all.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:01 AM on September 5, 2019 [18 favorites]

Do you have any inflatable jump places, or trampoline places near you? They cost the same as bowling/movie, and usually you can get two hours of good jumping.

My boys never liked bowling, because it wasn't active enough for their bodies, but they LOVE jumping.
posted by alathia at 8:04 AM on September 5, 2019

If I were thinking about how to entertain/enrich a kid's day of cancelled school, I'd frame it in terms of their psychological needs.

Competency: physical or mental activities you can both participate in where he can show off/compete in a fun way - bowling, minigolf, pinball, skeeball, a scavenger hunt around the house, jigsaw puzzle, etc.

Autonomy: a list of possible activities for him to choose from or a "lets go for a drive until we find something"

Relatedness: you're there but if other kids were too, that might be fun and relate
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:17 AM on September 5, 2019

If you have some money to throw at the sitch, throw it at him. Can he clean the inside of your car for a few dollars? Are there any other chores he can do for some spending money?
posted by AugustWest at 8:17 AM on September 5, 2019

You really don't have to fill up his time... unless he is getting into mischief out of boredom.
Also, do you have his parents' permission to take him somewhere? I'd get that before making any plans out of the house.
Books and graphic novels (from the library), movies (ditto), wii sports or fit or other games. Card games like solitaire and board games. Drawing and coloring supplies. Limited computer time, with parental approval.
If you are stumped, ask his parent what time fillers would be appropriate. Or ask him (but get parental input since this might be an out-of-bounds subject at home).
Kids will kid. They are usually self-motivated at this age.
posted by TrishaU at 8:19 AM on September 5, 2019

FWIW I remember the "omg 7 hours!??" feeling well from babysitting, but in reality it's just multiple 30-minute increments which you can (clearly) handle. Good on you for helping a friend and working through your uncertainty/discomfort about the day!!
posted by nkknkk at 9:01 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Spend some time learning about weather, air pressure, hurricane dynamics. There's a ton of great information, but I don't have links.
posted by theora55 at 9:35 AM on September 5, 2019

Card games. Also, house building with an old deck of cards can be mesmerizing (sometimes frustrating) for an 8 year old. Organizing stuff. Painting rocks. Making slime. Just paying attention and talking is what my grandson appreciates. Making up stories and writing and illustrating.
posted by lois1950 at 10:05 AM on September 5, 2019

Blanket fort!! with snacks. Read to each other by flashlight.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:38 PM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

We went to lunch and saw The Lion King. I cried and he slept through half of it. We were back like 10 minutes tops before his mom and sister got home. Thanks everyone!
posted by Stewriffic at 2:53 PM on September 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Going to save this for future fun ideas!
posted by lois1950 at 3:57 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

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