How To Babysit a Four Year Old

So, you’ve been enlisted to babysit a four year old child.  Entertaining a child that age is really not difficult.  Four year olds have active imaginations and endless supplies of energy.  If you can find a release for each, you’ve mastered the art of babysitting a four year old.
The first thing to remember is that many four year old children are shy when they meet new people.  Be prepared for this with an icebreaker.  If the child is a boy, bring a Hot Wheels car or maybe a dinosaur.  If you are going to be babysitting a girl, bring a small doll or a small toy animal like a kitten or puppy.  Children this age love to show and tell.  If you bring a toy and are prepared to talk about it and play with it, your little charge will probably bring out something of his own to share with you.

Once you’ve broken through the shy stage, be prepared for a chatterbox to emerge.  Four year olds love to hear themselves talk.  They rattle on endlessly about TV shows, toys, and especially TV commercials.  Four year olds can recite commercials word for word, and they believe every promise about the effectiveness of a product.  If given the opportunity, they can comment on every grocery item and cleaning product in the family pantry.  Letting the child talk will give you fresh insight into his likes and dislikes.  This will give you direction when it comes time to sitting down and playing after the chatter wears down.

When it’s time to play, don’t plan on playing any game by the rules.  Four year olds make up rules as a game progresses, making sure to steer the winnings toward themselves.  Since you are just the babysitter, it’s best to go along with these “house rules”.  You won’t make any great strides in character building within a few hours, and you’re likely to witness a tantrum if you push too hard. Encourage games with imagination, allowing the child to lead you through his fantasy world of make-believe.  Four year olds can speak to imaginary people and animals and engage in pretend scenarios for hours.  Parents of four year olds rarely have time for such play, so a babysitter that plays pretend can seem very cool.

If you are looking for ways to wind down the energy levels, opt for a story over a television show or movie.  Kids this age are over-saturated with TV, but they love to be read to.  Even young children that don’t seem to sit still for anything will probably sit and listen to you read a story.  Let the child pick out the book.  Then choose a well-lit area that is comfortable like a couch or overstuffed chair.  Use different voices when reading character parts, and fill in with comments or questions of your own to keep things interesting.  If you are lucky, you may even read the little one to sleep!


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