25 fun babysitting games to play on the job

Sept. 26, 2019
25 fun babysitting games to play on the job

It's only natural for some children to feel a bit leery of spending time with a babysitter while mom and dad are away — especially if it's their first time being left with the caregiver. One way sitters can help put the child at ease is by coming prepared with age-appropriate games and activities to play. 

Engaging little ones with a creative craft or good old-fashioned round of hide-and-seek will help them focus on fun, rather than being sad that mom and dad aren't nearby. These games and activities can be especially helpful for first-time sitters, as well as those with years of experience. Parents can suggest them to a sitter ahead of time to help break the ice and ensure a smooth experience for all. 

From educational to engaging, here are 25 fun babysitting games and activities to play with kids.

Traditional games

1. Hide-and-seek
Sometimes tried-and-true games are a big hit, so brainstorm a few spins on classics. For example, play hide-and-seek in the dark with older kids. For the little ones, even a quick round of peek-a-boo might be enough to bring them out of their shell. 

2. Simon Says
Simon Says is likely a game that children have played with teachers and classmates at school, so what better way to kick off the babysitting adventure with some familiar fun? This is also an amusing learning activity to teach younger children about where their hands, feet, toes, shoulders and head are. 

3. Puzzles
Bring over a few age-appropriate puzzles to do with the kids. While puzzles might not be the first babysitting activity you consider, it can definitely be one of the most educational, engaging and rewarding. Finishing a puzzle together will provide the children a sense of achievement, giving them the confidence to open up and bond with you while mom and dad are away.

Educational & brain-boosting games

4. Animal movement and sound activity dice
Bring out their personality with this activity. Write out an animal on each side of a small, square-shaped cardboard box. Have the child gently toss the box like they are rolling dice, and have them make the sound and movement of the animal listed or pictured on the side of the dice that's facing up.

5. I Spy
Have a shy little one on your hands? Encourage them to open up with a fun round of I Spy. Start out by playing the game in a room they are most comfortable in, like their bedroom or playroom, or take a walk outside and see what you can find together.

6. Giant Scrabble
If you're watching a budding wordsmith, then a game of Giant Scrabble is an excellent way to exercise their mind and let them show off their language skills. On printer or construction paper, take a marker and clearly write one large letter per sheet. You'll want to develop a list of basic words before writing out each letter to ensure you have enough. Think basic sight words that the child is currently learning like: is, the, dog, she, cat, him, mat, and other age-appropriate words.

Music & theatre games

7. Lip sync competition
The perfect game for Friday nights, lip sync competitions get all the kids in the house involved. Just put on kid-approved music and have them take turns rockin' out to their favorite tunes. You can even encourage them to play air guitar on a broom or break out the pots and pans to add to the fun!

8. Charades
Babysitting multiple children? This interactive game works best for teams of two. Grab a pen and paper and write down a few kid-friendly topics, like popular movies, cartoons and TV shows. Cut the paper into pieces and place in a bowl. Have one team member select a topic to act out while the other team member takes a few guesses. Ask one child be in charge of keeping the time (counting or using a stopwatch on a cell phone), and ask another child to keep score. 

9. Storytelling
Kids young and old love to tell stories. They're so animated! A great way to engage children is to have them make up their own storyline and act it out. Pretend you are part of a large audience and watch as the children show off their creativity. Encourage them to dress up and use props to enhance the performance. If your little one is still feeling shy, reverse the roles and let them watch you tell a silly story and act it out. This will help them feel more at ease around a new person.

10. Freeze dance
Break the ice and get kids moving with a game of freeze dance! Play a kid-friendly song and stop the music. Each time the music stops, the child must stop or freeze in position until the music plays again. 

Sports & outdoor games

11. Fun with chalk
Chalk offers endless playtime possibilities for all ages. While many kids have chalk at home, bring some with you just in case. For older children, fun chalk games include hopscotch, foursquare, sidewalk Twister and more. For the younger ones, just coloring alone might be enough to occupy them, or for an educational twist, write out a handful of numbers and letters and allow the children trace over each one. 

12. Balloon tennis
It's just what it sounds like! Best of all? It requires only four supplies (paper plates, tape or glue, Popsicle sticks and balloons) that can easily be packed in your purse. Oh, and did we mention the easy cleanup? To make the racket, tape or glue popsicle sticks to the back of a paper plate. Blow up one or two balloons to use as the tennis balls, and voilà! This game is good for toddlers still developing and perfecting their fine motor skills or older children who love to compete. 

13. Paper towel roll ring toss
At the end of the paper towel roll? Save it! Grab three or four paper plates, cut out the center of each plate so that it can be used as a saucer. Take the paper towel roll and make four, 1-in. cuts to the base of the paper towel roll. Fold the four flaps back and apply glue, secure it to piece of cardboard, cereal box, or another sturdy base. While you're building the ring toss, have the children color the paper plates different colors. Play a few rounds to determine the winner.

14. Pop the bubbles
Grab the bubbles and get to poppin'! Go outside with the kids in your charge and tell them whoever pops the most bubbles wins. Then, you blow bubbles into the air. They can all pop bubbles at once or take turns, it's up to you!

15. Bowling with plastic cups
Who says you have to leave the house to go bowling? Use plastic cups or bottles as bowling pins. Let each child take a turn to try and knock down all the cups using a regular-sized ball. For a fun twist, stack the cups in different ways or create side-by-side lanes. This game is great for kids of all ages. 

Creative games

16. Drawing challenge
There are no winners or losers in this game. The drawing challenge allows kids to think creatively but also follow directions. Develop 10-15 cards that instruct children to draw pictures of specific things. Examples include: "Look out the window and draw what you see," "Draw a creature with six legs," or "Draw something red." Any topic that is relevant to kids will work. To add an extra element of fun for older children, set a timer for each topic and let them know they only have 60 seconds to draw each picture. 

17. 100-cup challenge
This game will kickstart their engineering minds! Bring over 100 plastic cups and let the kids build a structure of their own creation. If babysitting just one child, make it a competition between the two of you. Whoever creates the tallest structure wins! Be sure to bring a measuring stick or tape. 

18. Paper Tetris
Draw a table that is seven 1-inch squares across and nine 1-inch squares high. (You might be able to find a printable paper Tetris table online.) This will be the game board. Make several copies! Then, use construction paper — or other colored paper — to create the pieces. Each piece should be made up of four 1-inch squares, to match the paper Tetris puzzle, and in cut into the following configurations: S-shaped, Z-shape, T-shaped, L-shaped, line-shaped, mirrored L- shaped, and square-shaped. You could even ask the kids to help you cut out the shapes! This game can be played between sitter and child, multiple kids or even completed in teams! Set a timer to see who can clear four lines the fastest!

19. Make your own board game
Who needs to buy an expensive board game when you can make your own? Lee Silber, author of "Bored Games," says all you need is several sheets of paper, pens, tape and a dice to get started. Write down a different action on each piece of paper, like "hop on one foot" or "tell us a secret." Then, tape the paper to the floor in a line or square and each player takes turns rolling the dice and moving around the "board" as living game pieces.

Sensory development games

20. Build a fort
Take a peek in the linen closet and grab a few spare sheets and let the little ones have at it! Building a fort together not only encourages them to be creative, it also affords them team-building skills as they learn to work together and come up with a sturdy fort to call their own. Just make sure to clean up the mess before the parents get back! 

21. Scavenger hunt
Grab a pen and paper and write a list of items from around the house that can be used in a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt can be played between the sitter and one child or between several children. Start by developing a list of nonbreakable items from around the home, such as something soft, an item of clothing, something small, something green and other easy-to-find items. See who can locate the most treasure the quickest! 

22. Tape shape game
Parents, leave out a roll of painters tape the next time your sitter is over, because your kids will love this game! On a large, flat flooring surface, such as tile or wood, tape out a rectangle, triangle, circle and square. Instruct the kids to crawl to the circle or tiptoe to the triangle. You get the idea. Be sure to allow enough space between each shape to avoid any collisions because these kids will be moving fast! 

23. Obstacle course
Get creative with soft, nonbreakable items, like couch pillows, boxes or chairs, to create a small obstacle course for the children to navigate. These can be a simple course for the little ones, or if you're babysitting older kids, throw in a few zigzags for even more fun! Be sure to do this in a large space where nothing can be broken.

Bedtime & cleanup games

24. Cleanup game
The sign of a good time is a big mess, right? There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you are sure to have the kids clean up before mom and dad arrive back home. Make it a competition to see who can put away the most toys in a certain amount of time, or whoever cleans up the fastest (and neatest) wins! Kids of all ages love a good game, and they likely won't even realize they are cleaning up their mess. 

25. Silent count
The silent count game is the perfect way to calm everyone down for bedtime. To play, have the kids sit or lie down with their eyes closed. Then, take turns counting one number at a time. So, one child says "one" and the next says "two" and so on. Only, the order of who speaks next isn't predetermined. This game is best played with more than two kids, so the children need to pay attention and be patient in order to not talk over one another. If two kids say a number at the same time, the game starts over. 

At the end of the day, the games you play won't matter all that much, but what does matter is that you are present and in the moment with the children. Doing so shows them that you enjoy spending time together and value them as a person. Plus, if they've had such a good time with you, they might even go out of their way to tell their parents how much fun they had and you'll be asked to babysit again in the future!

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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