Keeping my niece and nephews entertained can be, how shall I put this delicately - challenging. I am auntie to a seven year old who doesn't want to go to bed, an inquisitive five year old who follows you around and a two year old who copies her big sister.
Babysitting the girls
When I offer to babysit, I have to plan the day/evening with regimented precision because babysitting without a plan is a recipe for disaster. It is essential, for happy tots (and parents), to have several back up ideas when 'Plan A' goes to pot.
I love my nieces, and nephews, but when they refuse to sleep, or simply aren't tired it can make you want to cry. When such tantrums strike, I pull a few tricks out my bag to ensure a sound nights sleep for all (me included).
Home-made entertainment Instead of watching the TV (however tempting it is), let the kids be the entertainment. Put some music on and encourage them to make up a dance for you to watch, or act out a story that they've either made up, or from a book. Get the kids to practise the dance, so they can then perform for their parents once they're back.
Dress up Playing dress up, in mommy & daddy's clothes is always fun. If you're really organised (and have it handy), bring along some vintage clothes, and watch them become mini-me's and get silly in fur coats, brogues, and swathes of material.
Art & Design When your little one is old enough to hold a pencil, they're old enough to hold a crayon. Instead of asking them to colour in, get them to use their imagination and draw themselves, friends and family or what they had for breakfast. Crayons are less messy than paints and felt tip pens, so give them a pack and watch the masterpiece come together.
Read like Shakespeare Pick three loved books and vow to act out the stories in the books for your audience (even if you're only babysitting the one). Seeing a grown up act out their favourite story can help them understand what's going on, and encourage cognition.
Go outside If you're babysitting during the day and it's sunny outside, why not turn on the sprinklers and let the little ones prance around in their bathing costumes? I recall doing just that when I was little, my sisters and I loved it - and it costs nothing. Playing in the garden, in the sunshine, with a bit of water are all the ingredients you need for happy kids.
At the end of the day, when the babies/children are (finally), snuggled in bed you can give yourself a pat on the back. If you manage to carry out all of the tips, there's no reason why the children won't be happy, and their parents will be impressed with your efforts. And of course, you'll be asked to babysit again.