How to occupy a four year-old?

I have been given my four year-old nephew to watch over for a few days and need some tips on how to keep him occupied and happy. What with his constant cries for attention, love and food, he is really starting to cramp my style. He seems to like video games alot (especially that sonic flash remake on newgrounds) but 1. I don’t really have any age appropriate games for him and 2. I really am not comfortable with getting him to comfortable with the electronic Satan box just yet.

So, do any of you have good ideas on clean, wholesome activities to keep him happy, and most importantly not bothering me too much?

I would suggest the 1st Airborne. Either that, or shove him out the door and tell him to enjoy the day.

heh, my almost 4 year old cramps my style and she’s been living with me since her birth :wink: It would certainly be an adjustment to aquire one suddenly for a few days.

Can he use scissors? Give him some child-safe scissors and some old magazines to cut up (might want to keep him in view while you do this so he doesn’t decide to cut up something else instead)…

Any parks nearby? He could run off some energy and you could position yourself nearby and read/call someone/etc…

Water is always good for fun at our house, either a bath at an unexpected time, a tub or bucket of water in the backyard if it’s warm enough, or at the kitchen sink…give him various plastic kitchen tools, bowls, and measuring cups for toys…

My 4yo likes to “bake a cake”—basically flour and cinnamon in a bowl which she then stirs, transfers to another bowl, etc. Makes quite a mess but keeps her busy for a while. Add water for instant goo.

Speaking of goo, find a homemade play dough/glop recipe on Google. He can help you make it and then play with the results.

Go to the library and check out some kidvids and books if he’s into that. Our library has puppets and activity kits you can check out too. Or maybe a book on tape…I got out my old boom box and put a green sticker on the play button, a red one on the stop button, and a blue one on rewind and she kept herself busy for a while that way.

Go to the thrift store and buy a bunch of cars/blocks/whatever he’s into. Then he has some new toys to play with but you haven’t spent a bunch of money.

New foods (combined with the abovementioned video from the library) can keep my daughter quiet for a while. Buy him a box of that Shrek cereal or some obnoxious fruit snacks (heck, you don’t have to pay his dental bills, right? :slight_smile: ).

I hope some of these are helpful…my daughter is a pretty quiet “sit and look at books” kinda kid…if your nephew is a “run around and explore everything” kinda kid he might find my ideas totally dumb.

good luck,

Bug hunt in the back yard

Take him to the dollar store, give him $5 <------- guaranteed to thrill him. While there, pick up cheap craft supplies and then set up his studio in the kitchen. Glue and glitter clean up easily from tile floors. Stickers not so easily.

Cover the dining room table with a blanket or sheet and let him go “camping.” Give him a flashlight, canteen (water bottle) and sleeping bag (another blanket). He and his treasures from the dollar store may disappear for hours.

I’m not sure where in California you are, but the park is always a good idea. You can take him to the playground and sit at a bench and read a book.

If you’re near the bay area, there’s two aquariums, Steinhart and Monterey, both with things that will keep a 4yo fascinated for hours.

Videos help. Um…ones that kids like that won’t make you tear your hair out: Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, Ice Age, Shrek. Bear in mind, you’ll probably have to watch them a few (thousand) times each.

How kid-friendly is your place? If you have linoleum in your kitchen, grab some play dough, and let the kid go to town. Just make sure he understands “ONLY IN THE KITCHEN.” Legos are good too, just…not together.

um. I may be back. 4 years old is a while ago for my kids, and I’m trying to remember what I did to keep my sanity. Not that it worked.

Velcro and duct tape. :smiley:

I have a friend with a 4 year old. Some of the things that seem to keep her occupied are:

Videos (Bob The Builder, The Wiggles, Finding Nemo)
Coloring Books - she lovvves to color
Puzzles (with big pieces)
Riding Bikes / Throwing around a ball
And for a boy: Hot wheels

All of these things are sure to keep 4 year olds happy for a few hours, at least. And most of all…have fun - it’s a great age for kids!!

Get a bucket of green plastic army guys (or cowboys, farm animals, whatever – all good, usually cheap, too). Fun to sort, set up, move around, make up stories about.

Give him a paintbrush and a bucket of water and have him “paint” the house, porch, front steps, etc. Be sure to tell him what a good job he’s doing. (The water will make concrete and some painted surfaces temporarily darker, enhancing the “I’m Painting!” experience.)

Once I gave him a 10 inch long nail and a hammer, and let him pound that nail into one of the railroad ties around our driveway. Took him forever. He loved every minute of it. It kept him right where I could see him while I mowed the lawn, and he felt important using tools and “fixing” something.

… and of course, where I say “him” in that previous post, I am talking of my own boy. He was a wonderful four. He’s now a wonderful 12. eep!

Hey, watch it with the sexist stereotypes, wouldja? :wink: My four-year-old daughter loves her Hotwheels! :stuck_out_tongue:

You’ve got some good suggestions here. For my 4-year-old: videos, toy cars, blocks, playing on, playing in the sink, play dough are all good. I like the idea of letting her “paint” with water on the porch, too; I believe she’d like that. Oh, yeah, and if you have a place for it, sidewalk chalk.

This is a good idea. Kids love to help “helpless” grown-ups.

If you have chores, make him your assistant.

He’s going to cramp your style no matter what. That’s just how little kids are.

The dollar store trip is a good idea. So are glue and scissors, but I second, third and fourth your not leaving him alone with them. He will cut his hair, which is not a big tragedy, but he may also cut other things. Your tablecloth or curtains won’t grow back. The plastic “only cuts paper” scissors are very unsatisfactory–you have to hold them just right to get them to cut paper, and it’s very frustrating for a small person. Glitter, cut up pieces of fabric & magazine pictures, sequins, holes from a paper punch, all make great gluing materials.

You’d also be amazed how much fun a bucket of water and a funnel can be, as already mentioned. Add a few plastic boats from the dollar store and you’ve got a really good time going. Consider bubbles, too. You can read in the back yard while he does that. Cars are good for boys or girls.

But you’re probably going to have to resign yourself to losing a lot of free time no matter what. Your visitor will want your comments on his bubbles and his gluing projects, everything will be much more fun for him if you’re playing along, and actually making bubbles is a nice thing to do on a sunny day. And I bet you could find some cool stuff at the library, between the two of you, that you could read to him. Also–I understand the reluctance to depend on the TV, but there comes a time in every parent’s life when that twenty minutes of quiet is absolutely essential. So don’t leave the TV on all day for him, but I don’t think there’s any problem with, say, offering to screen one Teletubbies episode when you really, really need a break.

How to keep a 3 to 4 year old occupied for an indefinate amount of time in four easy steps.

  1. Give the child a toy. Any toy will do, but those that have a lot of pieces, like building sets or little cars, are more effective.

  2. Tell the child sternly that " You have to clean up in ten minutes so we can do [insert something mildly unpleasant like go to bed/nap etc]"

  3. After 15 or twenty minutes firmly remind the child there’s only " [insert a number less than 10] minutes let.

  4. Repeat step three every 15 or twenty minutes until they fall asleep or you really need to do something.

  • also works for playground visits

You will never see a kid as involved with play, even if they weren’t really playing much before step two. I swear it works, just go to a preschool and see how effective this method of engrossing a child right before clean up time really is. It happened every day!

Ask and you shall receive:
Homemade playdough:
2 cups flour
1 cup table salt
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons canola oil
few drops of food coloring

Mix the dry stuff in a large pot, add the water and oil and food coloring over medium heat. Mix well, stirring constantly till it all comes together in a cohesive lump, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a gallon-size ziploc bag and knead (careful; it’ll still be hot) a bit, then let him play with it like regular play-dough.

Other ideas:
Give him a shoe box or similar-sized box and some construction paper (you can get a multi-pack at the grocery store or drug store), a glue stick, some crayons and some kid scissors. Let him make a garage for his Hot Wheels or a fort for his Green Army Guys.

Paint with Water: If it’s warm enough outside, give him a bucket of water and a paintbrush and let him “paint” the deck or the house.
Let him help you wash the car. Kids love to help with stuff like that.

Got any big pieces of styrofoam from a recent TV purchase or something like that? Give him a small hammer (or a wooden mallet) and some golf tees. He’ll pound away and can pull the tees out and do it again and again.

Teach him to play Sorry or Uno. My son was playing both of those at four. They’re very simple to master.

Well, today we went to the zoo (He likes the seals far more than the monkeys, I am dissapointed :frowning: ), later to Pixie woods. After a lunch of hotdogs and candy we went on a long bike ride along the levy (or is it levie?) nearest to here. We then spent an hour or so in a tree fort that someone built (probably more of a fishing fort) where we threw twigs and climbed the tree for the next few hours. He eventually won a twig throwing contest (the little bugger really won too, my twig hit a branch, so he got about twice as far as me) so I was forced into buying him a new dinosaur toy. We spent an hour or so at Toys’R’Us, bought a new T’Rex doll, and came home. We watched The Sandlot, twice, and he is now asleep and ready for his mother too take him far away.
We had fun

Thanks for your help. :slight_smile:

It’s “levee.”