I need a crash course in 3-year-olds

I’m watching my 3-year-old nephew this weekend (today through Sunday), and I haven’t babysitted a toddler in about 15 years. In fact, the last babysitting I did was when my niece was 6 months old, and that was a very, very long 22 hours. What can I expect? He’s potty-trained, btw.

(Can you tell I don’t have children?)

I’m afraid I might scare you if I tell you anything…

Simple Dreamer ~ Mom to 3 boys

You can expect to be hauled off to the funny farm by Sunday morning.

If you wish to avoid this ending you need to remember a few simple rules:

  1. Nothing with sugar should be given to the child until 5 minutes before the parents pick him up.

  2. Nothing with caffeine should be given to the child until 5 minutes before the parents pick him up.

  3. Anything you wish to keep in one peice should be removed from the home.

The hardest thing with toddlers is transitions from one activity to the next. It’s a good idea to give him some warning about things he needs to do. (“Okay, you can play for a few more minutes and then it’s time to brush your teeth,” etc.)

Don’t overplan. This is not the time to head to Disneyland, or whatever the local equivalent is. It’s better to have some active, but not overstimulating activity (like a local playground) and then some scheduled quiet time to do whatever he’s used to doing (video, reading, etc.) Just because he’s still bouncing off the walls it doesn’t mean he’s not tired, in fact it’s sometimes a good sign that he’s tired.

Hopefully he has a regular schedule, including a nap. Go with it. Familiar stuff is comforting to kids that age. They like a bit of novelty, but not too much.

Eating habits can be somewhat weird. My kids went through stages where they hardly seemed to eat at all and other stages where they were practically bottomless. Don’t worry if he only eats a few bites at meals. He won’t starve.

Three is a prime testing and tantrum period. Don’t let it ruffle you. Just stick with your plans and be slow and patient.

Good luck and have fun. In spite of all the above it’s a really cute age. They get a kick out of the smallest things and it’s really contagious.

Go to the playground, let him play until he’s tired, then let him play a half hour more. Tantrum and testing is a distinct possibility (Terrible twos, feh, they have nothing on the threes) Imagination is huge, imaginary monsters and bad guys are fun for play. And if you can make up silly stories on the spot, you’re golden. Read some books, it’s mellow and doesn’t expend too much energy, but they eat it up. Teach him something that will embarrass his parents in public.

Riley is 3 and a half, and I’m his dad.

Let him help you with simple tasks.

   It is great bonding time.
   He learns things from it. 
   You get stuff done.
   You get a chance to answer some great questions.
   You may learn things from it.
   It helps build self-esteem for a child. ( Look what I can do! )

Share lots of stories
You tell a story and have him tell you a story.
Make up illistrations for your stories together. ( Coloring is fun.)
Pay attention to him while you are doing this, you will be the best aunt/uncle in the world.

Have some fun, silly snacks. Some of the best silly snacks are very cheap. ( string cheese is fun to pull apart, pretent raisins are bugs )

Have a great weekend :slight_smile:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Uhhh… something helpfull… videos and Cheeri-O’s and other things that end with O. (Spaghetti-O’s) Three year old LOVE that stuff.

For you, Bourbon-O’s.

Just because he’s potty trained doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask every hour or so if he needs to potty.
Always tell him to go potty before leaving the house.
Coloring books and crayons are your friend. Since you’re new to this, stay far away from playdough.
Don’t be afriad to act silly, he’ll love it if you do.
Most important, have fun… and don’t fall asleep :wink:

God bless you. Why don’t my kid’s uncles do this for us?

The transition thing is EXCELLENT advice. Kids at that age need some time to mentally switch gears.

Finger foods and any food that can be made to look like a face will be eaten by 3 year olds. Children that are well fed and well rested are much easier to get along with.

I like to plan the day with transitions such as quiet activity (reading, coloring), busy activity( catch, swinging), snack, quiet, busy, etc.

Have a signed letter - with a picture of you and him signed by them on the back if not in the letter - from his parents stating that you are looking after him. Child abduction is a real fear in the UK - I don’t know about the US - and people may not believe that you are his uncle if you get separated.

And have contact details for his parents.

This is your chance to act completely silly and goofy and no one will give you a second glance.

Stay fairly close to his routine, it just makes things easier for everyone involved.

Let him help and don’t forget the praise - “what a good helper”

Don’t turn your back when he is playing with crayons or markers, ever. That’s just an invitation for him to redecorate your walls, carpet, floors, furniture. That having been said, wipies are your friend, keep them with you at all times.

When he tells you he has to go potty, it means he has to go potty NOW and won’t be able to hold it much longer (pee pee smells are so hard to get out of the car!)

Do run him around the playground in the afternoon to get rid of all that energy, but don’t get him all riled up right before bedtime - allow for at least 30 to 60 minutes of quiet play time so he’ll fall right asleep when it’s time for bed.

Watch what you say - it’s true about kids repeating EVERYTHING they hear, especially the naughty things!

  • Mikey’s mom (who learned everything the hard way :smiley: )

If someone thinks I’m his uncle, I’m really doing something wrong. :wink:

Seriously, thanks for all the advice. I spoke with his mom (my SIL) today and got the gory details (what he fights over and what he has trouble doing himself). He’s a good, bright kid and even though I don’t want children myself, I’ve enjoyed the times I’ve spent with him.

You have seen, and will see much more advice here. The only thing I can say, being the father of 4 kids, is that EVERY kid is different. Just remember consistancy is the key to success. If you say you are going to do something, follow through and do it. If you promise something, you better well back that promise up.

And if you mess up and promise something that falls through, it is a good idea to 1) admit that grownups make mistakes, 2) say you are sorry, 3) come up with a way to make amends, and 4) expect that none of that will make one whit of difference to the fit he’ll have (but it will make a difference later).

Offer choices from limited options that you can get behind: “Would you like to color, or watch a video now?” Not “Would you like to go to a movie (don’t know what is playing when), or color, read a book, or bake some cookies (don’t know if I have all the ingredients), etc.” They like power. If they can get you to let them manage more of their day (within pretty set parameters - don’t tell them you are still really in charge), they often love it.

Spend as much time at his physical level as absolutely possible. Kids this age (and most ages, really), love grownups who will get down on the floor, who squat down to eye level to talk to them, and who basically stay eye-to-eye. If you can’t get down for something, lift him up - a chair turned backwards to the counter so he can stand and watch you do the dishes (or help) is great. If you decide to do any things like cooking together, stick to simple tasks like pouring the measured items together, or even more fun, tasting all the ingredients before the get put in!

He’s more likely to have accidents (potty-wise) if he’s absorbed in an activity. So remember to ask about potty breaks.

Sounds like a great time. :slight_smile: I happen to like the 3’s, but they can be volatile…

Ive got a three year old, a two year old and a one year old at home. The wife takes care of them when Im at work.
The only thing I have to do when I get home is fire up the front-end loader and scoop up the debris.

Really, though. Its not too hard to get them interested in the smallest things. They love to be read to. They love to go for walks. They love messing with stuff that wasnt intended for them. Play catch, watch a video, feed them snacks, give em stuff to drink. If he doesnt need attention at a particular moment then just let him do his own thing - that way you get to do your stuff around the house. Take him to the store, the park, the zoo, the neighbors, the restaraunt, etc. There isnt much you cant do unless hes in a foul crabby mood - then you just have to try not to irritate him. If you cant make him happy at some point in time, then just leave him be for a while, hell get over it and come to you for attention in a better mood. If they get crabby, dont let it bother you. Like I said, theyll get over it.

Oh, and enjoy the time together. It`ll be a rare experience for you.

Do not be alarmed if he is still in nudie mode. Don’t know about your nephew but twas only this week that my 3yo decided she needed to wear clothes at home. She now tucks her tail into her wasitband and the end in her front pocket, instead of between her cheeks. Yes, they WILL repeat after you! Lots of great advice above. Enjoy the experience, so neat seeing the world from a little one’s POV. Oh, and farts (real or fake) are most always a hit on the toddler comedy channel :slight_smile:

“Why?” every two seconds really means that he wants to continue the conversation. You don’t actually have to explain why, so much as keep talking.

As above, don’t do anything fancy, but stick with his basic routine and go for small kicks, like a new playground, a ride on the bus, or letting him help you with jobs or cooking. You can lay in a good supply of picture books from the library ahead of time, or take him there.

Have fun!

I highly recommend the best babysitter’s aid the twenty-first century has to offer- Blue’s Clues videos.

Something hedra said reminded me of this–playing in the sink was a rare treat for my son and he LOVED it. Move aside anything you don’t want to get wet, check your supply of towels, send a silent prayer for forgiveness from Mother Earth for the water wastage, get out some interesting measuring cups, and turn him loose. My son always got a lot of water around, but was fascinated. There’s also a lot of learning involved in this.

I guess the bathtub is an easier option, but sometimes not as much of a treat for the kid. When I give my son baths, I get pillows out for me along with a good book, and I make myself comfy just out of reach of the splashing. I play with him some, but generally he’s happy to just be left alone and not be nagged about “time to get out!” If I’m settled with a book, I don’t get impatient. Great way to kill an hour! Or more, if you run a little more warm water in so he doesn’t turn into a popsicle.