Five years may not seem a "wide variation," but one grandchild starts kindergarten next year and the other is in fourth grade. When we're babysitting, I'd like to do something with them that both will enjoy, instead of just leaving them on opposite ends of a couch with their faces hidden by iPads.

Bonus if it is somewhat educational. “Go fish” seems like it might work, but the younger might find it difficult to know what to ask for.

UPDATE: “Go Fish” was kind of fun, but he's still too young to hide his cards from me or make good choices on what to ask for. “Concentration” he also enjoyed, but again, no concept of strategy yet. His older sister wasn’t here this time.

I was a teacher for a while, so I have some ability to evaluate things, but not so good at finding games/activities to evaluate.

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    Hi WGroleau, welcome to Parenting! Right now I think this is too broad to be answerable in this format. Can you add some detail about what your grandchildren like? What do you do now that doesn't work for you (beyond iPads)? What's the relationship between the children - does the 9 year old like playing with the 4 year old, do they resent it, or somewhere in between? Do they share common interests?
    – Joe
    Jan 17, 2020 at 18:13
  • I married their grandmother just over a year ago, so I haven’t had much chance to get to know them yet. When we’re baby-sitting, they (up to now) just sit with iPads. Would like to reduce that but don’t want to hint at any criticism of what my son-in-law allows.
    – WGroleau
    Jan 17, 2020 at 18:37
  • I suspect that - getting to know them - is then the first suggestion here. :) Can you at least explain a little more detail - are you babysitting them at home, or can you take them to (somewhere)? Are you in a big city with museums, in a suburb with parks, etc.? Maybe there's room to focus the question more on what it sounds like is your real question: how do I get the kids off iPads when they're with me? Still would need some more information I think, but, maybe a start.
    – Joe
    Jan 17, 2020 at 18:55
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    One way to get to know them is to do things with them. We're stuck inside considering the weather and the ages (both of us!).
    – WGroleau
    Jan 17, 2020 at 22:36

3 Answers 3


What about cooking?

There are many things from cornflake cakes to victoria spnge that can get kids attention - eating something they helped or mostly cooked can be a real motivator.

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    That’s a good one, that I’ll try. Not sure whether the older one will be patient with her brother. But patience needs to be taught too, eh?
    – WGroleau
    Jan 20, 2020 at 16:29
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    Well, that can be mitigated by a bit of planning. While the little one is peeling and mashing bananas, the older can start measuring and prepping the rest of the banana bread, for example.
    – Stephie
    Jan 20, 2020 at 19:01

Crafts and creative projects are a way to engage kids of all ages. They can both make creations to their own level of ability and interest. Here are some options that are open ended enough for varied skill levels:

  • Clay or play-doh
  • Watercolor paints
  • Jewelry or keychain making (provide plastic lacing and big chunky beads for the little one)
  • Cookie or cupcake decorating
  • Sidewalk chalk if the weather allows
  • Sculpting in sand or snow
  • Twisting little animals and figures out of pipecleaners

Board games are a pretty safe entertainment piece for varying age ranges. There are cooperative games or competitive games that would be suitable and entertaining for both. Some examples:



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    I think three of these might work. And we already have cards for War. Forgot about playing that when I was a kid, back before the Flood. :-). Right now he's watching Tom & Jerry re-runs for the umpteenth time! (Could be worse: could be Scooby-Doo)
    – WGroleau
    Jan 17, 2020 at 22:44

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