How to: Entertain Children
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The loud, ear-piercing tears of a snot-nosed brat echoes and bounces along the walls of a house — a scene many of us are all too familiar with. All who have had the displeasure of babysitting know the terrors of an upset and crying toddler. With no rhyme or reason behind it, these thumb-suckers love to cause discord everywhere they go. There is only one solution to silence the ankle-biters, one way to organize the chaos: keeping them occupied.
This is easier said than done. How is it possible to entertain these same creatures who revel in disorder? The secret to keeping their attention lies with their age. “For really young children, it’s less about play and more about experiencing the world,” Maine West AP Psychology teacher Chris Rettig said. “It’s why little babies like to do things like put random objects in their mouths.” This means that a simple “peek-a-boo” will keep their dopamine levels in their tiny brains at a high enough level to not bawl their eyes out. Even still, babies like variety just like the rest of us, so be prepared with teddy bear puppet shows and rhyming songs.
Since babies don’t really understand what’s going on around them, as long as you interact with them in some way, chances are they’ll be too occupied trying to wrap their heads around the concept of object permanence to have time to throw a temper tantrum.
The further along in years they get, the more difficult it gets to satisfy a child’s desire for excitement. Once they stop being sleep-robbers and graduate into the crumbsnatcher stage of their development, things have to be turned up a notch. “Their attention span is pretty short; you can do something with them for 10-15 minutes before you have to switch it up,” Rettig said. In other words, it’s not just enough to give them your undivided attention. Their palette for play is too refined for repetition now. The cretins demand novelty along with attention.
The most important thing to remember is that children develop quickly. What made them happy a month ago might make them cry when you try it again. Once a booger-eater gets used to something, it’s important to switch up your strategy. Always keep them guessing. Have a list of games written down on your phone so you don’t have to try to remember how to manipulate them into happiness. It’s not gaslighting if they’re not old enough to remember it!
Some magic tricks that might help you in your endeavors: