Parenting a pre-teen can sometimes feel like its own uneasy limbo. The toys and activities that enthralled your younger kids for hours before have been cast aside, but they have not yet reached the terrible teen years when they lock themselves away in their bedrooms and bury their noses in their digital devices. Yet, they aren’t independent enough to necessarily find new activities to do on their own.
Don’t despair, we asked a mother and a father share some of their tested tips on how to keep this in-between age entertained, all without a cell phone, tablet, television, or even a game console.
Mother and daughter activities
Having a pre-teen daughter comes with its own complications. She is stuck somewhere between childhood, and thinking she is a “grown teenager.” She is too big for princesses and baby dolls, yet too young to have abandoned me for her friends.
So what are some quality ways to bond with your pre-teen daughter?
- Cook together: Not only can she start to learn activities that will help her as she gets older, but it provides a sense of team work and accomplishment when you finish the meal. If it all goes terribly wrong have a laugh and a takeaway together.
- Enjoy afternoon tea: Make or order up an afternoon tea for two, then sit sipping tea and eating cakes together.
- Get colorful: Have a drawing competition or color in “adult” coloring books. This can create a fun sense of competition and bonding between you two.
- Get creative: Learn to make friendship bracelets or beaded jewelry. Amazon and hobby stores have lots of beautiful beads you can use to make necklaces or bracelets together.
- Make a jewelry box: Buy a basic box at a hobby store, recycle an old shoe box, or use one of the million Amazon boxes lying around. Paint the outside in beautiful colors, add glitter and gems, then line the inside with wrapping paper. This one goes great as a place to store the treasures from number 4.
- Science time: Google some easy kid friendly science experiments you can do at home. Create lava lamps, get sticky with slime, build an explosive baking soda volcano, or a fountain of soda.
- Have a girls night: Make up some mocktails (orange juice with Sprite and a little cherry), then bust out the fingernail polish and face masks. Have fun doing her nails and be prepared to let her practice on yours. You can always take it off tomorrow, so try not to worry if it is a bit sloppy.
- Go shopping: Agree on a set budget with her beforehand, let her keep hold of the money, and take the lead. This is a great way to find out what she is into, the places that interest her, and teach her to be money savvy.
- Journaling: In our house we keep a mom and daughter journal. I write questions, funny stories, or little interesting tidbits for her to read. I leave the journal on her bed, and then she will write back to me and place it on my desk. The goal is to develop a comfortable pathway to discuss more difficult conversations when she is a full blown teenager. This journal will be a “safe” place to communicate feelings, without being emotionally charged, and provide you plenty of time to think up a good answer.
- Do makeovers: Let her use some of the make up you don’t really mind to waste. Do her make up, and let her do yours. Teach her what each bit is used for and how to apply it. Then choose outfits for each other, and take lots of selfies together.
Father and son activities
There are two terrifying words every parent learns to despise:
Bored kids are tough to handle. Bored pre-teen boys are the worst! Well, okay, maybe not. I have one of these magical creatures, my 11 year old son. He’s not the worst. But he is insufferable when he’s bored.
To stave off boredom, here’s a list of 10 things you can do with your boy(s) and without a screen.
- Make a mosaic: Buy a bunch of little plastic tiles and some super glue and you’re good to go. This is a great project for creative types and it can be little or huge.
- Do a puzzle: Puzzles don’t appeal to all kids. If you’re blessed with a boy who likes them, get him started on one right away.
- Decorate something: We’ve purchased chalk pens for our windows. My boy loves tracing and coloring pictures for the world to see. Keep it simple, but get creative.
- Make models: One of my other sons isn’t going to go for any of those but he will happily spend two hours assembling and painting a plastic plane.
- Play games: Loads of great board and card games are available for play. Catan, Taco vs. Burrito, Carcassone, Battleship, and more are great for tween boys. Classics such as chess work well, too!
- Do some junk modeling: Save your recycling for a few days and then challenge your boy to make something from all the boxes, tubes, and cardboard.
- Go bigger with a castle: Visit a local store, recycling center, or buy a load of boxes. Give your boy some duct tape and tell him to make a giant castle out of the boxes.
- Set a fitness challenge: Walk 30 miles in 30 days. Do 3000 push ups this month. Cycle 50 miles in 10 days. Give an active boy a challenge and do it with him.
- Learn a new skill: There are great at-home skills to learn. Try out decorative wood burning, whittling, or even knitting.
- Just chill: One of the best things about kids as they get older is their ability to hang out. Grab a cup of coffee and just hang out with your boy.
We didn’t give you loads of links and references to review. That’s okay. Talk to your pre-teen girls or boys and ask them what they want to do. Google it with them. Learn with them. Your time and attention are far more important than whatever you can order from Amazon.
What other activities can you recommend to parents of the magical and marvelous tween period? Join the conversation in the comments below and tell us.