Tweens. That magical time when children are solidly old enough to entertain themselves, but still young enough to regularly utter the two words that are like nails on a chalkboard to any busy parent: “I’m bored.”
If you’re the parent of a 10- to-12-year old and looking for some fresh responses to the boredom blues, look no further. We’ve compiled this handy list of activities — both with and without screens — to keep your tween happy and occupied.
1. Make a comic book
Comic books and graphic novels are more popular than ever. If your kid loves reading them (and even if they don’t), suggest they create a short comic book of their own. They could make a sequel to their favorite book or movie, or start entirely from scratch. If they’re stuck trying to come up with an idea, a quick internet search for “writing prompts for kids” will turn up plenty of topics to kick-start their creativity.
2. Do a puzzle
No, not a puzzle game on your tablet — we mean the good old-fashioned kind that comes in a box.
3. Plan a Google Maps adventure
There is no pesky vacation-budget for this trip. Have your child pick their dream destination and plot out the route on Google Maps, adding in fun stops and quirky detours along the way.
4. Do a picture scavenger hunt
Put a twist on your run-of-the-mill scavenger hunt by having your tween take a picture as proof they solved each clue. For bonus retro points, dig out that old Polaroid or Instax collecting dust. They can use their phones to snap pics of the prints later for an eye-catching Instagram or Snapchat post.
5. Organize a charity event
Younger generations are more engaged than ever in causes that matter to them. Have your child pick something that reflects their values and then plan an event to raise money for it.
6. Make friendship bracelets
The same bracelets you made from embroidery thread when you were young are still all the rage. It’s a relatively cheap, ultra-portable craft, and the nostalgia factor might even get you in there braiding away with your kids.
7. Learn magic tricks
The internet is rife with tutorials for aspiring young magicians looking to up their game. Just make sure to let them know if disappearing the family pet is off limits!
8. Create an obstacle course
This is a great one for getting kids outside and physically active. Scrap wood, hula hoops, pool noodles, and laundry baskets all make excellent building materials.
9. Plan and cook a meal
If your child is new to the kitchen, this activity will require a little more supervision on your part. But it’s great for building skills and future independence. And just think — if they really take to it, you might be able to delegate dinner duty now and again!
10. Shoot a movie on a phone or tablet
Live action or stop motion are both great options. From storyboarding to script writing to filming and editing, there is plenty to keep your kid engaged with this project.
11. Rollerskate or Skateboard
Driveways, garages, cul-de-sacs, and sports courts are all DIY skate rinks waiting to happen. Hang a disco ball, turn on some tunes, and your at-home skate night will be ready to go.
12. Hold a lemonade stand
Not only will this keep them busy, it will teach your kids business skills and let them earn some extra pocket change. Alternatively, they could select a charity for the funds to benefit.
13. Rewrite the lyrics to a favorite song
Forget Weird Al. Set your kids loose with this activity and see what parody shenanigans ensue.
14. Build a city out of recycled materials
Milk cartons become skyscrapers and tin cans become water towers in this analog SimCity.
15. Build a boat out of household objects
LEGO bricks, recyclables, and popsicle sticks all make excellent boats. Once it’s built, your kids can test it in the bathtub, adding one penny at a time to see how many coins it takes to sink their creation.
Research shows that boredom and unstructured time are good for children and help them develop valuable skills. With a little nudge and a few suggestions, your tween’s “I’m bored” can quickly turn into hours of fun — and perhaps even a new hobby. So the next time your child comes to you with those dreaded words, pull out this list and let the adventure begin.