The extended holiday period is a time when tweens can be the most difficult age group to keep occupied, regardless of whether you’re working during the holidays, or spending time together as a family.
By comparison with young children who can usually entertain themselves playing and older teens who are independent enough to go it alone, the tween age group (10-13) often still need some supervision and monitoring.
When you see the boredom kicking in, try some of these activities:
1. Hire movies – If you’re on a budget, or the weather is too hot, or you just need some down time at home, hire a favourite movie each and veg out on the couch. Suggest open house for your tween’s friends, encouraging your tween to do the inviting, catering and cleaning up afterwards.
2. Go places – Leave the car at home and make plans for a day out using public transport. Plan the day using train, tram, bus or pushbike, with stops for sightseeing, eating and enjoying.
3. Check out community – Check with your local council as to community activities, library events, holiday camps, opening times for the local pool or public tennis courts.
4. Cook up a storm – Make a day to plan, shop, prepare and cook up a menu of choice. Rather than buying from a supermarket, investigate a produce or farmer’s market and go organic or vegetarian. Encourage your tween to invite friends over for the meal.
5. Pick a project – Extended holidays are the perfect time to choose a project of interest to do together. Encourage your tween to repaint or reorganise their bedroom, construct a model or giant jigsaw, plant out a vegetable garden, fish pond, lizard enclosure or nesting boxes.
6. Computer check – Set up a time schedule and user rules for holiday computer use, allowing for extra time on the days when the weather isn’t fine and sunny. Regardless of whether you’re holidaying at home or away, ensure the computer is in full view.
7. Workplace visit – If you’re in a position to do so, invite your tween to spend a day in your workplace. Involve them in your workday with a project of their own or a general job. Introduce your co-workers, have morning tea together, or enjoy a special lunch together at the work canteen or local café.
8. Volunteer – Investigate organisations that may need helpers over the holiday period. These can include local libraries, animal shelters, church or relief organisations. Ask a local business owner if they need any helpers.
9. Family History – Compiling a family history is a great way for your tween to learn about extended family, family traditions and culture. Start with immediate family and encourage your tween to research a family tree or record interviews with grandparents and other family members. Either save all information on computer, or in folders, so that the project can be ongoing.
10. Snap happy – If you have a digital camera, or have a family camera your tween can use, cultivate an interest in photography. Teach them (or find a friend who can) about the basics of taking photos, downloading on to computer, cropping and enhancing, printing, and displaying in a photo album or frames etc. If this is way out of your budget, buy a photo album and invite your tween to arrange and label existing family shots.
With a little planning, tweens can be kept occupied without them feeling that parents are watching every move. Reading, story writing, putting together a family newsletter, making a video, or just hanging out at home with friends can be budget-friendly activities over the holidays.
If your child is comfortable and mature enough to be left alone in the home, take some parent time out. Encourage trust and responsibility. Ensure you have your mobile for emergencies, assure your child that the next few hours are his or hers alone to enjoy.