It can be tough to come up with things to do for tweens — typically ages 8 to 12 — since they’re at a stage where toys feel too babyish and they aren’t ready to handle teenage opportunities. So what does a parent do?

With a little planning and space, your tweens can be given their independence and flex their creative muscles on school breaks. They might even want to enlist a few out-of-town family members for these activities. Tweens can get to know their cousins, take selfies of their aunt and uncle, and round up multiple generations — even across time zones — to play games and laugh at themselves.

We know that planning for the holidays involves shopping, list-making, and lots of to-do items. So while you are making your list, let your child scan these ideas and add a few supplies to your shopping list or your Amazon cart. It can go a long way to making your tweens feel included and well cared for on the break from school.

3 Things to Do for Tweens Who Craft

Many tweens are still into crafting, and even among teens and young adults, fiber arts have had a resurgence in popularity. Here are three ideas to encourage your young crafter to try something new or go deeper into something he or she loves.

  1. Woven wall crafts and macrame have had a resurgence. So let your teen have some fun creating new decor for her room. Some ideas include woven God’s eye wall hangings or a wee woven wall hanging.
  2. Create functional storage. You probably already know about crates and how utilitarian they can be for books, shelves, etc. But did you know they can serve as both storage, shelving, and a seat? Using simple craft-store supplies such as ribbon, paint, a small piece of plywood, craft foam, and a plastic create, your tween can go from zero storage and seating to a place for friends to hang out and stash their stuff at the same time with this milk crate storage seat.
  3. Let them use phones! Don’t worry; this is all about the room decor, not necessarily social media or phones. This selfie wall is something you can create with the templates here, or just do a look-alike project by printing some selfies of your child’s friends and family members in black and white, grabbing nine of the same frames at the dollar store, and assembling them on his or her wall in a 3 x 3 pattern. If you have a holiday gathering, he or she can even grab a phone and get selfies with family and friends who are visiting. It will help your tween engage with your guests and give him or her something to do over the school break too.

3 Things to Do for Tweens Who Love Music

1. Let him or her make a playlist based on each of the four seasons. This is something that author Emily P. Freeman recommends at any time during the year but especially to help you reflect on the previous season’s life events and set some intentions about the upcoming season. She even has a list of songs for when she travels and struggles with travel-rooted anxiety. Subscribe to a music app such as Amazon Music or Spotify on your digital home device, so your tween can create lists to help him or her during stressful times of the year. You’ll be teaching mindfulness and relaxation as well as some reflection techniques.

2. Create Madlibs from his or her favorite song lyrics. Let your child print the lyrics to one or two of his favorite songs. Next, copy and paste them into a Google doc, and erase a few words that are various parts of speech or dialogue cues (e.g. noun, verb, adjective, and exclamation). Let your tween have fun asking a friend to give random answers for each blank and then read the song back to him or her. It’s a silly, no-cost way to spend time with a friend and can even be done over the phone or on Zoom if you’re traveling for the break.

things to do for tweens

3. Turn on some music and doodle or color in an adult coloring book. Listening to music has a ton of mental health benefits, not to mention it helps some students concentrate better. You might even consider letting your child borrow a friend’s instrument and learn how to play. Here is a guide to the best instruments to learn at different ages.

3 Things to Do for Tweens Who Love Games or Sports

While toys may or may not always make the cut at the tween age level, many tweens still love sports, competitions, puzzles, and games.

  1. Create your own Wordle. Of course, you can always play Wordle online but where’s the originality in that? Let them design their own Wordle. Some of our low-tech families at Learnwell have even been known to play car Wordle on long trips. They take turns by creating five-box word blanks, letting one family member at a time try to fill in the appropriate letters. Just as in the online version, your tween can choose different colors to coordinate which letter guesses are correct but misplaced, incorrect altogether, or are letters guessed 100% correctly until someone in the car guesses what the Wordle is.
  2. Play a more advanced or different version of a game your tween already enjoys. If your tween loves Codenames, try purchasing Codenames Disney for Disney fans or Codenames Harry Potter for wizarding tweens. If you want to play with family who couldn’t make it to the holiday table, consider organizing a game of Codenames online.
  3. Give your tween a few ground rules, and let him or her come up with the after-meal sport of choice. Let them be creative. Do they like football and soccer? How can they combine the two? Do the adults want to play something more low-key, such as croquet, while the kids want to play tag? Let your tween combine them and write out the rules, design the yard boundaries, and then explain the game to everyone before playing it.

3 Things to Do for Tweens Who Love Art or Drama

1. Your 8- to 12-year-old may not want to write his or her own script over the break, but maybe he or she will want to film a short movie on your iPhone. Design a time limit, such as 2 minutes per scene; give your child an overall limit, such as 8 scenes; and let your child spend the week filming various family members, friends, and neighbors — each in a different scene. Then, it’s your child’s job to use iMovie editing software such as iMovie to put all the clips together, design a trailer, and show the film to the family at the end of the week.

things to do for tweens

2. Play “Chopped,” but gear it toward art instead. Supply three family members with the same bag of art materials. Ideas include small canvases or a piece of paper, construction paper, washi tape, colored pencils, an eraser, yarn, and a magazine. Add to those materials something you wouldn’t expect to use for an art project, such as an old glasses case, a Tupperware container, or a package of facial cleansing sponges. Just make sure that each person has the exact same supplies in his or her basket or bag of materials. Next, define a time limit, and start the timer. See what kind of creations your family members can come up with in art.

3. Make bread sculptures. Leading up to the big holiday meal can feel stressful for adults who have cooking responsibilities. So choose a day or two before the meal is planned and have fun in the kitchen with your tween. Make a simple yeasted dough recipe, let the dough rise, and then allow your artist to sculpt something creative for the table. It will involve him or her in the meal and provide a creative outlet, too.

Things to do for tweens don’t have to involve technology and screens, at least not during all of their time off from school. But a little planning and creativity on the part of a parent or grandparent can help a tween feel loved and known. After all, a box of crayons and a coloring book may not cut it anymore. However, if you put your tween in charge of games and crafts for the younger siblings and/or cousins who are showing up for the holidays, you might want to keep a box of crayons around.