Summer activities for tweens to keep busy and productive at home

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Nobody likes to be “between” things. A rock and a hard place is always tough. And middle children might have unique challenges. 

Which brings us to the tween.

They are not “kids” (and don’t you dare call them so) and yet they aren’t quite old enough to be considered a teen (but, they sure think they belong in that group though, right?).

Of course, we are talking about pre-teens, or those in preadolescence. It’s a fast-moving transition period; one that’s fraught with change and questions. All of this culminates in physical and emotional growth—which is tough for any child (and parent) to deal with. 

But other, many challenges aside, we will be addressing this specific one—what can tweens include in their 2021 summer schedule that is beyond what they think any young kid would take part in, yet is up to the standards of which they think a teen would approve? 

Tween summer activity challenges

First, let’s address the difficulty in finding a summer activity that’s just right for a tween, or at least suitable.  

One, tweens might get bored easily with the activities that “used to work.” Meaning, the fun they may have had just last summer can be seen as too “kiddy” and yes, boring. 

Two, they now want to take part in “grown-up” activities, or at least things they think a “cool” non-child would be doing. The good of this is it gets the mind going and creative juices flowing. The bad, of course, is that there will be things with which they’ll need supervision, but their need for independence means they don't want you to at all baby them. 

Then last, together with the two hurdles above, tweens might be a bit more emotional, and really unsure of what it is that is making them most happy right now. One day they want this, the next they want that, and the day after that they’re extremely angry and dissatisfied with all of it. 

Tween summer activities ideas

To go about this, I thought it would be fun to present the idea, and then also provide the kid version of that same thing...or at least a mention of how a kid might go about a similar activity. Doing so might be helpful when “selling” the experience to your kids. 

Here are 8 summer activities tweens might enjoy. 

1. Take a class (not just watch a show)

When kids are interested in something, they must have all the things to help them feel connected to that thing. From toys to TV shows, clothes, and more; a kid’s level of interest is measured by how much related stuff they’ve accumulated. 

But tweens? Oh no. They’ve far beyond that. 

So, encourage them to “get connected” with the things they enjoy by taking a class to learn more about it. From virtual summer camps to private coding tutoring lessons, or something like a course cooking their favorite dessert, tweens might find it exciting to learn how to create around some of the things they love rather than just "play" with or consume those same things. 

2. Design something (not just draw or color)

Similar to the above, tweens might just need an outlet for creative expression...but don’t you dare break out the crayons and colored pencils! 

Instead, see if your tween has any interest in graphic design or 3D modeling. This can even turn into an introduction to 3D printing depending on how involved they become. 

And really, while the tools are more advanced than what tweens are used to dealing with as kids, it’s the entire creative process that’s elevated, as they can learn to challenge themselves to plan an entire new "world" as it pertains to something like character design.

3. Create an online brand (not just operate a lemonade stand)

Building off the previous, with newly-acquired design skills, think about the different doors that can now be opened. Before, as a kid, your child would color a picture and rush to show you just how well they stayed inside the lines. Then as they got older, they started drawing their own pictures, and begged to be displayed on the refrigerator. 

As a tween, they can start truly developing skills to help them literally create anything imaginable. With such skills, they can start building their own personal online brand, and can learn to display it all with the entire world through their own website or YouTube channel (with your help and supervision, of course.) 

Now they’re developing an entrepreneurial mindset, and instead of having to resort to a lemonade stand to try and earn a few bucks, they can set their sights even higher. 

4. Sell clothes online or donate them (not just playing dress up)

Speaking of earning more than just an allowance, kids love raiding closets and playing dress up...but tweens? They might enjoy raiding with purpose; whether that’s finding old clothes you can help them sell online, or other items they can donate. 

I mention this below, but a good way of brainstorming summer activities for your tween is to think about all the things you task kids with as chores, and how those things can be taken to the next level to help them develop independence and "grow up."

So with this, if they needed to keep their closet clean as a kid, now they're finding better uses for their clothing. If it was packing their own lunch, maybe task them to concoct new and different items to include, or to start a yard maintenance "business" where they used to only be tasked with keeping your yard clean. 

5. Create a new recipe (not just bake cookies)

Part of this transition from kid to teen deals greatly with independence. So, I’m sure your “kids” have baked or cooked with you before, right? But “tweens?” They might not enjoy it as much anymore. 

So, why not challenge them on creating their own recipe(s)? If all goes well, they can create their own cookbook. If all goes really well, they can design their own cookbook and perhaps you can help them get started with some cooking tips on YouTube (per the above). Here is an online YouTube course for those interested. 

6. Decorate their room (not just pick it up)

Kids hate chores. But tweens...actually tweens hate chores, too!

But, if you’re tired of them having a consistently dirty room, maybe task them with redecorating it?

Now, the extent of independence is up to you, but it might be fun for them to come up with a new creative concept that can hopefully be put into action. Now that it’s “their room,” they might take a bit more pride in the upkeep!

7. Read a book and discuss it (not just browse social media)

I hope my kids never outgrow their love for books and reading, but I know that day will come at some point, or at least the interest will take a break at some point. 

If you find yourself in a familiar spot, you can encourage your tween to read the same book you’re reading, and then you can discuss it through your own little family book club. You can even expand to friends and others, but let your tween run the show. 

8. Volunteer their time (not just be bored with their time)

No matter the age, children always seem to find boredom.

Kids are typically too young to grasp the concept of volunteering, but tweens might develop an emotional interest in giving that empty time to help those in need.

Now, when the “I’m bored” starts coming on strong, have the discussion with tweens that if they can’t find anything valuable on which to spend their time, why don’t they think about “donating” that time to help the less fortunate?

For instance, previous iD Tech campers put this valuable and detailed instruction guide together on how kids can 3D print surgical mask extenders from home to help those on the front line find much needed comfort. 

9. Create their own podcast or song (instead of just listening)

There are a lot of great podcasts for tweens out there, plus more and more teachers are using them in the classroom, so why not have kids explore this cool medium and put their own stories out there?

History, mysteries, science, pop culture: kids can choose a topic they’re passionate about and use a number of free podcasting tools for kids to share awesome original content. Creating a podcast is an in-depth creative undertaking that can be incredibly rewarding and an excellent way to dive deep into a favorite subject or hobby. On their own or with friends, summer is the perfect time to learn how to create.

Speaking of creating, kids love music. So why not step into the producers chair? Making digital music has never been easier or more fun to experiment with. Inspired by their favorite artists or by their own original ideas, getting into the music studio will get the creative juices flowing in no time. 

10. Create their own games (instead of just playing them)

Have you played every board game, video game, and card game in your house? You’re probably not alone!

So, time to get a little creative. 

The next family favorite could well be inside your child’s imagination, and making up a game together could also be a fun family activity.

Give a custom board game maker kit a try a DIY backyard game activity, and you’ll be well on your way to having a blast with something new.

11. Build something (instead of buying something)

Ever wonder how to make your own water balloon launcher? If that’s not a recipe for some major summer fun, I don’t know what is. 

Of course, many awesome DIY projects require purchasing supplies, but there’s a level of ingenuity that goes into making something yourself that the average Target run can’t quite replicate! 

For ideas to get started, check out this guide to summer DIY activities for kids

12. Create content (instead of just consuming it) 

We’ve all seen the trends and heard about the mind-boggling YouTube statistics in recent years; nowadays, many kids and tweens have favorite channels and videos. 

So, instead of spending hours just watching YouTube videos, they could create their own! Tweens watching gamecasting could become gamecasters and those who love how-to guides and DIYs could produce (and potentially monetize; here is a list of ways kids can make money from home) their own channel. Along the way, they can learn versatile skills like video editing, creative planning, and how to build a following online.

Now, YouTubing isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok! Encourage your tween to create a digital scrapbook or video collection to just be shared with friends and family. There are plenty of ways to use YouTube content as a springboard for something cool, including a more low-tech passion project. Encourage them to explore the possibilities!

13. Plan an activity (instead of just tagging along)

Planning summer schedules typically falls to parents, right? Give yourself a break and put your tween in the driver’s seat (metaphorically speaking, of course) of your next family outing. 

It will be a great opportunity for the whole family to explore something they’re interested in, plus - depending on what your tween has in mind - it could offer a fun opportunity to practice budgeting and logistical skills. 

Encourage them to think beyond an ice cream run! (Of course, this outing should be done in compliance with your area’s COVID-19 guidelines.)

Virtual excursions can be amazing and fun, and they're often educational too! Perhaps your child is interested in a particular country, landmark, or historical event. Sites like Airbnb offer incredible live tours, classes, and interactive virtual experiences. Instead of another night of Netflix, perhaps your tween would like to have a virtual tour of Paris followed by a virtual crepe making class—yum!

15. Learn a strategy (rather than just following along) 

Strategic thinking doesn't just happen in school (thankfully for everyone who enjoys strategic thinking!). Summer is a wonderful time to shake things up and add games, sports, and kids' other hobbies into the mix. 

Strategy is as essential, for instance to the classic game of chess as it is to the latest trends in Esports. To succeed at either, kids will need to do more than just go through the motions. So, encourage your child to embrace the competitive spirit, put on their thinking caps, and let their minds chase the thrill of victory! 

It’s a challenge that makes us all stronger

Again, the transition from kid to tween to teen comes with multiple hurdles. Even parents of multiple kids will tell you it doesn’t really get easier from child to child, as each experience is different. 

But, some parents can also say it’s a special time, and one of growth for all involved, as you help your child navigate a new world ahead of them. 

A photo of Ryan

Ryan manages blog content at iD Tech, starting with the company in 2008. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after obtaining his Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State. Connect on LinkedIn!