Creating Fun for Your Tween's Summer
No more school! No more books! Kids are full of ideas for fun the day school lets out, but too soon, your child is mouthing those dreaded words: "There's nothing to do." This year, don't worry. Choose from our boredom busters, and watch with satisfaction as your child's summer sizzles.
Scout It Out
Fourteen-year-old Ashley Willoughby of Park City, Utah, has participated in the same Girl Scout troop since age 12, and she recommends summers with the scouts. "Our meetings are really fun in the summer because we don't have to worry about homework," she says. "We can spend more time hanging out, doing fun stuff and learning new things. Last summer, her troop especially enjoyed a mini-class on photography presented by the troop leader's father. After the class, the girls snapped outdoor photos, took the film to a one-hour lab and then had fun critiquing their work.
In addition to helping your son or daughter build lasting friendships and life skills, scouts offer summer camps and other summer youth programs. To find a local scout troop for your child, call one of the 600 offices in the USA or visit Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts online.
If you'd like to start your own troop, the Web sites offer helpful information. Ideas for recruiting kids include mailing flyers to your child's friends and classmates or posting a notice in local libraries and stores.
Get a Job!
All children crave extra spending money in the summer. Why not let your young entrepreneur get a jump-start on learning about finances and responsibility? He'll equate work with fun if he's doing something enjoyable or performing tasks that he feels are worthwhile.
"Sit down with your child and talk about his or her likes and dislikes to find an idea for a business, or look around and spot a need in your community," says 18-year-old Michael Stahl, CEO of Careers4Teens.com. He adds that the possibilities for young earners are only limited by imagination.
Recently, middle-schoolers in Park City, Utah, distributed flyers advertising their "Super Pooper-Scoopers" business. The kids offered to scoop up doggie droppings for $8 per week, and they found people couldn't sign up fast enough.
Another popular job idea for tweens is a weeding/yard care business. Twelve-year-old Sam Jordan of Aspen, Colo., is planning to pull weeds for the third year. "Last year I saved up my money from weeding and bought a snowboard," he says.
Other ideas for tween businesses include: a pet care or plant-watering service for families on vacations or baby-sitting while a parent is home, freeing up time for moms to enjoy a book in the sunshine or return phone calls without interruptions.
Kids find cooking is all fun and no work if recipes are easy and delicious, says Gwen McKee, the author of 43 cookbooks.
McKee says up-and-coming chefs need to be organized and prepared. "There is nothing worse than beginning a recipe and then finding out you don't have one of the ingredients," she says. It helps to have the ingredients out before your child begins cooking. If McKee's grandkids require cooking help, she dubs them "the chefs" and calls herself the "seu chef," declaring she's their helper.
It's not difficult to make cooking special for your child this summer. Your tween can prepare a surprise treat for a grandparent, other relatives or for a friend's family. Other ideas include helping your child set up a lemonade and homemade cookie stand or encouraging your tween to cook something special for a bake sale fundraiser.
Use your imagination to make everyday cooking fun for your child. McKee likes to help her grandchildren make "silly shape" pancakes, and to keep things fair, she pours and flips pancakes with her left hand when it's her turn at the griddle. "I do it slowly, realizing a little bit of the kids' unsteadiness," she says. "And when I mess up, they laugh and laugh. Practice makes prefect for all of us!"
McKee recommends the recipes below (bursting with both male and female tween-appeal) from her Recipe Hall of Fame Quick and Easy Cookbook:
- 1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips
- 1 (12.3 ounce) box Crispix cereal
- 1 stick margarine
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
Melt chips, margarine and peanut butter in microwave for one and a half minutes. Remove and stir. Mix with cereal until cereal is well coated. Put powdered sugar in large brown bag. Add mixture and shake until coated.
Wisconsin's Best – Wisconsin
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 cup oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 eggs
- 1 (6-ounce) package chocolate chips
Dump all ingredients, except chips, in a mixing bowl. Mix well until blended. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan. Top with chocolate chips. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
Fontanelle Good Samaritan Center Commemorative Cookbook – Iowa
Many cities offer summer camps, but finding the right camp for tweens can be difficult. "As kids get into that Tween age, it's so much more difficult to find cool stuff for them to do," says Mary Lane Vasquez of Sunnydale, Calif., mom to 10-year-old Megan. "In some ways, my daughter is a little kid, and in others, she's beyond her years. Meagan is bummed because she wants to be in the 11- to 14-year-old age group at the rec center camp, but she's only 10 and has to go with the 6- to 10-year-olds."
Fortunately with a little research, it's possible to find a fun camp for your tween. After weighing camp choices for her daughter, Vasquez decided to enroll Meagan in the Peninsula Youth Theatre Group. "Meagan's excited because the kids actually rehearse and perform plays in the park," she says.
Outstanding tween camps share several traits. "Look for very hands-on, interactive camps for preteens," says Claire Turner, director of youth education at University of Utah. "Kids 9 to 12 want something interesting that they don't do in school and activities that creatively teach them about the world of work." The claymation and filmmaking camps are among the University of Utah's most popular preteen offerings.
Turner also recommends seeking a camp that matches your child's top interests. Maybe your tween would like a sports-oriented camp, an art camp that focuses on horses or a gourmet cook-and-eat class.
"The best camps offer a lot of summer fun but incorporate learning as well," Turner says. For instance, in the University of Utah's "Club Splash," tweens splash in pools, but they also learn diving, marine sculpture and water science.
"We spend a lot of time planning our camps and love it when kids go home and say 'Wow!' to their parents," she says. To find a "Wow!" camp for your child, call or e-mail your local schools, libraries and youth recreation centers.
Time out for Play
Kim Francis of Wheeling, W.Va., mom to 11-year-old Taylor, cautions parents not to go overboard in planning summer projects. During the school break, her daughter will attend craft classes and day camps and then just hang out. "Kids need time to be kids – time to ride their bikes, hang out at the pool, be with their friends," Francis says. "They spend nine months in a planned, rigid environment. Let summer be their time to be free."
Shannon Tilley of Gilbert, Ariz., agrees. "My kids have basketball, volleyball or swimming in the morning, and then I teach them 'home' activities, such as cooking, cleaning or yard work in the afternoons," says this mother of six. Her kids understand that they need to help Mom with the everyday work, because she's busy driving them around in the mornings.
Fridays are special for the Tilleys; the kids who have finished their work can have the day off, and they find this far from boring! The Tilley kids spend Fridays playing video games, relaxing and "doing nothing" or going camping in the mountains and visiting a lake.
Whether your tween would enjoy swimming lessons, camp, cooking or starting a new business, round out playtime this summer with a few boredom busters. After all, carefree kids equal happy moms.