We all know busy! Spending dedicated time with our kids is often harder as they get older; however, the tween years are a critical time to invest in creating/maintaining a healthy, balanced, connected relationship with them, ahead of the teen years. Here are simple ideas for spending one-on-one time with your favorite tween(s).
1. Go to a movie
It is always a good time to catch up on movies -- whether a stay-in family movie night or a night out just with you. Let them choose the movie. Use Common Sense Media as a helpful reference when evaluating appropriate content in movies for this age. Sort by favorites, ratings, age, etc.
2. Eat & Greet !
If you’re an early bird, forego the dishes and go out to brunch! Tweens are often much more conversant away from home. Like to cook? Enlist your tween's help to prepare a meal at home. Then use the time to catch up. Instead of asking closed questions such as “how’s school?”, ask open questions such as “so tell me three things about your day" or "tell me a few things you did last week at school” or “so what’s everyone talking about these days at school?” or "what project are you working on right now in ____ subject"? Or venture outside of school talk and dive a little deeper with questions like "what is one thing that surprised you at school today?" or "what is one place in the world you think you might like to visit someday?".
3. Step Into Their World
Tweens often spend a lot of time in their rooms, so take time to step into their space — hang out in their room. They may look at you like you with skepticism, but just plop down on their bed and wait for conversation to strike (asking "s'up" is optional).
4. Play a game
If your tweens likes video games, offer to play few rounds of their favorite game(s). It gives you a glimpse into their world in a new way and it might be guaranteed hilarity! Play a board game or two — what better time for easy unplugged time together. Two we recommend for 10 and up are: Telestrations and Wits & Wagers.
Similarly, if your child is quite taken with a specific media app, such as or snap chat silly picture filters, let your guard down and try a few. For those tech loving tweens, check out ANKI, a series of products that include physical race track pieces that store easily (yes this is key), and come with small cars. To play, the cars are controlled by an app installed on a smartphone/smartpad device.
5. Get Out
Take a walk, jog, or bike ride, or hang up a hammock together — time for just the two of you. This can prompt open conversations that are often challenging to initiate while sitting inside at home. If you are feeling adventurous, tackle something more challenging such as a rigorous hike, indoor skydiving, outdoor zip line, or mountain bike trail etc. Do they like pets? Visit the nearby Animal Shelter to pet or walk the animals. Keeping it simple? Create an outdoor blanket/sheet fort, spider web of string, or obstacle course together in the backyard.
6. Do a little something for others
Tween years are a good opportunity to instill the value of service and generosity. Tween-age kids are old enough to take on a variety of volunteer or service oriented tasks. For example, make a meal for a friend/neighbor, help a grandparent, rake a neighbor’s leaves, or make up some “finder’s keepers” notes with inspiring messages to leave around town -- tweens enjoy thinking of places to leave the notes when you’re out and about (attach a $1 to them for even more fun). Have a younger child who likes to bake? Have them bake goods to deliver to the weekend crews at a local Habitat for Humanity project.
7. Start a Project
Tackle a project together or teach a new tactile skill; gardening, woodworking, cooking, crafting, simple home repair or various art projects are a place to start. With so many DIY ideas out there, the possibilities are endless. Not sure how to begin? Visit a nearby Lowes Home Improvement store for pre-packaged woodworking project kits or check out YouTube for relevant craft activities. Since slime or bath balms are all the rave with tweens, you can also roll up your sleeves and well, yes, make some.
8. Create a wish list
If they haven’t already identified some ‘wish list’ items for birthdays or holidays, sit down with them, search online, and create a list together. This shows that you are interested in learning more about what they like. Use it as an opportunity to observe how they evaluate what they like and why. What criteria do they use to decide if they like something or to discern value? Do they know how to look at product reviews to evaluate items they are interested in?
9. Offer a donation
Like a wish list in reverse, you and your tween can search for ways to volunteer together or seek out a cause your tween cares about and offer a donation. Whether a non-profit or your local social services center or animal shelter, many organizations have a running list of needs for donated items. Want to go global? Try out KIVA.org and choose a recipient of a micro loan, together.