How to Make After-school Activities Cool for Your Tween

Get your tween engaged and involved after school.
Get your tween engaged and involved after school.
©iStockphoto.com/Abejon Photography

Ah, tweens -- too old to be considered kids, too young to really be teenagers. They've grown out of the activities aimed at little kids, but aren't ready for the more mature pursuits of high schoolers. So, what can you do to keep their active little brains occupied after the school day is done? And how in the world can you get them interested in something that's not TV or video games?

One obvious hurdle is getting your tween to think that something you've suggested is cool. The tween years are, after all, the time when kids start striving to be their own person. It's also the time when they usually decide that parents are not at all cool. In fact, the usual knee-jerk reaction of a tween is to do the opposite of what you'd like them to do. It's a tricky situation.

Throwing out arbitrary activity suggestions probably won't have much success. You might think your kid should take piano or dance lessons because that's what you did at that age, but their interests might lie elsewhere. Give your tweens some independence and let them tell (or show) you what they'd like to do. If they're obsessed with playing Rock Band, take a cue from that and look into guitar lessons. If you notice that the margins of their notebooks are covered in doodles, talk about taking an art class or even setting up a studio nook at home. Keeping your eyes peeled for the things that really get your tween excited can provide you with a lot of possibilities once school is out.

Cool Tween After-school Activities

Your tween could learn more about an animal he or she cares about after school.
Your tween could learn more about an animal he or she cares about after school.
©iStockphoto.com/Monique Rodriguez

So, what does your tween like to do? If he or she is a fan of animals, consider channeling that energy by volunteering. The Humane Society offers resources for parents, as well as examples of how other tweens have helped the animals in their communities. Get in touch with a local animal shelter or vet's office to talk about volunteering. You and your tween can walk dogs, socialize cats, and dole out kibble and treats -- no veterinary degree needed. Working with the animals is a great way to help out a worthy cause, and it also helps your tween learn the ins-and-outs of responsible pet care.

Cooking lessons are another way to teach your tween a valuable life skill -- while having a good time, of course. Teach them how to make their favorite dishes, snacks, special-occasion treats or even a whole meal. If your tween really has the gourmet bug, step it up a notch -- check with a culinary institute or grocery chain to see if they offer age-appropriate cooking classes. Learning how to cook gives your tween something tasty to show off to the rest of the family.

Physical activities like sports and dancing are also a good idea for your tween. They promote good fitness and allow hyperactive kids to run off excess energy. Most sports leagues and dance classes are based on age group, allowing your tween to socialize with their peers in an environment that's less rigid than school. Physical activities also help tweens feel more comfortable with their bodies, which is a big help for someone who's going through growth spurts and dealing with the resulting awkwardness. Yoga is another possibility to consider -- lots of yoga studios have classes specifically for kids, and there are DVDs available for you and your tween to use at home.

Tweens are a unique age group with particular needs, and choosing the right after school activity can be a challenge. Finding something to suit the interests of your tween and keep them engaged might take some trial and error, but remember that there are lots of options. Soon you'll find something that works for everyone in your family -- except, perhaps, the neglected TV.

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Sources

  • Atkins, Sue. "How to Talk So Your Pre-Teen Will Listen." TweenParent.com. (Jan. 9, 2011)http://www.tweenparent.com/articles/view/243
  • Black, Rosemary. "Cooking classes a hot new hobby for kids and teens." New York Daily News. Sept. 20, 2008. (Jan. 7, 2011)http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/food/2008/09/20/2008-09-20_cooking_classes_a_hot_new_hobby_for_kids.html
  • Humane Society of the United States. "Engaging Tweens (Ages 10-12)." Oct. 9, 2009. (Jan. 10, 2011)http://www.humanesociety.org/parents_educators/tweens/
  • Nies, Deborah. "Tween cooking classes at Whole Foods Market." Examiner.com. Aug. 30, 2010. (Jan. 7, 2011)http://www.examiner.com/parenting-tweens-in-madison/tween-cooking-classes-at-whole-foods-market-september-2010
  • Shanti Generation. "Three Yoga Tools for Helping Tweens Find Balance." (Jan. 10, 2011)http://www.shantigeneration.com/three-yoga-tools-for-helping-tweens-find-balance-2.html