Raising Tweens

Things to Do with Tweens this Summer

Parents, this post is for you! 

As a teacher, I'm really excited for the end of the school year!  Summer break for the teacher part of me means sleeping in a bit later, no papers to grade, no plans to do (at least not right away!), and no tween attitudes to put up with for a while...in other words, a much needed break. Yay!

But wait...if I'm on summer vacation, that means my kids are too!  I still have tweens to deal with, the very ones I brought into this world!  We teacher-moms get no breaks!  (Although it must be said that teacher-moms of tweens get more of a break than teacher-moms of babies and toddlers...I've been there and I'm here to tell you it does get easier!  Deep breaths ladies!  You can do it!)

These kids of ours at home are still expecting to be fed everyday.  They still want clean(-ish) clothes. And worst of all...they want to be entertained!

Seriously, I can't handle hearing "I'm bored" or watching kids lay around watching TV or play on their devices, but I'm also not going to be the summer time cruise director!  This is MY vacation, too!

So, in advance preparation, I've come up with a list of things to do with your tweens this summer...and I promise most of them will be a treat for YOU too!

1. Send them outside!

Yep, simple as that.  Remember how we used to go outside and climb a tree or ride a bike to a friend's house?  Let them.  They are old enough.  They can handle it.  They need time to test their wings and learn responsibility in small doses.  Summer is the perfect time for that!  If you are like me, your garage is full of random things that the kids have forgotten about.  Pull out the sidewalk chalk, bikes, scooters, water toys, balls, rollerblades, gardening tools, pogo sticks, hula hoops...whatever toys you've been hoarding since their first birthday.  Then kick your kid outside.  Lock the door if necessary!  Take away the devices!  They'll survive and figure out how to entertain themselves.  Extra bonus for you is PEACE and QUIET inside!  Or , sit out on the patio with a cup of coffee and watch from afar if it makes you feel better.  Let them play...you rest.  You deserve it!

2. Go to a park!  

If your backyard or neighborhood doesn't have much room to roam, find a local park with paths and green spaces to explore and roam.  You can hike or go for a bike ride, so you are getting your exercise in at the same time!  Score for you!  Lots of parks in our area have free fishing docks and nature trails that kids love.  Big kids like mountain biking on the trails, too!


3. Local field trips! 

I'm going to let you in on a secret...even if they won't admit it, tweens still like zoos, science centers, and all the other places you used to take them!  We live in the Detroit area, and The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village is a big attraction.  My 12- and 10-year-olds still like going there and riding on the train, carousel, and old fashioned Model T cars.  Sometimes, we even go into the buildings!  They also still love the Hands On Science Museum and Detroit Zoo.  Even if they aren't super excited when we get in the car to go, they are smiling and having fun 5 minutes after we arrive!

4. Let them get a job! 

Yep, a real paying JOB.  Tweens can WORK!  My 12-year-old is a soccer referee for the pre-K and Kindergarten league.  Both my kids are pet sitters!  Older kids can babysit.  They are making their own spending money and learning valuable life skills.  And there's that bonus to you...free time and less handing out money!

5. Join a swim club!

This one costs a bit more, but it is TOTALLY worth it to join a local swim club if you have one nearby!  A few years ago, we tossed down a few hundred bucks..and I got the first relaxing summer of my mom-life!  Swim clubs have so much to do...more than just swimming!  My son isn't much of a swimmer, but he loves the basketball court, wide open grassy area for soccer or football, and of course, the snack bar.  My daughter is basically a mermaid, so she could willingly spend all day, every day in the pool.  For the few minutes of adult swim time...yes they kick the kids out so adults can do laps!...she's happy at the snack bar or on the playground.  For $25 she joins the swim team and basically gets free swim lessons and has meets, which are lots of fun!  Here's the score for moms...if your kids are strong swimmers and since there's plenty of lifeguards, a mama can sit back and read a book, talk with friends, even take a nap!  At night, they often host parties for adults and kids, like baseball game watches, or float-in movies, or game nights.  Our pool club has grills for members to use, or you can order pizza, or bring a picnic aside from the snack bar.  And if you have a kid with a summer birthday, you are really going to love it...our pool charges only $3 per guest for a party!  Seriously, can you beat a birthday party for $3 person?!?  Even when you add in a few Hot and Ready Pizzas to the total, it is a total bargain!

6. Look into classes at community colleges!

I don't know about where you live, but around here, there are a bunch of small community colleges.  The great thing about these colleges (aside from being a great stepping stone for new HS grads!) is that most of them offer summer courses for elementary, middle school, and high school students!  These courses are FUN, like video game programming, cooking, journalism basics, photography, etc.  If your kids (like mine) are too busy all school-year with homework and sports to try out a new interest, this is a great time to try something new!  

7. Let them eat cake!  (But teach them to bake it first!)

One thing I love doing with my kids in the summer, is to teach them life skills.  They have chores year-round, but in the summer, I make time to up that game.  In the past, I've taught them how to use the washer and dryer...not just to fold and put clothes away.  They've run garage sales and lemonade stands to earn money and learn about running a business.  I've let them start and maintain a garden and they've learned to try new foods.  One of our favorite life skills to practice over the summer is COOKING!  Yes, things get messy...but then they learn about cleaning the kitchen, too!  My kids especially love baking, probably because I don't do it very often!  When we bake, I let them find the recipe, I take them to the grocery store for ingredients, and I let them do all the mixing and prep work.  I really only oversee and help with the hot oven.  They love baking, and I love seeing my kids work together on a project.  They negotiate who will do what tasks, they plan, they set timers, they clean up, and best of all, they get to eat a yummy treat of their own making!  I promise them that I will relinquish all control of the kitchen any time they want to bake (or make dinner, which they sometimes do), as long as they clean it up to my standards afterward.  That is pretty win-win for us all!

8. Join a Summer Rec League!

Summer is the perfect time to let your kids try out new sports.  If your kids are as busy as mine all year between year-round activities and homework, you are probably as frustrated as I am.  I miss the days of sports having a season...everything is a year-long commitment these days!  My son plays travel soccer and my daughter dances and they are both in Scouts.  That's really all I can squeeze in to a week.  They've tried to add in basketball and swimming, but it became too much for them, and to be honest for me!  So, now I use summer as a time for the kids to test out other interests.  Our city has some great short-season teams, with no pressure, just FUN!  Each summer, my kids take a one week tennis camp.  They also have tried out softball, baseball, basketball, and gymnastics.  Summer rec sports are a great way to give kids a taste of what else is out there!

9. Work together on a house project!

This one is a bit selfish, but having kids at home all summer equals free labor!  Since they are living rent-free, I think it's only fair that they help out on projects to keep the house looking nice!  My kids have helped maintain a small veggie garden, spread yards of mulch, they even used some tools and helped us finish our basement!  They are also great at helping with garage sales and other "purging" projects!  

10. Volunteer together!

I'm also a big believer in giving back.  Summer time is a great time to teach kids to be community minded. Whether it's packing lunches to give to the hungry, picking up litter on the way to the park, or donating books to a Little Free Library (by the way one of the BEST things since sliced bread!), there are lots of ways to involve kids in volunteerism.  One thing we do every summer, is go through all our clothes and toys and donate them to Salvation Army or Goodwill or St. Vincent dePaul.  I take my kids with me when we drop them off and we offer to help sort or do some shopping while we are there.  Many churches offer volunteering options, as do scouting troops.  It doesn't even have to be that formal...just send your kids to a neighbor's house and let them do some weeding or dog walking for free!

Whatever you do this summer, I hope you enjoy it with your family!  I always look at summer as a fresh start and a time to do all the things I've been meaning to do all year...especially spending quality time with my kids and taking in some "me" time!


My Family:)

Those who know me well, know that I love teaching, but my family comes first.  I really struggled trying to give 100% to my students and 100% to my family.  I was burning the candle at both ends and making myself miserable trying to keep everyone else happy!  I'm sure all working moms feel this way!  It is just impossible to be everywhere we want to be and do everything we want to do! So, as a way to maintain (or regain?) my sanity, I cut back my working hours.  I know I am lucky that I could afford to do that...that is not an option for many.  But, thanks to Teachers Pay Teachers and a bit of belt-tightening, I've found some balance in my life.  It also helps that with me being part-time, my husband can devote more time to building his career, which has a lot more earning potential than teaching does these days!

But honestly, the main reason I decided to cut back my teaching hours to part-time, is that I wanted to spend more time with my kids.  I want to be PRESENT when I'm with them; not stressed out and thinking about other things. I want to be able to put them on the bus and be there when they get home.  I want them to see me volunteering in their schools, not only to be there for them, but to show them that volunteerism is something we should value in our society.  I want them to be able to participate in after-school activities, and someone has to drive them there!  I tried to do all that AND work full-time, but when I had to go to Target to buy new socks and underwear between dance and soccer practices because I didn't have time to do laundry in the last week, I knew I had a problem!

Raising tweens is no piece of cake...but I have to say I've hit the jackpot with two kind, hard-working, well-mannered tweens!  We are a busy family, to be sure, but I truly love spending time with my kids and husband.  My kids are good people, and that is what I'm most proud of.  I'm hoping that by being around for them more these days, I can keep them on the right track.



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