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How To Get Tweens Through Summer Break

National Louis University Expert Suggests Fun Activities that will Engage 10 to 14-Year-Olds, Who Are Changing Developmentally



If you're the parent or caregiver of young adolescents, ages 10-14, and in grades 5-8, you face the challenge of keeping them interested, having fun and learning this summer while knowing that their interests are changing (i.e. homemade playdough no longer provides hours of amusement). Virginia Jagla, Ph.D., chair of the Middle Grades Education program at National Louis University’s (NLU) National College of Education, offered 17 tips for parents and caregivers to keep tweens and young teens happy.


Jagla advised checking in with your young adolescents about their interests. “The most important first step is to ask young adolescents what activities they’d like to do,” said Jagla, who earlier in her career also taught middle-grade students and now instructs teacher candidates at NLU who are pursuing their education degree. “These young people’s tastes likely are changing, and they value the opportunity to contribute their opinions and preferences.”


She says that many kids within this age group still want to spend time with their parents. “Many parents think that their young adolescents need more independence, and they do,” said Jagla. “However, they still want a strong adult presence in their lives, so taking a class together is a good option.”


Jagla also noted that young adolescents are experiencing major physical, intellectual, emotional and social developmental changes and adults should be mindful of these shifts. For example, she said that this age group is more conscious of their bodies, so activities that include wearing less clothing, like swimming, might make some young adolescents uncomfortable. Also, as adolescents are becoming more sensitive about their social groups, let them invite a friend to come along on family outings.


With these guidelines in mind, the following are some suggested fun summer activities for parents and caregivers to explore with young adolescents:

  • Organize a book group, letting the young adolescent select the book, and invite friends to discuss it. Make the group fun and include snacks, music and games after the discussion.
  • Identify an organization of interest to the young adolescent, and inquire about volunteer opportunities for him/her.
  • Block out one day each week to walk and/or run together at a designated time. Leave cell phones and other distractions behind and focus on hearing what’s on your child’s mind.
  • Explore some of the smaller museums in your area. For example, Chicago offers the National Museum of Mexican Art, DuSable Museum of African American History, and and the Money Museum, where you can hold a briefcase stuffed with $1 million. Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. In Tampa, there’s La Casita House Museum. Be sure to have lunch, and go for ice cream.
  • Guide kids on how to earn money during the summer doing age-appropriate tasks like lawn mowing, babysitting, pet walking, etc. Research apps, such as Evernote and Tiny Invoice, that support their entrepreneurial spirit and help them with scheduling, invoicing, etc.
  • Find a craft project that they can pick up during the inevitable “I’m bored” moments of the summer months
  • Suggest age-appropriate science experiments. Many cool experiments, like the bottled tornado,  require supplies that are found in most kitchen cabinets.
  • Explore the many activities that local park districts offer -- from sports camps to pool passes to STEAM courses.
  • Learn about and tour the different neighborhoods in your city. For example, Chicago has Pilsen, Little Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, etc. Find time to visit the neighborhoods, taste the cuisine and experience the different cultures
  • Create a list of must-see movies and watch them on rainy days
  • Develop a menu and put the young adolescent in charge of cooking a meal. For parents who would like to be more involved, facilitate a cooking class with your child and some of his/her friends.
  • Swim. For any young adolescents who don’t know how to swim yet, it’s an important life skill -- and never too late to learn. Check the YMCA or your park district.
  • Visit your local library or its website and learn about the different summer programs, such as classes that they offer. Some offer reading challenges with prizes.
  • Consult a local newspaper website to check out the free concerts in your area. Also, take a music or theater class or explore a different genre of music.
  • Don’t forget board games! Parents might want to update their selection or play some old favorites from their children’s younger days
  • Plant a garden with favorite fruits and vegetables. Emphasize that the young adolescent is in charge of caring for it, and watch it grow.
  • Learn more about family. Whether it’s a grandparent, aunt or cousin, interview them about their younger days. The young adolescent can create an edited video of the interview, write it into a story, etc. Many libraries offer for free.

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