It’s the hooooolidays. Hello holidays! Cue head scratching to figure out some good things for tweens to do at home!
I work from home which is a holiday blessing and a curse. A blessing because hello kids and a curse because hello kids. My kids are older now and basically self-catering, but when they were younger, I had my work cut out for me.
I couldn’t afford to pop three kids into holiday ‘camp’ (when did a day doing a drawing class become a ‘camp’ and why does it cost $130?), so we either headed out on excursions together or we occupied ourselves at home. It depended on my workload for the day.
Over the years, I gathered lists of loads of things for tweens to do at home to keep them busy. These will hopefully keep your tweens happy at home these holidays. Feeling the joy and loving each other… as siblings always do. ROFL.
Useful mega-list of things for tweens to do at home
Hunt and gather
1. A photography challenge is all kinds of good fun.
2. A simple shades of colour hunt.
3. Make a nature mandala
4. Nature treasure hunt for readers (with poem).
5. The colours of nature hunt.
6. Make a summertime observational walk around the garden.
7. A hunt to photograph all the colours of the rainbow.
8. Take a counting number find walk (mostly suits younger tweens).
9. A riddle scavenger hunt.
10. Hide favourite object in the backyard and get your sibling to search for them. Provide clues only if absolutely necessary.
11. This scientific treasure hunt is just gorgeous.
12. Create a treasure map and X hits the spot!
13. Tally up the number of times you find things on your list.
14. This is a really clever hunt to capture sweet childhood moments on video.
15. A Follow the string treasure hunt is so imaginative.
16. An alphabet treasure hunt is fun for all ages.
17. A noun scavenger hunt.
18. Try a deck of scavenger hunt cards.
19. A pictorial take on a hunt, great for any age.
20. Take it to the next level with a scavenger hunt journal.
21. I only hesitate with this one because of the thought of putting it all away again later.
22. Including an artist’s pallet is a cute take on a colour hunt.
23. Sticking the list to a paper bag makes good sense.
24. Theme your hunt to make it fun – here’s a pirate version.
25. A hunt for textures is a neat spin.
26. I remember finger knitting as a kid.
27. Take old stuff apart.
28. My MIL gave the kids a huge jar full of buttons, so this button tree might be fun.
29. Playing a pen-and-paper game looks good
30. Make a 3D comic book
31. Easy leftover-Christmas paper collaging
32. Making blackboard play good fun
33. Indoor snowball fight (hopefully more like a snowball get-along than a fight)
34. Cut outs are great and Felix the Fox is pretty much irresistible.
35. A whole toilet roll people town would be good (we certainly seem to produce enough tubes!)
36. Nature cut outs and journalling.
37. Make butterflies out of straws and pegs.
38. Curate a post-it note gallery.
39. Weave a friendship bracelet on a loom.
40. Or try making something out of felt.
41. Settle them in with a ‘talking book’.
42. Play with their glitter playdough.
43. Write in their holiday journals.
44. Build a colourful cardboard house.
45. Make some way cute popsicle people.
46. Work on their fairy garden.
47. Build Paris.
48. Do a little cloud gazing.
49. Hang a tag on the grateful tree.
50. Make some milk carton lanterns (we can use the battery-op mini-Christmas lights to light them up!).
51. Create a yarn trail that leads to a few treasures.
52. Build a Minecraft fort
53. Do some mud target practice (using homemade chalk to draw the targets, of course!).
54. When the fireys say it’s okay, we’ll be lighting the bonfire.
55. Make a bird feeder and consult the bird book to identify any visitors.
56. Create a backyard ball run.
57. Go on a photo challenge hunt.
58. Have a go at nature sorting.
59. Make a sun dial that works.
60. Grow something.
61. Play a little ‘mystery sound’.
62. Draw an amazing chalk world.
63. Collect some pebbles to make these owls.
64. Go on a creature hunt.
65. Create a backyard obstacle course.
66. Get into cloud appreciation.
67. Make a shaving cream slip and slide (should have filed this one under ‘messy’!)
68. Try a spot of nature weaving.
69. Go on a backyard camping trip.
70. Make a mud pond (if I dare!)
71. Draw our shadows.
72. Give sheet painting a go.
73. Start a nature journal.
74. Feed the birds.
75. Make a bow and arrow (maybe).
Pick some more things for tweens to do from this list.
76. Make some oobleck
77. Ooze into rubber slime
78. Make some glitter slime
79. Try your hand at bees’ wax wraps
80. Play with shaving cream
81. Make some paper
82. Draw on the driveway with fizzy chalk paint
83. Do the puffy paint thing
84. Try your hand hand at explosive art
85. Paint something other than your nails
86. Use salt for painting… interesting!
87. Glue some beans
88. Rock and roll the paint
89. Make some salt dough beads
90. Bake some monster bread
91. Bake our fave honey jumbles
92. Construct a bouquet of fruity flowers
93. Bake some face biscuits
94. Make Jamie pizzas!
95. Make a worm farm
96. Plant some vegies
97. Have a giant colour fight
98. Build a fort
99. Plant some bulbs
100. Try some tie dye
101. Construct an elaborate indoor mini-golf course.
102. Spend the time making a summer fun jar.
103. Create an elaborate geometric puzzle.
104. Make mini worlds in shoeboxes.
105. Do an indoor shape scavenger hunt (we do love a scavenger hunt!)
6. Write some “old-fashioned” letters.
107. Make scones and stage an afternoon tea party.
108. Choreograph some dance moves.
109. Listen to an audio book.
110. Get stuck into the housework (they love it, no really…)
111. Try some marshmallow and toothpick construction.
112. Make some recycled rubbish people.
113. Put on a puppet show
114. Write a short story and illustrate it.
115. Play with our socks.
116. Set up an indoor obstacle course.
117. Strike a few yoga poses.
118. Try “eye bombing”.
119. Build a fort under the kitchen table.
120. Read some books together.
121. Create a mural for the bedroom wall.
122. Bake some health rusks.
123. Get out the hama beads.
124. Play indoor balloon tennis.
125. Shoot some marshmallow guns (maybe).
What’s are your tweens favourite activities at home?
Images by Annie Spratt
This year, more than any other, gaming has been a constant companion for some kids. The increased time spent online playing games and socialising in digital spaces can be confronting for parents who hate not understanding what their kids are up to. It’s tempting to throw a blanket ban on the whole thing, but a better solution is to take the time to learn what it’s all about. Enter series 2 of the (very) aptly named ABC show Help! My Kid is a Gamer! which has recently dropped onto ABC iview. This show is a must-watch for any parent whose kids are into gaming.
Host Nich Richardson – aka NichBoy – has been around the Aussie gaming traps for over 10 years. He was a host on Good Game (with Bajo and Hex – remember them?) and recently revived Back Pocket on Twitch. Fortunately, he manages to calm down the manic-gamer-presenter schtick for Help! My Kid is a Gamer!, settling into his ‘dad’ role nicely. We asked Nich a few big questions regarding kids’ gaming habits and what parents can do to
get rid of support them.
The appeal of gaming
There’s the obvious stuff that initially gets kids involved in gaming: it’s fun and entertaining. Games are specifically designed to be engaging, hitting the brain’s reward buttons and sending he ‘happy hormone’ dopamine flying around the brain.
But a legal rush isn’t the only reason why kids’ get so heavily into gaming. According to Nich, it’s all about hanging out.
“Really it’s mainly the social aspect.” he says. “When you’re playing a multiplayer game with friends like Among Us or Fortnite you’re chatting and hanging out with friends.”
Gaming is what most kids are into these days, so it’s also what they talk about when they get together IRL. “The games they play are a big part of conversation and bonding,” says Nich. “In the same way as parents might talk about what they watched on Netflix last night, if you play games, then those are the stories you tell.”
“The games they play are a big part of conversation and bonding.”
This is one of the reasons why kids fight so hard to start playing multiplayer games. They feel left out if they’re not part of it. Not just while the game is going on, but also at school and during other activities. Gaming is a big reference point in every aspect of a kid’s social life.
It’s definitely not all bad: 7 reasons why gaming is good for kids (and a few things to look out for)
Controlling the game
This is also what makes gaming such a thorn in a parent’s side. Many parents feel like they are powerless to control their kids when they are online. This has a lot to do with not understanding exactly what the kids are getting up to while they play. Knowing the basics of the game they are into is not only reassuring, it also gives you a better understanding of what you’re asking from your kid when you put rules in place.
“Right in the middle of a big game with friends is a pretty terrible time to try and come and cut them off,” says Nich. “It would be like you being in the middle of a phone conversation with a friend and your kid comes in and says ‘right, you’ve talked enough, get off the phone!'”
A better strategy is to give your kids fair warning about when you expect them to finish up their game play. Give them a ten, then five minute countdown, if necessary, “Then it’s up to them to time manage themselves when it comes to joining one last multiplayer game,” says Nich.
This will help: How to set boundaries on Fortnite and other video games
Know the players
Of course, online video gaming is hard to control in other ways, too. It can feel confronting when your kid wants to play multiplayer games online. Getting into group gaming should come with a list of rules and warnings.
“[The] biggest one is who are they playing with?” says Nich. “Are they playing with people they know or strangers? Are the people they know people you trust?”
If your kid is playing multiplayer games, they are most likely going to be playing with strangers at some point.
Make no mistake, though, if your kid is playing multiplayer games, they are most likely going to be playing with strangers at some point. “That’s just how it works,” says Nich.
However, as Nich points out, there’s a big difference between simply being on the same team as a bunch of people you don’t know and joining their Discord servers to talk to people you don’t know and being contacted directly by them. Nich’s advice is to check what game your child is playing and google the safety features. The eSafety Commisson is often a good place to start – here’s their overview of Among Us and Fortnite.
You can also use the parental controls on your game console to limit access or block people or message requests.
Read this too: Managing screen time is about more than setting limits
When your kid is really into gaming
Some kids get completely enmeshed in gaming, such that it becomes their whole life. This isn’t ideal, but there is a possible career path for the super gamers. Be warned though, it’s a rocky path.
“Some kids can, most kids can’t,” says Nich, who himself as made a career from his love of gaming. “The sheer amount of video game channels, streamers and creators out there means you need to be one in a million to make a living from producing content. Additionally, it’s a grind that is unrealistic for most people – the amount of time you need to sink into building an audience is absurd.”
It can be fun for uber-gamers to create the content anyway. “Just because they might not become the next Ninja doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it just for fun,” agrees Nich. Ninja – aka Richard Tyler Blevins – has 24.2 million YouTube subscribers and makes US$ 500,000 a month live streaming his games… nice work, if you can get it.
To be competitive in either gaming or esports, Nich estimates your kid would need to be practising 8-10 hours a day. Which is “not the most realistic option”, according to Nich and “never, ever going to happen” according to most parents.
“The best way for kids to make money from games is to head into the industry,” says Nich. “If they love gaming, encourage them to look into coding, software development, producing, writing, etc. These are all skills that you need to work in the games industry as a developer, and they’re also skills that transfer to many other fields should gaming not turn out to be the golden ticket they hope it is!”
Thanks Nich, that’s sound advice from one very cool dude. If your kid is into gaming, Help! My Kid is a Gamer! is definitely worth a watch on ABC iview. Did we mention NIch is also quite easy on the eye? LOL.
Would you consider your kid to be ‘a gamer’? Does it bother you?
Nich Richardson images courtesy of ABC ME; Dark room teen by Mark Cruz; Boy playing Fortnite by Alex Haney
The teenage years see many dramatic changes our kids’ health and development. In 2020, these dramatic changes have been compounded by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research has shown that young people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and are experiencing increased stress and anxiety. It’s important that parents are equipped to help teens take care of their health, especially through this challenging period.
Every parent will be aware of how difficult it is to support teens to make beneficial changes. It feels like they rebel against us out of sheer spite – if we tell them vegetables are good for them, they will most likely never touch a carrot again. At least, not until they are 25 and have woken up to themselves.
Trying to get a teen who doesn’t like exercising to exercise, or one who never talks to open up… well, we’ve got our work cut out for us.
Three golden rules
Remember the three golden rules for getting teens to do absolutely everything:
1. Make it about their friends
If you can tie their mates to their wellbeing, you’ll have more chance of success. This could be offering to be the car pool driver for them all to go the local pool or a gym session; providing a healthy fruit and veggie platter when they are all hanging out at your place; or even just mentioning that so-and-so is looking good after starting a new gym program, etc.
2. Ask, don’t tell
Making a ‘suggestion’, not ‘telling them what to do’ is our best strategy for gently nudging our teens in the direction we want them to head. It helps if you can offer them two healthy choices and then the decision is theirs.
3. Bin the nags
It can be so easy to fall into a pattern of nagging. All our teens hear when we do this is that we find fault in everything they do. Instead, seek out the times when they are doing something well and hit the praise button as hard as you can. “Well done for walking to school this morning, did you feel good?”; “Thanks heaps for taking the dog out, I really appreciate it”; “I noticed you picked up your towel this morning and I’m really grateful,” etc.
To further help us out, the YMCA have created Virtual Y. It’s a completely free online wellbeing hub aimed at supporting kids at home. The team have a few areas where they can help teens take care of their physical and mental health.
While we know that Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Eating Pyramid is a great place to start for good nutrition, getting our kids on board isn’t easy. Good nutrition in the teen years if vital for physical and mental health, but it’s hard to get kids to understand the benefits.
We can relay info to our kids until we are blue in the face, but they are unlikely to change their Gatorade-guzzling ways. Enter Virtual Y, which shares important nutrition information in a non-confrontational way. There’s a nutrition coach available to answer any of their food and nutrition questions. They also regularly update the site with new and delicious recipes that will appeal to even the fussiest teen.
Latest recipes include asparagus fries, banana and blueberry bread, and Japanese vegetable pancakes – all straight-forward enough for even brand new cooks to make themselves.
Keep ’em moving
It’s more important than ever for teens to get their bodies moving and stay physically active. Not only is exercise vital to health, growth and development, it also has emotional and intellectual benefits. Physical activity can help to improve mood, sleep patterns, mental health and even concentration.
Virtual Y includes a range of online fitness classes to help teens get into and reap the benefits of movement and routine. From Pilates, yoga and dance, to HIIT, strength and cardio training – there’s bound to be a class that appeals. It’s all completely free to access online – so they don’t even need to leave the house.
If the Virtual Y program doesn’t appeal to your teen, there are plenty of free workouts, yoga and pilates channels via YouTube. Just make sure the instructors are qualified! We like Yoga with Adriene, The Balanced Life for Pilates, AthleanX for strength training and Joe Wicks for HIIT-style workouts.
The key to keeping teens active is to help them get into a good routine. Exercise should become a habit, like brushing their teeth (hopefully teeth brushing is a habit by now!) or checking their Insta.
Set up a schedule for getting them moving, and work with your teen to add as much variety in there as possible. They might walk to and from school each day, do a Virtual Y yoga class before school on Tuesdays, a HIIT class before dinner on Thursdays and go for a long bushwalk, skate or surf on the weekends.
Mental health is just as important
Mental health becomes very important during the teen years, as teenagers spend more time with friends. They begin experiencing new pressures and stressors, and often turn to social media to stay connected.
Mental health can be impacted by factors including diet and exercise (see above), sleep patterns, or drug and alcohol use. Teens are also experiencing a flurry of hormonal changes, which can then affect their mental health (and our own!!). Many teens are in quiet crisis during these turbulent years, so stay alert for changes in behaviour and be ready to seek help if necessary. There’s a list of contacts that can help your teen here.
Though it can sometimes feel hard when our kids push us away, it’s important to stay connected in order to support their mental health. Virtual Y suggests that parents can do this by taking an active interest in their teens’ lives. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and show plenty of love and affection. Spending quality time with them away from everyday distractions will help get them to open up.
50+of the best movies to watch with your teens
11 family games teens will be into too
100 fun, quirky, important ways to bond with your teen
What’s your top tip to help teens take care of their health?
This post was not sponsored by Virtual Y – we just wanted to share their excellent free program.
Feature image by Madison Compton; beach by Vince Fleming; salad by Brooke Lark; skate by Priscilla Du Preez
Emma Rowe of Frog Goose and Bear party fame is our resident crafty minx. She makes all kinds of fabulous stuff for birthdays and Christmas. Including reinbeer.
Reinbeer! We die!
It’s a pretty simple concept. You stick pipe cleaner antlers, a little red pom pom and googly eyes on your choice of beer bottle. Sometimes the most effective craft moments are actually the easiest. Dead simple, as it happens. Creativity is so often an IDEA more than a commitment. And, honestly, no one can say they’re not crafty when faced with something as simple as this.
Total reinbeer awesomeness
What you need
- Hot glue gun
- Brown pipe cleaners
- Googly eyes
What you do
Take one pipe cleaner and wrap it around the lid of the bottle to secure. Cut a second pipe cleaner in half and twist onto first pipe cleaner to make antlers.
Glue a nose and eyes onto the neck of the bottle.
If you grab a six-pack of beer, you can add a cute printable label to the box for added Christmas cheer. You can find a free label here. OR you could head here and customise your own.
Hello reinbeer and thank you for being so cute for so little effort! Could it really be that easy? It could. Can it really be this cute? It is!
Try making Emma’s crackers too:
Expressing gratitude at Christmas
Apparently reindeer beer is something that’s been doing the rounds on Pinterest for a while. We couldn’t trace the exact moment someone first came up with this most excellent concept, but we are grateful to them.
We are also especially grateful to Emma. Firstly, for being wonderful and generous and kind and just so ridiculously clever, always. And secondly for introducing us to the glory that is reinbeer.
We’re off to find the hot glue gun and make someone’s day…
Know someone who deserves a reinbeer this Christmas?
We recently spoke to Eddie Woo (of WooTube and Teenage Boss infamy) to get his thoughts on what makes a good teacher. This question was sparked by our own frustration at the enormous differences between classroom teaching styles and teachers ability to engage a student. Given Eddie’s popularity, we figured his approach was worth listening to.
“Great maths teachers must marry two key skills,” explains Eddie. “First, they have to know their individual students well so that they can provide tailored support and know how to engage them with the subject. A typical high school teacher like me will have about 150 students in their various classes during an average year, and so there is enormous diversity in their learning needs and backgrounds!
“But second, they also have to a deep knowledge of the curriculum. This enables them to know what concepts to emphasise, how to anticipate common student errors and what explanations or experiences are most helpful to develop understanding.”
You can read more of Eddie’s insightful thoughts on kids learning maths here.
Given the success of his massive YouTube channel (over 1 million subscribers and counting), it’s really interesting that Eddie puts the personal relationship with his students first and foremost. It’s a reminder that our kids can be ‘tutored’ by others – including tutorials on YouTube and other places – but the relationship they have with their classroom teacher is critical.
We asked around to find out from both students, parents and teachers what makes a good teacher. Some of their answers might surprise you!
What makes a good teacher?
“A good teacher is a fun teacher. They make lessons entertaining and you don’t get bored and switch off.” – Jayson, 12, Year 7
“My favourite teacher so far was Miss Wiseman because she was caring and kind.” – Anthony, 11, year 5
“I like any teacher that takes the time to get to know me and adapts lessons to suit the whole classroom, not just the smarter kids.” – Claire, 16, Year 10
“A good teacher listens and doesn’t just stand up at the front of the classroom dictating to bored kids. They get feedback and are flexible.” – Rayaan, 14, Year 8
“The best teachers are the ones who can relate the subject matter to real life. The real life of a teen, I mean. What’s going on for us right now.” – Jade, 17, Year 12
“The teachers I like best are the ones that try to relate to the class, not just do their own thing. It’s much more interesting when they get to know you.” – Matt, Year 10
“I think what makes a good teacher is one with plenty of experience dealing with lots of different kinds of students. Teaching to every learning style.” – Mrs C, English and Drama
“Good teachers can be many kinds of teachers – strict, more easy going, current or old-school. The defining characteristic is that they take the time to get to know their students and make the classroom a conversation, rather than a lecture.” – Ms W, Maths and PE
“I like to think I’m a great teacher because I listen to my students and work really hard to create lessons that will engage them.” – Mr P, Maths
“I think it’s easier to define a bad teacher as opposed to a good one. That’s because there are plenty of ways to teach a classroom of students well, but only one way to disengage them and that’s to never take the time to get to know them.” – Mrs T, Science
“Good teachers adapt learning plans to suit individuals as much as possible. Their door is always open and they personally get to know the kids as well.” – Miss R, English and Drama
“A good teacher is one that puts in every effort to explain the curriculum in a way the kids can understand and relate to.” – Mr R, HSIE
“Having a thorough understanding of the curriculum so you can adapt it to suit what your students are into. I think learning styles are also important and look to give varying examples so different learners can grasp onto something each time.” – Mrs R, History and Geography
“A good teacher is one let’s me know if my child is falling behind!” – Leonie, mum of kids aged 7, 11 and 13
“Being caring. At the end of the day, kids will learn regardless of the teaching skills. But, not being caring makes a crappy teacher.” – Kylie, kids aged 8 and 10
“The teacher one of my children had in year 5 took him from being a kid who hated school to a kid who skipped in each day. He’s never forgotten her.” – Sarah, mum of daughter 14 and son 16
“Remembering that not all kids learn the same way! Being able to adjust to students and think outside the box to help them.” – Tracy, sons aged 11 and 16
“Empathy. Understanding that everyone learns and responds differently. Willingness to sometimes divert off the set learning path and see ‘where the lesson/kids take you’. Consistency. And most of all a passion for the job.” – Sarah, mum of daughters 12 and 16
“Recognising kids’ different motivations.” – Emily, mum of son 7 and daughter 10
“They approach learning holistically. They see the whole child and not just a test score. They hard to give their students the tools they need to be the best versions of themselves. Education is approached mindfully and resilience is a huge factor in their learning.” – Tegan, mum of son, 11
“Being adaptable, patient, caring and kind. Knowing that not every day will be the same and what my children are okay with one day they might struggle with the next.” – Cathy, mum of kids 17, 9, 8 and 5, two with ASD
“Seeing each child as an individual and taking some time to understand them and their interests – which can be very different from their siblings.” – Rebecca, mum to kids aged 12, 15 and 16
Kids know a fake, so being genuine with their interactions, remembering things about them and the way they learn. Any teacher can teach them things if they don’t feel a connection or can’t relate that knowledge to real-life then they haven’t reached that child. Teachers need to be adaptable and go with the flow at times, especially with remote learning. If something isn’t working, change it up and try a different way.” – Cathie, kids aged 14, 13 and 7
Love the students
There you have it, and there’s a very strong common thread. As Eddie Woo recognises, a good teacher is one who gets to know their students. They take time to understand what would be most engaging to them and adapt their lessons to suit. A good teacher is also flexible and brings parents into the learning when necessary.
I think we all recognise a “good teacher” simply by the fact that they love their job and, most of all, they love kids. Something no one mentioned was knowledge or passion for the subject matter. I think some teachers make the mistake of going into teaching because they love maths or science or PE, rather than that they love teaching. It definitely shows when the are that kind of teacher. A love of the students and the process of educating is top priority when it comes to someone being a great teacher.
What do you think makes a good teacher?
Feature image by Zhu Peng; Disengaged student by Pixabay; happy students by Iqwan Alif