21 fantastic books for older girls (picks by bestselling author AL Tait)

21 fantastic books for older girls (picks by bestselling author AL Tait)

AL Tait recently shared her top three tips to get girls reading books again. Go check them out because we’re certain something there will spark your own girl to pick up a book again. It can’t all be Tik Tok and Insta 24/7, can it? It’s time to halt the scrolling and the trolling and look for books older girls will like.

There are so many reasons why books are important for kids. Putting down the screens for a while is just one of them. For that reason, we asked AL Tait to recommend a list of books older girls will find engaging and fun. The kind of books a girl can get lost in.

For our older girls, it can be hard to find a nice balance between books that challenge them, suit their lifestyle and preferences and don’t feel too hard or daunting to read. We reckon AL’s list below will tick all those boxes.  Happy reading, girls!

21 books for older (age 10+)

These books are recommended by the Your Kid’s Next Read community or other experts. There’s a mix here of historical, contemporary, genre and age groups, but they’re all books that will draw girls in and hold their interest. Click each title to read more about the book or to buy it on Booktopia.

Ages 10+

When This Bell Rings by Allison Rushby

 

When This Bell Rings by Allison Rushby

In London’s Belgravia, Tamsin lives next door to Edie St Clair, famous author of the ‘London of the Bells’ series of graphic novels. With the series’ tenth and final novel overdue, Tamsin offers her idol help and discovers that Edie can literally draw herself into her stories. When Edie goes missing, Tamsin draws herself into the novel and lands in a world of unexpected danger. There, Tamsin discovers that Edie needs her more than she could have realised – only she has the power to write the perfect ending to this story. But the perfect ending will come at a great cost to all.

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon

The Case Of The Missing Marquess: Enola Holmes #1 by Nancy Springer

The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke

The Unadoptables - a great book for older girls

In all the years that Elinora Gassbeek has been matron of the Little Tulip Orphanage, not once have the Rules for Baby Abandonment been broken. Until the autumn of 1880, when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances: one in a tin toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack, and finally, one in a coffin-shaped basket.

Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem and Milou, and although Gassbeek might think they’re ‘unadoptable’, they know their individuality is what makes them so special – and so determined to stay together. Twelve years on the children still have each other – until a fateful night threatens to tear them apart. The gang decide to make a daring escape, beginnning their adventure with only a scrap of a clue to guide them to their mysterious new home . . .

The Royal Ranger (series) by John Flanagan

Across The Risen Sea by Bren Macdibble

Sick Bay by Nova Weetman

Ages 12+

The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery) by A. L. Tait

The Fire Star by AL Tait

A maid with a plan.
A squire with a secret.
A missing jewel.
A kingdom in turmoil.

Maven and Reeve have three days to solve the mystery of the Fire Star. If they don’t, they’ll lose everything. This could be a complete disaster . . . or the beginning of a friendship.

Click here for full review.

The Book of Chance by Sue Whiting

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

Dragon Pearl is one of our highly recommended books for older girls

Rick Riordan Presents Yoon Ha Lee’s space opera about thirteen-year-old Min, who comes from a long line of fox spirits. But you’d never know it by looking at her. To keep the family safe, Min’s mother insists that none of them use any fox-magic, such as Charm or shape-shifting. They must appear human at all times.

Min feels hemmed in by the household rules and resents the endless chores, the cousins who crowd her, and the aunties who judge her. She would like nothing more than to escape Jinju, her neglected, dust-ridden, and impoverished planet. She’s counting the days until she can follow her older brother, Jun, into the Space Forces and see more of the Thousand Worlds.

When word arrives that Jun is suspected of leaving his post to go in search of the Dragon Pearl, Min knows that something is wrong. Jun would never desert his battle cruiser, even for a mystical object rumored to have tremendous power. She decides to run away to find him and clear his name…

The Jane Doe Chronicles (series) by Jeremy Lachlan

Peta Lyre’s Rating Normal by Anna Whateley

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Ages 14+

When The Ground Is Hard by Malla Nunn

When the ground is hard

Adele loves being one of the popular girls at Keziah Christian Academy. She knows the upcoming semester at school will be great with her best friend Delia at her side. Then Delia dumps her for a new girl with more money, and Adele is forced to share a room with Lottie, the school pariah, who doesn’t pray and defies teachers’ orders.

As they share a copy of Jane Eyre, Lottie’s gruff exterior and honesty grow on Adele, and together they take on bullies and protect each other from the vindictive and prejudiced teachers. When a boy goes missing on campus, Adele and Lottie must work together to solve the mystery, in the process learn the true meaning of friendship.

Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller

Aurora Cycle (series) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Deep Water by Sarah Epstein

None Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney

You Were Made For Me by Jenna Guillame

You were made for me

Katie didn’t mean to create a boy. A boy like a long-lost Hemsworth brother: six-foot tall with floppy hair and eyes like the sky on a clear summer’s day; whose lips taste like cookie dough and whose skin smells like springtime.

A boy who is completely devoted to Katie. He was meant to be perfect. But he was never meant to exist.

Stars Like Us by Frances Chapman

Everless (series) by Sara Holland

Everless

Packed with danger, temptation and desire – a perfect read for fans of The Red Queen. In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything – even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.

Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever … and possibly the future of time itself.

What books for older girls would you recommend?

A.L. Tait is the author of three epic and engaging series for readers aged 10-14, including The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and The Maven & Reeve Mysteries. Find out more at allisontait.com.

Read AL Tait's latest book - The Fire Star

Feature image by Daria Shevtsova; Cover images via publishers

The best advice my mother ever gave me

The best advice my mother ever gave me

Happy mother’s day, mums! I’m celebrating my 16th MD this year. My first was the day after my son was born, way back in 2004. I was recovering from a 40-hour labour and Max was already showing signs of being a “non-sleeper” (as the midwives so mildly put it). To say I was overwhelmed and in over my head is an understatement. That feeling has basically never left me.

Which reminds me of the best advice my mother ever gave me. It came six weeks later after Max was born. Mum had sent me to bed just after midnight, telling me she’d wake me when Max needed a feed. She then sat up through the night, patting Max back to sleep for as long as she could to give me the first solid five hours of sleep I had had since his birth. When I stumbled into the lounge as the sun was rising, protesting that she didn’t have to do that, she simply said, “You take care of my baby, and I’ll take care of mine.”

I’ve been trying to do right by my mum by taking care of her baby ever since. It’s definitely made it easier for me to take care of my own.


Here’s how: The self-care parents really need (and it’s not a holiday) (although that would be nice)


To celebrate the wisdom and wonder that is the mum, we asked a bunch of wonderful women to tell us the best piece of advice their mums had passed on. We can think of no finer way to celebrate mothers than to pass on their wisdom and their love.

The best advice my mother ever gave me

On relationships

“My mum told me to marry a kind man, and she was exactly right. Kind men make wonderful fathers.” – Amy, 37, mum of two boys, 7 and 11.

“Mum warned me that love wasn’t enough, you have to like someone more. She was right, I divorced my first husband and I like my second much better.” – Rachael, 42, mum of girl, 14 and boy, 4 and step-mum to two girls, 16 and 13.

“Don’t ever do for your husband or children what they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves.” – Ade, 39, mum of three boys, 11, 9 and 5.

“My mum told me to always sleep naked and ‘that stuff’ would take care of itself. It was as cringe-worthy a moment as it sounds, but I reckon she might be right.” – Lisa, mum of two daughters, 18 and 13, and three sons, 16,15 and 9.

Weird advice from my mother

“Mum embarrassed me endlessly at my wedding by getting drunk and slurring ‘Never stop dating your husband‘ right in my ear, but really loudly so everyone could hear, at least 25 times. It’s wise advice that I remember every day. The memory of her wine breath on my ear still makes me shudder a little bit, though. Which seems fitting.” – Jodie, mum of sons, 9 and 6.

“Your husband will be around long after your kids have left if you look after him right.” – Baydan, 48, mum of two sons, 19 and 16.

“Give a relationship everything you’ve got, except your independence.” – Robyn, mum of three step-daughters, 17, 14, 10.

On life

Nie wywołuj wilka z lasu‘, which is an old Polish saying that means ‘never call a wolf out of the woods‘. In other words, don’t make life harder for yourself than it already is.” – Lena, 40, mother to daughter, 14 and son, 12.

“That old saying, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ was ingrained in my brain by my mother since birth. I reckon its saved my sanity many times. Just get the small jobs done and out of your head!” – Nicole, 46, mum to daughter

The best advice my mother ever gave me

“The best advice my mother ever gave me was, ‘With every kick, you get a boost.’ I had no idea what she was talking about for many years, but now I understand that you learn something important from every setback.” – Lucy, 44, single mum to son, 14.

“The smallest steps still get you to the finish line. She’s never been a rusher, my mum.” – Amy, 37, mum of two boys, 7 and 11.


Try this: 10 ways to make today a good day


 

Focus on the ‘what next‘, not the ‘what if’. My mum passed on when my kids were small and not a day goes by when I don’t miss her big time. It’s hard not to think ‘what if’, but I try to take her advice.” – Danni, 33, mum to son, 11 and daughter, 8 and step-mum to daughter, 8.

“Instead of asking ‘why?’ all the time, try asking ‘why not?’– Ann, mum of four, 16, 15, 11 and 9.

Don’t lie to anyone, especially not yourself.” – Rebecca, 44, mum of four

“An early night is always a good idea.” – Sally, mum of three, 15, 14, 11.

On parenting

“Every child is unique, which means you need to be four different parents.” – Rebecca, 44, mum of four

“The best advice my mother ever gave me was, ‘Allow your kids their freedom as soon as they feel ready, not when you do.'” – Anna-Maria, 49, mum of daughter, 17.

“Stop teaching and just watch instead.” – Delphine, 39, mum of three boys, 11, 9 and 4.

The best parenting advice my mother gave me

“Widen your circle as big as you can – your friends, your routine, your world. It takes many different perspectives to raise a whole child.” – Abby, 36, mum of two sons, 9 and 8.

More doing, less thinking.” – Raelene, 38, mum of daughter, 17 and son, 11.

“Try saying, “I don’t know, what do you think?” to your kids more often.” – Lisa, mum of two daughters, 18 and 13, and three sons, 16, 15 and 9.

“When my eldest started school, Mum turned to me and said, ‘The golden rule of parenting bigger kids is to praise often, question regularly and criticise never.‘ Which is all well and good, but I remember being criticised all the time, so maybe it’s something she came up with later? LOL.” – Annabella, 44, mum of daugthers, 16, 13, 10.

“You can always start again in the morning.” – Jodi, 31, mum of sons 10 and 8.

What’s the best advice your mother ever gave you?

Feature image by Shari Sirotnak; bed by Alexandra Gorn; sewing and plants by Kelly Sikkema

Self-isolation at home when home doesn’t feel safe

Self-isolation at home when home doesn’t feel safe

“I’m reading all the posts about social distancing and isolating with our ‘happy’ families. But what if the family is not so happy?” asks one of our Mumlyfe readers. What if you are forced into self-isolation at home when home doesn’t feel safe?

“Just going through a really tough time and this bloody virus situation is not helping,” she writes. “What if you really, now more than ever, need to offload a couple of kids to the grandparents in order to shield them from some conflict going on in the home? 

“Or, temporarily boot a teenager out to try and create some space between him and a parent because their relationship has broken down so badly, they can barely be in the same room? 

“Or a relationship really needs a break before any more damage is done?”

This a really difficult one to tackle. As Tolstoy so succinctly put it in Anna Karenina,”Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” 

Support is there

Self-isolation when home does not feel like a haven is a terrifying prospect. Trust your instincts and leave if you need to leave. You can find support here:

For general family support, including single and co-parenting, contact Relationships Australia.

Families in conflict

Conflict within a family can be between parents, between parents and children, or between siblings. When there is trouble at home – whatever form it may take – home does not feel like a safe place to be ‘trapped’ together due to self-quarantine requirements.

“If your family is in conflict and you are self-isolated then it is safe to assume that without a clear plan in place, there is a risk that the conflict within the family will increase and the intensity of emotions associated with the conflict will escalate,” says Donna Cameron, founder and principal psychologist at The Couch

In a self-isolation situation, the ‘flight’ option in our natural ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response is taken away from a person. Which leaves the fight response a more likely option, even in people who are not usually prone to fighting. Without the option of leaving, the fight response may switch on as the person tries to hold their ground.

Situations can escalate quickly

A person who is prone to resorting to the fight response in general situations may escalate their response. So, even if up until now your partner (or child’s) ‘fight’ response has been verbal, do not assume that it will continue to be the case. “The person will do anything to protect themselves and their opinion,” warns Donna. “This can include screaming, hitting and attacking.”c

It’s extremely important in self-isolation to avoid all situations that could activate the fight or flight response

“It’s extremely important in self-isolation to avoid all situations that could activate the fight or flight response,” says Donna. “Do not take this opportunity while your partner is in the house with you to discuss topics that in the past have created conflict, or that you know will upset the other.”

Instead, “Validate that this self-isolation period is and will be difficult for everyone involved.” While it seems unfair to continue to put the onus of peace keeping on the person at risk, self-isolation is not the time to make changes.

When home isn't safe for self-isolation

Co-parenting frustration

Co-parenting parents will feel particularly frustrated if required to self-isolate.

We need to put down the boxing gloves and consider the best option for the children

“One of them is going to miss time with their children and this often is a topic of conflict,”” says Donna. “When we are trying to prevent the spread of a virus for the health and safety of our children and ourselves, we need to put down the boxing gloves and consider the best option for the children of co-parenting families.”

Donna recommends having the children self-isolate with the parent they generally spend more time with. “This is not to say the other parent isn’t capable,” reminds Donna. “This is just understanding that our young children need to be with their main attachment parent in time of uncertainty and stress to keep them as relaxed and calm as they can be.”

Family lawyer Rebecca Bunney recommends that parents put their children’s safety first. “Do your very best to put all of your past hurt and concerns about your former partner to one side,” she  told ABC News.  “Really just focus on where is the best place for your children to be to have their movements limited as much as possible.”

Older children should choose if possible

Older children should be given the option of which parent they want to spend the time with, believes Donna. “This make them feel like they have some control in a situation that is out of their control.”

For the parent that misses out on physical contact with the kids during self-isolation, it’s time to get creative to keep in contact. Make use of Skype and Facetime and regular texts to keep in daily contact. Watch a movie together over Zoom. Help the kids with their homework over Skype. Hang out together over Facetime, just going about your regular daily activities.

To avoid future conflict after self-isolation is over, it’s worthwhile considering offering ‘make up’ time to the parent who misses out on being with the children. “The advice to clients would be make sure the other parent is not missing out on time and they get make-up time,” Rebecca told ABC News. “So if they miss two nights this week then say to them: ‘It is a credit, you will get to spend that time with them once this self-isolation is over.’

“Just remember this is not anybody’s fault, so don’t take your frustration an anger out on the other parent or the children,” says Donna.  

Phone a friend for support during self-isolation

Steps to minimise conflict in the home

Have crisis numbers ready next to the phone for if you need them

  • Have crisis numbers ready next to the phone for if you need them:
    • Call 000 in an emergency
    • Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you need to talk to someone
    • Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 for the children
  • Consider finding a place other than home to self-isolate, where possible – a friend or other family member might be able to help
  • Set up separate areas of the house for everyone to have their own space
  • Keep things on an even keel – now is not the time to make changes, increase expectations or rehash old conflicts
  • Check your own behaviour – try to remain calm and in control during testing situations, rise above it
  • Practise meditation – whether it’s just a few deep breaths to help calm your brain, or being guided through a sequence via an app like Smiling Mind, meditation can help you be gentle with yourself and others during these troubled times
  • Stick to a routine that is as close to your regular routine as possible (ie. work hours, school hours, waking and sleeping times, lunch times, etc)
  • Use a ‘time out’ strategy – have some alone time in the bedroom, bathroom, backyard, wherever you can go to calm down
  • Exercise to release frustration, anger and hurt – depending on your self-isolation mandate, you may still be okay to walk or run around your neighbourhood
  • Phone a friend for a chat – a text just won’t cut it during this time of isolation, we need to feel heard
  • Contact your mental health professional to arrange a Zoom/Skype session
  • Call counselling services like BeyondBlue, Headspace, NAACHO and Relationships Australia when you need someone to talk to

Remember, reach out to friends and family so you don’t feel so alone. They will want to know you are safe and will do their best to help you through this challenging time. 


If you, or someone you know, are in crisis and urgently need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. If you are in immediate danger, call 000 right now.

Feature image by Claudia Wolff; boy by Christian Erfurt; phone by Dustin Belt  

Simple choc chip slice – ready in a jiffy

Simple choc chip slice – ready in a jiffy

This simple choc chip slice recipe is for the days when you want an afternoon snack, but you really couldn’t be bothered. That’s not to say it’s not amazingly yummy and moreish, because it is. What it mainly is, is fast.

You will memorise the recipe within about two goes of making it. Then it will just be a matter of thinking, “I really feel like a simple choc chip slice for afternoon tea” and then you’ll just make it.

Keep all of the ingredients on hand, ready to go.

You can take out the choc chips and add in pepitas or sunflower seeds to make this a healthier snack, but I think it’s just fine the way it is. It’s super-yummy with raisins instead of choc chips, too. It’s great for lunchboxes, either way.

You can make this simple choc chip slice a little less simple, but ultimately more indulgent, but substituting crumbled and smashed dark chocolate for the choc chip bits. Just put your chocolate block into a ziplock bag (or wrap in a clean tea towel for a more sustainable approach) and smash away with your meat hammer. Very therapeutic and it adds to the little-bit melty,  little-bit chunky chocolate,  lotta-bit smashingly good appeal of the slice.

Enjoy this one this afternoon with a cuppa.


Another good slice: Healthy Weetbix slice


 

Simple choc chip slice

Simple choc chip slice - easy to make, quick to bake
 
Makes 12 slices
Takes 10 minutes
Bakes 30 minutes
 
• 150 g butter, room temperature
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 2 free-range eggs
• ¾ cup wholemeal plain flour 
• ½ cup wholemeal self-raising flour
• 1 packet dark choc bits

Preheat oven to 180ºC and line a 16×16 cm slice pan with baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time and beat until creamy.

Sift both flours into a large bowl, add the choc bits and mix until combined. Fold this flour mix into the butter mix until just combined.

Spoon into the pan and smooth with the back of a metal spoon.

Bake for around 30 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean and slice is gently golden on top.

50 cheap or free ways to have fun with friends

50 cheap or free ways to have fun with friends

We love it when our kids want to hang out and be social. We don’t love it when they have to spend ridiculous amounts of money to have fun with friends. Every now and then it’s great to go to a water park, shopping, laser tag, eating fast food or seeing a movie, but not every weekend. Not when we’re paying!

It’s also super-annoying when in response to us asking our kids to cut back on the expensive stuff, they end up hanging out texting each other. Isn’t the whole point of urging them to be social to get them off the darn screens?

Here’s a big list of things kids can do to have fun with their friends without it costing much at all and (mostly) without their phones getting involved. 

So, share this list with your kids, then don’t hesitate to say yes when they want to hang out with friends. In fact, say yes as often as you can.

50 awesome ways to have fun with friends

1. Kick a ball at the park

Let’s start with the basics. Outside ball games don’t get any less fun just because you’re older now. Kicking or throwing a ball at the park is a good excuse for a chat in the great outdoors. 

Kicking a ball is one of the ways to have fun with friends for free

2. Take a picnic somewhere

Keep the outside theme going and take lunch to a park, bush walk, the beach or even into the backyard if that’s all you can manage. Being outside in green space is actually critical for wellbeing, so it makes sense to spend as much time out there as possible. It’s also a lot of fun making a picnic with your friends – get each person to bring something to share.

3. Make something

While you’re busy making lunch, consider some other things you can make with your friends. Get together and pool your skills set (or learn new skills together). Something like:

Knit trauma teddies for the Red Cross to distribute to kids in hospital

Restore an old piece of furniture you find on the side of the road

• Make a video – write, produce and edit a video about something that matters to your group

Build a garden bed

Feed the birds

4. Have a spa day

Facials and massages are expensive, but supercheap to DIY. Fair enough, a group of girls are more likely going to give each other facials and new hairstyles. Which seems a great shame.

5. Play tennis

You might be crap at tennis, but that’s okay. You’ll get much better with practise! Tennis courts are cheap to hire as a group – and sometimes even free. Check with your local council what’s available in your area, or ask your school if the tennis courts are available out of hours. Set up a tournament

6. Go to free concerts

You might not be hanging out seeing Hilltop Hoods or Eminem live, but free concerts are definitely worth seeking out and are the best way to have fun with friends we know. For instance, the MCA in Sydney puts on the fantastic Genext every quarter, with free access to the museum, live bands, eats and workshops. All free. Or check out what’s coming up where you live (note, not all events will be specifically under 18):

Melbourne for free

Brisbane for free

Eventbite – search your area and ‘free’

7. Get into board games

There’s a reason board games still exist when video games are so awesome: they’re awesome too! There are plenty of good ones for older kids. Try one of these:

Catan – A strategy game for 3-4 players where each player has to use their resources wisely to build the most efficient and largest settlement on the island of Catan. It’s a fun, noisy game you can play in about one to two hours.

Risk – the goal is to take over the world. To achieve domination, you deploy your army, secure territory, and stop invasions. As well as your strategic thinking, you’re also relying on the luck of the dice to roll your way. This is a long and involved game, that can sometimes go on for days. Or you can play it quickly and be the ruler of the world by dinner time.

Dungeons and Dragons –  Thanks to Stranger Things, D+D is back in a big way. It’s almost hard to believe that this game has been played for more than 45 years. And that some players have literally been playing it for 35 years straight! It must be doing something right. At its heart, it’s basically a collective ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ storytelling game, but the camaraderie that develops between players is what keeps them rolling the dice for years. Warning: some people get really into it.

Cards Against Humanity – it’s rude, outrageous and downright disgusting at times, but it’s also insanely funny way to spend time with your mates. Definitely ask your parents before tackling this creative and clever game. The official recommended age is 18+.

8. Volunteer your time

Every community, everywhere, needs some older kid power to keep it going and it can be lots of fun if you volunteer with your friends. Whether it’s packing boxes for a local mission, bush regeneration, or slinging Bunnings snags for Rotary, there’s loads you can do. Check out more options for volunteers aged 14-18+ here.

Volunteer your time to have fun with friends

9. Binge-watch a new show

Sure, it’s a screen, but it’s also a scream. Watching a show you’re all into together is also a highly social way to have fun with friends. You’ll find yourself pausing regularly to rehash the plot or bitch about a character. Make it a regular get-together (say, Tuesdays after school for a couple of hours) and you’ll enjoy having scheduled time with your mates outside of school.

17+ Netflix series to binge-watch with your tween

10. Cook together

You don’t have to go all MasterChef and compete against each other – but you could. Rather, just making a batch of muffins or a slice for your school lunchboxes is a nice way to spend time together on a weekend. You could batch cook a few recipes to up the variety. Ask each of your friends to bring along their favourite. Here are some of ours:

Crispy date slice

Easy apple muffins

Blueberry and yoghurt loaf

Zucchini and carrot slice

Date loaf

Lemon and coconut muffins

11. Take a beach trip

Easier to do if you actually live near the beach, of course; but worth doing even if you don’t. A train trip to the beach might take a whole day, but you’ll never regret it. The beach is a must in any season. Take a beach umbrella or shelter, extra towels, food and plenty of water and make camp. Spend the day in the water, exploring rockpools, playing beach cricket (in the water is out) and digging in the sand. If you fall asleep on the trip home, you know you’ve done it right.

Have fun with friends at the beach

12. Hang by the fire pit

Check fire warnings before you even think about lighting a fire pit in the backyard, or anywhere. If the firies say you’re good to go, then start collecting the wood. You can even cook a sausage dinner over the coals and eat a sack of gooey toasted marshmallows for dessert. Of course, you’ll need to get your best stories ready too – the fireside chat late into the night is what it’s all about.

13. Play cards

Back in the day, cards is what people did when they wanted to have fun with friends. From Poker to Rummy to the mysteries of Bridge, cards are a skilled and absorbing way to bond with your mates. Try one of these games this weekend: 

6 card games kids love as much as screens

14. Host a dinner party

How very grown up! Why not! Show off your cooking skills (or lack thereof) and have your friends around for a proper dinner party. Ask them to dress up a little, dim the lights, set your playlist on rotation and enjoy sharing a meal. With a bit of luck, they’ll help with the clean up, too. We all know how much fun tea-towel wars can be…

15. Make Spotify play lists

This is a good one to do before your dinner party (see above). Get together and make a bunch of cool playlists with different themes. Start with ‘favourites’ – with everyone contributing their top three songs of all time (no judgement, please!) – and move onto different eras, genres and playlists made for occasions.

16. Make YouTube play lists

Ditto for YouTube. Share your faves to follow, or just quirky clips you’ve found along the way. Watch widely and challenge yourselves to find out new things, solve common problems or discover new places.

17. Play ‘would you rather’

This classic party game is a classic for a reason: it’s a wonderfully nosy way to have fun with friends. You won’t ever again know your mates like you know your school mates, so take that to the next level with this old-school game. There are some excellent ideas for questions here.

Other variations on this game are Truth or Dare and Two Truths and a Lie.

18. Ride the trains

Take a map of the train system in your area, close your eyes and point. Wherever your finger lands, that’s where you’re taking the train to. One the way to your mystery destination, Google things to do and find out as much as you can about the area’s history. When you arrive, explore, grab a meal and learn something new about your city. Then close your eyes, point, and do it all over again. Whatever you do, don’t make a nuisance of yourselves!

19. Try new hairstyles

You can learn anything from a YouTube video and how to style banging bangs is one such thing. Take turns to do each others hair into an elaborate up do. Straighten curl, curl straight and go wild with the coloured hair spray and accessories. Do some ‘serious’ hair too – stuff that looks good for school. Again, girls are more likely to spend a day doing this one, but wouldn’t it be fab for boys to have a bit of fun too?

20. Go camping

Most of us have a campground close by that we can easily escape to. Plan the weekend, set up tent and enjoy being outdoors and carefree with your faves. If you don’t have camping gear yourself, I’ll bet one or more of your friends has plenty. Make a roster for cooking and clean up, but keep things casual and easy for maximum enjoyment. If one of your mate’s plays guitar, remind them to bring it along. There’s nothing better then belting out really off-key renditions of your favourite tunes with only the stars to judge you. Depending on your age, you might need a parent along for this one.

Great ways to have fun with friends - camping

21. Go on a long bike ride

How long since you’ve ridden your bike? Bet it’s a while (though we hope it’s not!). Ask a willing parent for a lift somewhere scenic and bike-friendly and pedal away. Pack lunch and plenty of water and see where the day takes you. If you’re fit and brave, mountain biking is also a very cool way to have fun with friends. Remember, go only as fast as your slowest rider. This is not a riding competition, it’s easy time together with friends.

22. Eat brunch

It can be hard to organise a dinner that everyone can attend, but most kids are available on a Sunday for brunch. And brunch is the yummiest meal of the day. It doesn’t have to cost a lot if you make it yourselves – eggs and bacon on the barbie with some roast tomatoes and hashbrowns warmed in the oven is delicious.

23. Visit a gallery

All those museums and art galleries that your parents dragged you around when you were small are actually pretty cool. Give them a chance. Arrange a group to go together and pretend you know what you’re talking about as you visit the exhibits. Look out for activities organised especially for older kids and teens. The MCA in Sydney has a fantastic Young Creatives youth program, as will many others.

24. Interview each other

Set up the camera and pretend you’re celebrities being interviewed. You can take on a silly character, or just be yourself and answer honestly. It’s insightful and fun. Here are 21 questions to get you started:

21 interview questions for kids to ask their friends

25. Go for a run

If there’s a parkrun in your area, you really ought to give it a go with your friends. A weekly meet up, doing something for your wellbeing and having fun at the same time: where can I sign up, right? If you don’t have access to a parkrun, you can make your own version. Map out a course in your neighbourhood and agree same time each week. You can set your iPhone timer when you set off to give you a goal to beat next time. Cajole and encourage each other along to improve your fitness and better your times.

Try a parkrun with friends

26. Get into slam poetry

A little bit hip hop, a little bit literary, a whole lotta heat. Slam poetry is hot, hot, hot and a brilliant way to have fun with friends. Do a workshop together, go to a gig, enter a competition. You get to express all of life’s aggros and heartaches in a cool and clever way.  Of course, you don’t have to necessarily take part in it, you can just go along and see others in action. Check here to see how it works.

27. Join or start a book club

If you start your own book club, you get to decide which books you’re going to read. There are tons of resources online that can help you with questions and conversation starters around the books you are reading. Just google the book title plus ‘book club’ and you can’t go wrong. This is a great way to remind yourself to put down the phone and pick up a book. You could even get a small group of mates together to read and discuss your prescribed English novels. Whatever works…

28. Write a bucket list

You can create lists for things you want to achieve, do, be or see in your lifetime. Or next week. Or possible career options. Or video games you want to own. Or life goals or goals for this year. Or, or, or… lists are just so awesome because they get you thinking and dreaming and hoping. Bouncing ideas of each other just makes a list even better and is a really insightful way to have fun with friends.

29. Go bush walking

Hopefully you’ve got a parcel of bush near your place that’s good for a hike. Getting together in advance to plan your walk is part of the fun. You can even make it an overnight hike if you’re all prepared to carry your tent and other essentials. The load is no great when shared among many. Remember to check the fire warnings and the weather forecast before you set out. Always carry your phone and plenty of water with you. Go walking with at least two others and always, always tell someone where you are going, how long you plan to be and when you can be expected back. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, you can always join a National Parks Association guided walk. Check for one in your state.

Go for a bushwalk with friends

30. Learn a language

Like anything in life, learning a language is so much easier when you do it with a partner. You can practise your skills together, listening and tweaking. You can also encourage each other to keep learning when things get dull or it’s hard to find the time. The same is true of learning anything at all: an instrument, a new skill, your maths homework…

31. Explore the city

This is a bit like the train-ride idea above, but in a much more structured way. Challenge yourselves to discover as much about your nearest city as possible. You can do it in A-Z fashion by suburb. Or dedicate yourselves to visiting every park in every suburb. Or explore one area in full before moving onto another. Either way, getting out and about in areas that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit is a really rewarding way to have fun with friends.

32. Take your dogs for a walk

You bring your dog, they bring their dogs, you meet up at the dog off-leash park. The dogs have a great time together and so do you! Makes a routine chore feel fresh and new.

33. Start a lawn mowing business

Now this is a great way to hang out with your friend – making money. Mowing lawns isn’t difficult, but plenty of people don’t find the time or inclination to do it. There are plenty of landscaping companies that charge a small fortune to clip the grass and edgings, if you change a little less, the work is sure to flow. You’ll get fit, polish a skill or two and have plenty of money for good times ahead. Just make sure you’re crystal-clear about who does what and when. It helps to make an informal (or formal, if that’s your thing) contract before you get started.

34. Play Fly

Fly is pretty much the easiest game to play in the world and all you need are sticks. Any old sticks. So not only is it fun, it’s 100% free. Here’s how you do it:

35. Have a photo shoot

Get dressed up, snap some good looking shots and perfect your photography skills. Move around to a few different locations and remember the ‘costume’ changes. Instagramming your day’s work is optional.

36. Go for a night walk

Meet up after dinner and do a lazy 5k around the neighbourhood. How long has it been since you walked and talked and small cartoonish monsters weren’t involved? Walking in the late evening, or even after dark, is peaceful and calming. A really nice way to end the day, whether it’s in a big group or friends or just one or two.

37. Work out together

If you’re old enough, you can join the local gym together and get your together time that way. An all-ages, much, much cheaper way to do it is to find a park with outdoor gym equipment and ‘train’ each other. There’s a really good list of workout plans using the equipment found at most of these parks here.

38. Make an obstacle course

This is another fun one to do using the equipment at parks (either the outdoor gym or playground). Of course, you an make an obstacle course anywhere, even in the backyard. Challenge each other to go faster, higher, stronger. You can set it up like a competition, or just decide to complete the activities without timing or competing.

39. Go to a local workshop

Check your council’s calendar and see what’s on this weekend. In our area this week, we can choose from a beekeeping course, bushcare afternoon or learn macrame crafting. I’d be up for any of those things. Find out what’s on near you and get a bunch of friends together. Your local library is a great resource for activities and events as well.

40. Teach each other a skill

So, one of you can play guitar, another can juggle, still another can fish and you’re awesome at coding. Maybe it’s time you swapped some of those skills to share the love? This works best in a small group, with one person taking the lead on a skill, but everyone getting to contribute what they know. You might find that some topics are more popular than others, so agree up front that you won’t be offended if no one else is interested in your incredible crochet or genealogy skills set.

Fishing is a great way to have fun with friends

41. Organise a swap

You can swap pretty much anything among friends. It stands to reason that you’re all probably into the same things. Some good ideas for a swap party might be:

• clothes

• video games

• books

• collectibles

• jewellery

42. Start a fantasy league

If you’re all really into footy, netball or another sport, this is a fun way to enjoy it together. Instructions on how to get started are here. If this age, it’s probably best to keep your money in your pocket and make your league all about the kudos.

43. Start a blog together

If you’ve got a unique shared interest, a blog is a really fun idea. It can even be a shared online diary about your friendship, if that’s what gets you motivated to begin. It doesn’t have to be fancy to start off with. Getting together to write the content and take the pictures is just a really nice way to spend time with a friend. You can start a blog for free with wix or WordPress or elsewhere.

44. Join a sports team

Loads of kids are already in a team, but not everyone. It’s worth giving a new sport a go if you haven’t found what you enjoy just yet. You’ll make new friends, learn new skills, and get fitter as you go. If you’ve tried all the regular sports like soccer, basketball, netball and cricket, and they haven’t grabbed you, search a little deeper. You might enjoy hockey, lacrosse, OzTag, beach volleyball, golf, squash, ping pong, nippers, martial arts or even, somewhat randomly, quidditch.

45. Go geocaching

This GPS treasure hunt couldn’t be easier: you go to the online map, find a geocache in your area (a small GPS-tagged token left by someone else), note the GPS coordinates, use your phone’s GPS to find the coordinates, head out to find the treasure. You sign the logbook that’s hidden with (most) geocaches and return the treasure for the next person to find. Find out more here.

46. Talk to each other on the phone

Scary, but do-able.

Talk to a friend on the phone

47. Walk somewhere for a milkshake

An easy one, but you honestly can’t beat walking and talking. Then there’s the milkshake reward at the end. Make the walk a long one so the reward doesn’t outweigh the walking… This is a good one to do after school.

48. Go to the pool

These days, loads of people have backyard pools and it’s nice to hang out there, but you can’t beat the public pool. Don’t be squeamish – they’re generally super clean due to the high levels of chlorine involved (don’t wear your favourite togs!). When it comes to diving, back flipping and perfecting your butterfly, the Olympic-size pool is where it’s at. It’s fun to hang with a big group, but be mindful of other swimmers and especially little kids.

49. Start a band

You might have zero musical capabilities, but chances are at least one of your friends knows their way around an instrument. The rest you can learn. If you haven’t seen the ‘Four Chords’ video, you might not be a believer. So become a believer:

50. Transform the garden

Imagine how many Brownie points you’ll clock up if you go around to each other’s houses and weed and tidy the garden? Trust us, your parents are going to LOVE YOU (even more than they already do… if that’s possible…). What’s more, you’ll learn the satisfaction of a hard day’s yakka and spend some quality time together in nature. The more I think about it, the more I’m certain this is the perfect way for kids to have fun with friends. Simply perfect.

What’s your #1 favourite way to have fun with friends?

Feature image  by John Cahil Rom; sun by Aziz Acharki; geenhouse by Brooke Cagle; run  by Philipp; bushwalk by Tim Foster; beach by Tim Mossholder; camping by Thiago Palia; fishing by Fab Lentz; phone by kevin laminto

50 CHEAP OR FREE WAYS TO HAVE FUN WITH FRIENDS - hanging with friends doesn't have to cost a lot

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