What my kids do when ‘there’s nothing to do’ in the holidays

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What to do when there's nothing to do - the teen edition

Happy new year! I know, I’m slow with my happies this year. We’ve been away climbing in the (non)snowy mountains (where I achieved the unimaginable) and doing beachy things down the south coast of NSW. Matter of fact, we had so much on in the first few weeks of the hols that I don’t think my kids complained about having nothing to do once. Miracle!

Now though, we’ve been back for a week, and the days are slowly melding into each other. If it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t know what day it was, let alone what week. There is one thing keeping me company, though, and it’s that old refrain of “there’s nothing to do” from my kids.

Keeping older kids occupied

I know how hard it is to keep older kids occupied in the school holidays. I bet you any money that most of you reading this will also have kids moping about the place complaining that there is nothing to do.

The stirring of guilt that we’re not paying vast sums of money at theme parks, resorts, movies, or other attractions is always there in the background too, is they not? The pressure to keep kids ‘entertained’ with organised activities is exhausting.

Fear not, our kids would most likely be moaning the same thing whether we were home or on an expensive tropical island. Unless they are surrounded by friends, this is the true Age of Boredom.

The Age of Boredom is definitely the teens

Life is boring, the family is boring… mostly because tweens and teens are very, very boring. They’ve outgrown the ‘little kid’ crafty/playground/playing thing, but are not yet ‘adult’ enough to sort themselves out by being productive. For example, cleaning the house is an excellent way to pass the time…

Over the years, I’ve pulled together plenty of things that older kids might like to do:

However, most of the time even my own kids will refuse point-blank to even read such a list, let alone summon the strength to do an activity listed on it.

So, yeah, I get it. Here’s what my ‘there’s nothing to do’ kids are actually doing these school holidays.

The 12-year-old

My extrovert needs to be surrounded by company at all times or she grows very restless indeed. She’s the queen of the ‘there’s nothing to do’ kingdom. Usually expressed like this (about five minutes after she wakes up late in the morning): there’s noooooooothing to dooooooo.

She had a blast over Christmas and the new year with the friends and family we were away with. Unfortunately, she hasn’t had much luck corralling her friends to do things since we got back.

Baking is a good activity when there's nothing to do

As a result, she’s watching way too much Netflix and baking way too many sweet things. She loves to do both.


Three good things to bake:

I had to put an end to the baking this week as we’re all in danger of needing to size up if we don’t stop eating cake. Now Lottie spends her days floating about the pool, snapchatting her mates, facetiming her bestie and dreaming up ways to antagonise her brother.

Fortunately, her big sister is usually up for something active, so as long as Lottie can muster up the energy, there’s always someone to hang out with. The two of them happily headed off to a tie dye workshop run by our local council – something neither of them would ever do on their own…

The 15-year-old

This is one kid who I have barely ever heard “there’s nothing to do” from; actually probably not ever.

Ari never has any shortage of things to keep her occupied. She parkours across the suburb, writes for the blog she started with her best friend, exercises or sews to order (doggie bandanas kept her occupied last year, then Christmas gift bags, and now cushion covers for me!).

Parkouring when there's nothing to do

She came up with the school holiday challenge that breaks the days into blocks of being productive, active, creative or cognitive. It’s added great structure into her days. This one has no time for screens, preferring to do her own thing rather than watch someone else do theirs.


Take on the challenge: Here’s how to help your kid structure the school holidays (free printables)

Most days she is on her slackline, skateboard, or in the pool. She’s also eagerly awaiting a new mountain bike to ride the trails around our house. Oh, and she’s learning Italian via Duolingo and also trying to train herself to be ambidextrous. As you do.

Yep, no issues here.

The 16-year-old

My boy used to be a gamer, but then he found music and hardly plays games at all anymore. I don’t know if it was a ‘grew out of’ situation, or if playing his guitar, uke and the piano is just more his thing these days. Have you noticed a drop-off of gaming as your boy has grown older? I’m curious to hear.

What to do when there's nothing to do

So, Max basically plays his instruments and sings from wake up until bedtime. Let’s just say, we are deeply, deeply regretting getting him an electric guitar for Christmas…

He takes breaks by going to the gym, meeting up with friends, heading out for long walks (the kid loves bushwalking and birdwatching) or by chatting with his mates via Discord. There are various group chats on the go. One way too late at night for my liking…


If your kid likes gaming: Help! My Kid is a Gamer! – so what happens next?

The only issue I have with Max at this age is that he never, ever wants to do anything with the rest of us. We basically see him at dinner time or at random times during the day if he wants to play a new song for us. That’s it.

I miss my boy in lots of ways, but I’m also aware of how awful he is if I drag him out and make him come out with us. It’s never a good idea.

What are your kids up to these school holidays?

Feature image by Joshua Rawson-Harris; pug by Priscilla Du Preez; baking by Priscilla Du Preez; parkour by Jessica Da Rosa; guitar by Oleg Ivanov

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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