Ideas for things to do at home during the holidays for Teens & Pre-Teens (that are not screens!)

If you, like me, are struggling to know how to keep pre-teens (esp boys) entertained these holidays (with ideas that are NOT screens) then read this…

As a recent recruit to the “full time working mom” brigade I’ve been struggling with THE GUILT. In previous holidays I’ve put my own work on hold (to catch up with after hours) and spent the days “entertaining” them with outings and events that were full of fun!

Now that I’m working I’m finding that screens are their fall back (when are they not) but I don’t want that to be the only option (am I asking the impossible?!)

So I scouted around for a few new ideas of ways to kill their boredom and came up with this list – thanks to some online research and some input from other moms who’ve walked this road before me!

The first bit of advice that I received was this…

“Let them get bored. Really really bored. Boredom breeds creativity. Find a way not to cave in – you will be so amazed at the creative things they come up with!”

So, while I think that option is worth a bash, I also realise that it can drive you INSANE esp if you’re on the receiving end of the endless “I’m bored” phone calls…

The next bit of advice really resonated with me. “Make them do one thing constructive and one thing creative BEFORE screen time. Constructive has to be in service of the family – a cleaning chore or sorting and tidying a cupboard, baking something, doing a load of dishes, making simple dish or a salad for supper etc. Creative is usually stuff like making cards for family members, painting, drawing, animating, making decorations etc”

Read on for a few great suggestions of ways to keep pre-teen kids happy at home… P.S. A friend to do these things with also always helps!

  • Clean the garage, the car, their rooms, cupboards or bookshelves!
  • Bake – a cake from a box or from scratch if you can cope with a lot of mess.
  • Play board games or build a puzzle
  • Arts and crafts – there are hundreds of thousands of ideas online Google craft related to an area of interest. Leave a stack of craft stuff on the coffee table and let them create something unique. Alternatively buy them a canvas and ask them to “copy” a picture of a famous painting or draw a series of cartoons – there are lots of YouTube videos to watch for inspiration (just make sure that is what they are watching!)
  • Build stuff – If they have Lego then pull it out and task them to build a nativity scene, or Santa’s workshop etc.
  • Woodwork – give them some safe tools and a bit of wood and see what happens or buy an old table or similar and give them freedom to decide what to turn it onto…… alternatively provide materials for a shed that will be their man cave/Hardy Boys club house and give them carte blanche – on the prerequisite that they do their research, pitch the plan to you
  • Write stories – bend a piece of paper into 12 sections and they take turns writing a sentence of a story – unfold and hilarity follows. Sudoku. Although my best is to let them get bored and figure it out for themselves.
  • Make short films with iPads or phone – Download an app called “I can animate” and create an animation movie with Lego and props and backgrounds etc.
  • Give them a musical instrument to tinker with or access to a music app like Garage Band and get them to create their own music.
  • Gardening – buy a few essentials and tell them to plant a herb or vegetable garden in a section of your garden or a planter box.
  • Do an online course in an area of interest
  • Read a book or listen to an audio book
  • Cook – make their own lunch with frozen pizza bases and leave them to decorate,
  • Sewing, knitting or cross-stitching
  • Photography project – give them an old camera and a project eg. photograph an item for every letter of the alphabet or a photo an hour.
  • Swimming – head down to the beach after work, swimming pool or dam
  • Pitch a tent or build a fort with garden furniture and pillows and blankets and have a picnic.
  • Let them rearrange their bedroom or give them a small budget for improvements that they can undertake themselves.
  • Research some SAFE kitchen science experiments and leave them with the ingredients or buy a science kit they can fiddle with themselves.
  • Bath the dogs or take them for a walk.



Do you have any clever ideas or ways to keep older kids entertained during the school holidays??? Please do leave a comment to share your suggestions with my readers.


Images: Stock Photos from Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for over 9 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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