20+ Unplugged Activities for Tween Age Boys

The “tween” age (9-12 years old) can be a tricky time for kids!  Electronics can be a huge pull for this age group because they don’t know what else to do with themselves!  I often hear moms saying that they don’t know what to do with their tween-age boys, and so I decided to compile a huge list of things that tween-age boys might enjoy doing.  Included in this list are several ideas for chores, because tweens are ready to take on more responsibility.

**Disclaimer:  There is no set age that kids are ready to do more dangerous things, such as mow the lawn.  You are the best judge of your child’s readiness – please don’t take my age recommendations as set in stone!  This post is designed to be a reference and a spring-board for ideas.  Take what you can use, and leave the rest.  And yes, girls will enjoy these activities too – this is just meant to be a resource for those looking for things that boys will approve of.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

20+ Unplugged Ideas for Tweenage Boys (9-12)

  • Wood working.  Learning to hammer a nail and use basic tools is a great skill for older boys!  Home Depot sells scrap boards for 50 cents and $1, and Aidan has had a great time sawing and hammering on scrap boards in the garage.  He even made me a wooden cross for Christmas a couple years ago!
  • Take apart old appliances.  Do you have any broken appliances or machines lying around?  It’s fun to take apart an old phone, printer, toaster, etc.  Then save the parts for inventing and tinkering.
  • Start a business.  If your tween age son is wanting to earn more cash, why not help them start their own business?  A few ideas: Pet sitting, bringing in trash cans for neighbors for a small weekly fee, doing odd jobs such as weeding flower beds or washing windows, washing vehicles, mowing lawns, babysitting.

snap circuits

  • Snap circuits.  If you’re not familiar with them, Snap Circuits are building sets that use electricity to create awesome projects.  The pieces “snap” onto a base, and it’s easy to create electrical circuits without a bunch of exposed wires or alligator clips. We own the Snap Circuits sc-300 set, and it has been totally worth it.  We paid $49 for our set, and the current Amazon price is $39.93, which is a good deal.  Aidan can easily follow the instruction manual by himself and has built a dog whistle, a morse code generator, several “space wars” sounds, and a spinning propeller that really launches into the air.
  • Legos.  I’m not sure that Legos can ever be outgrown!  For the child who needs some direction with their Legos, we have many building challenges here on this site!  Check out all of our Lego ideas here.
  • Outdoor recreation.   Ideas for being active outdoors:  tennis, archery, bike riding, frisbee golf, skateboarding, hiking, running, swimming.  We have an archery place near our house that does a league on Monday night.  Aidan is hoping to try that out soon!
  • Geocaching.  We haven’t been geocaching yet, but it’s on our list!  This is another way that the whole family can enjoy being active together.

20+ Unplugged Ideas for Keeping Tween Boys Busy

  • Build a chain reaction from craft sticks.  This takes some time to build – but the results are totally worth it!  Fun for the kid who enjoys domino effect type things.  Instructions in the original post.
  • Take on real projects.  My 11 year old can often be restless around the house and a pest to his younger brothers, but he is so focused when he has the opportunity to do real grown-up work.  Boys this age like to feel needed, and they like to know that their work is appreciated and is making a real difference.  Some ideas:  learn to use the lawnmower, spread mulch, weed flower beds, organize a closet, have their own table at a garage sale, plan a meal and cook it, clean out the garage, nail on new fence slats.
  • Go on a “career” field trip.  It’s never too early to start thinking about the future!  What are your kids interested in?  Call your vet and see if they will let you come for a “behind the scenes” tour.  In our area, the National Weather Service does field trips if you sign up as a group.  Check out the options in your area!
  • Do laundry from start to finish.  If they don’t already know how to operate the washer and dryer, age 9 is a great time to get started!  Tweens can sort their own clothes, wash, dry, fold, and put away.  It’s good to have the experience of thinking ahead (when do I need to have school pants clean, etc.) and following through.

20+ Unplugged Ideas for Keeping Tween Age Boys Busy

  • Learn how to cook or bake.  Who says boys shouldn’t cook?  Tween age boys can learn to make grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, omelettes, brown ground meat, cook spaghetti, bake cookies, make a cake, and more.  Plus, their future wives will thank you someday!
  • Photography.  A good point-and-shoot digital camera is so affordable now, and a child with an artistic eye might really enjoy photography!

20+ Unplugged Ways to Keep Tween Age Boys Busy

  • Keva plank toys.  These are a new discovery for our family!  We bought the Keva Contraptions set that comes with 200 planks and 2 balls.  The instruction manual is really well done.  I was impressed at how quickly Aidan was able to build some really amazing structures!  The one in the picture above is called a “cascade,” and the ball rolls back and forth across the platforms and then comes out at the bottom and lands in that square.  Building with Keva planks requires patience and a steady hand, but it’s a great challenge for older kids who enjoy building and engineering.
  • Film making.  For the guy who is not really into building and engineering, how about film making?  I talked to a friend who said her boys spend HOURS creating stop-action movies with their toys.  They film with an iPad and use iMovie to put it together.  It’s also fun to film humorous sketches or plays.
  • Learn to play guitar.  If you can do lessons, go for it!  If you can’t afford lessons, guitar is an instrument that can be learned from books and Youtube videos, especially if your child has already learned another instrument such as piano.  (I am saying this as a violin teacher!)  I taught myself guitar after playing violin for years, and it’s a relaxing (and useful) hobby.
  • Volunteering.  9-12 is too young to officially volunteer most places, but look for things to do as a family.  We have enjoyed helping with landscaping at our church and volunteering at the Institute for Creation Research.  Learning to serve is so important for this age group!  It’s really fulfilling to do something for others, and this age group is getting to the point where they can really grasp that.

Do you have tween boys?  What do your boys enjoy doing?  Please leave a comment if you have more ideas to share!

 

Comments

  1. Taneil says

    I have one…Ham Radio, find a club at arrl.org website and see if your son would like it. My son has had a lot of fun with Ham Radio the last few months.

    Also, you can use the Snap Circuit set with other electronics. Azariah and I figured out how to hook up the Snap Circuit set to an old Electric Fence solar panel to run some of the different Circuits. It was a fun learning experience for both of us.

  2. says

    These are great. My son has made a radio and a mic with the snap circuits. We have the keva blocks, but I like the ones you have better so I added it to our wish list. My son also enjoys hex bugs (he has a whole environment for them), and all kinds of puzzles. He reads and writes letters to friends as well.

  3. Chelae says

    Letterboxing is a great alternative to geocaching. Go to atlasquest.com and search for boxes in your town. You follow clues instead of coordinates. Lots of fun for the whole family. You can also carve your own stamp and create & plant your own letter boxes. There are tutorials on the website.

  4. says

    Really good suggestions, Sarah. Andrew is turning 13 in a couple of days, and I know some of these ideas will appeal to him. My favourite is your suggestion to hand over the camera. I rarely use my point and shoot, so it’s just sitting in a drawer. I’ve never thought to let him use it. I’m going to do that today! Thank you!

    • SarahDees says

      We let Aidan take our old point and shoot on a trip with his grandparents, and he totally filled the memory card in one day! He had a great time snapping photos of EVERYTHING. The great thing about photography is that they can literally just point and shoot, or delve deeper and learn more about lighting and composing good shots.

  5. says

    I love this list!

    My son loves constructing things, so he often does papercrafts (download designs from the internet, print on cardstock, cut apart with xacto knife and glue with low-temp glue gun). They take forever but they are so cool when finished.

    A couple years ago my son started learning card tricks and he got really good at them. He learned from watching Youtube videos so he wasn’t completely unplugged, but still.

    Then he moved on to balloon animals. He got so good that he started doing them for birthday parties. Now he’s 12 1/2 and has his own balloon business making $15/hr. He’s done countless kids’ parties, business grand openings, block parties, etc. We bought balloons and a simple hand pump and he learned, again, with Youtube videos so the cost was minimal.

    Face painting is another great hobby and money maker. My little guys were running around painted like tigers or superheros for months. The designs can get very intricate, which is perfect for artistic kids who like a challenge.

    Although they may need Youtube for some of these, I would rather they be learning something instead of playing video games.

    • SarahDees says

      Card tricks and balloon animals are GREAT suggestions! We’ve checked out some of those Youtube videos on balloon animals, and there are some good ones out there. I love how those skills can lead to a job opportunity!

    • Nicole M says

      Can you share a few of the papercraft sites that you use to download patterns that your boys like to cut-out? when you google ‘papercrafts’, you get tons of stuff that doesn’t seem to have patterns for young boys.. thank you!

  6. says

    I have a 10 & a 7 year old, and I’ve been struggling with how to keep them busy without a screen.

    I can’t wait until I can get some colored straws to make the pipe cleaner ninjas!

    Making a movie is the activity I’m going to have them do today. I think they’ll love it!

    Thanks so much for these ideas. I’m glad I discovered your website, and I can’t wait to explore the rest of your ideas.

  7. says

    This is a great list, and most of it goes for girls too (and why not all of it). I have an electronic engineer in the house, and from his boyhood room you can still see where it all started…

    • SarahDees says

      Yes, girls would enjoy most of these activities too! I geared the list toward boys since I have all boys, but girls would definitely love some of these as well.

  8. Cathy B says

    My son saw that I had this up on the computer, read the headline and said “Nice try Mom. I’m not doing any of this stuff.” Then he saw the flying craft sticks and thought it was cool. Thanks for the ideas!

  9. says

    How awesome! I have two and they love to build. Thanks for sharing I’ll be bookmarking this post for birthday and Christmas gift ideas. So many great open ended games/toys.

  10. Corky says

    Great ideas. My grandson loves the snap circuits and we’ll try Home Depot and the Keva blocks. I’ll look into the ham radio idea, too. Thanks! (Cathy B. -LOL!)

  11. says

    This is a great list. My boys (I have 3) would love some of these. I think the chain reaction looks really cool and those pipe cleaner ninjas would have them entertained as well. Thanks for sharing!

  12. KarenLouiseM says

    Please be safe! Note that electrical appliances may contain capacitors. Per Wikipedia: Hazards and safety – Capacitors may retain a charge long after power is removed from a circuit; this charge can cause dangerous or even potentially fatal shocks or damage connected equipment. For example, even a seemingly innocuous device such as a disposable camera flash unit powered by a 1.5 volt AA battery contains a capacitor which may be charged to over 300 volts. This is easily capable of delivering a shock.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor
    for more information.

  13. SaraM says

    My son read the Origami Yoda book series recently which started his interest in origami. He and his friend have spent hours making regiments of paper storm troopers and all the other characters from Star Wars. Sewing can actually be a fun and useful skill for boys to have. My hubby made a plush soccer ball and football as a tween and still has them!

  14. Mary Beth says

    This is also a good age to teach boys to sew. I used a book called Buckles and Bobbins for my boys. Projects in the book include a pillow case, cargo pants and a tool roll up just to name a few.

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  16. Sharon says

    Terrific ideas–thank you! Like other readers, I am diligently trying to limit electronics. Some other seasonal ideas: bowling, ice skating, roller skating, skiing. With sleep over guests last weekend, my son decided to have his friends build “egg drop” crafts out of recyclables. They then dropped the eggs from the second floor and checked to see if the egg remained intact. This was a good rainy day activity! I am going to take another readers suggestion in the spring to get my boys, age 9 and 12 out “mountain” biking in the nearby metro parks. Thanks again!

  17. says

    I’m a grandmother of 10. 6 of them are boys. One of my grandsons use to get off the bus here. He came in one day and wanted to do something……. I spread out a thick towel on the table gave him tools and an old VCR. He took it apart and was so content. Scavenger hunts are one of their favorite things. You can also make a game of it by using a camera to find the things on your scavenger list. Cameras are great also to take along in the car. Just give them to anyone and they know what to do. Many young folks just need a little direction since they have been exposed to the screens for their whole life.

  18. says

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  19. Christina says

    My oldest son loves wood engraving. It’s great for boys just make sure there is good adult supervision because it involves lasers. You can get a kit at home depot. My son loves making signs and pictures in wood. He also loves various science projects. There is various science projects for tween boys on You tube that we like to do.

  20. says

    First, I want to say I just found your site…I have 4 boys too and can’t wait to read more…

    My son will be 12 next Tues and I really enjoyed this list…I am looking for more unplugged ideas when he is home all he wants to do is watch tv, play on the computer, or play on the wii…but when he isn’t home he is playing sports (competitive gymnastics, bowling, soccer, basketball, baseball, and swim lessons), he is also very active in Boy Scouts, and since we currently live on a military base we are comfortable with him riding his bike to go play with friends…sometimes that does mean video games, but most of the time it is football or some other outdoor sport…soon we won’t be on base though, so that one might not be so much an option…He does have a lot of legos and sometimes plays with them, but my 6 year old is more into them…he is out sports guy…He took tennis lessons a few years back, but we haven’t been able to fit it in…I have always wanted to myself…maybe he and I can do that this summer if we can get it to fit our schedule…

  21. says

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  22. Carol says

    My 11 and 1/2 year old grandson is coming alone for a visit for the first time ever, and I just got lots of ideas from your site. It was my first time on it.

    Thanks for great ideas!

    I love it!

    Carol

    • SarahDees says

      These are not just for boys! But moms of boys sometimes have a hard time finding things that they like to do. Craft ideas for girls are abundant, while activities for boys are not as much. This is just meant to be a resource for moms of boys, but of course girls would enjoy many of these things!

  23. kim says

    Your is good, and I only have one comment. JOIN SCOUTING! Every single thing you mentioned my son has done in scouts. Starting in first grade boys can join a cub scout troop and in the middle of 5th grade they move up to a boy scout troop. Best thing I have ever done for my son was give him the gift of scouting.

  24. LAURIE BARINOWWKI says

    Great ideas! the other things that my boys have been doing this summer is making BMX trails in the woods, building skateboarding ramps, gem mining ($!), writing cartoons, writing “how to” instructions, fishing, drawing, and making sport videos using the “slopro” app (requires ipod/iphone).

  25. says

    Today, while I was at work, my sister stole my iPad and tested to see if it
    can survive a twenty five foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My
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    I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  26. Penny Berube says

    I’m a children’s librarian and am always searching for ideas that would interest boys between the ages of 7 and 12. I use Legos, duct tape, and snap circuits. They are great. Thanks for all these new ideas. Please keep them coming!

  27. says

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  28. Mary Harmuth says

    I am so happy I found your website! I have two precious grandchildren who love to be inventive, one is a girl and one is a boy, both love everything they can learn! My granddaughter is very fast to learn about quilting and painting and loves these things plus being friends and writing notes to her friends and being a pen pal, too. She is very creative, too! My grandson is extremely fun and loves to build towers and Lego’s and make things that I did not believe were possible. He likes to make things to put marbles in and let them fall for a long time to get down again and has a creative mind also, plus loves math. He never is at a loss for building complex trails for them to follow to get where he wants them to go! Both have fun inventing trails for their marbles to follow and see who can out do each other. I liked all the things I saw on your site and plan to look for more things to keep my grandson busy, not necessary for it to be store bought but things he can help his Uncle save from his flooring co. and let him use his active mind to build with for games and towers and other bridges. Thanks for having your website and all this fun information! I will share it with him when he visits and I bet he will love it too, and so will my granddaughter, too! Inquiring minds are always open to new ideas if they run out, which I doubt but it is fun to share and we will… Thank YOU, Mary

  29. splud says

    Some good ideas here.

    Some additional ones:

    Gardening. Get your kids to ‘own’ some of the plants in your vegetable garden – they choose something they’d like to try, and take responsibility for starting, transplanting, caring for it, and eventually harvest. Springboard from there into cooking. I have kids that actually like spinach, eggplant, kale, and brussels sprouts.

    Check out 4H in your area. Take up beekeeping, or raise chickens (start with chicks, or go for the ultimate and incubate eggs). These projects can springboard into money makers for the kids: homestead organic eggs can get $4-6 a dozen at the office.

    Move up from snap circuits to Arduino (circa US$25) or Beagle Board (circa US$50), where the circuits can be driven by computer programming. I like the Beagle Board for bigger projects, but the Arduino and it’s spin-offs are very basic and can be run off of battery. You can find “Arduino Mini” boards for < $5, so they're cheap enough to have several for multiple projects. The web abounds with project ideas using these.

    Have the kid(s) help while you're repairing something, be it working on the car, bike, lawnmower, or whatever – teach them safety fundamentals (disconnect power, block moving parts, etc), tool identification, selection, and proper use, checking things before firing it up, etc. Soon enough, they'll want to build a go-kart, or need to maintain their own car. What's more frugal than fixing something yourself instead of sending it out to a shop, or worse, scrapping it?

    When doing construction, have the kids participate, so that you can teach them process. Estimate, measure, level, mark, cut, secure, etc. I have a well-outfitted workshop (but the same would apply if I had just a handsaw and a hammer), and at every opportunity show the kids the proper use of various tools, and question them on why we're doing something, what's the next step, or how something should be oriented and why. This is also a great opportunity to get them into planning and determining optimal arrangement for efficient use of materials (another principle of frugality: waste is bad) – for instance, don't cut a sheet of plywood willy-nilly, plan out the cuts so you have sizeable leftovers for another project. Or, adjust the plans for a project to accommodate the standard dimensions of available materials. This pays dividends when the kids want to do some project and you're footing the bill for the materials, or don't want to have to make a run to the hardware store to pick something up.

    Build a trebuchet, and scale it according to the space you have.

  30. Miss Avidity says

    This website is fantastic! I will be introducing all of these ideas to my 12 year old son.

    An idea of building houses or creating a chain reaction out of cards is good low cost, easy to travel with oldie. You can also buy this as a game.

  31. says

    I really found some great ideas in your compilation and I will introduce most of them to my 11 year old… These are wonderful I am glad you took the time to help us.

  32. says

    Thank you for the disclaimer: “And yes, girls will enjoy these activities too”

    My daughters all enjoy many of the activities you mention. My mother taught me by her example to do woodworking and plumbing and I did the same for my girls. Today they are can-do young women who don’t shy away from anything based on gender.

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