Tired of hearing, “I’m bored!” Tired of being told there is “nothing” to do? Looking for things for your tween boy to be engaged in? We’ve got you covered! This post is full of activities, hobbies, jobs, and more that tweens will enjoy.
The “tween” years (10-12 years old, but I’m including age 9) can be a challenging time. They’re not little kids anymore, but they aren’t teens yet either. Toys are not as fun, but they’re not old enough to go places on their own or have a job.
My sons are currently 15, 12, and 10, and 7. My experience has been that tween boys have a LOT of energy. Constant climbing, jumping, running, etc. You think they’ll outgrow all that energy when they’re older, but then they’re older and they seem to have even MORE energy! Plenty of opportunities for active play and heavy work (mowing the lawn, hauling rock, using tools, etc.) are definitely needed.
NOTE: 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 activities for boys.
Encourage unplugged play and hobbies! I’m not against technology by any means, but I do think that part of our role as parents is to help our kids find balance in this area. There are so many interesting things to do besides endless YouTube videos and video games. But kids will never discover all these things when electronics SEEM more interesting than anything else. Help them create good habits and establish productive hobbies by keeping technology reigned in at your house. Show your kids how to control their devices – not be controlled by their devices.
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This post was originally published in June 2013 and updated May 2019.
- 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! These wood robots are a great project for beginners.
- 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, doing odd jobs such as weeding flower beds or washing windows, washing vehicles, mowing lawns, babysitting.
- 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. Kids can easily follow the instruction manual by themselves starting at about age 8. Projects include things like a dog whistle, a morse code generator, several “space wars” sounds, and a spinning propeller that really launches into the air.
- LEGO. I’m not sure that LEGO can ever be outgrown! For the child who needs some direction with their LEGO building, we have many building challenges here on this site! Check out all of our Lego ideas here. Here are some of our favorites: LEGO Candy Dispenser, LEGO Mechanical Puzzle, Rubber Band Powered LEGO Car, LEGO Marble Run
- 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.
- 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.
- Learn some card tricks. Here are three fun card tricks to get started with!
- Play games as a family. The tween years are not a time to pull back! Your kids need time with you now just as much as they did when they were little. Here’s a collection of 15 card games for families. Other fun family games – Blokus, Exploding Kittens, Catan. Our boys love to play Catan!
- Take on real projects. My tween 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.
- Get crafty! One of our favorite older kid crafts was our Pipe Cleaner Ninjas. So. much. fun! I keep getting e-mails from readers with pictures of their ninjas. They have been a hit! Other big kid crafts: Ninja Stress Balls, Make a marble bowling game, How to Train Your Dragon pipe cleaner dragons.
- Crafting with Paracord – Paracord (parachute cord) is such a fun crafting material. You can make bracelets with it, and we’ve even made snakes! Check Pinterest and YouTube for lots of tutorials.
- Crafting with duct tape. Aidan and I have recently discovered crafting with duct tape! Here is a tutorial on making a duct tape wallet. Or, make some duct tape Lego capes!
- PVC Pipe Projects. We love creating things out of PVC pipe. Make a bow and arrow, a water shooter, or a marshmallow blow gun.
- 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. We bought our second son an entry level DSLR camera for Christmas the year he was 11. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the money, but he has LOVED it! He has learned so much about photography, and has really found his niche with nature photography and especially birds.
- Draw comic strips. Kids can invent their own characters and create their own worlds! We love reading some good ol’ Calvin and Hobbes for inspiration. My kids also love to draw superhero comics.
- Keva plank toys. 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. Here are five engineering challenges that we developed for use with Keva planks.
- Do a wacky science project. The budding scientist might enjoy a book full of projects to make and do. Check out Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things. We enjoyed making plastic from vinegar and milk from that book! Another favorite idea – mix up some magnetic slime. With adult supervision, kids will enjoy burning steel wool with a 9 volt battery. Hey, I enjoyed it too! You can also use baking soda and vinegar to make some instant hot ice. So cool. And of course, there is always the classic soda bottle rocket! (Ours flew higher than our house!)
- Build a bridge. Kids can also do some engineering with materials that you already have on hand! Build a bridge with straws and straight pins that is strong enough to hold 100 pennies. Or build a bridge out of popsicle sticks.
- 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. My oldest son adores his guitar!
- 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. 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!
Taneil Jun 30, 2013
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.
jacob Nov 21, 2015
I'm 13 and I am a computer genius, so I'm told. I have a good project for y'all u should try hammock making, I have made 2 hammocks and working on 2 more. U can look up videos on youtube and its free. here are the name of my favorite if your in a hurry (DIY Paracord Net _ Hammock Chair - _Tip Of The Week) which only takes about a hour to make. If your wanting a more comfortable/larger hammock this 1 is for u (How to Make A Paracord Hammock), fair waning though the video is in speed mode, and the video maker does not relay instructions:'( sorry. Also i recommend bicycling, it will ware out your teen and the'll have fun;)
Jennifer Emery Jun 23, 2018
We have an Azariah too, that's awesome!!
Lisasjm Jun 30, 2013
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.
Chelae Jun 30, 2013
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.
Becky Stover May 16, 2020
Thank you! Never heard of this, but we love to go geocaching, so will definitely check this out!
jackie Jul 1, 2013
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!
Sarah Jul 1, 2013
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.
Tiffany Jul 1, 2013
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.
Sarah Jul 1, 2013
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 Oct 25, 2013
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!
Vanity Jun 28, 2016
I Love all these great suggestions! My son is 9 and in need of a few activities to keep him occupied this summer. I love balloon animals idea and card tricks as well.
Sherry Jul 1, 2013
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.
Cathy B Jul 2, 2013
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!
Sarah Jul 2, 2013
That is too funny! Thanks for sharing!
Tati Jul 2, 2013
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.
Corky Jul 5, 2013
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!)
Jackie Jul 6, 2013
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!
SaraM Jul 23, 2013
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!
Mary Beth Jul 24, 2013
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.
evonne Oct 2, 2013
Love the creative ideas! Thanks for sharing.
Sharon Nov 17, 2013
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!
Wanda Dec 13, 2013
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.
Christina Mar 10, 2014
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.
Sarah Mar 11, 2014
Great suggestion! Thanks for sharing. We'll have to look into wood engraving.
Maggie Mar 19, 2014
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...
Carol Jun 20, 2014
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!
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Jun 27, 2014
Why is this just for boys? Girls would love these activities too!
Sarah Jun 28, 2014
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!
Happy Home Fairy Jun 29, 2014
Just want you to know that I think you are amazing!! Thanks for all of these great ideas. :-)
LAURIE BARINOWWKI Jul 19, 2014
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).
Penny Berube Aug 23, 2014
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!
Mary Harmuth Oct 16, 2014
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
splud Dec 8, 2014
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.
Miss Avidity Dec 9, 2014
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.
Claudia Dec 14, 2014
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.
Lori Dec 3, 2015
My kids also really like perler beads. You can find patterns for almost any characters of shows/movies/games that they like. It takes a lot of patience and concentration, so I feel like it's a good exercise for them and I was pleasantly surprised at how engaged they were.
Clemont Mar 21, 2017
Boys like mine really enjoy acting and being silly, so why not create their own sketch comedy? They have had a lot of fun with it and have videoed it as well. Their idols are pretty much everybody from Studio C.
rebajas y ofertas Jun 10, 2018
Thanks! Good post!
S Whitman Aug 10, 2019
Great tween summer activity when kids are too old for day camp that I learned from a friend:
Find an organization that serves disabled children. They can often use tween/teens as volunteers to help the children in and out of a pool, assist with trips to the bathroom, serving lunch, etc. Your child is supervised, they are compassionate, and many life lessons.
Tried with both our son and daughter approx ages 12-13, it was life-changing, not boring, and they were really engaged. We tag-teamed with one of his friends, so us Moms could share the drop-off and pick up duties. The fact that he could go with a friend helped. Out daughter just went by herself. It was better than summer camp!
Michelle Nov 11, 2019
My son is ten and enjoying learning to solder. There are many soldering projects on Amazon with solder tools being very inexpensive. We also enjoy jigsaw puzzles together. He started Snap Circuits when he was very young, so we’ve now outgrown Snap Circuits and Legos but there are some neat large Knex kits that he is enjoying.
Eve Webb Feb 2, 2020
Best find this year has been a portable microscope which connects to a tablet or ipad. We've just finished our 8 week summer holidays and many days have been too hot to go outside. Just don't get grossed out when your teen checks out nasal hair. Our grandchildren are 2,3,5 & 8, but they thoroughly enjoyed finding things for adults to cringe at.
jake May 12, 2020
I'm twelve and something that is fun is taking apart old wagons and putting an electric motor so that it can drive.
Konnor Lee Jun 29, 2020
I was hoping for more chaotic projects like things involving fire or potentially dangerous activities like maybe instructions for how to build a t shirt cannon.
Taylor Dec 7, 2020
I'm 13 in 13 days, and i love the idea of the office supplies spaceship craft.
Jessica N Morris Mar 17, 2021
I have a 11 year-old all he wants to do is play on his tablet. I miss playing and doing activities with him, like we did when he was younger. I cry thinking about those times but I'm praying this ideas will help get my son who loves playing back. Thanks
Cindy Jun 14, 2021
Thank you for this great list and your generosity n sharing! Too much screen time WILL happen if we don’t help the grandkids experience other options. And as you have shown here, there are so many fun, creative, and worthwhile activities to pursue. Thanks again.
Carol McClure Aug 8, 2022
The ideas you have shared are fantastic! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am a Grandma looking for educational opportunities for our 3 Grands...10-12-& soon to be 14.
Yvette Jan 20, 2023
Thank you for this list i especially love that youve actually tried these activities and listed your personal experience.
Robin M Mar 22, 2023
My husband has been building rocketry models with my grandson, which has been a huge hit! You can purchase the models online.
Also purchased a 3 month membership along with a dna kit from ancestry.com; our grandson is 11 yo, and is obsessed spending hours creating a family tree— granted it is screen time— but educational and so fascinating.
In the past, I have bought each of my Grandchildren composition books, some scissors, and some glue sticks…to create collage pages in their books. I would assign them a theme such as “favorite animals” or “most interesting places to visit” and then we would utilize a 30 min window of screen time to search images and then they would cut the images, and create collages on paper. I save magazines and cataloged as well for them to cut out random items. They can also utilize markers, colored pencils, or scrapbooking materials to dress their collages up. The cool thing is I keep their books here, and they still love to get them out and look at what they’ve created
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