If you enjoy doing projects and creative activities with your grandchildren, you’ll love having tween grandchildren. Sometimes known as preteens, children between the ages of 9 and 12 have fairly long attention spans and the ability to follow directions. With a little luck, they’ll even help you with clean-up!
1. Open your own cooking school.
Invite your tween grandchildren over for an adventure in the culinary arts. Ahead of time, order some chef’s hats and aprons over the Internet and choose one or two recipes of medium difficulty. It’s best to start with baking because cooking on top of the stove is more hazardous. On the chosen date, be prepared with multiple copies of the recipes and the necessary implements. Be prepared to play the part of a Food Network star and demonstrate basic techniques. Be sure to emphasize how to stay safe in the kitchen. Use the proper terms for the techniques, and your grandchildren will get a vocabulary lesson, as learning some real world math as they use the measuring utensils. The best part of all is that in the end you get to eat your homework!
2. Have a photo shoot.
If you don’t already have them, start a collection of accessories such as feather boas, hats of all types, silk flowers and musical instruments. Garage sales and dollar stores are great places to look. Set up a room in your house as a temporary photo studio. Move out the furniture, or simply hang a sheet to block out distracting elements. Before you begin, read our hints for photographing grandkids. Natural lighting is wonderful, but it’s fun to experiment with other types of light. Bring in some lamps and experiment. Add a funky chair or stool, and you’re ready for your shoot. Use a digital camera, and let the grandkids take turns being the models and the photographers. Be sure to take your own turn in front of the camera.
3. Play scientists in the field.
Buy an assortment of identification guides—spiders, insects, birds, trees and the like. Hit the used book stores for these or shop the discount sites online. Pick a pretty day, pack a lunch and hit a park, beach or nature preserve. If you are working on plants or shells, you can carry home your specimens. If you are working with wildlife, take a camera to document your sightings. Spiders and insects are easier to capture on camera than birds, although shore birds tend to be easier than woodland birds. After you have sighted everything you can, have lunch. After lunch or at home, write up your findings, start a “life list” or mount your specimens for display.
4. Play home decorator.
Redecorate a grandchild’s room or a spare room at your own house. You’ll need the consent of the parents if you are going to be redoing the tween’s room. Also, this can be a fairly expensive project, but it can produce months of fun. Be sure that your grandchild is up to a long-term project. Some tweens haven’t yet reached that level of maturity. Much of the enjoyment of this project is the planning. Look through catalogs and magazines to find just the right look. Decide on a color scheme and a general type of décor. You can also buy software to do a virtual trial run of your plan before you actually execute it, or do the same thing on several sites online. Set a budget for your decorating project, and start shopping!
5. Set the table.
Lots of families today are accustomed to the grab-a-fork school of table setting. It’s fun to introduce tweens to the rules of table setting. Numerous books are available, or find some guidance online. The more choices you have, the more fun, so if you are short on tablecloths, dishes or flatware, go shopping. Shop garage sales, second-hand stores and clearance bins. Remember that a mixed or eclectic look is more interesting than matched sets. Set the table for a real meal. To save time, buy some prepared foods or cook ahead of time. Help the grandchildren pick out the proper utensils for the meal. Let their imaginations have free rein in creating a centerpiece. You may even be able to sneak in a lesson about manners.