Being able to have strong relationships with a 12-year-old is imperative to most families. 12 is the last year before a child turns into a teenager, and who knows what lies in store for them? Parents like to bond with their children, so below is a list of 21 fun activities parents can do with their 12-year-old.
1. Watching a Movie
Watching a movie is an easy way to spend time with a 12-year-old, even if there isn’t much talking. However, this could provide an opportunity for the parents to learn what interests their 12-year-old, and even for the 12-year-old to learn what their parents liked.
A similar idea would be to go watch a new movie in theaters if both parents and 12-year-old are interested. However, if going out is not an option, here are some movie ideas to consider and get started: (Source)
- Harry Potter
- Star Wars
- For the two above, it might be fun to try to do a movie marathon for either or both!
- The Princess Bride
- Ella Enchanted
- Little Women
Hiking is a great way to strengthen the relationship between anyone, including parents and their children. Not only is hiking fun – being in the mountains and forests and eating snacks along the way – but hiking is also a challenge, which can prove to be very rewarding for everyone once the hike has been accomplished.
3. Bike Rides
Depending on what you prefer, either casual biking or trail/mountain biking are great bonding experiences!
The easiest option is to simply go for a bike ride with the 12-year-old and honestly spend time with each other as you are biking casually in the park, on the road, or on the sidewalk.
A second option is to go trail/mountain biking. This type of biking is more intense than a normal bike in the previous suggestion, or even cycling on the track. Mountain biking is going off the road, into the rougher ground, and even requires different bikes, which are sturdier and better on rough terrain. Mountain biking is going into the mountains and forests, which have intense and sometimes tricky uphills, downhills, and bumps along the way.
So depending on how capable the 12-year-old is, this may or may not be the best or safest activity. But if prepared, and with some practice, this can be an extremely fun activity! My uncle and cousin go mountain biking often together and have formed a very strong relationship because of it.
4. Game Nights
Game nights are a great way to encourage discussion and challenge yourself as well. Games such as Dominion or Settlers of Catan offer great strategic opportunities, but can easily be played casually as well. Usually, game nights don’t end in tears because somebody lost but be forewarned that feelings might get hurt if competition runs too high.
Some ideas for Game Nights:
- Board Games
- Settlers of Catan
- Enchanted Forest
- Card Games
- Skull King
- Dice Games
Other games that are equally fun may include:
Food brings people together when eating it, but even more so when people are making it together. Baking or cooking with a 12-year-old is a great activity to do together with parents – they are at the age where learning these skills can prove to be very useful in the future once they’re off to college.
This is also a time to make mistakes. Some of the best memories together are making those mistakes and laughing over them later. Baking and cooking definitely provide the opportunity to make mistakes, often unintentionally.
My mother taught my siblings and I how to make homemade bread, and our father taught us how to make chocolate chip cookies. Baking with our parents as we grew up helped us develop important life skills and gave us time to talk without distraction.
Some ideas if you want to start cooking:
This may be more partial to the male 12-year-olds, but if the girls are in a good mood, then this may be a fun activity to do, even though it may not last long. There are a couple of ideas with wrestling, which could be the following:
- Wrestling on the ground
- Arm wrestling
- Leg wrestling
Singing may sound a bit partial for girls, but singing can be a great way to spend time with the 12-year-old and can be extremely fun, especially with songs that have multiple parts.
Similar to the movies, if different songs are played, with favorites coming from both sides of parents and 12-year-old, this can be a very fun experience for everyone.
Singing can also provide the perfect time to bust some moves in the kitchen and allow yourself to be goofy.
Fun songs that are enjoyable to sing to: (Source)
- We Don’t Talk About Bruno – Encanto
- Vivir Mi Vida – Marc Anthony
- Happy – Pharrell Williams
8. Nerf Wars
The nerf guns will never get old. My cousins are in their teens, and they still love to have nerf wars! Having a nerf war with the 12-year-old can prove to be very entertaining and a lot of fun. Taking time to prepare bases with blankets, pillows, and chairs can prove to be very entertaining.
9. Shoot Bows or Guns
I was given a bow and arrow at twelve-years-old, and loved shooting it! BB guns, CO2 Airsoft Guns, .22 caliber rifles, and youth compound bows are all great options for 12-year-olds to start with. Using proper safety precautions, shooting targets can be plenty of safe fun. Often, thrift stores can provide cheap, entertaining targets for anyone to shoot such as toy villains from favorite movies or books.
10. Making Family Videos/Music Videos
This is one of the most fun activities anybody can do. Now, making videos does not have to be anything fancy. My sisters and I always did music videos, and all we used was the family video camera, which was very simple. Often there are free apps on smartphones that help record and edit videos easily. Those videos were always some of the best memories we had.
If making videos is something the 12-year-old wants to do, then support them and offer help. This can either be videoing for them or letting them direct you as the parent to go where it will be best. Sometimes, they might ask the parents to be videoed. Make sure you agree, even though it may feel embarrassing. In the end, it will all be worth it. (Source)
Quilting takes a lot of time, so if there is a weekend when making and finishing the quilt can be done in one shot, do it. This is also a good time to probably turn on the TV and start binge-watching and snacking as the work goes on.
My mother had this exact experience while she, her sisters, brother, and mother quilted. And they all did it while watching the six-hour version of Pride and Prejudice. She always described it as one of their favorite memories together.
Camping is very similar to hiking – there may even be some hiking involved – in the fact that there are no distractions and no screens. If you pick the location carefully, often you can find places that are out of cell reception to help encourage the family to unplug and focus on each other. This provides some experience and new skills, and hopefully more interest.
There is also backpacking, which is a very good mix between hiking and camping. This is more intense because you are hiking for miles and for hours, and then you set camp, have food, go to sleep, wake up, pack up, and the day starts all over. This can be a very fun activity to do with a 12-year-old and doesn’t have to cost much. Often, you can find used gear that works great if you don’t already have gear of your own.
Service is always fun. It does not matter if the 12-year-old starts out reluctant, grumpy, or happy. It always ends up being fun. Even service that includes physical labor is fun, it just takes a little bit of time and patience before the hormones get going, and soon someone will be grinning.
Some easy ideas to start serving:
- Yard work for a neighbor
- Volunteer Work
- Animal Shelters
- Retirement Homes
- Food Donations
My brother loves to build things with our dad. If our dad is going out to the shed to start making a chicken coop, table, bookshelf, or vanity, most of the time my brother will follow him out. They both love creating things together, just because they are together, and they know they have a blast when they do it together.
Work does not sound like fun, but seriously, it’s way fun. It just takes a bit of time to get used to the work. Working will provide experience and knowledge for the 12-year-old, and even if they don’t think it’s fun at first, they’ll be grateful later one.
Almost every single time, when somebody talks about working and how “horrible” it was, they always have a grin on their face.
Ideas for work:
- Wash the car
- Rake leaves
- Deep clean the house
Shopping is a time to give some attention to the 12-year-old, especially if there are a lot of siblings to share mom and dad with. This will not only provide the 12-year-old’s needs and desires – depending on how much the parents are willing to spend – but it can provide some opportunities to learn the likes and dislikes of the child or the parent.
This doesn’t need to be a necessary trip to the store. This should be fun, so thrift shop all around town, even if you don’t end up buying anything.
If your 12-year-old has a passion for one sport or all sports in general, first: support them in this sport. Second: take some time to play or even train with them. Another fun activity that is related may be to take the 12-year-old to see their favorite team play, if the timing and place is convenient.
18. Go Out to Eat
A lot like shopping, except there’s good food to consume. Take the 12-year-old out to their favorite restaurant/fast-food place, or treat them to a nicer restaurant.
If you want to make a 12-year-old happy, take them to a buffet. This would be a fun activity to do, specifically, because then the parents and the child can compare and contrast what they like or don’t like.
19. Crafts, Art, Projects
Crafts, art, and projects all sort of blend together, but there’s a whole lot that can be done about it! And they’re always so fun in the making, and it feels so good after it’s all completed!
The following are ideas for certain crafts, arts, and projects: (Source)
- Any DIY projects
- Bob Ross Painting/Videos
- Science Experiments
- Elephant Toothpaste is a very fun one
- Create a comic book
- Write a story
20. Family History
12-year-olds are getting into that age when they’re wondering who they are and what they want or should become. Taking a look at your family history may help learn their identity, and it’s super fun to learn where you originate from!
Some ideas to get going on Family History
- Interview parents or grandparents
- Who their parents are
- What childhood and growing up was like
- Lessons learned
- DNA kits
- Find a site
- familysearch.org is a fantastic place to start, and it is completely free!
It sounds so simple. But talking is actually what 12-year-olds like. Not necessarily for the parents to talk to them, but for the 12-year-olds to talk to the parents. Their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their imagination, their future… they want to talk about that, but it’s hard when the parents interrupt and try to help solve their problems.
12-year-olds want to be listened to. They are old enough to be taken seriously and even have impressive discussions. When talking, try to avoid giving too much parental advice. 12-year-olds will share much more when they feel they are talking to a peer rather than a parent. Taking the time to just listen and validate how they feel makes a world of a difference! They want to feel heard more than anything else.