Extracurricular Activities / Life Skills / Summer Learning / Ages 11-18

The 4 Zones of Tween and Teen Summer Planning

They might be too old for camp, but they still need to do…something.

When your kid is young, figuring out an entire summer’s worth of childcare can be painful. But as they get older, the challenge (like so many challenges in parenting) shifts: Your tween or teen might feel too old for camp, but you don’t want them just hanging around all day, either.

There’s no single template for summer planning. Every family’s needs (and preferences) for childcare and activities will be different.

But no matter what, the first step to summer planning is usually the same: Find out when your kid is out of school. Check the school calendar so you know exactly which weeks they’ll be kicking around.

From there, you can make a plan that works for your family. As you help your tween or teen map out their summer, keep these zones in mind and look for ways to balance them out. Maybe they’re spending a few weeks in summer school (zone 2), or have a babysitting gig two days a week over the course of the whole summer (zone 3). Then you might look for opportunities to fill in the missing chunks with zone 1- or zone 4-style activities.

Here’s how we think about the 4 zones:

Zone 1: Recharge

Allow for some unstructured time. After working hard in school all year, most older kids want to recharge. Can we blame them? Whether they’re getting extra sleep, hanging around with friends, or playing video games, some time to relax over the summer is healthy.

Zone 2: Learn

Even if this won’t be a popular choice, it’s worth considering if your kid needs any academic support that could set them up for success next school year. Are they struggling with any subject areas that could be reinforced over the summer through virtual tutoring (check out Schoolhouse) or online learning programs like Khan Academy or IXL? Many schools will also offer summer school classes to students who need support, so if you think your kid could benefit, ask their guidance counselor what’s available. And your community might offer enrichment classes in other subjects your kid might actually find pretty interesting. (Coding, anyone?) The local library or your town or city’s department of human services would be good places to start looking.

Zone 3: Work

This is a big one for teens, but tweens can start getting in on the summer job action too. Summer jobs are great. Your kid gets work experience! They make some money! They are out of your house! Everyone wins. Younger tweens won’t be able to get real jobs yet, but they might be able to take advantage of counselor-in-training programs at local camps, or try their hand at small jobs in their community. Things like walking a neighbor’s dog, doing yard work, or offering services as a “parent’s helper” are great on-ramps to work. Teens, of course, have many more options. Time to scoop some ice cream! (Or whatever they’re interested in.)

Zone 4. Play

Who says they’re too old for running around? If your kid already has a passion for a sport or other activity, they probably already know what’s available over the summer. But it isn’t too late to try something new: Your local parks department might offer swimming and other athletic activities for kids of all ages. Nudge your kid to get outside and kick a ball around, even if they’re indoorsy.

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