Play Ideas

Five Ways to Match Pre-Teen Interests With Play


Spring, Summer, Fall

Group Size: 
One Child, Two Children, Small Group

As our kids grow and change, so do their play needs. It’s easy to assume that pre-teens don’t need play any longer, but they do! Their bodies and minds still benefit from play, whether it’s creative, indoor play or more active outdoor play. Play keeps us all young at heart and it’s a great way to keep connected with our kids. Here are five ways to match pre-teen interest with play:

1. Family Game Night

Schedule a regular Family Game Night and play video games or board games together. Our new favorite way to play video games as a family is through our Apple TV. We search the free apps section to find games we can play together on our big screen. Jet Pack Joyride, Trivia Crack and Real Kick Soccer are a few of our current favorites. If a board game night is more your family’s style, let the kids pick out the games you’ll play. Make family game night a regular event each week.

boy throwing a football in the yard

2. Football in the backyard

I’ll admit, I’ve lived most of my life not understanding one thing about football. But now, because my pre-teen son is obsessed with the game, I’m learning alongside him. And now we’re playing football together (or just tossing the ball) in the backyard. We pick our team names, figure out where our “goal posts” are and take it from there. I never enjoyed football before, but now I’m learning to love it because my son takes the time to teach me about it. And, as it turns out, I’m a pretty good receiver.

card based board game called storymatic with child pulling a card from the deck

3. Tell Stories

A few years ago my family found Storymatic. This clever card game can be played by almost any age but I’ve found that pre-teens are especially good at it because their worlds are really beginning to open up, fueling their creativity. Cards of different colors are selected by each player. Some cards describe characteristics of a person while others include tidbits about setting or possible plot. Players weave tales for the group using the information provided on the cards. The sky is the limit as to how creative you can get and pre-teens love to wow older siblings and parents with wild and fascinating stories.

young girl in a tie-dyed shirt getting ready to bowl

4. Bowling

Bowling is a great game the whole family can play. Little ones can use bumpers and pre-teens who’ve built some bowling skills can show off that they no longer need them. When I was a kid, my family and I went bowling often. It’s one of the sports in which I wasn’t too clumsy to participate. My dad and I bowled often and it gave us a great opportunity to bond. Now my own little family bonds over bowling!

group of kids skating in a roller rink lit by neon purple lights

5. Roller Skating

Sure, roller skating provides great exercise for the whole family, but the big benefit for pre-teens is that it includes two of their favorite things: popular music *and* getting out of the house. Pre-teens revel in a bit of freedom as they skate around the rink. And parents love that their pre-teens are having fun with them or, at least, near them.


Colleen Pence is a Play Ambassador for Let’s Play.

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