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17 Indoor Summer Activities for Tweens (No Screens!)

Screen-free activities for tweens to do inside this summer. For rainy days, cooling off from summer heat, or whenever your tween wants to be inside (and you don't want them on screens).

Drooling-hot summer days, afternoon thunderstorms, small backyards, etc. – there are all kinds of reasons for tweens to need things to do inside during summertime.

three tweens on couch looking up expectantly, text overlay "fun things for tweens to do indoors"

Here’s how to keep them engaged, inside, without a screen.

Because let’s be real – don’t they get enough of them, anyway?

Indoor Summer Activities for Tweens

Invite your tween’s friend over, or just keep them home by themselves – these indoor summer activities work for either scenario.

1. Make Money Origami

money origami in shape of frog

Tweens are pretty fascinated with money already – think about supercharging that by letting them use dollar bills to create cute little creatures!

Hint: get free printables so there’s no screen needed.

2. Work Through a Lego Disaster Scenario

I love how I can just whip one of these printable cards out to my tween son when he’s “boooorreeeed, Mom”…and the last thing I’ll see for at least 20 minutes is the twinkle in his eye as he bolts into his room to get his Lego collection out.

Seriously – they’re that engaging.

3. Build a Fairy Garden Terrarium (or Shoebox)

clear plastic terrariums on Dollar Tree shelf
different packages of gnome and fairy garden supplies in Dollar Tree

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with all of the fairy garden supplies you can find now at Michael’s, Dollar Tree, and other stores.

Gather some supplies, and then let your tween bring a micro world of fairies alive in a small glass bowl or even a shoebox.

Hint: you can do this with gnomes, too! That’s what we prefer, especially since they have tons of supplies at Dollar Tree.

4. Set Up Pots to Regrow Vegetable Scraps

My tween is currently obsessed with taking vegetable scraps after we cook and attempting to grow them.

It’s a whole thing!

You can regrow:

Heck, he’s even trying a banana tree in the backyard (good luck, kiddo!).

Collect a few scraps over a week, and keep them refrigerated for the perfect indoor activity for tweens.

5. Play Pudding Pictionary

three people playing pudding pictionary on fluorescent pink paper

Pudding Pictionary…how could they not have this around when I was 10?!?

Make a batch of pudding, or keep a few packs of those premade kinds in the pantry.

Get a sheet pan, and print out these free printable Pictionary cards.

And you’ve got at least half an hour of indoor fun!

6. Hold a Paper Airplane Competition

It turns out that making paper airplanes becomes infinitely more interesting when you set it up to either measure the length of the flight (using masking tape for various points) or to go over a 2nd-floor banister.

Encourage your tween to make multiple iterations of airplanes, too! Which one goes fastest? Which one goes the longest distance?

7. Hatch Ancient Triops/Trilobites

adult trilobite in clear plastic tank with colored rocks
2nd batch of triops, with 2 of them adult sized in plastic tank

Okay – to be fair, this one takes a good amount of prep. But your tweens will be amazed!

I would know because my son and I did this last summer.

This project works great in summertime because it’s warmer, which helps you maintain a temperature-controlled environment. Plus more sunlight, which the little Trilobites like, too.

We did this twice, and each time they lived for three months.

Psst: we tried several trilobite kits on Amazon, and this one is the only one that hatched. We’ve used the eggs and tank from it twice now, and each time hatched 3 trilobites! We still have enough eggs for another hatching and had to buy some protein-rich fish flakes to feed them when the food ran out (worked great).  

8. Color 3-D Projects

How cool – your tween can build a 3-D project, and then color it in (OR, color the parts, then build the project…).

They definitely didn’t have these around when we were kids.

9. Bake from Another Decade

Baking Yesteryear hardback book on kitchen counter

Baking projects are so fun!

Add an educational and interesting element to it by checking out Baking Yesteryear and letting your tween choose something to bake from another decade.

My son and I did this, and he was SO engaged and interested. He loved hearing about the history, finding out when my “decade” was, and looking at some strange recipes.

10. Write Out a Business Plan

When I was a tween, I had the most fun one summer creating a bean bag business with my bestie.

The idea was that we would sew cloths into pouches, add the beans to them, and then sell them.

I don’t think we sold a single one…but WOW did we pass some time!

Now’s a great time to download a free printable business template for kids and have them dream up a business, or expand on a business idea they’ve had.

Psst: and if they’d like to plan out a lemonade stand for when it gets sunny outside again? Here are my 12 best lemonade stand ideas.

11. Do the “How Bitter Can You Take It” Challenge

four Lindt chocolate bars ranging from milk chocolate to 90% cocoa

Tweens love testing extremes, and most kids love chocolate.

That’s why I’m trying out this fun activity with my own tween this summer!

I’m going to buy 4-5 bars of chocolate with varying percentages of the bar that’s been made from cocoa. The higher the percentage, the more bitter the taste.

There are 60%, 70%, and even 80% chocolate bars available. Let’s see how bitter he can handle it!

12. Marshmallow Target Practice

tween boy aiming marshmallow slingshot with one eye closed

Now, if you choose to do this? I suggest you use a limited number of marshmallows – we capped at 10 – so that at the end of it, you can get your tween to find 10 marshmallows to throw away.

Just sayin’.

We used a target from a Nerf gun set and this cool marshmallow shooter.

You can also set up army men on a banister or shelf, and have them target them, too.

13. Do a Kid’s Adventure Challenge

holographic-colored kids Adventure Challenge book cover
inside Kid Adventure Challenge book showing pages of scratch-offs for indoor and outdoor activities

This really cool book is full of scratch-off adventures for kids to take. And many of them can be done indoors!

You’ll find the indoor scratch-offs by looking for the house icon.

Categories include things like:

  • Play With Your Food
  • Let’s p-ART-y
  • You’ve Got a Friend in Me

14. Make New Things with Melted Crayons

Do you have a bunch of old crayons or a few packs of restaurant crayons hanging around?

Let your tweens melt them down and create something new.

Molds help, but if you don’t have them, then you can use a washed-out container like a soup can, cookie cutters, or a muffin pan.

You can melt the crayons in the oven, or using a hairdryer.

15. Listen to a Kid’s Podcast

There are some really, really good kid and tween podcasts out there.

My son recently started listening to Greeking Out almost daily.

Several others on our radar include:

Hint: since I’d like my phone back, I’m gifting him this Yoto Player next week. We’ll be able to download/upload approved podcasts and he can make choices about what he wants to listen to. We’re actually going to use this to substitute some of his TV time!

16. Learn to Knit

tween boy knitting at dining room table

My son is also quite interested in learning to knit right now. He’s got two balls of yarn, and two sets of knitting needles.

He’ll spend hours listening to a podcast and knitting (or, knitting while talking to us!). It’s fantastic.

17.  Take Out the Rock Collection + Magnifying Glass

container with rock collection and several rocks on table under magnifying glass

Many tweens have a rock collection. But how often do they actually look at it?

Get a magnifying glass, and encourage your tween to look at the rocks up close. What rocks and gems do they have?

I hope I've given you lots of ideas for indoor activities tween will love that have nothing to do with a screen. Use these on rainy days, hot summer days, or, really, any time of the year.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Her money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Frugal Confessions, LLC. Read more here or on LinkedIn.