My 12 year old godson is with me for the summer - help! - Mothering Forums
Preteens and Teens > My 12 year old godson is with me for the summer - help!
yogamama's Avatar yogamama 02:46 PM 06-13-2002
Well, my 12 year old godson is actually only going to be with me one or two days a week, sort of as a "mother's helper" . This keeps him from having to go to day camp (which he felt too old for) and from hanging out at home alone every day while his mom is at work. He is at a "babysitter's" house or grandparent's house or with his dad when he is not with me. I want our days to be a mix of fun and getting stuff done. I have dreams of cooking and washing the kitchen floor.

The first day was Tues of this week and he found a project for the day: he cleaned a fish tank. Now we hope that the fish stay alive to appreciate it.

I have a 2 1/2 year old son (who does not nap) and my idea was that my 12 year old godson could play with my 2 year old while I got things done around the house. Now I see that a 12 year old quickly gets bored with a 2 year old and I need to break things up.

Here are my ideas: biking, rollar-blading, zoo, beach, library, museums. Here is what I fear: tv, crankiness, boredom.

Any suggestions for projects I could have him do? I was thinking gardening? I think some project where he can have some space and do his own thing for an hour or two each time would be great. He will only be with me a few days a week. Any suggestions would be great.


truly_sarah's Avatar truly_sarah 10:01 AM 07-04-2002
I have a 12 year old and a 2 year old.

I think a little bit of boredom is unavoidable. He'll have to accept a little bit but I think it's easier if you acknowledge it.


A musical instrument.

Listening to music (and learning the words).

Writing to a pen pal.

Building a cook fire for lunch.

A dart board (soft type if 2 year old will be near it!)

Backyard chickens are fun too, even for a 12-year old. And especially for a 2-year old.

Planning an outing. (Give maps, brochures, toll-free numbers, budget.)

Hand-crank ice cream.

My cousin liked rug-hooking when he was that age!

Tonka trucks and a big pile of sand. Yes, even for a 12-year old. He will feel responsible for showing 2-year old 'the ropes' ie how everything works.

Designing an irrigation system for your garden.

Entemology (so he can tell you what bugs are in your garden).
Get a good reference book for this, that's geographically suitable for your location.

Soil test kit and have him do the soil testing.

A cider press and some apples so he can make cider for you.
(Boil it and cool off before giving to the 2 year old.)

A pair of binoculars (2 year old gets plastic ones!) and a birding guide and checklist.

A mail-order pack of inexpensive world stamps and a world map.
(2 year old also likes stamps)

A tent and camping equipment, the kids can practice camping skills in the yard. Even setting up the tent and digging the trench is a challenging exercise for a 12 year old (but a good skill to acquire in life).

Software such as Rosetta Stone for learning a new language. You can get Rosetta Stone relatively inexpensively (it's a wonderful program for learning language) from

Anything that relates to his particular passion in life. Here we have a KNex roller coaster set (2 year old helped set it up and run it) and many books and software for roller coaster design. He also likes to spend hours looking at maps of the different states (we have the DeLorme Gazetteer books) and making up trips to places he'd like to go to (especially the places that have the roller coasters). (And sometimes, we do go!)

12 year olds are SO capable when they set their minds to it. I bought mine a sugaring book and a set of 20 taps and a few cinder blocks this past spring. He tapped 5 maple trees and within a month we had a few quarts of terrific maple syrup!
But no matter what you do, they always get a little bored during the day.

Maybe see if once in a while he likes to have a friend over, or to meet the friend at the park or a public pool if you're going there.

We try to stay home, but kids want to see the world, so once in a while, out we go....sometimes we just take a good road map (or not) and explore new roads together on the way to some mundane errand such as picking up the business mail.

Any of the above suggestions are appropriate to do with the 2 year old in tow, or 'helping'.

Do you think your godson would enjoy an overnight camp sometime? Mine has always gone to overnight canoe camp in Canada...this is his 5th year and he loves it. For three years he went all summer. But this year he decided he wants to see what it's like here in the summer. The next two weeks we are going to try to get out and get to the beach and all now that it's warmed up (an UNDERstatement). We try to go in the morning or in the late afternoon and just stay a couple hours.

Well, hope my ideas help you.
We manage to survive.
Not every day is exciting, but stilll....he seems happy. He accepts boredom when it is here because he knows it will end either by self-action or by me being available to do something.

I know you are watching your Godson but maybe if you need him to specifically watch your 2-year-old while you do chores, you could pay him so nominal amount per hour or for the block of time. I always offer to pay my son if I have a crunch for work, but he usually settles up with a visit to a theme park (or two) or some other treat...he doesn't like to take $ for watching his little brother unless we go out of the house in the evening (which we rarely do). I had a BIG project finished recently, so I still 'owe' him one theme park day-trip this coming week and then later in the summer a visit to the water park. (Well, it's a nice break for me, too, after all that work.) So we have found a way to work as a team so I can get my free time to work and he gets what he wants too but can't give himself without the help of an adult (riding different roller coasters that are nearby).

You can PM me if you want.

Edited to add: I forgot: also trains. Kids of all ages love trains.
But chickens are really truly entertaining.

indiegirl's Avatar indiegirl 01:17 PM 07-04-2002
Sarah, what excellent ideas! My brother is here every other weekend (he's a young 15) and I struggle with things to do with him. He always seems bored, but then asks to stay longer. I am goign to print out your list and use it!
EnviroBecca's Avatar EnviroBecca 07:56 PM 07-08-2002
I would focus on things 12yo can do to help 2yo that are more than aimless "playing with him":

*make clothes for 2yo's stuffed animal out of some fabric scraps.

*make an "activity board" with different kinds of knobs, latches, buttons, zippers, etc. (if he's familiar enough with hammer and screwdriver to use them unsupervised)

*make some decor for 2yo's room, like a "watch me grow" poster.

*build a "fort" of some kind for both of them to play in.

*be in charge of the afternoon snack--make frozen pops or pudding, cut up fruit, etc.

*make some simple toys, like a container full of dry beans to shake like a maraca.

*repaint a shabby toy.

*do exercises together--get a kids' yoga book or something that 12yo can do and 2yo can imitate.

Do you have a wading pool? I still enjoyed that when I was 12, for cooling off and splashing around, and it would provide different play opportunities for the kids together. Maybe 12yo would like to learn first aid (I learned it at that age, and it made me feel so capable!) and then you'd feel safe leaving them unattended in the pool for short periods.

A couple of chores my brother genuinely enjoyed at 12: trimming shrubbery (scissors-type trimmers, not power trimmers), folding laundry, vacuuming, polishing shoes, washing car and porch furniture, watering plants. Of course, you don't want the kid to feel like a servant, but he could do one chore a day and then something fun, or he could do one big job and then have several fun days.

If he's enough of a structured thinker, he might enjoy emptying out a storage space and reorganizing it. Nothing big, just the canned-food cabinet or the cluttered bookshelf. I at that age felt really proud of getting a neglected area whipped into shape!
yogamama's Avatar yogamama 10:10 PM 07-08-2002
Thanks for all the ideas - especially yours EnviroBecca. Mostly we have been going on outings: the library, the beach, nature museum... tomorrow we are going to my sister in laws parents farm. I haven't gotten alot of chores done, but we are having fun and spending time together - so far, so good.