You know all the baby and child-friendly places in the Midlands, but your child is too old for that stuff now. You need a new place, a new activity, a new family strategy. We’ve got a dozen ideas for you. So get ready to have fun with your almost teenager (eek!) and experience a whole new hometown.
Drink & Dine
Coffee, Tea, & Me
Starbucks rated high with lots of tween families that we polled. It makes sense. It’s a bit adult like, but you can also get some sweet treats and drinks that don’t have a full on caffeine buzz. Why not try some local options like Drip, Indah, The Wired Goat, Cool Beans, or The Local Buzz? All have cozy seating in a unique, fun atmosphere, so decide beforehand if you’re going to stay or take you and yours for a walk with drink in hand.
It’s all about choices. What flavor combo will you choose? We suggest ice cream or doughnuts. Let them surprise a friend or family member by getting an extra to-go and delivering afterwards. There are some totally acceptable chain restaurant offerings that even have the drive-thru option (I’m not slamming a good surprise Sonic run!) but be sure to try local Sweet Cream Company on Main and Scoopy Doo Gelato in Five Points. And yes, you have to try a Duck Donut.
Make it an adventure. Explore the small places on Decker Boulevard’s International Corridor where you can meet the owner or cook while deciphering the menu. Have trouble making small talk with your tween when you go out? Settle yourselves down in this atmosphere together and you’re suddenly buddies in a foreign land.
It’s never too early to teach fashion. Oops, I mean budgeting. And thrift stores are super popular right now with girls of all ages. Located in every area of the Midlands, good thrift stores are great places to buy her next wardrobe or just one signature piece. Did you know we actually have our own local fashionista who writes for Goodwill? Check out The Thrifty Southern Belle.
Media, Games, & Books
Top ranking from the tweens we polled was 2nd and Charles. You’ll find books, games, electronics, and more. There’s enough for mom to happily browse, too. But, really, if your tween has a specific love, then you should sometimes indulge. (I’ve asked Game Stop to install a mom corner for me.) Anyone been to the dollar room at Heroes and Dragons?
Make a Game of It
One of my most memorable group activities was one where we each were given $5 and let loose in the mall to buy an item that described our partner. There was, of course, a time limit. There was also a lot of laughter at the end. Imagine what your child could do with $5 in Target and 15-20 minutes to buy something that described YOU. By the way, you get to do the same for them. Bonus if you make it an entire family or friend group affair. Kindness required, and must be stated prior.
Choose a board game
This is a budget friendly post so no Frankie’s or Dave and Buster’s on this list. On one recent family vacation, we found ourselves in a rental with no wi-fi. I know! My husband googled the closest store and bought Risk, the board game. Weekend saved. Your days of Candy Land are over, mama. Yours can play the real stuff now, though be sure to check ratings on the boxes. Some truly are adult games! I’ve found The Board Game Family‘s website to be helpful with suggestions and reviews, and they even include 2-person games. My favorite places I’ve seen folks playing? Chess at Richland Library and Bananagrams at coffee shops!
Choose a Sport & Follow a Local Team
Area high schools, colleges, and universities have numerous sports represented. Think outside the football/baseball box. Tickets for other sports are available and inexpensive. My mom took me to synchronized swimming events at Converse College. She also knew that basketball game entry at Wofford College was free at or after half time. Clearly I grew up in the upstate, and luckily Columbia has many additional options to consider. What team will y’all follow this season?
Join a Club
Both Richland and Lexington Country library systems have events and groups for tweens and teens. It is not too late to consider Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. And even social media can be a resource for nearby community with similar interests. Example: I found several local painted rock groups on facebook this month.
Volunteering is a great way to do good and spend time with your tween. Welcome to the age where they can do so much more. See where and what and when you can help out together at Harvest Hope Food Bank. Children 10-15 years serve with an adult. I’ve done this once with a group. We sorted and bagged produce. Gloves were provided. It got a bit strenuous, but it was great to get involved and help out the community!
For the Animal Lover
This may change your life if you have a tween who loves animals. It may be especially helpful if he loves animals but you do not have one of your own. Volunteers under 16 need an adult with them, but wouldn’t you both love to give a dog some outdoor play time? Check out all the opportunities at Pets Inc.
Not up for a commitment? Local giving group Givation provides a variety of volunteer opportunities, with a different focus monthly. You’re welcome to join any give at any time. So, why not follow them on facebook to keep track?