How to Spend Quality Time with Your 7 to 12-Year-Old

Between the ages of seven and 12, your child may actually want to do the same things you want to do. Imagine that. Here's a guide to making the most of his new, more mature status

How to Spend Quality Time with Your 7 to 12-Year-OldIt’s not your imagination. Your son is actually sitting in his seat at a restaurant, waiting patiently for his food to arrive. Yet just last week—or so it seems—going out to a place with breakable plates inspired dread.

so what gives?

In short, your child has finally hit the age you could only dream about during those long, exhausting days spent stuffing fingers into mittens, fastening cracker-encrusted car-seat buckles and chasing your half-naked three-year-old around a mall (hey, it happens).

Welcome to the golden age: that wondrous, all-too-fleeting time between temper tantrums and teen angst when you can actually take kids out and—gasp—have a good time doing something you both actually enjoy. And the best news? The bonding time you take pleasure from now pays off later.

“There’s a need for this kind of connection,” says Dr. Marlene Moretti, a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., and lead author of a review called Attachment to Parents and Adjustment in Adolescence. “This is a time to lay a foundation for what comes later.” (Like your teen talking back and wanting to spend 24/7 with friends, not you.)

Tania Hall, a White Rock, B.C., mom of a 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son, says as her children grew, so did the variety of outings she could schlep them to. This past fall they checked out Vancouver’s Lantern Festival, a nighttime event. “When the kids were little, they were tired and cranky late at night and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. But now it’s almost like you’re going out with a friend,” she says. Almost.

Kira Vermond is a Guelph, Ont.-based freelance writer and mother of two young kids who is looking forward to taking them to high tea one day.

now’s the time

Check out these kid-and-parent-friendly places to explore together:

Walk the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Art class can only take budding artists so far. It’s time to peruse Alex Colville’s Ocean Limited, A. Y. Jackson’s Entrance to Halifax Harbour or the Maud Lewis Painted House at this Halifax gallery. Kids can also take part in Studio Daze, a drop-in studio, to make their own art. Why now? They keep their hands to themselves (and off the artwork).

Grow Up at Granville Island
Vancouver families know where to go to have fun. Skip Granville’s supervised play area (that’s so Grade 1) and shop for fishing reels, crystals and funky accessories for your budding interior designer’s room. Or head to AGRO Café where you can admire your finds over an organic coffee for you and a hot chocolate for your youngster. Why now? Kids actually want to spend time shopping and sipping with you.

Fairmont Chateau Laurier’s Prince and Princess Tea
Tea at Ottawa’s “castle” makes kids feel so grown up they’re guaranteed to act the part. For $18 per child, the Prince and Princess Tea comes with cookies, scones with Devonshire cream, dainty finger sandwiches, fruit tartlettes, a fruit cup and the fabled Bubblegum Tea. Parents can choose from dozens of other blends if that doesn’t appeal. Why now? They sit…and stay.

Eating Seafood on the Coasts
Introducing new food to previously picky eaters is a great joy. Why not try scarfing down tuna tataki and wild salmon sashimi in Vancouver, or tying on a bib at a restaurant in New Brunswick for a fresh lobster supper? Some restaurants even offer half-pound lobsters for the kids. Why now? They’re finally willing to try something besides fish sticks.

Get Muddy at the Gardiner Museum
Now’s the time to brave the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Canada’s only museum devoted entirely to ceramics. Every Friday (6 p.m. ““ 8 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m. ““ 3 p.m.) a clay studio is open to the public. On a first come, first served basis, learn how to wheel-throw, hand-build and glaze your creations together, with the help of a professional ceramist.
Why now? Did we mention the (breakable) ceramics?

Take in an NHL Game
Or any professional sport for that matter. Sure, it can be tough to track down tickets to watch any of the Canadian teams in action, but with a little planning and a little cash (all right, a lot of cash), catching a game together can be something you talk about for weeks…or even years, depending on the game. Why now? Gone are the days of leaving during the 2nd period with a tired youngster in tow. Fewer bathroom breaks and a child who is old enough to have a decent understanding of the game are also bonuses.

Down and Dirty at Horne Lake Caves
Have a look under Vancouver Island and discover crystal formations, ancient fossils and an underground river. Pass on the easy Family Cavern Tour, which runs only in spring and summer, and reserve a space for the guided three-hour Wet & Wild Spelunking Adventure for cavers eight and up. Why now? They’re not afraid of the dark anymore.

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