Fun activity to do after school regularly with a 9-year-old
September 24, 2018 8:45 AM   Subscribe

My son is not having a very good experience with school so far this year, and I think doing a long-term activity with him after school every day would help a little bit -- so that he has something fun to look forward to.

He likes robots, science, drawing, craft projects, gaming, Star Wars, YouTube, board/card games, and reading, and I like craft projects, reading, photography, cosplay, and general geekery. (I don't mind drawing, but I'm not good at it.) I'm trying to think of something (indoors) that takes weeks or months (and results in something really cool at the end) that we can do a little at a time. I don't want to spend a ton of money. Also, we can't leave out any fragile/chewable/delicate things because cats, but I suppose we could work in the (unfinished) basement. I've seen this question.
posted by trillian to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Your kid sounds like a 3-years-older version of mine.

The basic blank building blocks of board and card games are available to purchase online for not much money at all. You could develop your own game together, board or card or both, and create all the pieces yourselves. The best part is, since it's not going to be sold, you can use all the Star Wars etc.. IP you want!

There are many build-a-robot kits available at varying levels of complexity. has loads of kits and bits and bobs for making robots or any other electronic crafty project you desire.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

Aw, that's hard. Does your library have cool clubs or stuff? One of our libraries has an 'evil genius' club. The also have a 3D printer, a vinyl cuttng machine that can be used to make stickers, a virtual reality game thing, etc.
posted by kitcat at 8:54 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

You're in Boston, right? There must be a Con you guys can go to on the schedule at some point. Maybe you can put your joint crafting skills together to make Minecraft cosplays!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:00 AM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Our local Comic book store runs various events that my kids go to. Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. They've met like minded kids, and they both very much look forward to it. STEM club would be another thing to look for.

We do puzzles together, we often listen to Audio books.

Maybe check out for ideas some projects. You could customize nerf guns?

Plan and build a huge lego structure. Kits are great, but imagination is way better.

What about setting up a motion inspired maze thing (the ball rolls, hitting the dominoes, that knock another ball that rises into the air, hitting a latch, that does something). I know there is a word for those, but I can't remember.

We have two story stair well (open circular thing) and we bought some black tubing and used zip ties to secure it to the spindles...Marble track (this is hugely popular with my kids, and their friends- we had one birthday part that we did none of the planned activities as all the kids were busy with the marble tube). I wish we had a clear tube so if you were doing that, there's my recommendation.
posted by Ftsqg at 9:03 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Build a couple bikes together and then ride them together when you're finished.
posted by aniola at 9:09 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think it depends on whether your kid’s version of a soothing relief is a bust-out-and-get-physical activity or a curl-up-by-the-fire activity. Either way you may want to build in a transition routine, like Mr. Rogers changing his jacket and shoes for sweater and sneakers, to mark that the school day is done.

For a quiet crafty activity, how about cross-stitch? Takes forever and the supplies can fit easily in a big shoebox. I see instructions online for making custom patterns of things/characters he would like.

He may enjoy having you read to him. A chapter a day of a great, eventful book would be something to look forward to.
posted by lakeroon at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Do you have any house projects that need doing that you could do together? I have great memories of the times when I was trusted to collaborate on painting, building, fixing, etc. with my parents. A crafty kid may really enjoy being able to do something very "real" like that.

Also on the "practical" note - what about meal planning together on the weekends and then cooking together regularly?

Alternatively, are either of you inclined toward writing? Any interest in trying to write a story or even a book together?
posted by mosst at 10:10 AM on September 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

We have done puzzles, board games, written stories (we usually start by drawing a map of the location on posterboard with tons of details). Picking a topic and going to the library to learn about it has also been interesting.

The best thing we did was enroll in karate together. Yoga was good too, but karate has really stuck.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:41 AM on September 24, 2018

Write and draw a comic book together. You'd make up the story, write it, draw it, etc. If he likes drawing and you don't, he can do the pictures and you can do the coloring.

More ambitious and less easy: paint a wall mural, maybe in his room? It would have a messier setup and not sure about the cats thing, but it would be a very cool result.

I also agree that a cool cosplay costume and/or a robot kit would be great projects. My husband and son are also working on building a video game together with a program called Pico8.
posted by gideonfrog at 11:02 AM on September 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Big crazy Rube Goldberg machine like this one.
posted by 10ch at 11:07 AM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

When my youngest sibling was around that age I started doing "snack" with them, which was usually water, some kind of food, and a half hour ish quiet time for talking, sometimes reading, sometimes a cartoon or other TV show, sometimes listening to music. It was good to have a gentle transition from the school bus to homework and evening activities. Sometimes one or more of us napped. A complex project at that time of day would have been a ticket to meltdown town.
posted by bagel at 11:17 AM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

My kid enjoyed a Kano build-a-computer kit. That definitely takes some time and then there's games and such you can program after it is done.
posted by LKWorking at 12:42 PM on September 24, 2018

See if there is anyone in your community doing First LEGO League. It might be too late to get engaged this year but definitely could start next.
posted by q*ben at 1:11 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

If he likes focused, meticulous projects, consider balsa wood. My husband recently showed me a scale of the Parthenon that he made as a kid. Would have driven my totally bonkers but he loved it.
posted by metahawk at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2018

Many First Lego League teams have already started practicing for the 2018-19 season, but actual team rosters aren't required to firm up until competitions start. So, there might be time to make inquiries to teams in your area. If you're a parent willing to volunteer as a mentor or assistant, that could be good for both of you. Many FLL teams are associated with schools, but some are homeschool groups or scouting groups.
Good luck! FLL was a great experience for our Girl Scout troop.
FLL Local Support
posted by smuna at 2:43 PM on September 24, 2018

He's not too young to start learning computer programming. There was a time that the Logo language and turtle graphics was used for this. I don't know what is popular now.

You can build and fly a remote controlled airplane. Search "flitetest" on YouTube to find airplanes made from foamboard and held together with hot glue. Note: sharp knife skills needed. That would be your part. For starters they have airplanes with no motors that you throw.

Have you considered Cub Scouts. In many ways, it's a kid & parent program.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:41 AM on September 25, 2018

I'm going to recommend Scouts, as well. If he's having a hard time at school, meeting kids from other schools with similar interests can really provide some support. The leaders are amazing, and you could become a leader, too.
posted by Enid Lareg at 9:42 AM on September 25, 2018

Thanks for all these great ideas! I wouldn't have thought of a bunch of these. I really could have marked all of them best answers.
posted by trillian at 5:47 AM on September 26, 2018

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