Free or cheap things to do with tweens and teens this holiday

From card games to gold mining, kids have choices beyond staring at electronic devices

Bored middle-schoolers and older teens are home for a week for the Atlanta school system winter holidays about the same time the entertainment budget has flown away with the reindeer.

It would be all too easy to let the kids default to their go-to of screen time and more screen time. According to the Common Sense Census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2021, kids 8-12 are engaging with screens 5.5 hours each day on average, with their 13- to 18-year-old siblings hooked to social media and other electronics more — 8.5 hours daily.

But there is a compromise. You can substitute active and enjoyable shared activities for at least some of that time the kids usually spend tethered to their tablets and phones without spending much money. Here are five free or cheap options for teens and tweens over the winter school holiday:

Kids Against Maturity card game

This quippy card game is a dialed back version of the more vulgar, wildly popular Cards Against Humanity. Suitable for kids ages 10 and up, it’s one of the “funniest family appropriate games,” according to Spy.

Spy praised it for combining “that classic poopy chatter children seemingly can’t get enough of” with “deeper innuendos for the adults playing the game.”

It’s also handily portable to play on long car rides. Introduced a couple of years ago, it’s now been around long enough to be less than half its original price. $13. Amazon

Noon Year’s Eve at the Dahlonega Gold Museum

The state historic site showcases the lesser known North Georgia gold rush that preceded the miner 49ers in California by more than 10 years.

The museum showcases rare coins, heavy gold nuggets and gold mining equipment.

This daytime New Year’s Eve celebration includes arts and crafts, a selfie station, and both a balloon and a separate nugget drop.

Three or four of you can attend for less than the cost of a decent bottle of bubbly.

11 a.m., Dec. 31, 2022, Dahlonega Gold Museum. Adults $8.50, kids ages 7-17 $6.

Geocaching in Georgia State Parks

Lean into your kids’ love of phones by revving up the GPS to seek caches hidden within Georgia state park sites. Each is redeemable online for a collectible coin.

To join the official program, download a Parks GeoTour passport for free. The park system developed a new GeoTour in 2021, placing caches in each of the 45 parks. A few within an hour’s drive include Cloudland Canyon, Amicalola Falls and Sweetwater Creek.

Start geocaching in the cold months, and by spring you’ll be ready for the beach and swamp sites that are farther from Atlanta.

Free park admission, parking $5

Check out used vinyl at Wax ‘N’ Facts

This buy-and-sell record store mostly focuses on rock, hip hop, rap, disco and electronic, but there should be enough new, used and reissued vinyl and CDs there to appeal to everyone.

They also sell some used VHS tapes and DVDs, so get ready to reminisce even if you don’t make a purchase.

It’s a fun place to browse and maybe get the kids hooked on vinyl if they aren’t already. If someone still has Christmas cash left (and you can’t locate your old turntable), consider purchasing an inexpensive Victrola Vintage portable suitcase record player and have a weeklong listening session.

7-inch 45′s. 25-50 cents. Wax ‘N’ Facts

Victrola Journey bluetooth record player. $49. Amazon.

Use Zoo Atlanta free passes

While fewer animals are out and about in the winter, the Zoo Atlanta is still a fascinating place for adults and teens alike.

And with a bit of planning and the Atlanta Public Library Pass Program, you can make the excursion and pay only for parking.

Visit your local library with your up-to-date card to check out a pass valid for three general admissions to the zoo Monday through Friday. Each branch has just one pass, and you can check it out only once each year.

To get the kids in the mood, start following the zoo’s panda cam ahead of time. Up to three Xoo Atlanta admissions. Free with library pass program and valid library card.

About the Author