When my daughter became a “tween” last year, I had to update my parent playbook regarding her social life. I’m forbidden to say “play date” when inquiring about her and her friends' social schedules. My daughter has informed me that the proper terminology for big-kid social engagements is "hang out."
The places where we once took part in fun play dates, including the zoo, the Seattle Children’s Museum and the Pacific Science Center, no longer appeal to her and her friends. I’ve had to find new tween-pleasing places where I can still keep an eye on her and her friends, but from a distance, because hanging out with me is so not cool. Here are five options convenient to the Eastside that make her and her friends happy but meet my protective parenting standards.
I take my daughter and her friends to the movies at the in Redmond, and they are delighted to see a movie with me — as long as I sit in another row. If you go to the movies with your tween or teen, check out the “zap packs” for snacks — a tray with a small drink, popcorn and candy. The smaller portions are perfect for kids of all ages. Sign up for the theater's Regal Rewards card, and you’ll earn points towards free movie admission.
Sky High Sports in Bellevue
For active tweens and teens, this is a great place to hang out for an hour or two. In addition to unstructured jumping on giant trampolines, offers dodge ball games run by the staff. You can relax nearby and meet the kids afterward for a meal and beverage at the center’s café.
On Wednesday afternoons, the center offers a special “Wild Wednesday” price. Any two hours between 2 and 10 p.m. are available for $14; otherwise the rate is $11 for the first hour and $8 for the second, per jumper. Also check out Sky High's special spring break schedule later this month.
Henry Moses Aquatic Center in Renton
Henry Moses Aquatic Center is a “budget Wild Waves” less than 30 minutes from Redmond. The outdoor aquatic center opens June 18 and closes Labor Day. It features several long water slides, a wave machine, lazy river and two separate pools. There are places to hang out in the sun or shade while your tween or teen swims with friends. You can stow your stuff in the center's lockers, which cost 25 cents to rent. The on-site Shark Bite’s Cafe offers beverages and meal and snack options.
To prevent overcrowding, admission to the center occurs by “sessions.” Session 1 runs from noon to 3:30 p.m., and Session 2 goes from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sessions go on sale 30 minutes prior to the session start time. Admission is $14 a session for kids age five to adult, half price for residents of Renton, and just $8 for kids one to four.
Crossroads Shopping Center
in Bellevue is a great place to let your tween or teen hang out. The shopping center's food court and the offers a great variety of options for meals and snacks. There are some great shopping spots for that age group, including . The kids might also enjoy the game nights at , where they can play popular games like Magic: The Gathering with new friends. Or they can hang out at and paint some pottery. You can sit at a table in front of or at the enjoying some magazines while they roam. You'll be nearby if needed, but far enough away that they feel “free range.”
Chism Beach Park in Bellevue
My kids love to swim with their friends. In addition to taking them to our swim and fitness club, I like to take them to Chism Beach Park in the summer. This hidden gem of a beach park is staffed by super-strict lifeguards during the day. There is plenty of space for you to park under a shady tree and catch up on your reading while your tween or teens swims. He or she will be far enough away to enjoy the experience but close enough for you to yell if things get out of hand with the stunt diving or flirting on the swim platform.