12 Things All Kids Need to Do Before They’re 12

By Laurie Evans

Do you have a bucket list? I think every kid should have a bucket list of things they really need to have experienced before they turn 12, become a teen, develop a ‘tude and refuse to do anything their parents suggest.
Here’s my “Before They Get an Attitude” List for kids:

1. Crawl Through a Cave
In Kentucky, we live within easy driving distance of one of the most extensive, accessible and beautiful cave systems in the world. Touring a cave is like no other experience. Take a guided tour where your kids can learn about rock structures, the power of the water that formed the cave and the history of the cave.
Make sure the guides do that spooky thing where they turn all the lights off for a minute or two. You’ll never experience such complete darkness anywhere else.

2. Try New Foods at the Farmer’s Market

When’s the last time you made a dinner from fresh picked produce? Living in the midst of farmland, it’s easy to find a Farmer’s Market. Take your kids and let them choose what foods will appear on the menu that day. Be sure to pick up something you’ve never tried before. Try out Lexington’s downtown Saturday morning Farmer’s Market or check out www.lexingtonfamily.com for a list for all the local markets.

3. Go to a Baseball Game

Summer wouldn’t be complete without a baseball game. Visit the Lexington Legends, the Louisville Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds, or check out one of the local youth teams. It’s a piece of Americana that every kid should experience.

4. Explore a Museum
Museums are no longer boring buildings full of old paintings and arrowheads. Today’s museums are designed with families in mind, full of hands-on activities and thought-provoking displays. We’ve got plenty of them right nearby such at The Explorium of Lexington, the Louisville Science Center, the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Cincinnati Museum Center and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

5. Visit a Zoo & an Aquarium

What kid doesn’t love animals — the more exotic the better? Zoos and aquariums are essential to help preserve endangered species and to educate us about the world outside our hometown. Check out the Louisville Zoo’s Calistoga Splash Park. Feed the lorikeets at The Cincinnati Zoo, or watch the Penguin Parade at Newport Aquarium.

6. Climb a Mountain (or at least a big hill)
The Bluegrass bumps right up to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. An easy drive can take you to the Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Park where you’ll find trails for every level of hiker. Also check out the Pinnacles in Berea and the Kentucky River Palisades Trail.

7. Pick Your Own Foods
One of my favorite memories is picking wild blueberries with my kids while on vacation in Massachusetts, then making a blueberry cobbler. But you don’t have to travel across the country to do this. Just visit a local farm or orchard, pick your own strawberries, apples or peaches and try making a pie. Boyd Orchards and Evans Orchard offer u-pick apples from late summer through fall.

8. Ride a Train
In Tennessee, you can ride the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. It goes for only a few yards and doesn’t go very fast, but kids still flock to it every day just because it’s a TRAIN! Around the Bluegrass you can take a train ride at the Bluegrass Railway Museum.

9. Catch a Crawdad
No video game can compete with the real-life experience of wading in a creek trying to catch a crawdad. Find a creek in your neighborhood or check out the streams at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary or McConnell Springs. (Just make sure to put the little fellow back in his home before you head to your home).

10. See a Play
Take your kids to see a real play in real life. Not an episode of “Glee,” or a DVD of “The Lion King,” but a stage with live actors 10 feet from your nose. Check out the Lexington Children’s Theatre’s Summer Family Musical to see local families perform “Annie,” or the Ballet Under the Stars production of “Snow White.” If you are up for a little trip, visit the Jenny Wiley Theater to see this summer’s shows, “Annie” and “The Frog Prince.”

11. Create a Piece of Art
Lazy days of summer are an ideal time to get creative. Whether it’s a box of sidewalk chalk or a class in painting pottery, take time with your kids to try a new art or craft technique. Sign up for glass-fusing classes at the Mad Potter, wheel- throwing classes at Kentucky Mudworks or learn to paint a masterpiece at Painting With a Twist.

12. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Encourage your kids to try something that is a little scary, a little daring or a little unusual. Enter a speech contest at school, try bungee jumping on vacation or go canoeing on the South Elkorn Creek with Canoe Kentucky. Try the scariest roller coaster at Kings Island or take a horseback riding lesson. It’s the things we DON’T do that we regret the most!