Child development experts refer to tweens between childhood and adolescence (kids ages 8 to 12) as the role/rule stage. Their needs and wants include acceptance, success, role enactment and rule learning. They are both reluctant and eager to leave their childhood (foods, toys, fame, etc.).

By Saralee Jamieson

MU Extension



Child development experts refer to tweens between childhood and adolescence (kids ages 8 to 12) as the role/rule stage. Their needs and wants include acceptance, success, role enactment and rule learning. They are both reluctant and eager to leave their childhood (foods, toys, fame, etc.).

 Tweens want acceptance from peers, siblings and parents as they develop an adult self-image. Kids at this age are group-oriented and they tend to be conformists – as they explore social roles and peer relationships.

 Cooperation is another important need for tweens. They look for and enjoy opportunities to share and to interact with different groups in their community.

 Another key issue for this between generation is control. They want power over their environment as they learn to make their own decisions.

 Sensory gratification is very important to tweens. This means that the eye-appeal and the presentation of meals and snacks are important to them. Soft drink and snack manufacturers are all targeting tweens with food and fitness messages.  Tweens often go for things that seem gross, violent and taboo to adults. Who do you think is the target market for products like purple ketchup and pink margarine?

 As adults and parents, we can be role models for our tweens, especially when it comes to healthy eating and fitness. Tweens will do as they see us do, no matter what we say. The best way to encourage tween fitness is to get off the couch and be active ourselves. Kids may choose different ways to be active, but they need to know that fitness is important.

 The key to an active lifestyle is enjoyment. Kids do not like to exercise, and they will not participate in a sport or go to a fitness class just because it is “good for them.” Find out what your kids love to do and then make sure they do it regularly.

 The rates of overweight and obese children ages 8 to 12 are rising dramatically. Peer acceptance and self-image are very important during this time and many tweens beginning to follow fad diets and develop eating disorders. Intakes of vital nutrients, like iron and calcium, are dropping just when kids need those most.

 Because today’s tweens lead very busy lives, they may not be around at mealtime. Stock up on grab-and-go foods like string cheese, yogurt, bananas, bagels, whole grain snacks and beef jerky. Make family meals as convenient, tasty and stress-free as possible so tweens will want to be there.

 Children of all ages need adult approval and encouragement. Active parental support is especially important during the tween years.

Saralee Jamieson is a human development specialist with University of Missouri Extension. For more information, contact her at 417-646-2419 or jamiesons@missouri.edu.