A “Bucket List” for Kids? 101 Things To Do Before You’re 12!

Summer slump? “Mom I’m bored,” kickin’ in yet?

At my house, water-skiing families are always leaving stray towels and items on our dock, but this particular leave behind turned out to be a fun find. It’s called, “101 Things You Gotta Do Before You’re 12” by Joanne O’Sullivan, sort of a ‘Bucket List’ for kids!

I picked it up with a semi-incredulous smirk of “sheesh, another one of these money-maker books of obviousness I could’ve written myself.” As I thumbed the one-page chapters, I was duly impressed with the freshness, both from a marketing and media angle.

They didn’t just give suggestions, but media links, research, whys/how-tos, and starter samples to make it all ‘doable.’ (most books like these could’ve been an ‘article’ or blog post at best; whereas this one is crammed with worthy data nuggets and visual kid appeal, albeit derived from good ol’ Google no doubt!)

Backing up a bit on this ‘bucket list’ for 12-year olds theme, I should add that I just bought the Warner Bros. movie, Bucket List as a “keeper” to uncork discussions about Carpe Diem approaches to life, so this book is a great media companion piece for opening up kids’ conversations. (there’s even a Facebook application for Bucket List, that asks, “What do YOU want to do?”

Many of us are still honoring the untimely death of Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch last week and his life-inspiring charisma in following childhood dreams.

(Our own ‘powerful parent’ blogger, Dr. Robyn Silverman, has worthy posts on Randy Pausch, including “loving the teachers who don’t give up on us” here, and distills the one million hits on Randy’s hour long lecture into the link via Randy’s 10-minute Oprah video appearance here)

His death was personally poignant in a variety of ways, and since he happens to be my own age, the inevitable ‘this could happen to YOU, Mom’ dialogue kicked in requiring parental soothing and fear-quelling conversation…

After all, this could happen to ANYONE…Age 12 included. His legacy to live life with fullness and zeal is one to keep within all our hearts as a constant, at every age.

Therein lies the connection with this fun, ‘open your eyes to the beauty’ book premise which clearly surpasses the age 12 benchmark for ‘go-see-do’ suggestions in the bucket list of life!

Hunt for gargoyles. Eat space food. Interview an elder. Do a mud run. Go to a powwow. (on MY bucket list!) See the lights (luminous phenomena like aurora borealis & ‘the green flash’) and more faves like:

Celebrate a holiday for a culture that’s not your own: Songkran, Thai New Year? (you may not be able to pull off flowered elephants “water splashing,” but a sprinkler would do! There are housecleaning rituals associated with Songkran festivals too; BBC article/image at left)

Or how about Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving? (feasts and ancestor-rembrance rituals) Diwali, India-Festival of Lights? (lamps, fireworks, marigold wreaths, gift giving)

There are MORE than 365 days of celebrations at the fabulous nonprofit site: EarthCalendar.net a daybook of global holidays and celebrations organized by country, date, religion, lunar phases, you name it! –Awesome find.

Plant a thematic garden: Sure, we all know eco-efforts and care-providing helps connect kids with nature and nurture, great for kids’ minds and bodies, but how about themes that riff off of new directions, beyond cooking herbs in tiny containers for urban green thumbs.

Speaking of urban gardens, check out this urban Denver garden blogger who just recorded his thoughts via StoryCorps (which happens to be our model for Shaping Youth’s podcasts documenting kids’ media lives!) preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear, and who is responsible for this gorgeous moonflower photo below!

The book mentions themes like:

A midnight garden (sounds romantic for ‘glowing moonlit plants with silvery leaves and white blossoms, like moonflower, silver sage, etc.) a physics garden (medieval alchemists and Harry Potter fans might love the ‘magical’ healing of herbs and plants like chamomile, yarrow, witch hazel, lemongrass, thyme) a perfume garden (potpourri pickins’ to dry/crush from fragrances like violets, roses, lavender, lemon verbena, rosemary, eucalyptus) a butterfly garden (ginger lily, phlox, cosmos, purple coneflower) a pizza garden (tomatoes, oregano, basil, pepper, etc.) and being a water rat, I love this one called the ‘water/bog garden’ for frog friendly plants like water lilies, lotus, cattails, iris, etc.

Start a tween journal using famous kids from yesteryear as inspirations for unique flow of thoughts, feelings, imagination and angst with a ‘no rules’ approach to formats; ranging from freewriting to lists and letters that you’ll never send. Examples?

Louisa May Alcott (age 7 diary) Anne Frank of course (age 13) Zlata Filipovic (age 11, Bosnia) Helena Morley (age 12, Brazil) former president Theodore Roosevelt (when he was 10 and asthmatic with typos galore) and Beatrix Potter (author of Peter Rabbit, who kept her diary in code!)

Walk a swinging bridge: Indiana Jones style, stretched over a river or gorge. (this one at left is on Maui, experienced by Ethan In Space)

Sure to please tween thrillseekers at this indie “pushing the envelope” phase, I particularly like the fact that they mentioned a few arcane bridges of note (San Jose, Ca Guadalupe River? York, Maine’s ‘wiggly bridge’ perhaps the smallest suspension bridge in the world?) and provided the link to Waymarking to find swinging bridges and unique landmarks no matter where you live.

Waymarking.com is a fabulous tool to share info with others and discover interesting locations on the planet, grouped by special interest category…like ‘abstract public sculpture’ and such. Highly recommend, if you haven’t played with it yet. Just pop in your search terms and voila!

Enter a crazy competition: Figured they’d mention various watermelon seed spitting contests and summer activities, as well as snow/ice, sandcastle sculptures, and such (which they do) but how about bizarre events like contestants acting like chickens, (chickenshow.com) or international camel races, or racing in boats made from cardboard milk cartons? (video here)

Talk about eco-recycling opps, using old item castoffs!

Then there’s experiential vacations, with suggestions like:

Take a road trip with a twist: This is pretty much what we do anyway in the ‘see what it’s like’ mode of eco-travel, with ‘roots’ trips of family heritage, sailing adventures and such, but they added fun ones like “llama treks, clipper ship/tall ship history, lighthouse, farm stays, etc. (I’ve personally always wanted to go hang out with the animals at Hidden Villa and experience the solitude at East Brothers Lighthouse…both are on my bucket list!)

Anyway, you get the gist of the Carpe Diem/Seize the Day attitude of creating a kids’ bucket list, as well as your own.

The book itself is a pretty clever capsule to get kids to ‘get outside’ and ‘go do something’ with a subtle nod to media interactivity by providing web links to explore further and stickers to keep track of what you’ve done, want to do, rank your finds, and such.

I’m thinking of using the letterboxing/carve your own stamp and official global GPS geocaching site to add some compass/scavenger hunt zip to our upcoming ‘off the grid’ trip in Colorado in a couple of weeks…

Could be a fun way to test the ‘waymarking’ finds too…entering search terms like “fossils, caves, and dude ranches” to see what I might find too…

Who knows, maybe I’ll even search for a powwow to cross one off my bucket list!

I’m up to about four-pages already, and I’ve only just begun! It really IS a great activity to get multi-generations of families talking and ‘dealing’ with life…and the inevitable other end of the spectrum.

Randy Pausch continues to be my role model on that front…and even makes me wonder if a blog is a sort of time capsule and ‘leave behind’ trail of who I am right now and who I someday may become. Promise I won’t get all metaphysical on ya, I’ll just conclude with a question…What are some of your favorite ‘boredom busters’ for summer?

And better yet…

What’s on your own bucket list?



  1. Mr. Morgan Freeman, one of my all-time favorites for his charismatic, inspirational roles, and acting prowess has just had a horrid auto-accident landing him in serious condition.

    I don’t usually respond to ‘breaking news’ like this, but my heart sunk fast having just written this post, so I’m sending hugs, healing, and hope his way…as one of the GOOD guys in media that we need around for a VERY long time.


    Freeman’s non-profit foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to schools in the historically poor region, and he established the club in part to preserve the Delta’s musical heritage…(born in Memphis, spent part of his childhood in Mississippi, and owns a club, the Ground Zero Blues Club, in Clarksdale, Mississippi)

    Positive thoughts and prayers comin’ your way, good sir.

  2. Here is a great site to create,manage and share your bucket list.


    check it out.

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