Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ten Stimulating Summer Activities for Teens

Source: Wikipedia
Parents of teens often struggle to get kids off the couch or out from behind the screen during long summer days. When my children were in elementary school it seemed so much easier to keep them active in the summer. Now they aren't so easily persuaded to go to the park, the library, . . . or anywhere that requires getting off their device or out of their pajamas. Here are some suggestions for activities you and your teen can agree on. (Shh! don't tell them the activities might be educational)

1. Go to your local bookstore for snacks
The draw of baked goods and frozen drinks is enough to entice them to get out of the house. Then the magic of the bookstore's marketing will likely convince them to pick up a book.

2. Invite a group of friends over for game night
You might not be able to get your child to play their childhood favorites with you anymore, but games have made a resurgence. There are new games that have a cool factor strong enough to overcome even adolescent angst. Games teach strategy, problem solving and interpersonal skills.
  • Apples to Apples
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Say Anything
  • Pandemic
3. Plan a family vacation or outing
Involve your teen in the planning phase to help ensure buy-in during the trip. Challenge them to find a good deal on a hotel, research a restaurant for dinner, or plan the itinerary for a day.

4. Extend a personal interest or fandom
If your teen has an interest in a sport, hobby or even a popular entertainment figure you might be able to extend that interest into another area. My daughter likes Anime and the local library offered an Anime related craft activity for teens. If your teen hesitates to try something new, offer to pick up a friend to join you. Teens often resist attending events where they don't know anyone.

5. Play an audio book with teen interest in the car
One of my daughters is reluctant to pick out a new print book, but she is 100% engaged when we listen to audio books. I have gotten her hooked on a couple book series this way and listening to the book together is a great shared experience which opens the door to many conversations. 

6. Become a maker
Crafts are cool again! The crayons and pony beads of their childhood may not grab your teen's attention, but try a project with a bit of a challenge and updated interest like these: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2015/07/take-it-make-it-6-grab-and-go-kits-for-tweens/

7. Connect a book to a movie
Many popular young adult novels have been adapted for the big screen. Use this as an opportunity to get your teen to read the book or another in the series. Watching the movie as a family for the first or second time can be a fun celebration after finishing the book. (Most of the movies are rated PG-13 and may contain some mature content.  So evaluate whether they are appropriate for your child first.)
  • Fault in Our Stars
  • Harry Potter
  • Hunger Games
  • The Lightning Thief
  • Maze Runner
Online Activities
I know parents are rolling their eyes at this section. You are fighting with your teen to try to get them AWAY from their screens day and night, but there are some online activities that are stimulating to young brains. Perhaps you can build some goodwill by suggesting these instead of insisting on powering down.

8. Learn how it's done - coding your own site or game
Even if you don't think your child has an interest in becoming a computer science major, learning some coding skills can be beneficial. They learn logic, problem-solving and an appreciation for how software works. These sites allow teens to practice basic programming skills independently.
9. Connect with the world
Have a teen who never looks up from their phone? Geocaching is a way for them to use their device to interact with the physical world. You might even have the thrill of discovering hidden items. This site can help get you started, https://www.geocaching.com/play.

If your teen doesn't want to leave the house, but wants to explore the world this game is fun! Geoguessr selects a site from GoogleMaps and shows you the view. You can rotate 360 degrees, but you can't zoom out. You guess where in the world you are in GoogleMaps and get a score based on how close you were.

10. Open an online studio
These tools allow your teen to create a professional looking product with very little experience. Creating with the computer provides experience imagining, designing, and publishing ideas in an electronic format - valuable skills in the digital age.
  • Animoto - create cloud-based videos from your own images, clips and text
  • GoAnimate - create animated videos in a click and drag environment
  • ToonDo - create comic strips and cartoons
It can be hard work engaging teens in "productive" activities. Remember to value their interests and preferences. It is also hard work being a teen and trying to balance your own wants and fears with parental demands. Don't be afraid to push a little, but be flexible where you can and acknowledge their attempts to cooperate. Savor the summer, all too soon we will be back to the rushed schedule of the school year.

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