11 Summer Things to Do with Your Teen that Won’t Break the Bank

So, we’re halfway through the summer. How’s it going? With your teen, I mean. Feeling like you’re a chauffeur and an ATM?  Want to see the whites of their eyes and not the tops of their heads? Totally understand. We can’t escape the fact that they’ll be grown and out of our house before we get around to painting their bedroom like we promised. So, here are some no- or low-cost ideas for spending “quality time” with your teen before summer is over, and none of them require your smart phone (hint, hint).

But first, let me introduce the Rule of 7.  A key element of having quality time with your teen, with anyone, is to have real conversation, and to get that, you need to get past the 7-minute mark. (Thank you Sherry Turkle, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.) By then, you’ve used up the usual repertoire of chitchat (schedules, what’s for dinner, weather, etc.). It’s after the 7-minute mark that your teen is more likely to ask the unexpected question or make some observation that can lead to meaningful conversations and bonding. So, as you’re engaging with your teen in these or any activity, be patient and be ready. Here we go:

11 Summer Things to Do with Your Teen That Won’t Break the Bank

  1. Work It: Instead of just assigning your teen a chore and then going back to your coffee and laptop, join them in it and work side-by-side. Wash dishes, fold laundry, make pancakes, bathe the dog, wash the car by hand. It doesn’t need to be something long and drawn out, and quality of work is not the goal here (although you can model how you want something done). The idea is to spend 10-15 minutes together here and there, completing something together, working for the family.
  2. Picnic It: Eating dinner every night at the table or (yikes!) in front of the TV gets boring. Pack up that meal and a blanket and head to a nearby park (check for local free concert nights). Bring a Frisbee or two. Even easier, have a picnic in the back yard but avoid the patio furniture. The key here is food, blanket, grass, and ants.
  3. Burn It: Who doesn’t like the smell of a camp fire? If burning stuff isn’t fun enough, add sugar, and any teen is all in. Add some bling and have a S’more Smorgasbord. Instead of the classic Hershey chocolate bar, try different types of candy between your graham cracker and marshmallows: York Peppermint Patties, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats, Nestle Crunch Bars are all excellent. Maybe discover a new combination of your own?
  4. Glam It: With two daughters, mani-pedis, makeovers, and hair styling are engrained in our family DNA. But now that my girls are teenagers, our roles have switched. Now, I’m more the subject and, thanks to YouTube videos, they’re the stylists and they’re getting pretty good at it. Still, nothing beats having someone brush your hair, so I’ll often brush their hair while we’re relaxing watching a movie. (I admit this this probably won’t work with teenage sons, sorry fellas!)
  5. Play It: I’m talking board games here. You remember, those fun diversions that require you to look at your opponent, not at a video screen. My one daughter will play anything, anytime, anywhere: cards, checkers, backgammon, etc. My other daughter struggles with ADHD, so any game that requires small pieces to remain still on a board is not a good fit—for any of us. But a guaranteed hit with any teen? The game that’s been around since 1904: Deluxe Pit. It’s simple, loud, fast-moving, and hilarious! Also good high-energy games for teens: Charades and Spoons. What have you found that your teens like?
  6. Create It: They’re long past the finger paints and water color sets, but teens still yearn to be creative—and not just in front of a keyboard. Craft fads come and go, and Lord knows we have way too many unused scrapbooking and beading supplies in our basement. And the paint your pottery places are fun, but you can drop some serious coin there. But a package of 3” square canvas frames and some thick point Sharpies can provide some fun for teens of any gender and their parents, and give you something to display afterward.  20170725_115838Note: When it comes to creativity and teens, I’m learning that scheduling a “family craft time” is great but certainly not necessary. I’ve modified the Field of Dreams mantra: “If they see it, they will create.” So, I keep a few of the popular coloring books and colored pencils out and in sight, and I’m amazed at how often they reach for them–and ask me or their dad to join in. We always say yes.
  7. Drink It: No, not that kind! I’m talking about your local coffee shop. Teens LOVE to hang out at a coffee shop, even if they’re not yet allowed to drink the stuff. The next time you’re got work to do or are craving your caramel latte, invite your teen along and set up in a corner booth. Let them read, journal, write a letter (!), or even color, while you do the same or try catch up on some office work. Don’t be surprised if you spend more time talking than working. (And no cell phones!)
  8. Move It: Exercise together. Make a weekly date for the tennis courts, join them at the school running track or soccer field, shoot hoops in the driveway, go for a swim, take a hike. Don’t just go for a bike ride, plot out different bike routes and make it a goal to pedal your way all over town. It’ll burn off some of their endless energy and help your cholesterol levels.
  9. Count It: Sure, you can take the coin jar to the big green box at your grocery store, but why not go old school? It’s a great mindfulness activity and helps teens learn how to handle and count coins. (I’m still amazed when my advanced math teenage daughters have trouble counting back change.) Then decide as a family how to blow the extra cash: Ice cream? Movies? Amusement park?
  10. Chill It: Remember spending hours in your room listening to your favorite album, memorizing the album covers? For me, it was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Where the dogs of society howl! Oh, yeah. Anyway, grab some pop and snacks and introduce your teen to music from your teenage years. Talk about why you like(d) that artist or group, what your life was like when you used to listen to them as a teen. How hearing that music now makes you feel. And here’s the flip side: let them introduce you to their favorite musician(s). Give it a fair chance–no eye rolling allowed.
  11. Serve It: There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer with your teen for a worthy cause. Animal shelters, food pantries, nature centers, libraries. It doesn’t have to be super organized, it could be as simple as preparing and delivering a meal to a friend in need or helping a neighbor with some yard work.  Looking for ideas and inspiration, the lovely Ann Voskamp brings this challenge to heart in her latest book, The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life. She also shares wonderful things like this monthly calendar full of ideas to help us “Be the Gift” to those around us. GIFT_Calendar_July2017 

I hope these ideas inspire you and your teen.  The clock is ticking, school is just around the corner, and before we know it, they’ll be off to college. Sigh.

Who wants to come with me to walk the dogs?