What are some things that families do together? Most people are quick to answer with a myriad of suggestions–from A: attend a community activity to Z: visit the zoo. But when you ask, “What are some fun family activities to do with a teen?”, those same people might have a blank stare. Well, I have a teen–and we have some great ideas you can do together.
Family Tech Night
Spend an evening with your electronic devices–together in the same room. Most of the time, we’re all trying to put down our devices, but not this time. Embrace your teen’s techiness. Ask them to show you how they post on social media or cool things about your computer. The other night we all sat around with our iphones and sent goofy texts and pictures to one another. It was a lot of fun! We’ve also watched YouTube movies together. Our son shares his favorites, and we share some that we watched as kids. Go vintage! We’ve also found that it’s fun to play video games together. I’m terrible at them, but my teen loves that I try. Or leave the house and head to a computer store. We’ve made several trips to Apple and Microsoft stores just because my sop is in heaven there.
For my son, this probably rates right under Techy Night. He loves to cook. My husband loves to cook. I do the dishes. Try a new dish, or make a family favorite. But be sure to involve your teen in the whole process. If you need to shop for ingredients, take her with. Need prep help? Ask him to measure the ingredients. Of course, you and your whole family will want to be taste testers. That’s definitely the best part! My son has a few recipes he’s really good at. As we’ve experimented in the kitchen, there have been a few mistakes–and some downright disasters. But that’s ok. It’s all part of the learning process.
Get a pizza, some junk food and popcorn. The show’s about to start! Let your teen choose the movie–either a series or several movies you can watch in a row. Our family is currently enjoying the Harry Potter movies. You might consider watching all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Or start with some comedy like Napoleon Dynamite and keep going with whatever flicks your teen’s switch.
You know the cooking activity we suggested earlier? Take it one step further, and let your teen take pictures and some video of the process. Then encourage them to edit and make a short movie you can watch together and share with others online. I recommend the imovie app. It’s also available for PC and Mac. But we keep it simple and do everything on our iphones. Never done a movie? The app is pretty intuitive and there are Youtube instructions to help. To give you an idea, here’s a short clip our son made one fall while we harvest peaches, a favorite family tradition.
Work on his or her favorite talent together. Haven’t heard your daughter play the piano in a while? Let her perform a mini concert just for your family. Or maybe your son’s artwork is amazing. Take time to look at his pictures together and maybe have an impromptu art workshop. Let him show you or show each other some artistic techniques. Practice some sports drills together. Whatever the talent–gather to observe, participate, and applaud your teen’s talents.
Family Friendly Events
Get out of the house and attend a community event together. Double bonus if it’s free! Find a festival, an arts performance, or a sports event. Brainstorm a list of ideas together, making sure to ask your teenager for lots of input. If your teen has sensory sensitivities, as does mine, some community events may be too overwhelming. So if your teen says he doesn’t want to go to something you suggest, keep looking for options. And the event doesn’t have to drag on for hours. Stay for as long as you’re all having fun, then head home–even if it seems early.
A Teen Who Reads
My teen would roll his eyes at this suggestion. But once we start a book he really likes, he’s hooked! Sometimes I read most of the book; other times he reads to me. I encourage him to read aloud because that’s a skill different from silent reading. Also, we pause on words we don’t know and look them up. My son is happy to use his phone for the task, of course. For those of you who have a kindle, just click and learn. If your teen isn’t in the mood to read with you, that’s ok. You can let him choose a favorite book that you both read. Then discuss it, possibly over ice cream, a hamburger, or whatever is a favorite food. Not sure what to read? I often select Newbery award winners because they teach good principles and there are no embarrassing surprises in them.
Hangout Hikes and Hammocking
Get outside and “hang” together. Find a beautiful hike with something fun at the end, like a waterfall. Don’t make it a super strenuous or lengthy hike unless you’re accustomed to that. Not sure where to go? There’s an app for that. All Trails is the one we use, but there are several options. Just search “hiking trails” in the app store. While you’re hiking, point out the things you find in nature. If you don’t know what a flower is called, snap a picture and look it up when you get home. Search “wildflower identification” in the app store, and you’ll find several apps where you can submit your picture and learn about the plant. Have time to kill? Bring some hammocks and snacks on the trail. Stop and take a breather. Hammocking is a craze sweeping the country, so you might as well be trendy with your teen.
You and your teen might roll your eyes at this one. But give me a few seconds to explain. It’s actually pretty cool. Go to your app store and download the FamilySearch app. Or visit FamilySearch.org online. Sign up for a free account, and play around with it a little bit. Type in an ancestor’s name and see what comes up. Enter your family’s information and create a family tree, if you haven’t done so already. The menu is simple, and it won’t take you long to explore. You can share stories about your ancestors, if you know them, or see what stories others have shared. You can also download the Family Tree app (the mobile version of FamilySearch) and discover some pretty cool stuff. For instance, if you’re in a room with a lot of people and you all have the app, you can discover if and how you’re related. Seriously! Click here to learn more. If you want to go offline, plan to visit some places that are historically significant to your family. Maybe interview a living relative. Here are 10 ideas to get you started. You can always start by looking at scrapbooks and see where the conversation goes.
Take turns sharing your favorite songs. Use music you’ve already downloaded on your smart phones. Or google Youtube videos. My teen thinks my 80s tunes rock! Ok, maybe not all of them. But still, I like that he knows some of the songs I grew up with, and I’m open to try his stuff. He’s pretty mild. If you have a teen whose music is hard core, maybe set up a few rules about what’s appropriate to share. Play musical instruments? Better yet, play those songs and have a contest to see who can play the most. Or play on the piano and sing together. You could also take turns playing your songs and do “name that tune.” It might surprise you what songs you both already know.
My husband and I have done all of these activities with our teen–and most of our family. They’re great ways to spend quality, one-on-one time.
What do you like to do with your teen? Please share your ideas in the comments.