10 Activity Ideas For Your Teen

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Friend of the GeekDads Vanessa Van Petten has clued us in on another great post on her blog, Teens Today.

I was just writing this post: 10 Activity Ideas for Your Teens and remembered that my brother did something really fun when we were younger that I am sure you readers would love (I only very briefly covered it in this post), but you should definitely try to tell your readers or come up with a gameplan.  My brother and his friends would create like mock lasertag courses in our backyard and they all had those laser guns from target (like 25 bucks) and wear the vests and run around at night playing like army men or something and shoot each other.  I remember that they would play for hours and set-up like little mock basecamps and lean to’s to hide.  Anyway, thought I would tell you the memory because I think your readers might love it.

Thanks, Vanessa!  Check out the post after the break, but I also heartily encourage you all to check out Vanessa’s site for some wise insight into the minds of our kids, who are growing up in a world that’s a lot different, and a lot more geeky, than the one we experienced when we were their ages.  Also, I’d love to hear from our readers about any variations on the Ideas that you may have tried, or other ideas for such activities.  Enjoy!

I really think that many of my friends started to do drugs and throw parties because they were just plain bored.  There was nothing better for us to do so we created our own activities that our parents would not have approved of.  We also would ‘spice up’ the every weekend boring activities (watching movies, bbq at a friends) so they were more exciting (hook-up and watch a movie, play drinking games at the BBQ).

Now, I am not delusional, I know that even if you provide enough fun activities for 100 weekends, teens will still find ways to drink/do drugs/have sex if they want to.  Yet, I do think by helping create activities you are:

a) Showing them you care

b) Showing them you pay attention, so if they try anything you will probably find out

c) allowing less opportunity for them to be bored and create questionable activities out of boredom

d) Separate the kids and friends who will drink/smoke/have sex to rebel no matter what, from those who simply end up trying it because it is around and there is nothing better to do. (This is totally my opinion from what I saw in High School, my group of friends and I separated from another group in 11th grade because they started drinking in a park on the weekends while some of our parents planned trips to comedy clubs and paint-balling on the weekends and we chose to do this instead.)

mvc-082f.JPGmvc-082f.JPGJust because planning alternative activities can be important, it does not mean you need to do it all yourself.  I think it is a great idea to get together with a group of parents from school, or all of your child’s friend’s parents and make a ‘comittee’ to plan something each weekend and take turns carpooling, cooking and hosting.  That way you are not responsible for everything and all the parents can keep an eye out for suspicious behavior together.  Here are 10 suggestions for activities parents can create/provide/encourage, so teens have less opportunity to come up with their own…

1. Paintballing/Mini-Golf/Lasertag:
Ok this is three in one, but teens usually love doing these kinds of activities, they can be co-ed and not that much money for a few hours of amusement (and physical activity).

2. Comedy Clubs: There are a lot of improv clubs, comedy clubs or even coffee shops that have stand-up that allow all ages.  This can be a really fun weekend night for teens.  You could also ask in advance to use a local coffee shop for the teens to do their own stand-up one night and they will all buy coffee and bring friends as an incentive to the owner.

3. Plan a Themed Party: So this sounds lame, but I do not mean plan a themed party in the 4th grade sense, I mean, if you are willing to open up your house have a party that will appeal to teens: an 80’s movie marathon and make dinner, fondue, pop-culture trivia night, pool party and BBQ, murder mystery…

4. Dinner and a Show: There are lots of places that offer dinner and then some sort of entertainment, we used to go to a place that was Mexican food and then a salsa class and then a salsa band which was all ages or you can go to a place like Medieval times where they have food and then a joust show.

5. Celebrate a Holiday (no matter how minor):
Luckily, my mom had lots of patience and loved to cook, we often had
Valentines parties (for my sisters and our friends and I) Superbowl parties (for my brother and his friends) or Halloween Parties (co-ed), where she would come up with games and serve us lots of food, it definitely kept us away from ‘parents-are-away-for-the-weekend’ parties that were going on.

6. Gameroom: We had a friend who’s parents had tons of board games, a ping pong table, air-hockey table, pinball machine and a foosball table.  This was AWESOME, it was great when it was just girls, just boys, but also a great way to spend time with the opposite sex when they came over.  You might think of getting one of these or some videogame systems like a Wii with lots of controllers.  My brother and his friendfoosball.jpgfoosball.jpgs
(I thought they were losers at the time, but it probably kept them out of trouble) all had their own ‘laser-guns’ and would wear vests and little blinking things and run around the neighborhood or backyards in their own version of outdoor lasertag.

7. Plan a Tournament: For boys, host a videogame tournament at your house (usually just includes lots of your patience and lots of food) or, if you have the space or live near a park, have a sports day.  For girls, I would also put spa party/sleepover, chocolate making party and craft or jewelry-making party under this category.
Notice how I use the term ‘party’ loosely, in my opinion, the more you can make it feel like everyone is showing up for something special and that it is being planned for them, the more distracting and fun it can be.

8. Attend an event: Go to free outdoor concerts, big music festivals or sports games.

9. House Hop: This one takes lots of cordination, but works really well if you do end up doing a parent-event-planning-commitee (above).  Since we get bored really easily, have four different houses get together and host a different part of the night (preferably if they are in walking or short driving distance) one house does snacks and outdoor activities, then someone else has BBQ dinner, someone else does game night and then end at dessert.

10. Drop Off at a Distant Location: I could not think of a better name for this category, but there are lots of  game centers, go-carting, water parks, theme parks at night where you can drop a bunch of teens off and maybe hang-out in the area and have a date night while they play.

*Note 1: Your teens need to thank you and uphold their part of the bargain.  Planning these kinds of events are a lot of work for you and they do not need to come freely.  Let your teen know that you want to plan some fun activities, but they need to get A’s this semester/do all of the clean-up before and after/help you cook/ drive your sister to ballet class etc. 

*Note 2: Lay Down the Rules. The whole point of planning activities is to keep them out of trouble, make sure your kid and their friends know that there is no drinking, sneaking away or drugs at these events.  My parents used to collect everyone’s keys at the beginning of the night and make everyone say hello and goodbye to make sure they were in an ‘ok’ state before they left.

*Note 3: Many of these activities involve you planning them and then sort of, well, leaving them.  I know, I know this seems rough, but the whole point is to let teens feel like they are having fun and still having their independence so they do not need to get it by rebelling.
My parents were always, always home, but would go upstairs or stay in another room and just come down if it got too loud, but would NOT
repeatedly check on us, because they trusted us, and this in turn, made us feel more responsible so we made sure we did not, nor did any of our friends break the rules.

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