Backyard Teen Retreat
Teens and Chores
Avoiding Teen After-School Problems
I have two teenage daughters and we live in a lower-middle income neighborhood. Most of the other kids who come around have little or no desire to "do" anything. They just want to "hang". I don't mind them being at our house but would like to get them all involved, perhaps without them knowing it, in activities for themselves or for other people in the neighborhood. The kids, about 4-8 at a time, are average kids. I did have a pumpkin carving get together the weekend before Halloween which the kids seemed to enjoy. Any suggestions on how to get them involved with the neighborhood or even activities (crafts) geared toward teens, both boy and girls? Most have never been in scouts, church groups, etc. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Melanie A. in Columbus, Ohio
A Little Family History
Encourage them to explore their family tree. It is really very easy. Start with themselves, then go to Mom and Dad, then both sets of grandparents and then to the great grandparents. It is not expensive, but encourages use of libraries and other resources, it is something they can do together in groups of 2 or more. It also encourages visits and dialogue with older members of their families who are usually a great resource of information and often have old photographs tucked away. Information can be put into something as simple as a school notebook. Often it turns into a life long hobby and something they can one day pass on to their children.
Organized for Good
Melanie is sitting on a gold mine of opportunity with the teens that want to just hang at her house with her kids. Many years ago, my husband's mother was the force behind a church group called Girls In Action. She had a giant van and every Wednesday night, my husband would go with his dad to do whatever they did at church and his mother would be driving around the mountain side in Eagle River, Alaska, gathering the girls who were in this group. I have no doubt that those girls, whose parents were too busy to take them to GIA, were positively influenced by her interest.
I hope that she can talk to one of the counselors at the high school and find out how to loosely gather the kids and do something like volunteer at the local nursing home one day or so a week, or find out if there is a senior who needs to have his or her house painted and ask the kids to join her family on the project. If they aren't junior delinquents, it won't be hard that once they get involved in something to get approval to go in on a volunteer basis.
Teens want to fit in and I think that many feel insecure about going out and trying for a job or a volunteer position. If they are doing this as a group, they will feel the safety in numbers and have something to talk about afterwards. I hope so much that Melanie can involve these kids-- no matter what they do, everyone will gain. Seniors love teens, and it amazes me now as I see my mother volunteering with a group of rough teenaged boys who, fifteen years ago, she would have looked at with fear and dread as she belittled everything that I did. Now she talks about the fresh ideas of our nations' youth!
When We Were Teens
While growing up, my friends and I came to the conclusion "A cheap date = a fun date" We did so many fun things that cost almost next to nothing! These are date ideas we had but you can use them for any group of people. Have fun!
- Play board games. Faster moving games where everyone participates are the best. Afterwards, move to the kitchen to make a snack.
- Camera capers. Ask a member of your group who doesn't know the plan to write down about 10 random objects of ideas. Then take pictures of the items on the list. The first group to finish the list wins.
- Play sports. Make sure you don't have to sweat a whole lot and can still talk while you are at it. Volleyball and miniature golf are great ideas. You can even make up your own miniature golf course in the back yard.
- Boat races. Live near a small stream or creek? Make boats out of available materials and race them downstream.
- Go to a sporting event. It's better than a movie because you can still see each other and have a conversation. Pick something inexpensive that will interest everyone.
- Do a service project. You'll be surprised how fun work can be when you do it together for a good cause.
- Baby sit for free. Play games with the kids, watch videos etc.
- Have a carnival for the neighborhood kids with penny toss, bean bag toss, etc.
- Visit a free museum or historical site
- Go to the zoo
- Make dinner. Try a theme: Italian, 50's style with burgers and fries, ethnic, etc.
- Have a poetry party. Tell everyone to bring their favorite snacks and verses then take turns reading the poetry
- Go on a change date. Have everyone collect their spare change and put it all together. This will be the only money spent on dinner, entertainment, games, etc.. You'd be surprised how fun it is to "budget" your money. We fed eight people huge taco salads, drinks, had yummy dessert and rented a movie on about $10 to $15. The object is to not spend any more than you have!
- Go to the airport and watch the planes fly in and out
- Have a letter of the alphabet date. Pick one letter and then everything you do on the date should somehow correspond with that letter. Example a "P" date. Make "pizza", "play Picasso" (finger painting), and "play at the park"
- Have your own dance in your parents basement, backyard, barn, where ever you would like! We found it most fun with only a few couples, maybe 4 or 5. Make your own decorations and set up a stereo with pre-recorded tapes or CDs. Your date will think you're amazing!
- Go on a video date. Record everything you do that night like making dinner, playing games, visiting friends and then come back and watch with a bowl of popcorn.
- Write a short play and act it out. (On video of course!) even put in the ending credits for that final touch. It's always fun to go back and watch these!
- Go chalking. Go chalk a neighbor or friends driveway. Make tracings of your feet, write "you've been chalked!" cute sayings, etc. (It washes off very easily with the hose)
- Go bowling at home! Collect cardboard T.P. rolls and set up the bowling game yourself. Use a tennis ball for the "bowling ball" It's fun to set up on the stairs!
- Have your own game show. Family Feud, The Price is Right, Jeopardy, etc. Buy silly little prizes from the dollar store for winners. (Of course you should video record this!)
- Have lip-syncs and make music videos
- Feed each other pudding with your eyes closed
- Suck jello through a straw and have silly prizes for winners
- Play Bingo and again, have silly prizes for winners
- Go up the canyon and make hobo dinners or make them outside in a fire pit.
- Go for a bike ride. Not only will you have fun, but you will get exercise.
- Have relay races. The losing team buys the winning team ice-cream
- Go for a horse ride and take pictures of the sunset. Or, go earlier in the day and pack a lunch.
- Take your dog out and play fetch.
- Go buy coloring books and crayons and color. Then send the pictures in the mail to a niece, nephew or any young child. They will love getting mail!
- Have a playdough sculpting contest
- Play Pictionary. Either draw the pictures or "scoped the item out of playdough"
- Tell stories with a deck of Uno cards. One person at a time sets down a card and adds to the story. Their part must correspond with the card they put down (the color, number, letter, etc)
- Draw a hopscotch on your driveway and have a hopscotch match!
Marcie L. in W. Jordan, UT
Four Teen Activities
- Find someone in the neighborhood who needs some help. ex: an elderly lady who needs leaves raked. Talk to the teens and ask their help. Helping someone they know is a good place to start. Plan a pizza party for afterwards. Bet you will get a positive response.
- Try forming a group with a meeting once a month ( week) whatever works. If the group is not too big, use your house. If it outgrows the house try a local recreation facility or church. Let the teens plan activities with some guidelines from responsible adults. Make some form of community service a part of the group's plans even if it is only once a month. Teens do like to help. Contact and invite some special person to give recognition to the group: A local celebrity, a police officer, a local politician or someone who will reinforce the teens' helping attitudes. Always follow up with something fun.
- Try a scavenger Hunt. Keep it local and keep control. Give teams of teens a list of things to find. Example: A picture of a family member, a black comb, a lipstick, a soda can or anything that is available. You can set limits as in the house or on the block, whatever works. If you are working with a small group, let them work in pairs.
- A great fun project is to find an area that needs to be cleaned up such as a local park or playground. Give teams of teens trash bags and have them pick up all the trash they can from the designated area. The team with the most trash (either by volume or weight) wins. Follow with a cookout or wiener roast at the park.
Rent a Youth
We have a new program in our church, "Rent a Youth". The youth do odd jobs for the people who rent them, and the people give a reasonable donation to the youth group. This is used for trips and other activities of the group. This could be done in their neighborhood and a nearby neighborhood. In addition to home fix it projects such as painting and yard work, some of the youth did computer work, accounting, etc. I spoke with one youth who was so enthusiastic about the work she had done for "Rent a Youth". You would have thought she got paid personally! It was very rewarding to listen to her. The woman who wants the activities for the youth could put the money they make in a special bank account and they could have a say in where they want to go on the money. It would keep them busy, and certainly benefit the whole community.
A 500 to 1000 piece puzzle out on a coffee table is a challenge some cannot resist, you may walk into the room and find all the teens sitting around trying to put the puzzles together.
A Variety of Thoughts
Here are some suggestions - I hope they help.
- Gather sleds and toboggans and go sledding
- Have an ice skating party or rollerblading party at the local roller rink
- Bowling Party
- Volunteer at the local animal shelter to walk the dogs waiting for adoption
- Have a contest in your neighborhood for the best decorated house for Christmas
- A Halloween idea is to have a treasure hunt - make a list of odd things to find while you wander around the neighborhood - in order to cross the items off your list you have to video tape the item - split up into two groups, each armed with a video camera. Have a designated time to complete the treasure hunt and return to the house and watch the video. The winning group gets some sort of a prize.
- Libraries are always looking for literacy volunteers
- Collect food or coats or toys for the needy.
- Help the elderly decorate their house for Christmas
- Go caroling
- Plant a community vegetable garden somewhere in the neighborhood
- Plant flowers at the local park - make or buy birdhouses to hang - turn a section of the park into a nature sanctuary
- Raise money to buy sports equipment for community use at the local park
- Participate in walk-a-thons to raise money for various causes
- Volunteer at the animal shelter
- Learn how to do something new
- Open up a whole new world - read a book
- Join some sort of activity - take some sort of lessons to learn something - join Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts
From a Teacher
As a former teacher of teenagers, I am happy to hear of a mom helping keep teens out of trouble by welcoming them into her home. While it may seem that these teens may just want to "hang," most are hungry for activity (which is why many get involved in the wrong kind of activity). Here are a few suggestions:
- Seasonal activities (pumpkin carving was good - stockings, candles, coloring eggs, etc.). Most teens love creating stuff. Things they can display in their rooms are especially popular.
- Group board games (Pictionary, Guesstures, etc.).
- Conversation starters (The Book of Questions, The Book of IF, etc.)
- Homework help.
- Swap meets (teens exchange things with each other that they don't want anymore).
This mom can be very helpful, but most teens want a little distance from their parents. So I'd suggest that this mom help out, but try not to "run the show."
Even if this mom tries to get these kids moving and they prefer to hang, they're better off in her home than on the streets!
Teen girls seem to enjoy babies so I would suggest them volunteering at the local hospitals long term nursery. This is where babies who are too sick to leave the hospital in the first week following birth and/or abandoned at birth are cared for. The volunteers feed and play with the babies to give them extra love and physical contact. It's usually for only a couple of hours at a time.
The children's ward at the hospital is also a place teens like to volunteer. They mostly play games and read to them.
Fewer teens show interest, but some enjoy working with the elderly. They can volunteer to spend time with nursing home residents where they will read, participate in center activities and offer simple companionship to the residents.
If they are interested in drama, they can put together a show that they can present at the hospital and/or nursing home. It can be seasonal or just entertaining for anytime.
Last, some advice, pay attention to what they talk about when they lounge around. More often than not there will be the beginning of ideas in their conversation that just need a little cultivating. If they complain about something, suggest they come up with a solution and implement it. For instance, if they think the school social activities are boring or unimaginative, suggest they become committee members and improve/increase the student activities. If they've tried and were told that money was the issue, suggest they come up with some school drives and fundraisers to get the money needed.
One of the most innovative ideas I've ever witnessed was done by a couple here in Fort Collins. I think the two teenagers could "sponsor" the same type of activity with tremendous success.
Our local couple (and their children) hold slumber parties for their neighborhood children. The way it works is, they rent good children's' movies, and everyone in the neighborhood is invited to bring a sleeping bag and pillow to the "camp out." They show the movie on a large screen t.v. set up in their garage, and everyone camps out in the driveway. It has grown in popularity so much that this year, when they did it over the last weekend before school started, there were over 50 children and parents.
The camp out was instrumental in bringing the neighborhood together and strengthening the "good neighbor" feel. Everyone got to know each other while the kids had a wonderful time.
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