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13 Fun and Easy Microadventures for Teens and Families

Some teens dream of going on epic adventures or traveling the world. They long to see new sights and experience the thrill of exploration. Others take advantage of outdoor trips like the ones offered by Inspiring Girls. (Check out our interview!)

But not every adventure involves packing your bags and traveling to far away places for a long stretch of time. Sometimes, the thrill is waiting to be discovered just around the corner.

We’ve come up with a list of microadventures, small, local, inexpensive outings that don’t require a lot of planning. You can adjust outdoor activities for your teenager to different climates, as well as urban and rural settings. These fun day trips can be you and your teen or you can send them off to navigate these one day adventures on their own.

Microadventures for busy teens:

Camp in your backyard or on your balcony.

Long camping trips with teens can require a lot of planning: deciding where you want to go, researching your destination, reserving your campsite, planning your meals, making a packing list, shopping, testing your gear. The list goes on and on. Micro-camping, on the other hand, is an easy, frugal, and safe alternative to longer trips. On a warm evening, simply pitch your tent in your backyard, or roll out a sleeping bag on your balcony. Backyard camping can be a great first step for your teens before they go camping with their friends at a campground or in the wilderness. Bonus: campers can come inside to use a real bathroom.

Build a shelter with some friends.

Something extraordinary happens when a group of teens collaborates to build a shelter together in the great outdoors. They become engineers, architects, and explorers, all working towards a common goal. To create this experience, find a suitable location in a nearby forest or nature park where it is permissible to move fallen branches and gather enough building materials. Once you’ve identified a location, let them unleash their creativity and go at it. For a treat, deliver hot cocoa or cold drinks to them when they finish constructing their shelter. Just make sure that when they’re done with their outdoor activity, they leave no trace of trash behind.

Hike at night.

Walking in nature can be magical and enchanting. Take that same walk in the dark, and it can be even more exciting or even eerie. Walking in the dark offers a unique perspective on the natural world. To make the most of this experience, map out the route with your teen beforehand and let them decide on the level of illumination. Some prefer to rely solely on moonlight to light their path, while others may opt to bring old-fashioned lanterns or use their phones as flashlights. Walking in darkness heightens the senses and offers opportunities to observe and hear things that are not apparent in daytime. Encourage your teens to watch the stars, take note of tree movements, and listen for owls. A phone app that plays owl calls might help your teen spot one.

Swim in natural water: from swimming holes and lakes to oceans.

If your teen is used to swimming in a pool, try embarking on a mini or microadventure to take a dip in natural water. Depending on where you live, your teens can swim with the dolphins, crustaceans, or algae just by jumping into the ocean, a creek, or a lake. The app Outly can assist in finding a swimming hole near you.

Become a citizen scientist.

If your teen is looking to be part of a science project without leaving your neighborhood, becoming a citizen scientist could be the adventure for them. CitizenScience.gov is an official government website designed to bring people who are interested in science together. From your own backyard or desk, everyone can contribute and participate in the scientific process by addressing real-world problems.Before you know it, your teen might be cloudspotting on Mars or practicing rainwater harvesting.

Visit the special collections at your local library.

Many libraries have museum-like exhibits that showcase the local history of the region, providing a fascinating way to learn about your city or town. Many exhibits feature old photographs that offer a glimpse into what the area once looked like. Teens can get creative by using their phones and filters to recreate old pictures.

Use maps to learn about where you live.

Adventurous teens may enjoy studying maps as a way to understand the geography of your local area. They may discover rivers, streams, parks and forests they never knew existed. Encourage your teen to use a physical map as they venture out and explore their city or rural area, and they may be surprised at the hidden gems they uncover. Plus, using a map is a great way to improve upon their navigational skills.

Take photos of your surroundings…no selfies.

A fun outdoor activity for teens who like photography is capturing hidden gems people don’t typically notice. They may pay attention to carved architectural details on buildings, the texture of flower petals, or the way light filters through the trees. Dissuade your teen from answering texts, taking selfies, or posting about their exploration online. Instead, encourage them to commit to the moment and find treasures in the here and now.

Learn how to start a fire without a lighter or matches.

If your teen wants to learn how to make a fire without a lighter or matches, make sure they take proper fire safety precautions like practicing in your own fire pit or in a designated grill area at your local park. Starting a fire from scratch is difficult enough, even with matches, so you may want to give your kid a head-start by bringing flint and steel to produce a spark or by assembling a tinder kit with dry material that’s quick to catch fire. To create your own tinder kit, you can tease apart rope fiber into soft, thin threads, or use cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, which work exceptionally well. If you’re already out in nature, look for cedar or birch trees — you can quickly and easily shred their bark to create some quick fuel.

Find historical markers and uncover hidden histories.

This microadventure is for the teen who is a history buff. Many cities have historical markers that share important stories about the area and the people who lived there. Instead of paying attention to your area’s main historical attractions, seek out the lesser-known remnants of times gone by. Give your teen a mission to note unique architecture or plaques that often go unnoticed and yet tell a fascinating story of the city’s history. Your teen can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the area’s heritage just by observing these oft overlooked details.

Spot and identify birds in the wild.

Is your teen an animal lover? They might enjoy birdwatching. To begin, take your teen to an open area and, if possible, bring binoculars. If they spot an interesting bird, have them take a picture of it and do an internet search to identify the species. Or, if you have a bird feeder, have them observe how many different kinds of birds gather there. For those teens curious and eager to learn more, there are apps available to help identify birds based on their appearance, location, and even how they sound. Some apps to try: Merlin, Audubon Bird Guide, eBird, and Larkwire.

Try geocaching, the modern treasure hunt.

Geocaching is a low-cost microadventure that’s like a modern-day treasure hunt, where you use a GPS device or a smartphone app to find hidden containers, called caches, that are hidden all around the world. Caches can be hidden in urban areas, parks, hiking trails, and even underwater. They can range in size from tiny, such as a film canister, to larger containers like a plastic shoebox, and some contain small trinkets or toys that your teens can exchange with other items they bring to the cache. This exciting microadventure can help your teen develop important skills like navigation, problem-solving, and teamwork — plus, it’s a lot of fun! To get started, simply download a geocaching app, search for caches near your location, and start hunting.

Try searching “free things to do near me” on your computer to find your next adventure.

There are countless hidden local gems waiting to be discovered, and a simple online search can reveal them to you. Your teen may be amazed by the variety of activities and interesting places they can visit so close to home. They may find a great place to visit that is magical and a new favorite location for a picnic. Microadventures can inspire your teen to look beyond the familiar and they can cultivate your teen’s curiosity for more adventures.

Eca Taylor is the former circulation specialist for Your Teen Magazine.

Franziska Macur is the former audience growth manager for Your Teen Magazine.

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