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Summer Fun with Teens: Don’t Waste a Minute of What’s Left

Somehow, it happens every summer: I flip the wall calendar to August and start to panic. All of a sudden, it feels like summer is going to be over in ten minutes and we haven’t done enough of the fun things on our summer bucket list. 

That’s a real thing in our house, by the way, not a metaphor. A few years ago, as the school year was drawing to a close, my daughter bought a miniature metal bucket and tiny wooden clips from a craft store and used a Sharpie to write a fun summer activity on each clip. She put all the clips around the edge of the bucket to remind us of the fun that lay ahead. The goal was to remove each clip and place it in the bucket as summer progressed.

It was a great visual reminder that summer is fleeting, and to get out and have fun while it lasts. And no, we didn’t manage to get every single clip in the bucket, but it did encourage us to get out and do some of the things we would otherwise have left undone.

Like paddle boarding on Lake Erie. And riding rollercoasters at the amusement park. Or my all-time favorite summer family activity, packing a fancy picnic to enjoy at the outdoor summer concert park near our home. 

Looking for some fun ways to connect with the (bored) teenager in your house this summer? The Your Teen editorial staff rounded up some of our favorite ideas for bonding activities they actually want to do with us:

Fun Summer Activities for Teens and Families

  • Cooking together, with background music of their choice. I cherish those moments! 
  • House crawl: everyone creates a theme in a room of our house and we do a “crawl” to visit each space. It’s a real bonding experience and very entertaining! 
  • When traveling, we let our teens each choose one thing they want to do.
  • Anything adventure related—like kayaking or ziplining—puts the whole family on a level playing field where everyone is trying something new and being vulnerable together.
  • A movie night with fun snacks and maybe even spa facemask. They may grumble at first, but those nights together on the couch are priceless.
  • Pull out the old photo albums and ooh and aah at the pictures of them as babies and toddlers. (They’ll also enjoy telling you how dorky your outfits are.) 
  • Watching old family videos—they love to poke fun at one another!
  • When traveling, we do a debriefing of highs and lows of the day. I’m always surprised at what people pick at the end of the day.
  • Shooting hoops in the driveway—whether it’s a game of “horse” or a full-on family basketball game.
  • Playing each other at ping pong to decide who does what chores. It can get quite competitive, but always fun.
  • Baking homemade chocolate chip cookies is always a winner. Yes, we eat the dough. 
  • Friday nights have become homemade pizza night. We take turns making them and determine who made the best each week. We’ve even ventured into grilling pizza—fabulous! 
  • Take a random drive to a favorite sub shop or coffee shop. It gives us more time in the car to chat and get them something they love.
  • Anything outside, like riding bikes, hiking in a park, or even just taking the dog to the dog park, is a great way to spend time together. No planning needed! 
  • When all else fails, get the firepit going. If we make the fire, they always wander out, because who can resist s’mores!

Of course, the fun doesn’t have to stop when school starts back up. And don’t worry about how many items you get to check off the list. The most important thing is that you find a way to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Because the only thing more fleeting than summer is this time we have with them now, before they leave the nest. 

Jennifer Proe

Jennifer Proe is a writer and editor with Your Teen Magazine. 

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