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What to Do During Summer When You’re 16

There is no doubt about it; the school year has become more and more jam-packed. For teens, even the things they love doing become a grind because, as Willy Wonka says, “So much to do; so little time.”

Want some personal examples? Try this article:

When summer rolls around, it is no surprise that the first thing on most teens’ minds is to do absolutely nothing. But we all know how that turns out: either they withdraw and spend hours of mindless time streaming shows or playing video games, they complain that they’re bored, or they opt for engaging in behaviors that we’ve worked so hard to steer them away from.

That’s why it’s so important to help teenagers have a memorable summer doing something that matters to them.

When they were young, it was easy as there are so many options, and let’s face it: little people tend to be more joyful. But by 16, figuring out a great summer – or even a good one – gets tricky. These teens have aged out of a lot of activities, and they may not be old enough or ready for others. So how is a 16-year-old supposed to find things to do during the summer?

The Your Teen editorial staff put our heads together to brainstorm ideas for the 16-year-old in your life. While teens may want to hit pause during the summer, like the flowers in our garden, we want them to grow in some way, and each of these ideas offer ample opportunities for them to gain confidence and skills as they develop new interests and passions.

Summer Activities For 16-Year-Olds

1. Volunteer

Helping out is a great way to step out of our own bubbles, support others, and learn about possible career paths. So many places need extra hands. Perhaps they could spend time with patients at a nursing home or hospital. Maybe they could provide support for a program at their place of worship. How fun would it be to assist at the library and be a book buddy for a young reader who will think your teen is soooo cool? If your teen isn’t a people person, maybe they’d like to help out at an animal shelter or a food bank.

There are also volunteer activities that include travel. Several organizations (Rustic Pathways comes to mind) offer service trips that are geared for teenagers. These programs combine cultural immersion with community service.

2. Learn something new

This might sound ironic given that teenagers devote so many hours to school and homework throughout the year, but summer does provide that unique time for personal choice. The possibilities are endless, but the key is to identify what it is your teen wants to learn and then figure out how to make that happen. Maybe it’s something that your teen can learn or practice on their own or maybe it will require signing up for a few lessons with an expert. There are also excellent programs that museums offer that are geared toward teens and weeklong summer sessions at places like Digital Media Academy in design, photography, coding, game design, music production, and even robotics and engineering.

If your teen is thinking more traditionally, perhaps they want to sign up for a course at a community college. This work may even help them earn college credit or at least get ahead of the curve at school. And if they’re interested in getting ahead, summer is a great time to learn more about college entrance exams by taking a test prep class.

Finally, two other summer learning opportunities: If your teen doesn’t yet have their license, what better time to take Driver’s Education? This course is guaranteed to pique interest! And summer is also a great time to become certified as a lifeguard. Depending on when the courses are available, they might even be able to get hired at a local pool when they finish.

3. Be an entrepreneur

It’s never too early to be your own boss. Why not encourage your teen to start their own business? Doing so is a great way to learn so many different skills from marketing to customer relations to communication to budgeting. And coming up with an idea is also a great challenge that requires teens to be resourceful and creative. Lawn care is a very popular for the summer as are babysitting and pet care. Other clever teens have worked together to organize summer camps for kids in the neighborhood or provided technical service to friends and family.

4. Have an adventure

During the school year, we tend to get locked in to our routines. Often, there is very little time to go off the beaten path, so to speak. Summer offers prime opportunities to do some exploring. Maybe you want to challenge your teen to plan a weekly adventure to a locale they haven’t been: a museum, a park, a restaurant, a beach, a festival.

You can determine the traveling distance, but this is a great way for teens to learn about where they live and what It offers. If you have access to any state or national recreation area, perhaps you want to challenge yourselves to hike a certain amount of miles or explore a different trail each week.

5. Create something

There’s never enough time for us to take advantage of our creative impulses during the school year when efficiency is at a premium. Yet, there are so many benefits to spending time pursuing original ideas: reduced stress, increased self-esteem, a stronger sense of self, safe failure, focus, and maybe most importantly, fun. And there are so many ways to be creative.

During the summer, if your teen likes to be in the kitchen, let them take all day to make a complicated recipe or better yet, invent their own. Maybe they want to write a novel, some poetry, or song lyrics, design a video game, or shoot a photography project. Perhaps it’s the perfect time for your teen and their friends to form the band they’ve only been able to talk about or to make the movie they’ve always wanted to.

Here’s hoping that these ideas help your 16-year-olds slay the summer.

Jody Podl

Jody Podl is a teacher at Shaker Heights High School.