For Lola: Keeping Teens Occupied for the Summer

>> Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lola asked: It's summer break. What on earth is there to do that's free or really cheap for teens to keep them out of trouble? I did find and signed up both my kids, but they are going to get tired of bowling. We can't afford a sleepaway camp (but gosh we would love to have a break!) We will be signing them up for some short golf camps, but it's kind of hard due to their ages. My daughter is 16, so she has aged out of most programs, but she can't sign up for adult programs. Due to her illness, a part time job is out of the question right now. Is there anything else you can think of that is free or cheap?

The question, of course, is fabulous not just because many people need to know, but because I need to know myself. I don't, of course, though I've been trying to think of some ideas. The government has some suggestions (some of which sound good).

Dept of Health and Human Services Teenager Summer Activities

In fact, I had been thinking about the volunteer notion (not the mentor thing, though that's a cool idea). A job may not be an option, but responsibility and accomplishing something can often be very fulfilling. Volunteering at a local nursing home can be a great way to bring some happiness to people and to open up that me-me-me attitude many teenagers have. Ditto for similar activities at homeless shelters or Habitat for Humanity. Or perhaps volunteering at local animal shelter would be good, as exposure to animals can be good for one's mental health (and having someone to walk dogs or clean cat cages could be helpful). It also looks really good on college applications.

Another possibility that's low on cost, high on time and can be fun for everyone is to get involved as a coach for a local little sports league. Believe me, I have no experience and they took me, so expertise is not required.

But, as much as all of this can be good for kids, use their time constructively and look good on their records, convincing them to do it might be challenging. So, what else?

Well, I stink as an example. I was a serious bookworm and would happily read all summer long. And libraries are free. I'm also a movie-a-holic. If you have netflix, it's a pretty inexpensive way to be entertained, though it will hardly fill all summer long. My husband was HUGE into video games when he was a teen, which have a big outlay but can be cost effective if you already have a setup or two. Let me know if you need suggestions.

However, there's something to be said for picking some more active, uh, activities. Perhaps they can get involved with geocaching in the area, a local pool or YMCA/YWCA. Gardening can be active and engrossing if you have a thing for it. Museums and zoos can provide education, exercise and be cost effective if you get a season pass. Depends on your area.

Or perhaps some activities like involvement in art classes, community theater, local glee clubs and the like. Often they have inexpensive options or packages. Check your local paper for summer programs; there are often many of them. Check the website of your local school district; they might have more options.

Given that I think this is, overall, a pretty pathetic answer, I encourage any readers with some ideas to bring them forward. Many of us with children face these questions every year and, if we aren't now, we will when our kids get older. I'm sure Lola would welcome any other suggestions you might have.


  • flit

    I didn't think it was a pathetic answer at all... if she enjoys the camp thing, I would see if maybe she could volunteer part time at a day camp, perhaps... health permitting.

    Both of my kids did that for a summer and enjoyed it

  • Lola

    Actually you came up with some good ideas. I need to look into the Y for myself anyway.

    My kids play way too much video games. Right now they are in major withdrawal because we couldn't motivate them to clean their rooms. We completely removed all video games and have them locked up at Grandma's house. We are approaching week 2 and we are at a stalemate, however, this is the first week of summer vacation for my son, so I do see some glimmer of hope. Due to my daughter's illness she gets oppositional/defiant, so we are going to have a long haul, although it does help that her special school has a summer program, but it is only 4 days a week, and is not the whole summer. Yesterday my son had the nerve to complain about my computer time, saying I don't spend any time with him! Had he cleaned his room and had access to his video games, he wouldn't even have known I was around!

    Thanks for your help. I hope some other bloggers come up with some ideas to share. Heaven knows it's going to be a loooong summer.

    If your kids are younger, local park districts do have summer programs that are fairly inexpensive. My kids are too old. Next year I need to plan better and perhaps they can get jobs as counselors. (A day late and a dollar short as always.)

  • The Mother

    When mine were little we loaded up on the classes that were available at the local museums. Anything, really, to give me a few hours of break.

    Now? They have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out of the house. The game cube and x-box are their summer companions.

    But they leave me alone. Not such a bad trade-off.

  • Aron Sora

    When I went to an academic camp I had a major shift in my mindset and the way I approached school. Try looking at this camp, my high school paid for this experience. I went to this camp

    If your kid is into it, A D&D game is always epically fun.

    Encourage them to start a blog on their interests, I find my blog really keeps me on my path. A pen pal would be cool too. Those are lame ideas, sorry.

    So, I have a question. I got into Columbia University but I'm starting to worry and I'm confused. I really don't know what the university sees in me. When I look at the other two people who got in I feel like I haven't done enough. I feel as if I have this huge expectation for greatness and I'm not sure if I'm going to make it; maybe I'm just un-confident. I feel as if I need to work extra hard to college to meet this expectation. I just have no idea why they admitted me. Why me? There are people who are smarter then me in my high school. Why me? They are taking a huge risk on me and I feel I must do everything in my power to return their investment, but why me? I mean, they gave a crazy space cadet like me this opportunity and I can't let them down. But, I have so many flaws and so much personal development to do before I could even call myself an ok guy. Why me?

  • Aron Sora

    That camp is really expensive, but public high schools will often pay for these types of programs, my last year was free.

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