51 Things to keep Your Teenager Busy During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) School Closures
Worried that your bored teenager will spend the next few weeks zoning out in front of a screen? Are you worried about how to keep their brains engaged while they’re out of school? I think by now most schools around us have decided to close at least until the end of March and many are closed for a month or more.
I have been thinking especially about the impact this is having on families with teenagers. For teens, social outlets are an extremely important part of their development. A “quarantine” can cause them to quickly feel isolated and lonely. My friends with teens are already posting on Social Media about how to handle boredom and requests to hang out with friends. So I was inspired to come up with some ideas!
- Dress up like a fashion model and do a photoshoot.
- If your family is more quirky, dress up in old Halloween costumes and do a photoshoot.
- Do a family project like organizing your family photos.
- Create a Family website where you share photos, recipes, and life events, ect.
- Have your teenager finally teach you how to use Instagram or Twitter (Or any other technology that you have been wanting to learn more about)
- Help your teen organize, rearrange, or redecorate their bedroom. Here are some great DIY projects, https://diyprojectsforteens.com/diy-room-decor-ideas-teens/ or maybe it’s a good time to do some decluttering. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hjgJruplxI
- Start a book club. Let your teenager choose the first book. They will LOVE It you are willing to read something they are interested in. And it gives you a chance to understand what they like.
- Host a virtual party with friends. This website gives some great ideas for virtual party activities. https://www.yonder.io/post/6-killer-ideas-virtual-parties
- Sing Family Karaoke, this is also a great activity for a virtual party.
- Make care packages for friends and mail them or take them to your friend’s house and just leave it outside the door.
- Give each other manicures.
- Make your own Music videos and post them on YouTube
- Make Cooking Videos
- Make Exercise videos like yoga or Zumba
- Cook dinner together
- Have a soup cook off, your teenager can judge.
- Try new recipes from countries around the world. In my household we would take turns cooking dinner and at one point we decided to learn how to cook food from other countries. We drew the countries out of a basket and I drew Korea one week and Japan the next week. Cooking dinner became a week-long project where I researched what people ate in those countries then I watched Many YouTube videos of Japanese and Korean ladies showing meals they cooked for their families, until I found something I felt confident trying.
- Go on a family hike
- Take a family bike ride
- Start training for a 5K – Pick a race you want to train for in the next 3-5 months. If you’re not in shape right now then you can use an app like None to Run www.nonetorun.com or C25K to get you started.
- Learn Yoga
- Host a family Olympic games in your house or back yard. You can have serious events like running or make up your own events like spoon races.
- Play board games
- Play card games
- Look up a new card game on the internet and play it.
- Play word games like “I Packed My Bag” Use this link to find this game and more. https://www.word-grabber.com/mobile-word-games/word-games-road-trips
- Make up stories together, where each person tells 1-2 sentences then the next person picks up. You could even turn your story into a book and publish it online.
- Make your own Mad Libs
- Make your own Word Search puzzles. You could have a theme like “Things Found in Suzie’s Room”
- Make your own Crossword Puzzles.
- Make crafts together like greeting cards, then you could mail them to friends and family who live far away.
- Learn Origami from YouTube videos. Left on their own they might spend the whole day on YouTube anyway so why not do it together?
- “Play School” – Have each family member pick a skill they can teach to the rest of the family. It can be something like knitting, or cooking or you can get silly with it and teach how to make spitballs. You can also make videos of this and post them on YouTube to share with extended family members who live far away.
- Write letters or postcards to friends and mail them. Just like in the old days! Your teens don’t even realize how fun Snail Mail can be.
- Host FaceBook Live events and invite friends and family to watch.
- Play music together. If your family is musical you could even put on a concert together. If you don’t already play musical instruments you could be creative and make a water glass choir, or pots and pans drums for your “family band”
- Create a play together then perform the play over Skype for family members who live far away.
- Read classics like Shakespeare or Tolkien out loud to each other.
- Create your own audiobooks.
- Plan your next family vacation. Each family member can pick the place they would really like to go. Then they can draft a proposal to convince the rest of the family why their place should be chosen. How often does your family spend this much time deciding where they would like to go on vacation? And often the planning of family trips can feel like a chore to parents. This way the whole process becomes more fun for everyone.
- Is your family Spiritual or Religious, spend some extra time on your spiritual practices.
- Learn a new spiritual practice, different from your own.
- Can your teenager help you at work? Do you work for a non-profit that is always looking for volunteer labor? Do you have an office job where they can file or organize things? Does your workplace always have projects that they are always meaning to get done but never seem to have time for? Like creating a portfolio of past projects they have done, or taking new pictures for the website.
- Start an online T-Shirt store. You can all draw designs and have them printed on T-Shirts on a site like Zazzle then you can sell them.
- Make a group painting together on a large piece of paper or canvas. You can try different techniques like sponge painting or finger painting. Then once it’s dry you can frame it and hang it up in the house. Think finger painting is just for kids? Check out this famous finger paint artist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=597lSIhmfEg
- Do a project you never seem to have time for, like scanning birth certificates and other important documents. This is one of those things that often gets pushed to the bottom of the To Do List. It can give you real peace of mind to finally have it done and your teenager could probably do it easily and quickly.
- Plant your garden. If your family likes gardening now is the perfect time to get your plants started.
- Spend a Whole Day in your pajamas.
- Have a Spirit Week with a theme for each day like they do at school. Monday could be Football day and Tuesday could be Crazy Hair day, ect. The theme could determine what you have for dinner that day, what you watch on T.V., what you wear, ect.
- Make a cardboard chair that can actually hold you. At my son’s High School they had a science project to make a chair out of cardboard, then they had to sit in their chair while they watched a movie. The longer their chair lasted the better grade they got. Maybe in your family whoever’s chair lasts the longest gets out of chores for a week? This website shows various types of cardboard chairs, www.instructables.com and you can also find instructional videos on YouTube.
- Play video games! If you feel like your teenager doesn’t want to do things with you and just wants to play their video games, join them! Maybe you can make a deal with them like, “You teach me how to play your video game and then I will teach you how to do something that I enjoy doing.”
I hope this list gives you some ideas to help make the most of these unexpected school closures. The main thing is try to inject a little more fun into your days and enjoy getting some extra family time together. It can also really help your teenager to feel less bored and isolated if you find creative ways for them to stay in touch with friends.
Please feel free to share some of your own ideas in the comments.
If you would like more information about how to help your family cope during this time the following articles are helpful.
This article has some good tips to help you emotionally prepare for quarantine. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/the-family-lockdown-guide-how-to-emotionally-prepare-for-coronavirus-quarantine
Emotional Self Care is also VERY important. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html
Remember to watch your teenager’s anxiety level as they are inundated with news about current events. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/02/well/family/coronavirus-teenagers-anxiety.html
What is your teenager posting on social media? This may be a clue to their level of anxiety. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/coronavirus-outbreak-tik-tok-memes
Here are some more good ideas about how to use this time.
My name is Erica Thomas and I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in Lafayette and Rohnert Park, CA I specialize in helping families thrive through the teenage years. It is my goal that every parent experience the joy of ushering their teens into adulthood.