It’s only a couple of weeks into the summer holiday and the teens are already bored and spending much too much time holed up in their rooms. You’ve got a few fun adventures as well as a sports/drama course booked but not enough to fill the time until September, and the budget is spent. Sound familiar? Well, we’ve been there and we can recommend some great activities that are either free or inexpensive. We hope this list of low-cost activities to keep teens busy in summer inspires you to help your teens have a very happy few weeks.
Shouldn’t they just be chilling?
Yes, ok, we’re aware of the ‘in our day, we only came home to eat’ argument. But don’t forget that was before heavy traffic, stringent regulations and without many alternatives to keep us busy. Of course today’s teens need time out from organised activity, particularly at the beginning of the holiday. They just need to do nothing for a week or two to recover from a busy academic year. Even if it’s tempting, don’t over schedule this time (or any of the holiday come to that). But over the weeks, you want to make sure they’re not spending too much time online and are busy creating some very happy memories.
It’s a particularly tricky time for younger teens. They can’t really work and have grown out of summer camps but are still too young to totally do their own thing. Helping them plan fun activities on a budget with their friends is really important.
Develop those skills
Encourage them to dig out that old skateboard or BMX bike and start practising for the Olympics. Or offer to invest a small amount in a new football or basketball if they promise to go the local court/pitch to play with mates. Or even a hula hoop – anything that gets them outside, having fun and developing their sporting skills at the same time.
A brilliant and super fun activity, provided they’re very careful. You would need to help them research local wild swimming opportunities and make sure that they’re carefully supervised. But under the right conditions, those days swimming in lakes and rivers with mates will be the times they look back on with love.
There are some excellent free apps that allow you to challenge yourself and others to get fitter. If your teens are into cycling, for example, check out Strava and see how much fun it is to become the “local legend” on a particular route. It’s great to set yourself mini goals and map your progress over the holiday, and it makes keeping fit and healthy so much more fun.
Picnic in the park
With a little organisation, meeting up with a group of friends to play rounders, drink and eat and just mess around can be a real hit. If they’re unsure about how cool this is, just show them pictures of the iconic parks in London heaving with groups of older teens and young adults every sunny day.
Look for free local activities
Many local libraries, swimming pools or leisure centres offer free or very affordable activities for teenagers during school holidays. And some of these might be really quite appealing. For example, our local leisure centre offers a guest pass to try the facilities for free for a day if they’re over 16. A day trying out the gym for the first time would be high on the list of fun stuff to do for a lot of 16 year olds we know!
Learn a new skill
This might sound too much like hard work, but you’d be surprised at how many free resources there are available to help everyone find something that they’re genuinely interested in. It could be something artistic or creative, using free online design apps such as Canva, or a free online photography course. Or learning to touch type, or to code with Codeacademy. One of our teens learnt sign language online by devoting 15 minutes a day to it during lockdown and he absolutely loved doing it.
Get busy in the kitchen
Time on their hands in the holiday is the perfect opportunity to foster a love of cooking and independence in the kitchen. Start them with the really fun stuff – elaborate create-your-own mocktails and home-made ice cream, for example. Get them to experiment with recipes for lunch and breakfast, before moving onto easy dinner recipes. And then help them to host a “dinner-party” for friends or family to show off their new skills. You might find the easy recipes from our “Teen-friendly ways to eat healthily” useful.
Get serious about self-care
We’ve found teen girls love a yoga challenge and there are some brilliant free resources online, such as Yoga with Adriene; this one is a course specifically aimed at teens. It’s also a great time to experiment with journaling, or developing any of the mindfulness techniques that can be so helpful in busier times. If they’re a bit unsure, suggest a ‘self-care sleepover’ with some pampering beauty treatments as well as a plan to try out some of the best self-care tips they’ve seen online.
Take over the family budget for a week
A brilliant way of helping teens learn about managing money is to work with them on a family budget takeover. Tell them what their weekly budget is for food and other expenditure, and help them meal plan, shop and pay any bills that come in. Explain, “we spend this much on food as a household for the week, so that is £x per person, but if you shopped differently you should be able to spend £y a week instead”. Make sure they know that they get a say in how any leftover funds are spent at the end of the week, and watch them get excited about making small economies! You do need to have some serious spare time available to help for this one, but it’s a great activity to do together and one that really teaches life skills.
This is a really fun project that will also be a massive tick off your to-do list. Tell your teen that they can redecorate their bedroom into a teen haven, for a set budget. They need to do the planning and all the work themselves (under supervision, of course) but at the end of the holiday they will have a dream room that suits their age and style. Ask them to create a mood board, looking on Pinterest and TikTok for great ideas on a budget, and then to find the closest alternatives to buy online or locally. They will be so proud of having done the work themselves, and will hopefully really enjoy learning about making these kind of decisions.
Special days with friends
Home spa day
One of the most fun ways to host a spa day is to research and create home-made treatments from items you’ve already got in the fridge or cupboard. Messy? Hell, yes! But hugely fun and a valuable lesson in not worrying about brand names when it comes to beauty products. Research ‘recipes’ online for salt-based scrubs, oat face masks, what to add to hot water for the perfect steam and anything else that’s easy, quick and cheap. Create a spa playlist, get the cucumber water ready, pick a few flower petals if you can, draw the curtains… Then relax and pamper!
Camping in the garden
Pick a night that’s forecast to be dry and warm, and you won’t even need a tent. Nothing is more exciting than sleeping under the stars with a group of really close friends. You just need to provide snacks and drinks. (And maybe set a few ground rules and warn the neighbours that there might be a little noise!) Everything else is up to them to plan and organise. These are the nights they’ll remember – even if it goes horribly wrong, it’ll be the best story afterwards.
Help them find a summer job
If your teens are happy to spend their time working, that’s a real win. It’s never too late to try and find summer work – have a look at our “Advice for teens on finding a summer job”. If they’re too young to get a job, it’s a good time to ask them to earn rewards and activities by doing extra household jobs, especially the more complicated ones that can be hard to fit into a busy school week.
And finally, if you’ve made it this far, we’re going to reward you with a link to a hilarious Mumsnet thread on the subject of activities for teens in the summer. The teens took over and firmly put the adults in their place; it’s controversy at its best! Read and enjoy here.
We do hope these ideas for low-cost activities to keep teens busy in summer are helpful. Let us know how it goes!
Louise & Anna x
A little bit about Equipp
We’re Louise & Anna, mum to 5 teens and young adults. We set up Equipp to help spread happiness and positivity amongst today’s amazing young people. We believe it’s vital that every teenager is given confidence to believe in themselves. Telling them how wonderful they are and putting a daily smile on their faces via the cards and gifts they receive from Equipp is integral to everything we design and produce. Have a browse around our collections of birthday and teenage milestone gifts and please do get in touch if you have any questions or would like any recommendation.
We love to celebrate teenagers in every way, and are building a community of parents who feel the same. We hope you enjoy reading our blog posts and we’d love it if you came and joined us on Instagram or Facebook to chat about parenting teens.
Oh, and we’re raising money for a fantastic teenage suicide prevention charity, Hector’s House, with a donation from every purchase from Equipp.