Explore America's Campgrounds
If you're tired of seeing your teen plopped on the couch -- or worse, hearing him say, "I'm bored" -- send him outside with a list of activities he can enjoy solo or in a group setting. Although your teen might prefer playing video games or binge-watching TV series, that time could be better spent outdoors in the fresh air, getting exercise, socializing and learning more about the community and nature.
If your teen has a group of friends around, set them up with an outdoor activity that won’t seem too childish, such as a camera scavenger hunt. Most teens have cameras on their cell phones, so give them a list of objects they have to hunt for in your yard, neighborhood or town. They’ll scavenge through the area to find the objects and take a photo; options include a colorful leaf, a person on a swing or an object that is their favorite color. The first team to bring back all their pictures wins. For a more sport-like event, set up a game of Capture the Flag. Divide the teens into teams of two, split your property into “territories” and give them each a flag that they must place visibly yet inconspicuously in their territory. Each team's goal is to cleverly snag the other team’s flag without being caught.
If your teen prefers to roam solo, introduce her to the word of geocaching -- a grown-up version of treasure-hunting. Arm her with a GPS device, coordinates to a safe, parent-approved location in which to search and a small treasure to replace the one she finds. If she enjoys this activity, she can introduce her friends to it, too. Other solo outdoor activities include building photography skills by giving her a digital camera and a list of photo challenges, as well as working on sports skills, including basketball drills or golf swings.
Drive-in movie theaters are few and far between these days, but you and your teen can create your own movie theater in your own driveway. Invite teen neighbors over and set up a screen -- either free-standing or affixed to your garage door -- loudspeakers and projector. When it gets dark, project your teen's favorite PG or PG-13 movie onto the screen. Double-check noise restrictions in your neighborhood and be a good neighbor by shutting down the fun before it gets too late.
If you have a philanthropy-minded teen -- or you want to foster that spirit -- send him outdoors to participate in community service. Options include working with the city's Parks and Recreation Department to clean up the playground or plant flowers, as well as volunteering at a fair or festival to paint the faces of children. The local humane society might also be in need of volunteer dog walkers, which has the added bonus of encouraging exercise. Check on how old your teen must be to volunteer; in some cases, a parent might need to accompany their child.
- National Wildlife Federation: Host a Camera Scavenger Hunt
- U.S. Scouting Service Project: Capture the Flag
- National Wildlife Federation: Observe Bugs at Night
- NextStepU: 10 Community Service Ideas for Teens
- Digital Trends: Amaze Your Friends And Annoy Your Neighbors With Your Own Backyard Theater
- Geocaching: Geocaching 101
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.