Finding fun activities to engage teenagers can sometimes be a challenge. A little creativity, getting into the teen mindset, and asking teens for input can make planning activities fun and enjoyable for all.
Tried and True Activities for Teenagers
A simple way to update any classic activity is to add a unique twist. These tried and true favorites are reinvented for today's teenager.
For some teens, a group bowling trip might sound like fun, but for others, it may feel like something their parents are more apt to enjoy. Modern bowling can be fun for all ages because of all the different kinds of bowling available.
- Midnight Bowling: Exactly as the name implies, midnight bowling takes place late into the night and is often marketed toward the teenage group. Teens will love the chance to stay out later than usual, even if they choose to watch rather than bowl.
- Glow Bowl: Some bowling alleys offer this fun option where black lights, disco balls, and glow-in-the-dark paint. White lights turn an average space into an instant party.
- Mini Bowling: Featuring shorter lanes and smaller, lighter balls, mini bowling adds an unexpected challenge to the classic game.
- Candlepin Bowling: Still gaining in popularity across the United States, candlepin bowling uses lighter balls without holes and thinner pins.
- DIY Bowling: For teens stuck at home or who love creative projects, there are many ways to put together a bowling match at home or school. Gather some objects to serve as pins and find something that resembles a ball. Get competitive by challenging teens to see who can come up with the most difficult lane setup or the best ball substitute.
Make any bowling trip more exciting by making or finding classic bowling team shirts for everyone to wear. Create a funny team name and have each teen select a nickname to be used on the shirts and scorecard.
School Sporting Events
Who doesn't love supporting the home team and getting swept up in the spirit of a crowd? While attending a variety of school sporting events can be fun, there are also many ways to enhance the experience.
- Tailgating: Most sports fans associate tailgate parties with national sports teams. Take any high school game or match to the next level by organizing a tailgating event. Teens can encourage friends and the community to get involved by meeting up in the parking lot before a game and serving food to share. Add in some music and outdoor games to create a fun event for people of all ages.
- Spirit Wear: Anyone can wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the school colors and mascot. Why not have a little fun with school spirit by adding in some face paint or DIY tutus featuring school colors?
- Crowd Participation: Teens can work together to increase team spirit by preparing crowd participation chants ahead of time. To make sporting events fun, teens can hand out decorative signs, start 'the wave,' or encourage some crowd chants.
From heading out to the local movie theater to a binge-watching sleepover, movies are a staple in the social life of teens. Add a unique twist to the classic movie night with these creative suggestions.
- Backyard Movie: All it takes is a white sheet, digital movie projector, and some blankets to create the feeling of a drive-in movie right in the backyard. Cook up some popcorn served with pop and classic candies to further set the mood.
- Themed Film Festival: Ask teens to choose an interesting theme like cult classics, horror flicks, Oscar winners, or animated movies and host a film festival showing only movies that fit the chosen category. As a bonus, look for movie posters that match the film selections and hang them up near the viewing area.
- Book or Movie Challenge: Look for books that have been made into movies, those with an original movie and remakes will be the most fun. Ask teens to read the book first, then watch the movie (or movies) and compare. Which was better? What information was changed or left out in the movie version? Some great examples include My Side of the Mountain, The Hunger Games Trilogy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Fault in Our Stars.
Local Museums and Attractions
It may seem like teens aren't interested in local tourist attractions, but there are ways to create a fun activity out of any museum or zoo visit.
- Instagram Challenge: Instagram is a popular app that focuses on telling stories and sharing experiences through the use of photos or videos. See who can create the best image from the trip or who can tell the most creative story using only pictures from the attraction. Another option would be to see who can get the most likes or shares of their images on other social media sites.
- Scavenger Hunt: Any activity can be turned into a scavenger hunt with a little creativity and preparation. Check if the attraction's website already has an interactive element similar to this. If not, create a list of obscure or obvious items one might find at the specific location.
Table Games for Teens
Teens love anything that involves competition, particularly if there are edible or monetary prizes for the winner. Whether hosting a game night or planning for an after school program, there are many great cards and board games that should be included in any teen game collection.
- Apples To Apples: Made for four to ten players, this party game can be played seriously or with a silly focus. One card featuring an adjective is placed in the center of the playing area. Each player must then choose a noun card from his hand that fits best with the adjective card in play. The judge for each hand then chooses the best noun card. There are several versions of this fun group game, but Apples To Apples Freestyle might be the best choice for teens.
- Candy Poker: Take any version of the card game Poker and make it teen friendly using candy or snack foods instead of money. A creative, family-friendly version would be to use household chores as currency.
- Exploding Kittens: A unique card game, Exploding Kittens, is easy to learn and gameplay can be short or long depending on which cards are drawn. The concept is simple; you pick an Exploding Kitten card you are dead and out of the game. That is unless you have a card that can defuse the situation like a Laser Pointer or Catnip Sandwich card. There is now also an Exploding Kittens app so teens can play with their friends even if they aren't in the same room.
- Magic: The Gathering: This trading card game boasts over 20 million users worldwide. Magic: The Gathering is meant for two or more players, each of whom has a customized deck of cards. Each player is a Planeswalker, and each card is a weapon she can use to deplete an opponent's life energy. Players have the option of in-person or online gameplay via Magic Duels.
- Pandemic: In this cooperative game of strategy each player is designated as a specialist in a specific field. Players must then use their strengths to stop a series of diseases from wiping out the world's population. Pandemic embraces teamwork and an intense sci-fi scenario which will keep teens engaged.
- Pie Face: In this thrilling game, players take turns cranking the handle and hope they are lucky enough to end their turn with a clean face. The mechanical hand could go off during any turn, flinging either a wet sponge or whipped cream in the player's face. Teens will love watching family members, friends, or teachers getting a face-full in the hilarious game of Pie Face.
Outdoor Activities to Engage Teenagers
Getting outside is a great way to encourage teens to be active and adventurous. Many teens are often so focused on technology; it can be a nice change of pace for teens to see what the great outdoors have to offer.
- Snow Tubing: Typically a winter sport, people of all ages can enjoy tubing down a steep hill. Ski resorts often offer snow tubing.
- Adventure Course: Adventure courses typically feature a series of platforms at varying levels from ground to treetop that are connected by cable, wood, or rope bridges and zip lines. Reputable courses provide all participants with a safety orientation and secure harness system. There are usually a variety of courses ranging from beginner to advanced so people of all ages can participate.
- Geocaching: Participants use GPS-enabled devices to search for containers hidden at specific locations. Geocaching feels like a real-life treasure hunt and sometimes includes group activities with other participants.
- Camp-out: In the backyard or at a local campground, a classic camp-out can be fun for anyone. Bring along some unique campfire recipes, flashlights for a game of tag, and lyrics to favorite summer camp songs to ensure a night no one will forget.
- Music Festivals: Many towns across the country now play host to music festivals. While media coverage often portrays these events as drug-filled and dangerous, these festivals can still provide fun for teens who are supervised. Look for one-day festivals that feature a variety of artists and stages.
Active Fun for Teens
Get teens up and moving so their endorphins can start flowing, bringing a smile to any smug face. Active fun can span longer time frames and keep the attention of those easily distracted or bored.
While sprinklers and water balloon fights might seem like child's play, there are many water-related activities teens will be thrilled to dive into.
- Water Park: No matter the geographical location, there is likely an indoor or outdoor water park nearby. Teens may have outgrown backyard water play, but no one outgrows the thrill of a water park. Teens will have more fun if they go with friends and have some freedom from supervision. Consider taking up post in a lounge chair where teens can leave their towels and check in periodically.
- River Tubing: One step up from the classic Lazy River at the water park, and a few steps down from white water rafting is River Tubing. Each person gets an inner tube and life jacket and usually the option of how long to float downriver. Groups can typically connect their tubes to ensure no one floats away. Many River Tubing companies throughout the United States that offer a wide variety of tube trip options. Teens can laze about for hours talking with friends or daydreaming.
- Water Gun War: Using water guns, soakers, and blasters teens can form teams to play a wet game of Capture the Flag.
Using a smartphone, players can download the Pokémon Go app then set off on a real-world adventure to find virtual Pokémon characters. Based on the video game, turned trading card game, turned animated television show empire, Pokémon Go combines the fun of a fantasy world with real-world exploration. Teens can play alone or in competition with others as they try to catch as many characters as possible, level up their Trainer, and earn digital medals.
Teens interested in trying new games that aren't of the board variety will enjoy these options:
- Mafia: Mafia works best in a group of teens that know each other. Success in the game depends on your ability to lie well and tell if others are lying. Detailed instructions on how to play Mafia and its variations can be found at the website Topped with Meat.
- Sardines: This childhood game gets a modern, mature upgrade by playing it in a dark building. All players hide in the building except two, who will hunt for the others. The hunters grow in number as people are found. For the sake of safety, be sure to check out the location during daylight and equip players with glow sticks or flashlights.
Fun for Everyone
Almost anything can be turned into a fun activity for teenagers. However, a little creativity can help even the most reluctant of participants have a great time.