16 holiday activities for teens
Are you looking for activities to keep your teenager occupied this summer?
With schools out for the summer, we have compiled a list of activities that students can do at home over the holidays, all with an educational theme. Numerous recent studies have highlighted the benefits of participation in extracurricular activities1, from higher educational attainment2 to improved mental health3 to greater social development4. Why not encourage your teenager to try some of these activities?
1. Does your teenager spend a significant amount of time on their phone or computer?
Encourage them to use this to their advantage. The ability to work with computers is an important life skill, so capitalise on their interest in technology. There are numerous free online tutorials (e.g., Codeacademy) that will teach them coding and programming. Why not challenge them to develop an app, ensuring it is accessible for all users? And, with so much of our lives shared on social media these days, make sure they are aware of how to stay safe online.
2. What issues is your teenager passionate about?
From racial injustice to the climate crisis, our society and our planet are facing many challenges. Young people have the power to make a positive difference in the world. Encourage your teenager to make their voice heard by participating in youth activism organisations, joining a campaign, writing to your government representative or harnessing the power of social media. Every small, positive action will contribute to changing the world for the better.
3. Discover the joys of reading and writing
For thousands of years, Indigenous communities have used stories to share knowledge of their environment. Can your teenager uncover environmental knowledge from traditional stories, or incorporate knowledge of your local area into an educational tale? Encourage them to explore different forms of reading and writing, such as journalism, poetry and comics.
4. Get growing
You don’t need to have a garden to grow plants. You don’t even need to buy seeds. Collect seeds from fruit and vegetables you eat (e.g., tomatoes, apples, oranges, squash), wash and dry them, then plant them in soil-filled containers (e.g., yogurt pots). Why not devise an experiment to determine the best germination and growing conditions?
5. Does your teenager enjoy listening to music?
They could expand on this hobby and start composing it. There are many free composition programmes (e.g., Audacity) where they can learn how to manipulate sounds and mix songs to create their own musical pieces. If they play an instrument, they could join with musical friends to play together and put on a performance. Or they could design an accessible musical instrument so people with disabilities can interact with music.
6. Participate in scientific research
Citizen science projects are a fantastic opportunity for the public to get involved in genuine scientific research. Help NASA search for new planets, monitor the birds, bees or butterflies in your local area, or design your own scientific study to explore how people learn languages. Search online to discover the range of citizen science projects available.
7. Conduct your own experiments
As well as participating in scientists’ research projects, your teenager can conduct their own experiments at home. Explore the nanoscale properties of carbon, investigate air pollution in your local area, examine what happens when permafrost thaws, discover how a surface’s colour influences its temperature and study how performance is related to motivation and reward.
8. Visit a museum
Many museums are free to enter, is there one near you? While museums can be fantastic places to learn about a huge range of diverse topics, they can also be places of controversy. Many museum collections contain cultural objects that were taken from communities without consent. Use your visit as an opportunity to discuss the legacies of colonialism that still impact the world today, for example.
9. Learn a language
If your teenager is learning languages at school, the holidays can be a great time to practise. Or is there a country they are interested in and would like to visit one day? There are several websites and apps (e.g., Duolingo) where they can learn languages for free. To increase their engagement, they could also learn to cook food from that country or explore the history and culture of the region. If you are lucky enough to travel abroad this summer, it is always a great idea to learn key words and phrases in the local language before you arrive. Encourage your teenager to interact with people in the community. Can they order your food and drink?
10. Build a weather station
Your teenager can measure daily rainfall by creating a rain gauge and they can design a dew catcher to record the amount of dew that forms overnight. Temperature can be recorded if they have access to a thermometer. Look online for instructions to make a simple barometer (to measure air pressure), weathervane (to measure wind direction) and anemometer (to measure wind speed). Encourage them to record daily weather conditions and to explore their data. They could plot their results as graphs, calculate weekly and monthly averages, and compare their results with historical data from your area.
11. Go stargazing
On a clear night, try to find somewhere away from streetlights and look up at the sky. Your teenager can learn to identify constellations, search for planets and watch the moon rise. Explore what the stars mean to different people, as cultures around the world see different patterns in the same stars. What stories are told in the sky?
12. Cooking is a key life skill
So, ask your teenager to cook dinner for the household. Can they plan a nutritious, well-balanced meal that will satisfy everyone’s dietary requirements, while keeping within the budget you set them? Can they also ensure the meal is sustainable, by maximising the use of local, seasonal, low-carbon foods?
13. Unleash your teenager’s creativity and problem-solving skills
Encourage them to participate in a range of engineering challenges. Can they build a tower from toothpicks or a bridge from spaghetti? Can they create a wind tunnel, or design a robot or a structure inspired by nature?
14. Get gaming
Playing board games can be a fun, technology-free, social activity with friends or family, and many games have underlying educational themes. Experience concepts of economic geography while collecting and trading resources in Settlers of Catan or rewrite the rules and play a game of Inequity Monopoly to explore the impacts of inequity on individuals and society.
15. Explore the power of maps
Maps provide a visual representation of data, and geographic information systems (GIS) provide a powerful way to explore them. Once they have GIS skills, your teenager will be ready for a career in many environmental roles, and they can have fun creating maps to enhance their hobbies (e.g., if they play Dungeons and Dragons, they can use GIS to create fantasy maps for their campaigns!)
16. Take up a new hobby
All hobbies can have educational benefits. Is there an activity your teenager has always wanted to try? Encourage them to look for local teams or clubs they could join, or online tutorials where they could teach themselves. They could use the summer holidays to get started at photography, podcasting, jogging, drawing, crochet, baking, bird watching…