When my daughter was small, every summer we created a family summer fun list full of outings, day trips, and fun activities around the house. Over the years, our summer fun list faded into the background as summer camp, road trips, sports, and other priorities came to the forefront. But last year everything changed. Camp was cancelled, along with most of our summer trips. So it was time to rethink the summer fun list and turn it into a summer bucket list for teens. This summer is looking a little better, but still not quite normal, so we still need to be creative in keeping teens and tweens safe and entertained.
Now that our teen is more independent, the summer bucket list looks a little different. Instead of building volcanos and finger painting, she is learning organic chemistry and teaching herself to play the guitar. Wherever you live, and whatever is happening in your area, chances are you are looking for things to do outside, where you can easily socially distance, or fun things for your teen to do inside that doesn’t necessarily feel like an extension of online schooling.
Summer Bucket List for Teens
To plan our summer, I sat down with my teen and we created our own list, which I then in turn made into a summer bucket list that teens can do almost anywhere.
Fun Things for Teens to do Outside this Summer
Visit a farm — no matter where you live, you might be surprised by the creative ways that local farmers have engaged with the community. So far this year we have visited local farm to cuddle with goats (they also offer goat yoga), pick strawberries, buy tulips, and cut our own lavender. Just check with the farm first as some require reservations.
Hike in a local park — this year we are really missing the mountains but at the same time, we have discovered some “new to us” gems in state parks and wildlife refuges. Try a new trail, let them guide the way, or bring a friend a let them explore.
Stargaze — watch the weather for a clear night when the moon is waning and the star shine brightly, then head away from as much light pollution as you can to watch the stars. Bring blankets and cozy up as you lay back and search for constellations. Or, check with your local observatories and see if they are offering any public star gazing events!
Go paddling — pick your paddle — canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board and head out on the water.
Swim — head to a nearby beach, lake, or pool for a swim day. Just keep in mind that if your area is limiting access you may need to get an early start (hard with teens) or plan on a late afternoon swim. The nice thing is that teens can now carry their own stuff.
- Take a bike ride — jump on a local bike path and see how many miles you can clock. If the path is busy, you may want to wear a buff or bandana that you can easily pull up when passing others at a close distance.
- Run a Virtual 5K — so many organizations like Girls on the Run and runDisney are offering virtual 5Ks or marathons that you can sign up for. We have also started doing mother-daughter runs and workouts to train for fall sports.
- Go to the zoo — there are drive through zoos and safari parks, but most zoos are open under new guidelines. We have found that teens aren’t too old to enjoy looking at the animals. Just check to see if you need to buy timed-entry tickets before just showing up.
- Camp in the backyard — pitch a tent and camp in the backyard, or have a camping sleep over with everyone in their own small tent in a circle. Play a game of flashlight tag while you are out there!
- Play mini-golf — whether it is with friends or family, a round or two of mini-golf is a fun way to be outside without too much pressure — unless you have a strong competitive streak!
- Float down a river — rent tubes or book a private rafting tour down a river this summer.
- Take to the treetops — zip lines and tree top adventure courses are fun for the family or your teen’s friend group.
- Watch a movie outdoors — visit a local drive in or concoct an outdoor movie “theater” in your backyard.
- Grow a garden — whether it is an herb garden, flower garden, or vegetable garden, tending your plants and watching them grow is so rewarding — especially when you can eat what you pick!
- Visit a farmers’ market — farmers’ markets look a little different these days but they are still a fun place to buy local produce, meats, fish, dairy, baked goods, and other prepared items. It is even more fun consuming all the goodies you buy!
- Go on a picnic — pick a park with a view and lots of space to keep to yourself and pack up a picnic basket. In our house, we love Uncrustables and frozen blueberries for picnics on hot summer days!
- Do a photoshoot in your hometown — meet up with friends and be a tourist in your own town and take pictures of each other in front of local street art, cool buildings, and scenic views.
- Light sparklers in the backyard — teens are old enough to responsibly and safely play with sparklers in the backyard and will have fun creating videos and pictures as mementos.
- Make s’mores — in our house, it isn’t summer until we have had our first fire pit and made s’mores.
- Run through the rain — don’t let a rainy day make you sad! Running through a summer shower can be so fun — something mom didn’t always “let” you do when you were younger.
- Go karting — if your teen is old enough to learn to drive, this is a good summer to practice. But even if they aren’t, they can get a feel for the wheel with some outdoor go karting (or indoor with precautions).
- Eat outside — not everyone is comfortable going to restaurants yet but outdoor dining can mean the backyard, visiting a food truck and eating in a park, or enjoying a nicely-spaced patio restaurant (especially one with a view!)
Fun Things to do with Teens Inside this Summer
- Bake a dessert — what’s the best thing to do with the berries you picked at the farm? Turn them into a cobbler! This is the perfect time to try to make your favorite summer dessert.
- Take a Chopped Challenge — challenge a friend, or your parents, with a “Chopped” style cooking challenge. Someone creates the ingredient basket and two others compete to make the best dish using those ingredients. You can even do it over FaceTime!
- Learn a new skill — want to learn to play an instrument, speak a new language, take an elective you can’t get at school? Now is the time to explore your interests and figure out what paths you want to pursue. There are tons of free resources on YouTube and Khan Academy. Pick something fun that doesn’t feel like school.
- Write letters to grandparents — chances are the grandparents or elders in your life are feeling a bit isolated and lonely right now. If they can’t figure out how to FaceTime, they will always appreciate an old-fashioned, hand-written letter.
- Plan a theme cooking night — pick a theme (a style of cuisine, a special ingredient, or something crazy and fun) and divide up the meal with everyone in the family making a different course. Then sit down and enjoy the feast.
- Practice test skills — no one ever wants to think about the dreaded SAT or ACT but if your teen isn’t busy this summer, it is a perfect time to brush up on test taking skills or enroll in a prep course.
- Host a virtual sleep over — even if parents don’t feel comfortable with an in-person sleepover, teens can still enjoy a virtual sleep over. Just leave them alone with snacks, their phone, and strong WiFi and let them stay up as late as they want talking. It is the one time to allow the phone in the bedroom at night.
- Have a spa day (at home) — try at-home facials, manis and pedis, or even the fun kind of face masks.
- Make a BFF scrapbook — teens are really missing their friends right now and special memories are more important than ever. Create a scrapbook to pass around from friend to friend, with everyone adding a few pages — it will become a treasured monument to friendships.
- Plan a craft night — there are so many virtual painting and crafting classes that you can join and video tutorials to watch to let your inner artists emerge.
- Have a movie marathon — pick a rainy day or when it is just too hot to go outside to binge that movie marathon you have always wanted to do. Pick a series (Star Wars, Harry Potter…) or a theme (rom coms, social justice), get cozy and settle in.
- Livestream a Broadway show or concert — you do know that Hamilton is on Disney + right? There are also other live performances you can stream on YouTube and Netflix (like Ben Platt’s Netflix special).
- Create a vision board — if all this staying at home has you dreaming of the future, now is the time to create a vision board. What do you want in your life — travel? school? friends? relationships? activities?
- Write in a journal — these are interesting times. Times that later historians will look back on and wonder what it was like. So why not document what you are feeling and doing with a daily journal this summer?
- Plan a dream trip — with so many trips being cancelled, all we can do is dream about the future. Use this vacation planner to start mapping out a future trip.
- Learn a TikTok dance — everyone else is doing it, why not join the fun? Better yet, challenge mom or dad to learn along with you.
- Host a book club — find a book you love (or think will be fun to talk about) and get your friends to read it and then host a virtual book club discussion. See our recommendations on book for teens.
- Create a YouTube channel — be creative and find a way to stand out by creating a YouTube channel reading to kids, leading experiments, singing, or showing off your skills.
- Research colleges — it isn’t too early to start narrowing down a list of schools you may want to check out and attending virtual college tours. Think about size, location, majors, activities, sports, and other factors important to you and use a site like College Board to create a list.
- Learn to do laundry — it may not be fun but someday you will be on your own of off at college and it isn’t cool to shrink your sweaters or turn all your clothes blue so learn how to do your laundry now when you have someone to guide you.
- Experiment with a new look — you don’t need to totally reinvent yourself but maybe now is the time to try out a new hairstyle, hair color, fashion style, or make up.
- Learn to meditate – middle school and high school are stressful, especially now. Guided meditation can be a great way to calm the brain and just breathe so you can live in the moment and release some of those worries. Find suggestions on YouTube or try out the Calm app.
- Create a time capsule — these are crazy times you are living through. It is the perfect time to create a time capsule with your favorite photos, music, movies, and foods. Make sure to include some headlines from this time too.
- Support a cause — do you feel activated to take on a cause that is important to you? Whether it is anti-racism, Black Lives Matter, the environment, LGBTQ rights, or anything else there are tons of ways to get involved online, learn to be an ally, and share resources.
- Make homemade ice cream — it is summer and you need to cool off so learn to make your own homemade ice cream, juice popsicles or other frozen treats.
- Learn how to balance a check book — adulting is coming and it is time to learn some basic skills. Set up a bank account, get a debit card, and learn to balance a check book.
- Clean out closets — it is time to sort through those toys you don’t play with anymore and the clothes in the back of your closet that no longer fit and donate them to a local charity.
- Join a campaign — are you political? This is the moment to volunteer for a campaign and see how you can help. Remember, local races matter too!
Download and print the summer bucket list for teens
Ready to get started on your summer bucket list? Download and print the Summer Bucket List for Teens PDF now.