5 Ways to Keep Your Teen Busy This Summer

If you’ve got teens and tweens on your hand that just can’t get into a groove this summer, Mighty Mommy has 5 tips to help keep them on track.

Cheryl Butler
8-minute read
Episode #438

When you’re the parent of tweens and teens, summer vacation has an entirely different flavor. The last couple of months of school, all I heard about were the highly anticipated months of summer.  No more homework, a break from team practices, sleeping in, lazy days at the beach, and spending their precious time relaxing, soaking in the sun, and grazing on anything and everything that we had in the fridge and pantry.  Sign me up!

Years ago, when it came to summer vacation, after I finished crying when the school bus rumbled out of our neighborhood on that last day of school (begging our driver not to forget to return in early September) I gathered my energy, our sand pails and shovels, along with my 20-page “Summer Fun” list and hit the ground running.  No way would I fall victim to any child of mine touting that they were bored and whining that there was nothing to do.  Their childhood summer’s would hold memories of playing at the shore, running in the park, catching fireflies, and making ooey, gooey s’mores—no matter what.

Looking back, those years when my kids were younger and needed constant supervision throughout the balmy months of summer are almost a distant blur, but because I was a stay-at-home mom (who left the home far more than stayed in it!) I do recall the many days where sand scattered across our hardwood floors was definitely the norm and packing up the car with 8 kids and all their paraphernalia all summer long was how I rolled. 

Now, my tweens and teens are finding that summer vacation can actually be a little boring because they no longer have their mom to act as an Activities Director to keep their time filled with all kinds of fun-in-the-sun events and happenings like in year's past.

Here's five tips to keep your teen or tween on track:

#1.  Get Your Teen Involved in the Planning

For years my 8 kids were used to stepping off the school bus on the last day of school only to be greeted with their favorite homemade cookies, ice cold lemonade and the infamous “Butler Summer To Do List.”  This was a combined list of several things each child, including mom and dad, wanted to do that summer.  The fun part was sitting down with each of them a month before school let out and hearing how excited they would be about their plans.  Once they hit their tween and teen years, however, the excitement of visiting amusement parks and hiking trails was replaced with how much time they would be able to spend lounging on the couch, with their electronics and absolutely no schedule at all.

Dr. Michael Bradley, psychologist and author of Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind, believes that what teens do in the summer is more important than how they spend their time during the school year. In Summer Activities for Teens: 5 Ways to Make Everyone in the Family Happy “Summer is unstructured time,” he explains, “without the demands of school projects, sports teams, and sometimes 18-hour days.” Bradley advises parents to come up with a possible list of summer activities for teens. Put some ideas out there. “Then let your teens decide what they want to do.”

So just because your kids are driving or even starting part-time summer jobs, it’s still vital to brainstorm ideas that they can participate in throughout the 10 weeks of vacation.  Down time is definitely important but we don’t let that become the only focal point of their time off.  Even my kids who are home from college are invited to give suggestions on how they want to see their time flow throughout the summer.  This allows for lazy time, but sets the expectation that we still want to see them involved in activities and keeping up with household chores etc. all summer long.

#2.  Get Cooking

All 8 of my kids can cook and even better, clean up after themselves in the kitchen.  When I went back to work full-time about five years ago, I had at least 4 teens in my midst.  We all knew that dinner on the table by 6 PM was not going to be the new norm, but with a large family (and 5 growing boys!) hearty meals were still a must.  We live near a university and several years ago a cooking class was offered for kids ages 13 and up. I was pleasantly surprised that a couple of them wanted to attend.  Two weeks later, they were cooking up a storm and it hasn’t slowed down a bit. 

I do most of the cooking during the school year but with the kids home for summer vacation, we came up with a schedule where my tweens and teens have taken over the kitchen and prepare most of our family’s meals all week long.  The ones that drive even do the grocery shopping most weeks.  Being responsible for family mealtime keeps my teens on a schedule and gives them a sense of pride and purpose when the rest of us sit down to enjoy one of their creations.


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About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.