Summer Activities for Teens: Outdoors and Off Screens

Finding things for teens to do in the summer that encourage them to get outdoors and put their phones down for a while can be challenging. Try these summer activities for teens to give them a healthy balance and routine. 

Summer Activities for Teens: Outdoors and Off Screens

Summer Boredom and Nostalgia 

It’s hard to understand when my teens tell me they are bored as soon as they’re off screens. I always tell them that boredom is good for you! This is how ideas are formed! 

As a teen in the 1990s, I spent my summer days going to concerts, picking strawberries, and laying on my front porch watching the clouds pass by until a friend would stop by. 

I had a very vibrant social life, but I remember the relief of being away from it all, too. Now that I’m a mom of teens, I worry that they don’t experience the brain growth of learning to wait for things, letting time pass, and self-regulate before they see the friend they are mad at. 

Then, there is also a sensory and developmental perspective. Will my teens’ brains make the necessary pathways and connections if they lie in bed in a swirl of messaging friends, TikTok, and personal drama? Their brains are still growing, and being active and outdoors supports that growth. 

It is hard to imagine being a teen without healing hikes in the woods with my sister or processing my social dilemmas while watching the ocean waves beat on, regardless of the time or what was happening in my life. 

I needed the woods and the ocean and most certainly needed to protect my peace. How do we teach teens these seemingly necessary social and emotional regulation skills in today’s digital world?  

The emotional regulation that a forest bath and deep breathing of fresh air provide, along with the muscle memory and long-term neurological benefits of walking and being outside, can do for a person is just as important for teens.

How to Keep Teens Busy In The Summer

Keeping my teens busy doing other things besides screen time is deeply important to me.  But for young teens, this can be incredibly challenging! Work with them to find something they want to do that is developmentally and socially appropriate while meeting their physical and emotional needs. 

These are some of the best activities for teens to keep them busy and get them outside and off their screens for at least part of the day!

Teen Summer Camps

Day camps are a great summer activity for teens. If you have a kiddo who needs the structure and routine of a daily camp, this could be a perfect solution. Since this age group is naturally inclined to be motivated by friends, it’s a good idea to see if one or two friends can attend too.

The best way to find summer camps for teens is usually to look at your local Parks and Recreation guide for the season.

Camp Counselor 

If your teen feels grown out of going to camp, look for local opportunities for them to become a camp counselor. This type of leadership is an experience they can add to their job applications when they are old enough. 

Campfire has great youth leadership opportunities. Or, ask around at your local library and parks programs.

Library Programs

Libraries are full of wonderful resources for all ages, even teens! Often you can find summer reading programs or teen groups that meet at the library. Go to your local library and ask!

Summer Jobs for Teens

Some teens might be motivated to make money over the summer. To get your kiddos started on making money, they can:

  1. Mow lawns
  2. Pull weeds
  3. Babysit 
  4. Pet sit 
  5. Walk dogs
  6. Tutoring 
  7. Lifeguard 
  8. Wash cars

Volunteer Opportunities

In many places, kids need to be at least 16 to get most jobs, which can leave younger teens without a routine and with a whole lot of time on their hands. 

However, quite a few volunteer opportunities will often accept younger teens. This is a great way to get them involved in the community, give them something positive to do, and create a routine for long summer days. Plus, they can add it to their job applications when the time comes for them to apply for jobs. 

Here are a few places to look for teen volunteer opportunities: 

  1. A local library
  2. Habitat for Humanity
  3. Food banks
  4. A local farm
  5. Zoo 
  6. The Humane Society


Hiking is a great summer activity for teens in areas that are accessible. They can plan hikes on their own with friends as long as they’re in well-known and safe areas. Or, they can spend time mapping and preparing for a larger family hike. 

Studies show that kids who spend time in nature become happier adults. Getting fresh air, vitamin D from sunshine, and free movement are essential for kids’ developing brains. This is just as true for teens as it is for younger kids. 

Backyard Campfire

I have always loved a good summer campfire. Whether in a backyard, at a campground, or the beach, it’s always a great reason to invite and connect with friends. 

If you can host, gather some s’mores ingredients, a few chilled drink recipes (like this butterbeer), and make a few bowls of candy trail mix. Your teens will chat into the night around the fire.

Game Night

Admittedly, game nights are not always outside. But, they are a great summer activity for teens to pop some popcorn, invite friends, and play fun board games! It will reduce their screen time, give them necessary face-to-face time with their peers, and keep their brains working. Plus, it’s fun! 

These are some of my teens’ favorite board games to play with their friends: 

  1. Settlers of Catan
  2. Telestrations 
  3. Ticket to Ride
  4. Bananagrams 

Some of these winter activities would work just fine for summer too, especially for kiddos who need to stay inside for allergies or other reasons. 

Or, make it an outside game night with these outdoor camping games. You can do some of these right in your backyard!

Flashlight Tag

There’s something magical about warm summer nights, especially for teens. With new independence and self-imposed bedtimes, flashlight tag is a great way to get teens outside with friends. 

Here’s the basic rules of how to play flashlight tag: 

  1. Find a safe spot in the dark, with lots of hiding places. A backyard usually works great! Playgrounds can be fun, too. 
  2. Have the person who is “it” count to 100 to give everyone time to hide. 
  3. Then, the “it” person looks for people as in regular tag, but in flashlight tag, they have to hit the hidden person with a beam of light and call out their name. 
  4. In flashlight tag, the person hiding is out once they are in the stream of light, but they can outrun it and hide behind other things to evade the light! 
  5. The goal, as usual, is for the “it” person to catch all of the people hiding. However, they must be in the flashlight beam and have their correct name called to be out!

Backyard Camping with Friends

Let your teen spend the night camping in the backyard with their friends. I love camping with my teens because they now set up everything independently, so there’s no reason they can’t do this right in the backyard with their friends.  

This will get them outside being the social beings they were meant to be. They can stargaze, make a campfire if you have a fire pit, play games, and talk into the night. Giving teens the space they need and age-appropriate freedom is the absolute best way to get them outside and off screens!

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