Activities for teenagers in lockdown
We’re in our third coronavirus lockdown in the UK, but we might as well be starting the 12th year of a life sentence in prison as far as my bored teenagers are concerned. Parents of younger children everywhere are facing self-isolation with a wry sense of humour:
Home-schooling is awful, I’m not a teacher, oh well let’s chuck the rule book out and hunker down for a pizza (if we can get a supermarket delivery slot) in front of a Disney movie, there’s always PE with Joe Wicks to make up for it in the morning
Now I’m not going to complain about a family movie. If that’s your family as well, I’m going to recommend my affiliate subscription to Amazon Prime Video (you get a free 30 day trial, so you could get your next 30 movie nights in during lockdown!)
Disclosure: some of the links to products I’ve suggested are affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commision if you use them to make a purchase. It costs you nothing extra, and I’ve only recommended things I’ve used or had recommended to me by other parents of teenagers.
But if you’re a parent of teenagers you’ll know that no amount of online craft or virtual space exploration is cutting it right now. When it comes to keeping teenagers entertained in lockdown it can feel like parents are on their own.
(And to add insult to injury it’s started raining, so now we have to find indoor activities for young adults too!)
When the announcement came that schools were to close in England, my Facebook groups were flooded with genius ideas for keeping kids occupied in a productive fashion that might constitute learning. Parents were inundated with colourful lesson plans worthy of the best Reception teachers (had Miss Jones been one of those CBeebies-style classroom heroes that leave me exhausted after just a 10 minute parent-teacher consultation).
But finding anything amongst the 32 tabs that remained open on my laptop – for several panic-stricken days – that would even vaguely capture my kids attention was hopeless. There was absolutely nothing for bored teenagers to do in pandemic lockdown.
So I set about creating my own list of Covid-19 activities for teens in lockdown.
Their lives may be sooooooooo over but there are plenty of things teens can do to keep themselves occupied, and even some that might allow their parents to spend precious time with them (which is a bonus, as we all know teenagers don’t want to hang out with their mum and dad!)
Read on for some ideas I found amongst other parents of teens and tweens.
Lockdown activities for teens and tweens in self-isolation
Take an online photography course: Now is the time to learn a new skill, and surprisingly there are tons of photography courses online. Ideally they’ll need a DSLR camera – luckily that’s one thing that hasn’t sold out on Amazon – but there are also courses in smartphone photography that focus on capturing interesting angles and concepts, and using natural light.
I’m going to recommend a few things from Amazon in this post, so if you feel like you might want to buy some of them, why not get a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime to save on delivery charges?
Learn to touch type: Have you seen how kids type? That two-finger jab thing they do on the keyboard (or worse still, the iPad stabbing that makes me want to layer 72 screen protectors on their devices).
Learning to touch type will speed up their essay work too, so they’ll stop claiming carpal tunnel syndrome as an excuse to avoid their English and History homework. Disclaimer: this may not improve the quality of their writing…
Enrol in Stage School: It might sound strange but lockdown is the perfect time to start acting classes. Stage Academy are an established performing arts school, who like everyone else have had to temporarily stop live classes. But they’ve put together online versions that are so good they actually stand alone as a way of taking drama lessons on an ongoing basis.
We’ve spent the last week reviewing them, and I can tell you – having paid a LOT over the years for stage school classes these are as good as any we’ve seen. They cover all ages from 4-18, it costs £10 a month (honestly SUCH good value for money), and you get a free 7 day trial – it’s a no-brainer.
Today’s lesson just went live for us and I’m already bossing it on professional stage directions. No seriously, I am – just ask my husband 😆
Learn to bake: I don’t just mean cupcakes here, although they’re always welcome. Bread Ahead Bakery have added e-learning baking classes to their usual courses. Learn to make the perfect sourdough, and even to create amazing doughnuts from just £10.
Build a website: Why not learn to code? Code Academy offers free coding classes online. You could build your first ecommerce site, or start a blog!
Create an Anime: If your teenager is into graphic design, Anime is a good way to use time and learn a new skill.
Write a letter: I know, I know it’s not cool. BUT. Imagine if your boyfriend could one day look back on the one that got away (or your life partner could quote it in their wedding vows) by reading an actual hand-written letter. The romance of it!
I have stacks; they’re a bit clichéd, but they’re also so cool, in a retro kind of way. If you’ve no romantic attachments your Grandma would love you forever (and probably send cash at Easter). Failing that, a lot of nursing homes are looking for letters and drawings for their residents to read. (Check first that they’re accepting external post).
Create a Pandemic journal: the pandemic is something we all want to forget, but I guarantee that once this is all history – and our teenagers are no longer teenagers – it will be fascinating to look back at the things we did together, the things they tried alone, and the unique feelings they had. I think a pandemic journal will be something teens can be proud of getting through, and want to show to their own children eventually.
Start a podcast: If your teenager fancies having a YouTube channel but is too shy to put themself out there a podcast might be a good alternative. It’s super easy to get started, and podcasting is really taking off right now. There are lots of podcast hosting platforms, and most of them have really good idiot guides to explain how to do it.
Podcast.co allows you to download a pretty comprehensive guide with no obligation to sign up. Only once you have a recording you want to put on the podcasting apps do you need to pay for an account. If you’ve never listened to a podcast, here’s mine – Teenage Kicks, a mental health podcast aimed at teens and their parents.
Simpler everyday activities for teens to do in the house
Cook dinner: I’ve seen lots of parents say their teenagers are taking it in turns to cook dinner, and now is the perfect time. I’m such a control freak in the kitchen that I’ve never handed that task over to my kids, but they need to learn to cook more than beans before they leave home. I’m going to start easy with baked potatoes and build up my nerve from there!
Meal plan: Similarly, kids need to know how to budget and plan food for the week, so hand in hand with cooking, I’m going to ask mine to make a meal plan together. This will either result in a huge row, or us eating ravioli for an entire week.
Mow the lawn: Teenagers are guaranteed to love this responsibility. But again, you might want to supervise, and make sure the dog is inside the house.
Learn DIY skills: See above.
Wash the car: You’ll have to pay them by BACs transfer, obviously, as there’s nowhere for them to spend their cash right now.
Learn car maintenance: change the oil and water, and change a tyre.
Cleaning: dusting, vacuuming, floor mopping… I’m losing you here aren’t I? I’ll stop, but if you can convince your teenager to clean your house, I’d like to know your secret. You can email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Not really, but you get my jist).
Academic activities for teens in lockdown
Watch a TedED: From the makers of TED talks TedED offers brilliant educational talks, as well as a daily email of lesson plans for any age group.
BBC Bitesize: Revision activities for all subjects at all levels, plus daily online lessons coming from 20 April.
Online Lessons: Mr Azfar on YouTube is an utter genius in my opinion. Not only has he uploaded lessons on specific topics including Physics, English Lit, and Maths, he also livestreams lessons every day on his channel Lockdown Lessons.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still Maths and Physics, but if your teenager has specific GCSE problems to work on they might find the answers here. Also, it means I don’t have to do Physics with my kids. Which is good because I gave up Physics when I was 13.
Learn a new word from the dictionary: Quick daily English activity.
Learn about Art: Google Arts and Culture has a huge rabbit hole of art, architecture and cultural nuggets to fall down. So much to learn!
Brush up before Uni: A-Level students can find lots of free online courses involving their potential future studies at University. Have a look at Class Central for some ideas. If nothing else, they might learn some coding and work out how to fix the Broadband speed at home.
Get your head round student loans: Martin Lewis has a breakdown of how student loans work best for you if you’re headed to Uni in September. I picked this tip up from Future Quest, who have some suggestions for teenage activities I haven’t covered here, so do head over for a look.
Keep on top of the news: The Day is offering their daily newsletter subscription (usually priced at £120 a year for a family membership) free of charge during lockdown. It has a readership of mostly teenagers, and covers quirky reviews and academic updates as well as keeping on top of what our politicians are doing.
Ideally, my teenagers will read it and report back to me, recalling only the funny memes, because that’s all my coronavirus overwhelmed brain can cope with right now.
Learn a language: try a new language on Duolingo.
Take an Open University Course: It’s free, takes anything from 2-30 hours, and you can study subjects from sociology to biotools! Visit https://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses/full-catalogue
How do I get teens to exercise during lockdown?
Mention PE with Joe Wicks in front of my teenagers and they’ll deadpan you. In fact, they’ll probably despise you for the duration of lockdown, such is their hatred of the genre. It’s for kids and cringe mums. Like all of us, basically. So I’ve had to be a bit inventive. Here are some things that they will condescend to do:
Just Dance: To be fair, my daughter will happily spend 2 hours exercising if it’s on Just Dance. Her younger brother will join in too, although we’ve had to buy the latest version, because she was beating him hands down on our 2014 version. And you don’t want yet another reason for a sibling meltdown.
Couch25k: I’m making mine do this with me while we’re still allowed out. It takes half an hour in the early stages, and while they hate it they will come if I promise not to a) film them for Instagram, b) run near them, and c) attempt conversation. I have to let them wear earbuds and listen to their own music as well. So basically it’s being in their room but with their legs moving.
Learn to skateboard or rollerblade: Skate parks have popped up everywhere since lockdown, and though I don’t recommend it, most of the multi-storey car parks are empty these days…
Free live Personal Training: live workouts with a personal trainer. A reason for teens to join Facebook if ever there was one.
Yoga with Adriene: Free online course, surprisingly engaging to teen girls. Also to stressed out mums.
Go for a dog walk: Oh yes you can! Even if you don’t own a dog, you can join borrowmydoggy.com to get the joy of owning a pet without the hard work. Just be sure to take a flask of hot chocolate and plenty of snacks – for the kids and the dog!
Strava a bike ride: Our school is sticking to a full schedule of lessons right now (thank the lord!), including PE. I did ask if there was a PE teacher doing star jumps on Google Meet but apparently not. They have to exercise on their own, and provide proof in the form of a video or app upload.
My son is going with taking his bike out and trying to improve his distance on Strava. So far the only comment he’s had from a teacher is from his cousin, who told him he was doing great. To be fair though, he’s a music teacher…
And look after their mental health…
Headspace: I know, they’re going to roll their eyes, but make them do it. Pay them if necessary – I bet by the end of a week of Headspace meditation they’ll enjoy it (although they probably won’t admit it to your face). It’s seriously good for changing how you think about things, including coronavirus anxiety.
Go on a photo walk: You can send them off on their own to pay attention to the little things they see, or set them a list of things to photograph – A-Z, colours of the rainbow, different types of tree, etc.
Take a course with the OLLIE foundation: A fabulous teen mental health charity, the OLLIE offer online courses to help teenagers understand their own anxiety, and cope with overwhelm during this very difficult time.
Fun stuff for teens to do in lockdown
Once they’ve had their fill of fixing the cupboard doors, cooking the family dinner, and perfecting their physics, it’s probably fair to let them have some fun. They will auto-pilot their way to the Playstation, but you could try diverting them to some of these activities before they zone out completely:
Go to the theatre: Several theatres are live-streaming their productions during lockdown. Try the Bristol Old Vic’s At Home series, and for up to date UK theatre check out British Theatre, or search in your own country for national shows online.
See a ballet: Likewise, the Royal Ballet is uploading full productions to its YouTube page.
Online Quiz Night: If you’re looking for things to do with teenage friends when you’re bored, the teenager version of the virtual quiz night that’s had so much success on Facebook is worth a try.
I would try and get mine to join a family quiz but I suspect they’d rather figure out on House Party which Riverdale character their friends are than be involved in a quiz that *might* involve talking about politics and horse racing.
Camp out: One for siblings that actually get on well, given they can’t invite their friends. (Did I mention their summer is ruuuuuinedddddd!?)
Toast marshmallows: If winter weather puts a stop to garden camping, get hold of a fire pit and toast marshmallows. Just remember to get your ski gear out of the loft first.
Paint by numbers: The latest craze as of January 2021, paint by numbers kits are available from several retailers for a reasonable amount. Houseart.uk will even let you upload your own image to turn into a painting project!
Make candles: It’s really not as hard as it sounds to make candles. Try this easy candle tutorial and move up from there.
Have an at home spa day: I know I’m missing my monthly massage, and I’m pretty sure most teen girls will be up for a spot of pampering – even if it does involve their mother or their sister! Take a look at this post for ideas for an at home spa day.
Make cake pops: I know, it’s just baking, but seriously, have you ever tried to make cake pops? Very fiddly, very time-consuming, very addictive once you have all the sprinkles and melted chocolate buttons to play with. Guaranteed to keep them occupied for a whole afternoon.
Or Meringue Kisses: Also addictive and fiddly, but perfect for an artistic teenager. Use this recipe from Meringue Girls, where you’ll also find lots of glorious pictures to inspire.
Crack the Rubik’s Cube: Remember doing that as a teenager? I think there was a book in place of the internet instructions our teenagers have. Well the Rubik’s Cube is back, and I bet it’s on most teenage bucket lists to crack.
Spin a basketball on your fingertip: Wouldn’t it be so cool to be able to do that in a TikTok?
Make a photo book: You know all those family holiday photos you’ve been meaning to put into an album..? Alternatively, let them design a photobook of their own – maybe even a Year Book if they’ve just left school more abruptly than they were intending!
Learn to Juggle: Careful with this one. My nephew learned to juggle, and ended up fire throwing…
Plan a holiday: Give them a budget then set them loose on the internet to plan the perfect family holiday.
Do a virtual dive or space trip: Watch 3D underwater videos or space exploration on YouTube for a bit of escapism.
Search Rollercoaster POV: Rollercoaster videos from the perspective of the person in the front row.
Visit a museum: art galleries and museums are putting some of their collections online, so there’s an unprecedented amount of things you can now see up close without the queues! Take a look at the Natural History Museum‘s fossil exhibition – it’s very cool.
Learn an instrument: Ukeleles or harmonicas are inexpensive, and you can start to learn online. (Alternatively you could practice the one your parents are already paying for, you ungrateful toe-rags!)
Have a Nerf gun battle: Also doubles as exercise.
Check out the Scouts website: There are fun things for all ages including older teens.
Have a virtual film night with friends: Netflix Party allows you to watch a film with friends – and the upside is that this time no one else can hog the popcorn.
Play Dungeons & Dragons: You can play D&D online.
Binge watch Netflix: At the end of the day, I really think we have to cut our teenagers – and ourselves – some slack and not worry so much about screen time. Whilst it’s not good for them to hole up in their rooms 24/7, a year of nailing Netflix will not do them any harm in the long run, provided their school work isn’t suffering. And there’s nothing better than a bit of down time with the whole family. If you need ideas for what to watch together I’ve put together a list of recommended TV shows to watch with teenagers. There’s also a great list of TV to help you talk about racial injustice with your teens here.
Useful things for teens to do in lockdown
Learn to read a map: One of those things you never really do with the advent of Google Maps on your phone, but fascinating once you get started. If your teenager has taken you up on the holiday planning activity this could work well alongside it. Get them to plan routes, and work out places of interest you could get to from your resort for a day trip.
Learn to sew: If you have a sewing machine you can pick up basic sewing techniques through YouTube videos. Once you’ve done that, you can make your own clothes, or even set up an eBay shop to earn money in lockdown.
Learn First Aid: a brilliant general life skill; also pays well if you add it to your babysitting qualifications CV!
Take a practice driving theory test: You can learn the Highway Code online in preparation for this part of a driving test, and take a practice theory test at gov.uk .
Learn to change a lightbulb: I’m not kidding! I had lots of suggestions for this list, including mothers of teenagers who’d had frantic phone calls in the middle of the night from almost adult children who were quite literally casting about in the dark!
Sew on a button: Similarly, this is a task everyone should learn to do for themselves before leaving home. Take it from my husband, whose life would be a lot easier if he didn’t have to convince me to do it for him every time he loses one!
Plan a career: research jobs you might find interesting, from pay scales and promotion paths to what’s needed at entry level.
Make a business plan: If you have a good business idea now is an ideal time to get stuck into the planning. You can find free business planning templates to guide you on the government business website.
Start a LinkedIn profile: it’s the most successful platform for building a network and finding new jobs, so you’ll need one at some point. It might as well be now.
Create a CV Most older teens will have been talked through how to do this at school, but it doesn’t hurt to start younger and there are plenty of online options to help get you started.
Apply for work experience: Research businesses that might offer internships or work experience and make contact. Some organisations have schemes (see a selection below), but if not, make contact via LinkedIn. You’ll never know if you never try.
Join a careers workshop: If you’ve no idea what you want to do with your life don’t worry. None of your parents did either when they were your age. A careers workshop might help you rule things out or in.
Whole family activities during lockdown
Play Come Dine with Me: Everyone hosts a night, everyone gives a score, the winner gets… satisfaction of a job well done?
Family Quiz Night: My teens have had fun making quizzes of their own to play online with their friends (it’s a great suggestion for a lockdown birthday activity). But you could also go old school and download a quiz to play with your family. House Of Quiz have created 10 free quizzes with question, picture and music rounds. You can even link to Apple Music or Spotify to make your quiz night even more entertaining. Just add hot dogs!
Complete an Escape Room: Teenagers love an escape room, and now it’s possible to do it virtually. Have a look at Durham Escape Rooms for their online challenge. It took us muuuuuuch longer than everyone else who says they’ve done it, but we did it, and all four of us spent that time in one room working together to crack it. And nobody left in a temper at any point. Which I’m calling a win.
Decorate a room: our playroom looks like something from Fawlty Towers, and the kids have been on at me to decorate it for years. I’m going to support a small business at the same time and order this wallpaper. (Note to self, it’s no longer a playroom – call it a games room in future…)
Play a board game: My kids are bored with Monopoly and Scrabble, but there are some they love, and some you can even play online with other members of the family or friends. Board games to try with teenagers are:
- Colt Express
- Beat That
- Weird Things Humans Search For
- Monopoly Deal (over in 15 minutes instead of the marathon it ususally is)
- Cards Agains Humanity (but only if your teenager okays it – apparently it’s ‘cringe’ to play it with your mum and dad. Don’t try the family version either – it’s a poor relation to the real thing).
Learn a card game: Start with Rummy, move onto Poker if they’re keen to go further, and end with Bridge if lockdown continues long enough!
Make a Time Capsule: There’s no doubt about it – now is an unprecedented time in their lives, and having something tangible to look back at in the future will be both fascinating and iconic. You’ll find some tips on how to make a time capsule worthy of the Coronavirus lockdown here.
Be a Taskmaster: If you’ve ever seen comedian Alex Horne’s Taskmaster show you’ll know that it’s fast-paced and hilarious. During lockdown – and for a £10 donation to the homeless charity he supports – you can play the digital download version of Taskmaster at home.
Do a jigsaw: Have a dig around in the loft – there’s bound to be at least one. I’m thinking of setting up a jigsaw swap group in my local area if I can figure out how to sanitise the second-hand ones.
Make your own quiz: Since writing this, our family have become quite addicted to the Virtual Pub Quiz mentioned above. It’s now a regular fixture, and the kids have wanted to try out the special editions.
So we decided that to keep the quiz bug going, we’d create our own. Each member of the family chooses their own specialist subject and makes 10 questions for the rest of us. This could take on all sorts of angles – how well do you know your teenage daughter? What pranks did your Dad pull as a teen himself? How goody two-shoes really was mum? The possibilities are endless!
Binge a TV show: Here are some of the TV shows and box sets we’ve watched or been recommended to watch with teenagers:
- Schitt’s Creek
- How I Met Your Mother
- Friday Night Dinner
- Modern Family
- Parks and Recreation
- Brooklyn 99
- Gavin and Stacey
- The Queen’s Gambit
- Stath Lets Flats
Things for teens to do in lockdown that will blow their minds
Clean windows with newspaper and vinegar: My friend Tanya told me that the first time she saw her grandmother clean the windows with newspaper and vinegar she was so blown away she had to try it herself. Here’s hoping it works with yours! And if you manage to find a trick that excites them about bringing cups down from their rooms let me know.
Make giant bubbles: Traditionally an activity for small kids, but I defy anyone not to love a giant bubble. Who knew cornflour and glycerine could make such a cool mix? I have it on good authority that if you stand on a step in the middle of a paddling pool full of the stuff, you can put yourself inside a bubble tube. Should keep them enthralled for hours!
Learn magic: Book a one-to-one magic lesson with an internationally reknowned magician.
There you go. 88 activities that don’t involve Fifa, Fortnite or Call of Duty. You’re welcome.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments of any activities for teens at home that have worked for your family.
But what do I do with my baby during lockdown?
The other group I’ve heard people say is vastly under-represented in the ideas stakes is babies. It makes sense – parents of school age children are the first to start sharing ideas, but babies are home all the time anyway, right? Well, not if they usually go to nursery. So I’ve had a hunt around, and found a list of ideas for entertaining babies during lockdown. Hope it helps.
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