“Screen free, fun activities for teens” wasn’t even a topic of discussion when I was a young adult. After all, we didn’t have hand-held devices, there was no email… most people didn’t own a personal computer or even see a need for one. Today’s technology holds some amazing opportunities, but I think our teens are sometimes better served if they spend a little more time off screen exploring their interests and talents while developing real-life skills for adult life. Coding is a great real-life skill, but so is cooking dinner for a friend.
When I was in my tween years, my dad (who worked with burgeoning technology) brought home a boxy Apple computer. There was no internet access, and DOS was a little overwhelming, but I enjoyed playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. When I was a teen, we had the first Nintendo system (previously we’d played Pong on our Atari). I played The Legend of Zelda, but only on occasion.
I’m often thankful that our screen options were somewhat limited when I was a teen. I learned to play the guitar, to paint, and I took long walks with my dog. I remember the time I spent hiking and taking pictures fondly. In fact, that’s still one of my favorite things to do. I read much of William Shakespeare’s work along with books by James Herriot. I studied art, wrote poems and stories, worked at a number of part-time jobs, and spent time chatting with my friends. My screen free activities as a teen helped prepare me for adult life, and helped me develop into the person the Lord made me to be.
Screen Free Activities for Our Boys
As much as my boys love exploring history, math, and coding on Khan Academy, listening to Christian comedians on Pandora, and searching for interesting science information or watching Wretched on YouTube, our family recently decided to spend most of our time off-screen for an undefined period of time. Though our kids weren’t spending a huge amount of time online (maybe an hour a day?), I noticed a big difference when we put away the tablets.
One of the boys dug an old guitar out of the attic, found a book of chords, and is teaching himself to play. Another son decided to read all of the Sherlock Holmes books and to study the countries of the world (again). The boys have a friend who has developed amazing leather working skills, and is teaching himself to blacksmith.
Sometimes a little off-screen time can really drive our teens to branch out and explore their world, talents, and passions. It’s easy to think that all good tutorials happen on YouTube, but your local library (or Amazon) probably has a wide array of great tutorial books and DVDs. Some screen free activities for teens are pretty independent, while other activities may require your time or instruction.
Without further ado, here’s a list of screen free activities your teen son or daughter may want to try on for size.
Great Books for Teens
When Lightning Struck!: The Story of Martin LutherWar in the WastelandThe Betrayal: A Novel on John CalvinUnimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without ChristianityThe Crescent and the Cross: The Eighth Voyage of SinbadThe Third Day: The Gospel of Luke 22-24Images of Hope: An Inspirational Coloring BookImages of Grace: An Inspirational Coloring BookImages of Joy: An Inspirational Coloring Book
Screen Free Activities for Teens
- Read one of these faith-growing books for teens.
- Spend time coloring Scripture.
- Work on Bible verse coloring pages and devotions.
- Pick up a Christian magazine for teens.
- Learn to play an instrument
- Memorize a chapter or book of the Bible
- Read the works of a classic author
- Learn a language
- Write a few short stories, or a whole book
- Build a world (the best fantasy and science fiction writers do this before ever writing a word)
- Take up running
- Teach yourself to read music
- Work on that hook shot
- Learn to crochet, knit, or cross-stitch
- Try painting a scene or object in the styles used by different art movements
- Work on drawing perspective
- Copy a book of the Bible in long-hand
- Get to know an older neighbor
- Bake a treat for someone in the neighborhood
- Learn to make a new dish
- Offer to mow lawns or shovel snow
- Start a garden
- Get a part-time job
- Start a small business
- Lift weights (with adult supervision!)
- Go for a bike ride
- Take a hike
- Read the Bible–the whole Bible
- Start a CD and save some cash
- Learn about economics and personal finance
- Learn a new skateboard trick–wear a helmet!
- Make a scrapbook
- Sponsor a child–earn the monthly fee and learn about the country
- Hold a clothing and toy drive for foster children
- Get involved in a ministry at church
- Make a prayer journal–and pray daily
- Find a way to serve a parent
- Build a model
- Read a book about logic
- Take a personality test
- Host a dinner party–plan and execute the menu
- Learn a little theology
- Learn to carve
- Take up photography (editing and downloading will require some screen time, but learning to operate a DSLR can be an awesome venture)
- Make and paint a birdhouse
- Build a shed or treehouse
- Mentor a younger sibling
- Take a ceramics class
- Join a club
- Apprentice for a trade
- Learn to share the gospel
- Learn to dance
- Take up woodworking
- Visit an art or history museum
- Go camping
- Study outdoor survival skills
- Take up birding and begin a life list
- Visit a family member
- Join a sports team
- Color or paint in an inspirational adult coloring book
- Fly a kite
- Check on a friend
- Ride a horse
- Learn to sew
- Write a thank you letter to a parent
- Play a game of soccer
- Have a picnic in the park
- Write a poem
- Write a song
- Try pastels
- Tour a factory, submarine, or workplace
- Go to the zoo
- Clean up your street
- Make a new friend
- Learn to drive
- Start a journal
- Fly a drone
- Go white water rafting
- Invent a gadget that solves a problem
- Make jewelry
- Do a Mad Libs
- Write your own Mad Libs
- Make candy
- Run an errand for a parent
- Weed a flower bed
- Learn to trim a tree
- Clean the gutters–use safe ladder practices!
- Pressure wash the driveway
- Play a board game (this is our favorite)
- Play solitaire
- Play Sudoku
- Read a magazine
- Write a comic book
- Submit an editorial column to the newspaper
- Learn to smoke meat
- Write your congressional representative about something you care about
- Learn to change the oil and replace the tires on the family car
- Teach yourself basic bike repair and maintenance skills
- Paint your room
- Go bowling
- Jump on a trampoline–be careful!
- Take a diving class
- Learn to bake a pie from scratch
- Learn to can fruits and veggies
- Jump rope–work up to several minutes
- Take up archery and target practice
- Go skiing or sledding
We live in a great big world. Encourage your teens to get out there and live a little!
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