These things for teens to do at home are here to remind you that you are a creative, interesting, curious person. You can find ways to stay occupied and engaged, no matter how long you have to spend at home.
While usually you can phone a friend to chopper you out of boring times, right now that’s not an option. Instead, if you want to be happy, you have to find things for teens to do at home that you enjoy. This is a reminder that you don’t need to rely on structured activities, or a video game, or even another person to find your ‘flow’ and feel content. Your willingness to try something new is all you need!
Many of these things for teens to do at home will involve using your phone or computer, but hopefully in a way that stretches you creatively. There are plenty of options for non-screen activities, too. Open your heart and read through this list to find your new favourite past time. And yes, a few of these ideas will involve interacting with your family… just go with it. They’re nice people.
Ultimate list of fun things for teens to do at home
1. Play a board game
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Most lists like this one seem to start with board games, which we all know should have been named bored games. But hear me out, board games have earned pole-position for good reason. Once you get set up and started, they are really great fun. Some might even say they can become darn right addictive (I’m looking at you, Risk!)
Another super-simple game to get stuck into: Game of squares
Backgammon, UNO, Cluedo, Yahtzee, Scrabble and Monopoly are classics, but you’d be surprised at what’s out there. Rather then buying in new games, it makes sense to swap games between families in your neighbourhood. That way, you get a bunch of new games to play without having to buy or store them. Check in with your friends and neighbours to see who has what. With a bit of luck you might score a Game of Life, Pictionary, Risk, Battleship, Trivial Pursuit, Sorry!, Go, Cranimum, Scattergories, Guess Who? and, of course, the king of board games: chess.
2. Stage a family chess tournament
Speaking of chess, I can’t play either. But my hubs is teaching me and the kids at the same time. We’ve actually got a little chess tournament happening using a round robin system. No doubt it will be devastating when your nerdy little brother beats you in a game, but stick with it. You’ll get better with practise.
If no one in your family is remotely interested in playing, you can always jump online to chess.com and find a chess buddy. Apps like ChessKids will teach you the basics of chess, playing either the computer or other people.
3. Make dinner a special occasion
You’ll have a lot more time to spend over dinner when the television isn’t beckoning from the other room. Set the table with your best crockery, polish the silver (or even the stainless steel), get out the linen napkins, maybe even add a little posy or candles to decorate. Spend the afternoon cooking a menu that’s easy, but still worthy of a restaurant dinner. Try these three courses:
- Start with meatballs dipped in romesco sauce
- Then enjoy Mediterranean chicken
- Finish with white chocolate and raspberry pudding
4. Talk to your family
Eek, gasp, no, what!? Yes! Put some quiet classics on the stereo, dim the lights, light a candle and have an actual conversation.
Some things you might like to talk about are: what are you most looking forward to right now? If I could change one thing about myself what would it be? What might it be like to live in a different country? What I like the most/least about… My favourite… What superpower would you most like to have? If I was prime minister for the day I would…
Find more questions to ask here.
5. Make a photo book or two or three
Chances are you haven’t printed many photos recently, or ever. A photo book is a nice way to keep the good times together. It beats your Instagram feed because (a) you can pull it off a shelf and snuggle in to flip through it and (b) you can group life events with ease.
Depending on the kinds of photos you take, you can make one about a particular party or event you experienced with friends (school camp, maybe), your childhood from ages 0-five, your first year at school, a book full of your best friends, family or key moments in your life so far. It will make a fantastic memento and beats scrolling through thousands of photos on your phone every time you want to reminisce.
6. Play some cards
Cards feel rather old-fashioned these days, but it’s not so long ago that I used to wag vast tracts of uni to play 500 with my friends. Cards are sociable, portable and there’s a game to suit any age group. Start playing your sibs with silly games like Go Fish or Crazy Eights and move up to more complex games like 500 or even Blackjack or Poker. Not that I’m encouraging a gambling habit or anything, but you never know when these skills could come in handy…
If a standard card deck isn’t your thing, there are plenty of ‘built-in’ specialty card games you can buy online. Cards Against Humanity is currently having a moment over Zoom with friends. Catan is played by millions of people worldwide. Codenames is hilarious. And, of course, there’s card games like UNO, DUO, and F*ck: The Game (obviously there’s a massive swear-alert attached to that one!)
7. Do a crash course in Film Studies
Or Biology, Ecology, Economics, Mythology, Literature… matter of fact, via the Crash Course website created by John Green (the ridiculously-talented man who can do things like host a podcast AND write multiple best-selling YA books that have been turned into movies) and his equally-magnificent brother Hank Green. The courses are easy to follow and very engaging.
8. Listen to the radio
Back in the day (back then, that day) when screens weren’t even invented, families used to gather in the parlour to listen to the wireless. Fancy that! There are plenty of programs that are suitable for teens – Triple J being your first port of call. Hack broadcasts 5.30pm weekdays, and no doubt your community radio station has a regular teen program (incidentally, when things calm down, you might want to volunteer at your community station to learn the biz). You might even be ready to get into Talk Back radio (though do choose your host carefully!). It might be a good idea to combine this idea with learning how to crochet or carve because chances are you won’t know what to do with your hands while you’re doing all that listening.
9. Oh, okay, listen to a podcast
Radio? Am I 104 years old? Try a modern-day podcast instead. You might have heard of them. 😂
There are different kinds of podcasts, but the main types are either ‘serial’ style (they tell a story, one episode at a time) or stand-alone (you get a whole show in each episode). Once you’ve found a podcast you like, you’ll be hooked in no time. Try one of these on for size: 16 really good podcasts for tweens or 24 really awesome podcasts for teens
The best ones: 24 really awesome podcasts for teens
10. Get into gardening
Gardening is one of those things that always seems like a chore until you actually get in there and do it. We set up a permaculture garden without too much fuss and we enjoy eating fresh veggies (from time to time – we are still pretty hopeless). Concentrate on growing the vegetables your family eats the most. Fresh out of the ground / picked veggies are next-level delicious.
It doesn’t take much time each day, but hey, time is something you have right now. Take responsibility for the entire patch from breaking ground to harvesting. There’s an excellent guide to starting a veggie patch at Milkwood.
11. Play a game of dice cricket
All you need for a competitive game of cricket are two die, a pencil, a piece of paper and a willing sibling or parent. At a pinch, you can play this game solo too.
You roll one dice to see what kind of ball the bowler delivers – 1 is a no ball, 2 or 3 is a wide, 4 is a fast ball, 5 is a spin ball and 6 is wicket. You don’t want a six on this dice. You then roll the next dice to see how many runs the batsman scores. 1 is a single, 2 a double, 3 is caught from behind, 4 scores a four, 6 scores a six and 5 means the batsman was caught by a fieldsman.
Keep your score on a piece of paper as you go. You can set a time limit for the game or decide on ‘first to 100’ or whatever suits your group of players. Or yourself.
12. Introduce daily DEAR time
Not a reader, I hear you say? Everyone is a reader. You just haven’t found the right book yet. Take a look at this list: 21 awesome books for reluctant readers (they won’t be able to resist) or maybe something here takes your fancy: 21 books turned into kids’ movies that will inspire non-readers. If you’re still feeling meh about the whole reading thing, head over to see Megan. She’ll quickly sort you out.
13. Do some origami
It’s an artform that’s endured for thousands of years, so it can’t be as boring you as you think, right? YouTube channel 90 Seconds of Origami will convince you it’s true. Something new to make every day, with genuinely easy-to-follow instructions at a pace you can actually keep up with.
14. Make playlists for friends
Back in olden times, we made mixed tapes for friends. Ask your parents if they’ve still got an old cassette tape their friend made for them in the eighties. Bet they’ve kept it (shout out to K Farrell, creator of my ‘Bron’s Mixed Tape’ circa 1988). While Spotify probably can’t offer the same sentimentality (no cover art, for example), making a playlist for a friend is still a super-considerate thing to do. Add songs you already know they like combined with songs you think they’ll get to like. Branch out away from your usual song mix and discover songs you love in classical, country, punk, heavy metal, Parisian cafe music and beyond. Text your friend the link and then maybe they’ll return the favour…
15. Play some family parlour games
This one goes hand-in-hand with the wireless listening: old-fashioned games like Charades, I Spy, Hide and Seek and 20 Questions. You can also try some less well-known parlour games like Blowing the Feather, Are you there Moriarty? or Wink Murder. It must be said that these latter three are probably less well-known for a reason…
16. Learn the piano
17. Do a Pilates challenge
Scoff away, Pilates is hardcore exercise! This 30-Day Pilates Challenge will challenge your muscles and your perceptions at the same time. The pulsing, oh dear god, the pulsing! Active wear is, fortunately, optional.
18. Revisit your hand-clapping days
Like all mass fads that come and go, hand-clapping games are actually really fun. You’ll remember how fun it is as soon as you get back into it. Until then, you’ll just feel like hand-clapping is so 2017. Give it a try. While you’re at it, dig out your old fidget spinner. On second thoughts, the spinner wasn’t really that fun to begin with, was it?
19. Learn to let go
Letting go of future worries or past regrets is a life skill we all need if we want to be truly happy. Headspace is a brilliant mindfulness / meditation app that will help train you to be in the moment. It’s good to practise mindfulness whenever we feel ‘bored’. Boredom is really our brains way of telling us to settle into the moment more fully. You can also try the Smiling Mind app.
Try some of these too: 12 apps that will give you a happiness boost
20. Try a game of pig dice
This basic game is probably known under lots of different names, but for some reason it has always been ‘pig dice’ to me. The object of the game is to ‘bank’ as many points as you can before you roll a 1. You take it in turns to throw the dice in succession, adding your accumulative total as you go. You keep adding either until you decide to ‘bank’ your total or when you roll a ‘1’. If you roll a 1, all of your accumulated score is lost and you pass to the next player with no score at all. If you decide to bank your total, your score is noted and the dice passes to the next player.
You continue to play until the first person to reach an agreed total or until your mum calls you for dinner and the highest score wins.
21. Cook something over the fire pit
We made a fire pit in our backyard out of old bricks and some gravel my husband hauled up from the bottom of the local creek. It’s a nice place to have a cook out – we use a grill for sausages or fish or throw foil-wrapped potatoes straight onto the coals. You can also get clever with Aussie staples like billy tea or damper.
22. Learn a language
You can use apps like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo to start from scratch learning a new language. Set yourself a goal of a word a day or 5 or 10 words if you want to speed things along. Each of these apps has a daily program that you can stick to. Rype is another good program that guides you through (it’s only free for 7 days though, so learn fast!).
23. Play the uke
This free 30-day ukulele course via YouTube will have you strumming with the best of them. Bernadette Teaches Music is a patient and clear teacher. If you haven’t got a random ukulele lying around (though do ask your parents because ukes have a way of being collected by stealth), you can pick one up for under 50 bucks.
24. Do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku
With a bit of luck, you’ll like one or the other. I’m a words person, so it’s crosswords for me. But you may prefer the maths challenge of a sudoku puzzle. If you’ve never tried either, do both. There are hundreds of challenging free crosswords and sudoku to print and do at The Guardian. If you need to brush-up on your cryptic crossword clue hints, go here, then here.
Try our damper on sticks recipe.
25. Write a snail-mail letter
Screen-free time makes you revive forgotten arts and letter writing is an art that all people should master. Write to your friend (no texting!), write to your gran, your cousin, your teacher/s… just write. Start with “how are you? I’m fine” and go from there. You can also get involved with something like PostCrossing if you’re keen. You can often pick up free postcards at the library or local café to send to friends.
26. Chalk up an obstacle course
You can use chalk on a path or the driveway to draw an obstacle course with a difference. A blue triangle might mean a person needs to do 5 star jumps, a green square means jogging on the spot for 1 minute, a yellow circle means touch your toes 10 times, a pink triangle equals 10 crushing burpees… and so on until everyone in the street is completely exhausted.
27. Play the game of Squares
You can easily make your own Squares game board. Then playing the game is simple-as.
- Allocate a token to each player (you can play with as many people as you like, as long as you each have an identifying token). Here we’ve used natural tokens – two different types of small flowers. Other natural objects that work well are small fruit (like blueberries and raspberries), nuts or seeds, two types of leaves or sticks.
- Players take turns adding a matchstick between two unjoined adjacent dots.
- A player who completes the fourth side of a square earns one point and marks the box by placing their token inside the new square. The player then gets another turn.
- The game ends when no more matchsticks can be placed and the winner of the game is the player with the most tokens on the board.
Full instructions here.
28. Stage a family dance off
You may prefer to learn these moves in the privacy of your bedroom, but it’s actually a brilliant craic to get your dad up dancing, too. We’re talking old-school dances like the macarena, nutbush, gangham style and time warp. There’s a great round up on Families Australia.
29. Have a movie marathon
This is binge-watching with purpose. Who’s your favourite actor? Have you watched every single one of their films? Now is the time. Or a director you admire. Or do a movie world tour, watching one movie from every country. You don’t have to watch them all at once, of course. Spread your movie marathon out over a week or more. Ideas for a movie marathon with a difference:
- Every movie your favourite actor has been in (even the appalling early ones)
- Every movie by a certain director (perhaps start with Alfred Hitchcock or Greta Gerwig and work your way up to Quentin Tarrantino)
- Movies from around the world
- Every Marvel or DC movie
- A movie series like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings/Hobbit, Matrix, X-Men, James Bond, Muppets, Indiana Jones, Twilight, or Mission Impossible
- Every Pixar animated movie
- Theme your marathon by genre: comedy or horror or romance, war or action
- Or you could try by subject: high school, politics, monsters, zombies, vampire, martial arts, car chases, Mafia, space
- Try movies set during a particular decade
- Watch a movie from every year since movies began
- Many authors have had a series of their books made into films: Stephen King, John Green, Nicholas Sparks, Ian McEwan, Thomas Harris
More inspiration here: 21 YA books turned into movies
30. Invent a video game
If you love playing video games, then surely creating your own would be even better? You can do a free online video game design course at EdX.
The basic steps are:
- Research and conceptualise your game: what sort of game are you creating? Who will play it? What platform will it be available on? What programming language will you write it in? What skills will you need to create it? What software will you need to build it?
- Create a design document: a brief outline of your game, what it will look like, how you play it, who will play it and what resources you will need to build it (time, skills, money, people)
- Get your resources together: if it’s a simple game, a code editor and compiler might be enough. But if you’re going for fancy, you’re going to need 3D modelling programs and image editors.
- Start programming: yup, you’re going to have to code your game to bring it to life. If you haven’t got the skills to do it yourself, you might need to find someone who does or learn a big new skill. You can learn coding via online tutorials like those found at BitDegree.
- Test your game: it’s probably been a very long time since you started to conceptualise your game, but you’ve made it! Get friends together to test your game and work on optimising the user experience. Once it’s good to go, it’s time to get it out there.
- Market your game: the easiest way to get your game out there is to create a website so people can purchase and download it. You can list mobile games on the Apple and Google Play stores.
31. Get absorbed in a jigsaw puzzle
Jigsaw puzzles have had something of a come-back recently. There’s just something about them. I mean, you could meditate by staring at a wall while in the lotus position, or you could do it while searching for that pesky missing edge piece for hours. Either way, you’ll be slowing down and contemplating the meaning of life in a purposeful fashion.
32. Draw something
There are worse ways to spend your days than creating a picture a day. You can find loads of drawing classes online to help you build skills. Some of our favourites include:
- Happy Drawings – cute, animation-style drawing
- Art is Fun – a variety of drawing tutorials
- Natalia Madej – fashion-style drawing
33. Learn how to knit
Retro skills are making a comeback and knitting is top of the list. Being able to knit your own beanie, scarf, socks or cardi is a forever-skill. To get started, all you need are a ball of wall and two knitting needles. If you can’t get your hands on knitting needles, sharpening up a pair of wooden takeaway chopsticks works a treat. There’s a great beginner knitting tutorial on Hobby Lobby.
34. Design your dream home
I’m a major geek, but I used to spend hours as a teen making architectural drawings of my dream home. Working on room flow and purpose was my jam. Don’t diss it until you try it! Designing dream homes gives you plenty of scope to dream about your future, too. You can’t simply make a good home if you don’t visualise the kind of person you want to be when you grow up.
35. Get into bullet journalling
Bullet journalling is a very big deal. According to Noelle in the video below, bullet journalling is “this super fun, awesome, customisable way of organising your whole life and keeping track of everything from your school work to your events with friends to taking notes…” Surely something that awesome will quickly become one of your favourite things for teens to do at home?
36. Map your neighbourhood
Draw a map of all the streets in your neighbourhood. Don’t forget to include the trees, street signs and other places you know. Add your school, library, church, shopping centre, sport’s club, friends’ and family’s houses too. What other landmarks do you need to include?
37. Walk the streets challenge
Now that you’ve made such a fabulous map (see #30 above), can you walk down every single street in your suburb in a set amount of time? Depending on the size of your burb, this could take weeks, months, or even a year. Yes, you do have to go down cul-de-sacs, no cheating! It’s helpful to plan your route each day and maybe enlist your parents to drive you to a drop off point for each walk. It gets kinda boring walking up your street to your start point each time…
38. Become a backyard twitcher
It sounds kinda creepy, but twitching is the name for bird watchers. It might sound boring, but it’s actually super-interesting to regularly observe what the birds are up to. First up, you want to educate yourself on the kinds of birds you’ll likely see in your neighbourhood. Birdlife Australia is a great resource for this. They’ve actually got a big bird count that happens every year in late October. So, you’ll have a date to aim for with your identifications. Make sure you keep a notebook to write down the birds you’ve sighted, when, where and for how long. There’s a good reference for how to get started as a birder on National Geographic.
39. Write a short story
What do you mean you don’t know what to write about? Okay, fair enough, having an idea for a story is often the thing that stops us in our tracks. Which is why keeping a llist of creative writing ideas is a really good thing to have. Brainstorm some cool plots and write them down, then refer to them later to spark an idea for a story.
A few prompts:
- I was so nervous as I walked towards the mail box…
- It was supposed to be the holiday of a lifetime… but everything went wrong
- My uncle lives in a caravan out the back of our house
- How it feels to lose
- Sally had been missing for three whole hours
- There’s a door to X at the bottom of our garden
- Describe how you are feeling right now
- When the sun comes up each day something happens
- This happens if Billy gets wet
- My oldest friend needs help because…
- How it feels when Mum and Dad fight
- The first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning
- Why I don’t like X…
Here are loads more ideas: 30 cool creative writing ideas
40. Draw five dots
You’ll need a sibling or parent to have a go at this one. The first player draws five dots on the page and the second player has to join the dots to form a picture. You can draw your dots wherever you like on the page as long as they are reasonably close together. Use the dots as inspiration for your picture.
41. Take your dog for a long walk
Fido is going to love this one. Matter of fact, you can already tell that this is his #1 on the things for teens to do at home hit list. While we walk the dog every day, a big, long hike is something else entirely. Try to make it a green walk; through a park, a bush trail, along a coastal path or down by the creek.
42. Play the guitar
There’s a guy called Andy Music on YouTube who will teach you how to play guitar for free. Which is very nice of him. This is, of course, easier if you happen to have a guitar. You’ll probably be in lucky, homes often have one floating around that everyone is going to get around to learning tomorrow. The great thing is, you really only need to know how to play four chords to be able to play and sing a heap of popular songs. Just watch the Axis of Awesome demonstrate:
43. Write a play
Of course, you could just as easily decide to ‘write a movie’ and that’s okay too. Write the play/movie, design the costumes and set design and with a bit of luck you can gather a group together one day and make it actually happen.
The play doesn’t have to be complex or lengthy, try some of these ideas to get you going:
- Something unexpected happens during a routine family trip to the beach
- Chaos at the international pie eating competition
- Time travel back to when I was a baby
- When every kind of weather happens one minute after the next
- I’m off to visit the prime minister to tell him what needs to change
- Watch the amazing bully-busting machine in action
- What happens when the kid who could fly forgets how to
- The story of my life so far
44. Try taste testing
Enlist a sibling to try this game (and many others, siblings are a great resource when it comes to things for teens to do at home). person sits down, closes their eyes and stick out their tongues (many will get a giggle over that bit). The other person puts a tiny amount of different flavours on the tip of their tongue and ask them to guess what they are tasting. Strong flavours to try are Vegemite, Tabasco (squeal!), milk, salt, apple, chocolate and cocoa. Test the person on how many flavours can identify and have a laugh over familiar flavours tasting very different when you block your nose when testing. Swap places and compare notes.
45. Dance some hip hop
You can learn Hip Hop with Mihran Kirakosian – he breaks down some very complicated moves into something regular people can follow. I kid you not, a few ‘big watches’ of Mihran and I’m shuffling, air walking, criss crossing and milly rocking. Behind closed doors at all times.
46. Have a maths snack
If taste testing isn’t your thing, maybe slamming down on some maths is? Maths Snacks are smart animations, games and interactive tools to help you better understand maths concepts. If that sounds like a total drag, you probably really need to go look at the website. Sadly, maths is not an optional skill in this world.
47. Take up sewing
A life skill that seems to have skipped a couple of generations. Perhaps you can bring it back? Made To Sew – has a really simple beginners sewing course via YouTube. It’s good for hand sewing, or machine sewing, if you happen to own a sewing machine (many of us have a dusty one somewhere). Get some basic skills under your (hand-crafted, of course) belt, then try making everything on one of these lists:
- Hobbycraft – 50 sewing projects for beginners
- It’s Always Autumn – 20 easy sewing projects for beginners
48. Play beetle dice
This is a really sweet game you can play with others or by yourself. You roll the dice and draw the corresponding part of a beetle and the first person to complete their beetle wins. If you land on a number and you’ve already completed that part of the beetle, you pass the dice to the next person to have their go. You’ll quickly realise that you can’t draw all of your beetle without certain parts having been drawn first – so there is a sequence to the numbers you need to roll. For instance, you can’t add the legs until you have the body. You need to skip a turn until you roll the beetle part you need (unless you’re playing by yourself, in which case, keep rolling, but keep a record of how many rolls it takes to create a beetle. Next time, try to do it in less…).
- 1 – beetle body
- 2 – beetle head
- 3 – one beetle leg
- 4 – one beetle eye
- 5 – one beetle antennae
- 6 – one beetle wing
49. Write some fanfic
There’s a lot of very dodgy fan fiction out there, so the door is wide open for you to write some decent stuff. If you have no idea what I’m on about, fan fiction (aka fanfic) is a way to pay homage to books, movies or TV series you’re really, super into. In a nutshell, it’s a way for you to continue the story and character arc of a series you don’t want to end. There’s a great 101 fanfic intro on GeekGirl. Under no circumstances are you to totally weird out and write R-rated fanfic, because it’s a thing, and it’s awkward and unnecessary.
50. Work on doing the splits
There are certain things we can all do as little kids that we stop doing and then just can’t… like the splits. Work your way up to a full split and then do the splits every day for the rest of your life. That’s how you stay amazing! The YouTube video is very motivating, but this article will better help the absolute beginners.
51. Watch a TED Talk
I am totally, utterly dedicated to TED Talks. They are just the best. Where else can you listen to people who are top of their game explain to you how the game works? You’ll find a TED Talk on any topic you care to explore. Here are five I highly recommend for teens (and everyone):
- Cameron Russell: Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model
- Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: the power of passion and perseverance
- Susan Cain: The power of introverts
- Manoush Zomorodi: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas
- Shane Koyczan: To This Day … for the bullied and beautiful
It’s also worth watching the TEDex Teens event.
Try these too: 16 inspiring TED Talks for kids
52. Make an animated movie
Stop Motion Studio is an app that will guide you through making stop motion movies. You know, like Fantastic Mr Fox, Frankenweenie, The Box Trolls, The LEGO Movie, and Shaun the Sheep. My favourite is Mary and Max. This is a really good overview of what a stop motion movie is and what’s required to make one. (Spoiler alert: patience. Lots and lots of patience.)
53. Become a runner
Lace up your shoes and head on out there. You’ll never do it if you don’t just do it. The Couch to 5K app is justifiably famous for getting people moving who don’t especially want to move. This UK NHS guide to using the app should be too. Now, the only thing to do is to actually get off the couch and begin.
54. Fix something
Go on, make something that’s broken new again! It might be your broken iPhone screen (go on, everyone’s is broken), a mug with a chip, a sock with a hole, a dripping tap, a book with a loose cover… so many broken things. Of course, you will probably have to learn new skills, but that’s where the internet comes into it’s own. Following some guy/girl on YouTube showing you how to do something that 10 minutes ago you thought you couldn’t ever do, is just, well, golden.
- How to replace a shattered iPhone screen
- Mend a chipped mug (not actually, but what a cool trick)
- Darn a sock
- Fix a dripping tap
- Recover a book
- Your turn – what’s broken?
55. Lay some tracks
If you haven’t tried GarageBand before, you’re in for a treat. It’s basically a music studio in your phone. You can add instruments, voice, loops and some next-level drumming to write your own music. This is basically one of the ultimate things for teens to do at home, no matter how ‘musical’ you think you may or may not be. GarageBand makes music achievable for everyone.
56. Play Words With Friends
Download the app, find someone online who is looking for a game (preferably a friend, but you can play people from all over the world), play. Words With Friends is like Scrabble but online. Make sure you never give out any personal information and exercise the usual cautions about being social online.
57. Master cooking
There are loads of online tutorials that will step you through the basics. We really like Epicurious 4 Levels to show how to improve basic dishes. The Bon Appetit test kitchen is also very good, and of course, you can’t beat Jamie Oliver. I work for SBS Food, so I’m constantly exposed to amazing cooking shows you can stream for free. Current faves include:
- Adam Liaw’s Destination Flavour China – seems very fitting right now. Adam is always effortlessly watchable and full of great food tips
- Luke Nguyen’s Railway Vietnam – we called this show ‘Luke on a train’ while it was being filmed. Best train ever.
- Gourmet Farmer – Matt Evans and his family and friends are always great to watch. A great way to pick up tips on being more sustainable with our food choices right now
- Cook Like An Italian with Silvia Colloca – basic home cooking, the Italian way (which, let’s face it, is the best way!)
- Taste le Tour with Gabriele Gate – because we could all do with a foodie trip around France
I’ve got a feeling that your new found cooking skills are going to make this one of your parents’ favourite things for teens to do at home!
58. Plan a week of meals
Why wouldn’t you want to decide what you’ll eat every night for a week? You might even have a go at making some of the meals (see ‘master cooking’ above). Scour through the internet to find some good recipes, take stock of what’s already in the pantry and fridge, and write a shopping list to stock up on what you’re missing. If you’re super-keen, you might even go ahead and do the shopping, too.
This is how easy it is: Easy meal planning guide
59. Get into cup stacking
Cup stacking is a thing. A big thing. Like, ‘sport’ kind of big. If you practise everyday, you too might get to head to the 2021 World Sport Stacking Championships in Singapore. Speed Stacks is a good YouTube channel to get you started, and check this guy out for maximum inspiration. My eyes don’t even move fast enough.
60. Learn how to code
You’ve probably dabbled in a bit of coding via school. Take it seriously! Coding should be like another language for our techy times. One day, you’ll be very grateful you took the time right now to learn how to properly code. You know what they say: the robots might be doing all the jobs one day, but someone needs to code the bots. A few good places to learn:
61. Make a bucket list
Bucket lists originally began as a list of everything people wanted to do before they kicked the bucket… but you’re far too young to worry about that. Instead, you can make a list of everything you want to do this year. Or before you finish high school. Or by the time your X years old. There is something truly inspirational about writing our dreams down. Go wild, don’t hold back, you just never know what you can manifest by turning a dream into a goal.
62. Facetime a friend
You can call just for a chat, but there are loads of fun things you can do over FT together (not THAT kind of fun, thank you!). Play a version of Pictionary, where you draw something and each has to guess what you’ve drawn. Play Hangman. Go for a walk around your neighbourhoods ‘together’. Interview each other. Play Never Have I Ever. Try putting the phone on mute and seeing if your friend can read your lips. Sing songs together. Watch a movie together.
63. Start a blog
What do you like to do? What do you know how to do that you could teach others? Everyone has a blog in them. It’s generally free to start one, depending on how serious you want to be straight out of the gates. I’d go with WordPress.com to begin with, though some swear by Squarespace or Wix. Way back when, I started with Blogger.
You can find out everything you need to know about starting a blog at Problogger.
64. Mow the lawn
There is method in this madness. The more you mow the lawn at home, the more confident you’ll get. The more confident you get, the more chance you have of picking up some work mowing other people’s lawns. It’s good money and exercise!
65. Pitch the tent
Pitch the tent in the backyard and camp out there for a while. It will force you to see your home in a completely different way (and appreciate how good the amenity block is!). If you’ve got a fire pit, all the better for roasting some damper. You can always sneak in to sleep in your bed if the thought of a camping mat leaves you cold. Or is that just me…
Snacks, sorted: How to make damper on sticks
66. Learn how to juggle
I don’t know why, but much like board games, juggling is something that’s always recommended on these kinds of lists. So it must be worthwhile, right? Personally, I’ve always been shit at juggling, but that’s probably because I have never attended to learning it the way I should. I think it would actually be pretty cool to be able to do this skill. This YouTube video seems like a pretty straightforward way to learn:
67. Perfect your knife skills
Obviously check in with your parents before launching into this one. But good knife skills are the key to becoming an accomplished cook, so they are worth practising. Food network has a good overview of how to chop things here. Practise by chopping the veggies for dinner.
68. Jump rope
Sure, jumping up and down while you turn a rope can get old really fast, but there’s way more to skipping than that. For a start, there’s an International Jump Rope Union and Australia hosted the first World Rope Skipping Championships in 1997. In fact, many people are pushing for skipping to become an Olympic sport. There’s a good overview of the sport on The Feed. Plus, watch this video to learn 16 jump rope techniques.
69. Clean your room
This might not be top of your list of things for teens to do at home, but go on, give it a proper deep clean anyway. The edges, not just the middle. Someone has actually taken the time to write some very thorough instructions about this. So it must be important.
70. Take a personality quiz
Some are dodgy, others are quite useful, all are a fun path to a bit of self-awareness. The Myers-Briggs personality test is supposed to be quite accurate at helping you figure out your motivations and how to fit in with others. I also like Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies for helping you figure out how you respond to expectations. The Enneagram Personality Test is also doing the rounds. The Enneagram is a system of personality typing that describes patterns in how people conceptualize the world and manage their emotions.
71. Work out
There are countless free online workouts on offer, but be careful to choose a reputable one and take it easy. Unless you’re 100% sure how to do an exercise with correct form, wait until someone can instruct you in person. If you want to carefully have a go, or already know what you’re doing, these channels are highly rated:
72. Improve your life
Better Than Yesterday is a YouTube channel that shares tips, big ideas and helps you improve your life. Topics include how to trick your brain into doing hard things, how to make habits stick forever, how to get out of a mental rut and why it matters who your friends are. The videos are all pretty good to watch and there are so many ‘life choices’ ideas here that you’ll get plenty of new ideas for things for teens to do at home while you’re watching.
73. Try to connect the dots
Draw lots and lots of dots all over a path with chalk, or just in a notebook with a pen if chalk isn’t your thing. The trick is to make a line from one dot to another but you can’t cross another line. Can you join up all the dots?
74. Ride your skateboard
Maybe you love skateboarding, but can’t get out to the skatepark right now. Or maybe you’ve got a board gathering dust in the garage. Either way, now is a very good time to get that skateboard out and riiiiide. This video has three ways you can actually use your skateboard inside (check with the parents first). You can learn 10 cool beginner skateboard tricks that only need flat ground here. Or if you’re brand new, Spencer Nuzzi will teach you the basics. Remember to wear all the protective gear at all times.
75. Shoot some hoops
If you don’t happen to have a basketball or netball hoop, you can still use a ball to score a ‘basket’. Chalk up a few circles on a brick wall, add a number in each circle and try to hit them with the ball. Change the rules by making it that you have to bounce the ball 10 times before trying for a score. Or you have to hit the circles in a particular sequence. A really simple way to score with a ball is to throw the ball in the air and clap before you catch it. Each time, you have to throw the ball a bit higher and add an extra clap. My highest score doing this is 11, which is legendary.
76. Try photography
If you’ve got a digital camera kicking around, you might like to take your iphoneography to the next level.
- Udemy has a free short introduction to photography basics
- Lifehacker is always good for its short tutorials and the photography guide is no exception
- Take it next-level by doing the MIT Intro to Photography lecture series online for free
A good way to make this interesting is to commit to taking at least one photo a day. You can upload it to Instagram or an app like 1 Second Everyday (perfect for budding videographers too).
77. Notice things
We spend a lot of time staring into space, but do we actually focus on what’s around us? Today, that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Here are a couple of exercises to get you started:
- Pick three “works of art” — paintings or posters or photos or whatever is on the walls of your home. Carefully look at each one for at least five minutes, preferably for longer. Cover the art, then write down what you noticed. Think about how this exercise has changed how you see the familiar.
- Listen to a piece of music you don’t usually listen to — it might be a classical or heavy metal piece, when you’re usually into hip hop. Don’t do anything else, just concentrate on the music. See if it changes how you feel about the song.
- Awaken your sense of touch — Take note of everything that touches you over the course of a day. How did it make you feel?
78. Start a YouTube channel
You know you want to… and surely you’ve got a skill or specialisation you can teach to others? Or maybe you’re funny AF and full of charisma? Or you’re kind and relatable and can offer life advice to other teens? Or you’re sh*t-hot at gaming? Or maybe you just want to rave on and do dumb stuff?
The thing is, being the star of a YouTube channel is the easy part. The hard part is coming up with a unique angle (believe me, the world does not need more makeup tutorials). Often, your thoughts on the world combined with a big personality are enough (see Isaac Butterfield). Once you’ve got your theme, you’ll need to brush up on your filming and editing skills. That’s the real secret to having a successful channel. You’ve got to look schmick. These tutorials will help you out:
79. Do a yoga class
Yoga is becoming increasingly mainstream because you can’t beat its combination of strength, balance and flexibility. It’s a real workout! You can give it a try with an online class. Here are a few reputable free yogis on YouTube:
80. Get great hair
If you’ve got long hair, you’ve got endless amusement growing out of your head. Learning to style your hair is a life skill, but also a fun skill. My mate Christina at Hair Romance is a goddess when it comes to styling curly hair. For all hair types, Kayley Melissa and Luxy Hair a go-tos. Cute Girls Hairstyles is also lots of fun.
81. Muscle up
Because we all want to be super fit and strong. The muscle up is like a pull up, but 10x harder. It’s apparently one of the hardest top-strength exercises you can do. Challenge accepted:
Okay, so maybe we’d better learn how to do a pull up first. This video will get us there. Remember, if you want to grow stronger you need to do strengthen exercises every other day until fatigue sets in.
82. Learn how to whistle properly
I’ve always wanted to be that person who sticks their fingers in their mouth and let’s out a piercing whistle. Great at sports matches, gigs and hollering at your friends in the street. This video will show you how to do it. Be mindful about how annoying whistling actually is to people and do this away from others!
83. Ride your bike
If riding to friends’ houses is out of the question, you can still ride. Maybe up and down your street will bore the pants off you, but venture out a bit. If you’ve got a mountain bike and trails near you, get out there into nature. A ride through the bush is the best thing to fight cabin fever. Speed things up to make it more of a challenge – time yourself over a certain route, then aim to beat it each time. Practise doing some wheelies. Push yourself to cycle up hills you’d usually walk up. Learn how to properly use your gears to make that a possibility.
84. Create a visual journal
Be inspired to make your dreams a reality. Visualisation is a powerful tool because it helps make the intangible, tangible. Start with a plain exercise book or notebook. Use images found in magazines (or online when it’s your screen time) to consolidate your thinking and goals, your values and ideals. Use Sharpies, fine art pens, watercolour pencils or graphite pencils and doodle away. Some prompts to help you get started:
- A nice place to be
- Last night’s weird dream
- My favourite things right now
- I am grateful for…
- Places I would like to go
- Things I would like to own
- The person that I am
85. Make a friendship bracelet
Remember friendship bracelets? There’s no way you can make it to high school without having had some knitted wool wrapped around your wrist at some stage. They are a sweet way to show a friend how much you love them. So make loads and be generous with distribution. There’s a really good tutorial here.
86. Become an expert in something obscure
It’s not enough to know the name of every Marvel movie. To be a true expert, you have to specialise in something others may have overlooked. Start with a random trivia fact that made you stop in your tracks (recently, for me this was learning that panthers aren’t actually their own species – say what now?). You’ll be able to come up with heaps of trivia points like this. Find one that really sparks your interest and go ahead and research it. Learn everything you can about the topic. Take notes, write paragraphs, print out images, keep a scrapbook. An interest like this is what they used to call a ‘pasttime’. Random stuff that doesn’t have an ultimate meaning but is absorbing AF while you’re doing it.
87. Interview your grandparents
Go on, ask them anything via Facetime or F2F. Where did they spend their childhood? What did they want to be when they grew up? What did they actually do when they grew up? Where did they marry? Why did they have X number of kids? What’s their favourite food? Who is their best friend and how long have they known each other? What do they most like to do? What’s given them the most joy in life? What three things do they wish they did differently? What’s the best life advice they can give?
88. Download and read a magazine
Most libraries have access to a magazine service like RB Digital or the like. Ask at your local library to see what they offer. You can basically download mags straight onto your iPad. For free. Does life get any better? Browse the offerings and choose a mag you think you’ll enjoy (they offer comics and anime too). The same is obviously true for books via an app like Borrow Box. Check and see what your library subscribes to.
89. Make a tote bag
90. Throw a Frisbee
Do you even own a Frisbee? Can you find it? Frisbees are a classic outdoor game, but you have to practise if you want to get any good. Like most things. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move onto playing ultimate frisbee games. By all means, just throw a ball instead.
91. Wash the car
A sucky job on its own, washing the car can actually be pretty fun with your siblings. A lot of dodging of soapy sponges involved. To clean the car: soap everything up with a big sponge and some environmentally-friendly cleaner (so the grass stays happy), then wash everything clean with some buckets of water. Polish it up with an old towel to make everything shine. Clean and gloss the upholstery and plastics inside with a little eucalyptus oil on a soft cloth – it makes the car smell delicious too. You can also add a cupful of vinegar to the windscreen wiper fluid to keep the windscreen clean.
92. Knock down some cans
You can easily sew up a few bean bags and fill them with rice or sand (sand is better – rice eventually rots and that ain’t pretty, believe me). No, really, if I can sew a bean bag you can sew a bean bag. Check out Emma’s tutorial for instructions.
Once you’ve got the bags, recycle some tins to make your stack. If you are keen, you can wrap the tins in pretty paper, but chances are the Campbells label will do nicely. If you all get bored knocking over the tins, teach yourselves how to juggle using the bean bags…
93. Make something with felt
If sewing isn’t your thing, there are still plenty of options for felt crafting. Felt is a really easy material to work with because it’s sturdy but soft. It comes in every colour of the rainbow, so you can create pretty much anything. Squares of felt are available at Kmart, craft stores or fabric stores. Make some felt sugar skulls, garlands, guinea pig, piggy bank or iPhone case.
More projects: 9 fun things to make with felt
94. Create a mandala
A mandala is a circular figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. It represents ‘wholeness’ and creating a mandala is a very calming, mindful thing for you to do. You can make a mandala using pen and paper, nature or even a paper plate. There’s a good tutorial on drawing your own mandala on Craftsy. Or you can colour in some free printable mandalas.
95. Catalogue something
Cataloguing is a fairly ‘mindless’ thing to do – which means it’s actually rather mindful. When you are absorbed with patterning and sorting, you tend not to have the headspace to think about anything else but the task at hand.
Sometimes cataloguing is about alphabetising and numbering so you can find things. Other times cataloguing is simply about making lists. Things you might like to catalogue:
- Your books
- A collection of something
- Your favourites – food, places, people, things
- Your thoughts
- Your family tree
- Your school – what will your catalogue criteria be?
96. Interview your street
Every single person living in your street has an interesting story to tell. Would you like to find out what it is? Ask permission first, of course, then write a list of questions and go from door to door to politely ask if you can interview. Take a notebook to record answers (or just listen) – you could ask to record the interview on your phone, but that might be confronting for some people. I like to ask things like:
- How long have you lived in our street?
- Where did you grow up?
- What was different about being a kid when you grew up?
- What’s your favourite memory?
- What do you like best about living here?
- Where’s your favourite place to go?
Trent Dalton’s The Street in The Australian shows just how moving ‘ordinary’ people in one street can be.
97. Bake some biscuits
Bickies are easy to make and fun to share. They smell so good while they’re baking. Try one of these recipes:
- Sweet-as honey biscuits (like your gran makes)
- Retro cornflake cookies with a twist
- Sophie’s lovely golden syrup biscuits
- Easy Italian biscuits like our nonna makes
- Ginger biscuits recipe – make in bulk and freeze
98. Pen a comic strip
Combine your love of drawing and storytelling by starting your own comic strip. You can create your own characters, or bring to life well-loved characters. (Cartooning4Kids has loads of YouTube tutorials.)
It’s really fun to create a regular strip. You can either add a new scenario each time, or create a “To be continued” ongoing storyline. Cliff-hangers are great for leaving your audience (parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, friends, neighbours… or even your blog readers) hanging. Da, da,daaaaaa!
99. Do a body scan
This is a basic mindfulness technique that you can do anytime, anywhere. It’s especially good at night when you are trying to go to sleep.
- Lie down and get comfy
- Close your eyes and breathe quietly for a moment
- Now, tense every single muscle in your body all at once. Squeeze hard.
- Then, release.
- Feel the difference in how soft your muscles feel.
- Do the exercise again, but this time take one set of muscles at a time. Start with your toes, feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs and so on, all the way up to your ears!
100. Listen to an audiobook
How nice to have someone read to you. Pick a quiet spot, pop on your headphones and hit ‘play’. Choose any book from the booklist on pages 87-88 or start at book one of the Harry Potter series. It’s a cracker audiobook as it’s read by the legendary Stephen Fry.
Other highly rated audiobooks include:
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, read by Carolyn McCormick
- Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, read by Cherry Jones
- The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman
- Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, read by Cherry Jones
- Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery, read by Rachel McAdams
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt
101. Get out the hula hoop
Can you hula hoop? I was so good at it as a teen, but completely embarrassed myself bragging about this to my kids and then not being able to do a single… hula. Gah! Not to worry, I’ve got all the time in the world to reclaim my lost hula skills. Use your hips, legs, arms, hands, ankles and even your neck to hula away. Once you master one hoop, try adding a few more. Feels awesome, right?
102. Practise creative visualisation
Well, this used to be called ‘day dreaming’, but now it’s a thing. Creative visualisation is known as a powerful tool to help us focus our attention on the goals we want to achieve. Turn your attention to a part of your life you want to focus on.
Relax and allow your mind to wander in and around your thoughts. Once you are deeply relaxed, think about what is happening in your life right now and what you want to have happen in the future. What do you need to change and why? How would you feel if you made this change happen? What steps would you need to take to get there? What is preventing you from taking these steps?
Be very clear and write all of your thoughts down – you might like to make a mood or vision board to keep your dreams focused. Decide if you want to take the first steps towards your goal and when. Refer back to your notes regularly to remind yourself of what you want to achieve. Remember to dream big and really picture the success you are seeking. Can you see it?
103. Learn about a new country
The internet isn’t the only way to find out information. You can visit the library (when it’s open), of course, which is always a fun thing to do. But my favourite way to learn new things is to ask other people.
Is there someone living in your street who is from another country? Could you interview them and ask them about their culture? They will most probably have things to show you like photos, mementos and keepsakes. You can call these things artefacts. Take photos, draw and write about the things your new friend shows you.
You might even like to learn a little bit of their native language and customs. Can you cook up a delicious ethnic feast and invite your friend over (when you can)? Once you’ve got to know one country, pick another and start again.
104. Go foraging
My friend Tricia at Little Eco Footprints introduced me to the idea of foraging for supergreens and we’ve been adding dandelion leaves to our salads ever since. Head out on an afternoon walk, taking a good-sized basket, bag or backpack with you. You’ll be amazed what you can find on the nature strip of most suburbs and even more pleased with what you’ll find along the roadside in the country.
105. Take apart an old computer
It’s fascinating to find out how a computer really works. The best way to do that is to take one apart… then try and put it back together again. Tinkering in this way is so good for developing your logical brain and your fine-motor coordination. If you can’t find a computer, find another electronic to have a go at.
What are your favourite activities for teens to do at home?
Feature image by Isi Parente; chess by Michal Vrba; gardening by Markus Spiske; sewing by by Olesia Buyar; cooking by Chelsea shapouri; frisbee dog by Tony Trocino; comic book by Miika Laaksonen ; mood board by Joyce McCown