The year leading up to high school graduation is a great time to make new memories with your teen. With this in mind, we asked the parents of our Pay for College 101 Facebook Community for suggestions of fun things to do with teens before college starts.
Take a family road trip
Of the many ideas shared by our parents, the one we heard the most often was Hit the Road! These trips can be as flexible as your time and budget allow – from impromptu to finely detailed, brief to long, near or far, here are some ideas for family experiences with your teen:
- Be nostalgic. Visit places from your family’s past, like the first park you camped at, your family’s favorite vacation spot, or a theme park your student loved when they were little.
- Let your student create the route. Ask them to write their personal list of places to visit. Provide guidelines for budget and length of stay, then encourage them to look at a map and focus on one or more locations.
- Reconnect with family members who live out of town. Take a trip to the coast to see cousins, a great aunt or attend that wedding four hours away. Give students the opportunity to show their extended family how much they mean to them before college life becomes the norm.
- Combine practicality and fun. If you know the school your student will be attending, visit the city they are in. Locate places to eat, shop and visit. Consider an outdoor adventure, boat ride, or city tour with a local guide. Make it special – your student can start their freshman year with a better idea of their new home.
Find fun things to do in everyday life
Parents often worry about how their young adult will cope on their own. To give them a head start, our community suggested focus on life skills either you provide or your whole family learns together. Things to do with your teen include:
- Enroll in lifelong learning courses at a local community college
- Get CPR Certification Together
- Take car maintenance courses
- Enjoy a cooking class or cook with a family cookbook
- Plant or maintain a garden of houseplants
Your community center may also offer weekend workshops on must-have “adult” topics. Consider any free or low-cost courses run by churches, local extension offices, and businesses.
Lee Katherine H. said adults should pass on their own skills, especially in the kitchen, an idea echoed by many: “Learn to cook the food that mom prepares”, was a popular suggestion.
This senior year of high school is also a time for parents to learn alongside their students, with Erin K. recommending that the whole family try to be green-fingered: “Get houseplants and see who can keep them alive,” she says.
A big reward from this last activity: surviving plants can move in with the student in their new dorm!
Put the “fun” in family activities
Sometimes the best thing you can do with your teen is to spend some quality time with the intention of enjoying each other’s company. These family activities resonate with young adults and allow parents to spend quality time with their teens:
- Craft jewelry, try 3D printing in a makerspace, or head to a graffiti art studio to get dirty
- Start an album, or finally finish the one you started years ago, including new pages for the last year
- Participate in an escape room experience
- Capture a video of your family cooking or trying out a new TikTok dance trend
- Make a list of all the movies you haven’t watched yet (but still wanted) before they go out; so take the time to finally look at them. Create a mix of signature snacks to enjoy during the event
- Host a family book club night with a book to read for fun each month, then chat over a big family dinner
- Make family holiday cards something amazing. Include costumes, props, or a vacation destination backdrop
Jennifer S. emphasized the importance of living in the present by setting aside academic discussions for just one day a week. “As a family, we spend every Wednesday night watching a show, and there’s no discussing college on family night out — we just hang out together,” she said. “I think it’s helpful to maintain a balance between fun and ‘business’.”
Celebrating High School Graduation
Finally, there is nothing sweeter than spending time with family and friends. Consider an end-of-summer party where classmates and their parents can come together and not only look back, but also imagine the future. Create a space to mingle, rent a photo booth or create a backdrop for the kids to take pictures, and be sure to provide lots of fun food. Students will appreciate the opportunity to catch up with old friends before making new ones, and parents will enjoy being part of the fun.
Multitasking: making plans And Memories
While most parents have their own ideas about how the pre-college year should be spent, our community said they’re more than willing to let their students take the lead and not only choose activities, but help plan them.
“With a busy senior and a sophomore, my main goal this school year was to get everyone to have dinner together as much as possible,” said Rebecca A. Her suggestion for other families? “Try to keep it simple. With so much to do and think about next fall and winter, it can be easier to plan less.
Going to college is a giant leap that requires some confidence. By giving students ownership of the activities to do this year, you will signal that you are ready to let them spread their wings.
The bounty ? Memories that will last a lifetime and a certain peace of mind that your teenager will be well prepared for their first year away from home.