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Activities for teens during COVID-19

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many young people may be struggling with the situation. However, the good news is, there are still plenty of things that they can do to keep busy. From chatting to friends and helping out their community, to staying active at home and trying something new, here are some ideas to make this time a bit easier for them.

And remember, if at any point you’re worried about how your teen is coping, we have some advice on supporting them here.

If you’re unsure about the rules your teen needs to follow when they’re meeting their friends, you can find the latest coronavirus guidelines for children here. Our page on sport, play and children's activities has information on activities for young people run by clubs and other organisations.

Tips for keeping teens busy

Tip #1: Follow in the footsteps of their favourite celebrities

Chances are at this age your teen is far more likely to pay attention to their favourite celebrity or influencer than they are to listen to you! But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From making their own smoothies to writing songs, recording their own make up tutorials to reviewing games, there are lots of creative activities they could try, inspired by online influencers. Without being pushy, ask them about what they’re looking at online and see if there’s anything you can do to encourage their interests.

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Tip #2: Become a budding entrepreneur

If your teen is complaining about being both bored and skint, why not challenge them to come up with their own business idea? From dog walking to car washing, there are plenty of ways they could put their skills to good use, and make some money on the side. Get them to think about their interests and how this could translate into a business. Are they very tech savvy? They could help less technically-minded people make the most of their phones to keep in touch with their families and friends. Can they draw, bake, knit, sew or make jewellery? They could try selling their goods to friends and neighbours. They can design their own posters and flyers to advertise their services locally or even build their own website – the possibilities are endless!

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Tip #3: Learn a new language

Your teen is probably already learning a second language at school. With amazing apps like Duolingo available for free on your mobile device, this could be something you do together. You could even turn it into a competition, to see who can get through the most levels. Let’s be honest, you probably won’t be fluent before your next summer holiday, but you may have picked up a new phrase or two.

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Tip #4: Take the MasterChef challenge

Okay, so maybe they’re not a master chef, but why not suggest that your teenager tests their skills with a little bit of home cooking? It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – here are some easy recipes to get you started. They’re more likely to enjoy this if you make them responsible for the whole meal, so let them choose the recipe, buy the ingredients and make the dishes without hovering over them too much. 

If they’re a picky eater, this may help them explore new foods and flavours. If they don’t like eating together as a family, this could encourage them to be more sociable – so make sure you’re complimentary about their cooking! 

You could even turn it into a competition, each family member taking turns to cook and the others scoring the results. Not only is this a great opportunity for your teen to learn a few new tricks, it also means they can get the dinner started while you get that last little bit of work done.

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Tip #5: Community support

Young Scot has also put together some ideas on supporting vulnerable people in your local community. They could take time to phone a lonely neighbour or family member, or even donate blood. Doing something to help others may help your teen feel better about the situation. You could also suggest they check out the volunteering opportunities on the Volunteer Scotland website and see if anything interests them.

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Tip #6: Have a clear out

If it’s wet and miserable outside, how about persuading them to have a clear out? Not the most exciting activity admittedly, but the thought of making some money may encourage them to give this a go. Ask them to sort through their old toys, books, tech equipment and clothes and divide them into piles – keep, sell, donate to charity, recycle. For more on reusing and recycling, check out the tips on the Zero Waste Scotland website.

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Tip #7: Revisit an old hobby

If they suddenly find themselves with nothing to do, how about revisiting an old hobby that they haven’t had time for recently? If they used to enjoy drawing or painting, why not dig out their sketchbooks and give it another go? Did they used to make or paint models, or play an instrument? Now could be a great time to start up again. It’s not about going back to things they’ve grown out of, but revisiting skills that will stay with them forever.

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Tip #8: Get lost in a book

Maybe not the most exciting idea, but if your teen can’t get out as much as they’d like, reading a book can take them anywhere they can imagine! If they’re reluctant to pick up or download a book, you could suggest they revisit an author they used to like. Some children’s authors, like JK Rowling and Judy Blume also write for adults, so this could be one way in. They could also get inspiration at the Scottish Book Trust website, which lists books for teens and adults, including graphic novels and poetry.

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Tip #9: Explore the world of podcasts

If reading’s really not their thing, how about encouraging them to download an audiobook or podcast? With podcasts available on every topic under the sun – current events, drama, video games, music and much, much more – there’s bound to be something that interests them. The BBC’s free podcasts and TedX talks are a good place to start. And – top tip – listening to a podcast makes exercise, tidying their room, doing the washing up and many other things they don’t much like doing a lot more fun!

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Tip #10: Home cinema

Here’s one you can try together – get your teen to pick a film and then settle down for a movie night, complete with low lighting, popcorn and no phones! If you’re not keen on their choice of movie, don’t ask them to pick something else: give it a go and then discuss it afterwards. What do they like about it? How could the story have turned out differently? Maybe they’ll let you pick next time – perhaps you could introduce them to a classic movie you love? Or you could set yourself a challenge of watching every film that’s won Best Picture at the Oscars, starting with 2020 and working your way back to 1927!  

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Tip #11: Outdoor café

Your teen can still meet up with friends as long as they follow the rules for your area. If meeting up in cafés is getting too expensive, how about an outdoor picnic? If they wrap up warm and bring a hot drink in a flask they won’t even get that chilly!

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Tip #12: Make music

If your teen has ever expressed an interest in learning an instrument, now could be the time to try. Many music teachers are giving lessons via Zoom, and you can also access online tutorials to get started. Or how about downloading the music studio app Garageband

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Tip #13: Lights, camera, action!

Ever wondered what makes Wallace and Gromit come to life? The answer is stop motion animation – and all your teen needs to make their own stop motion movie is a phone, some free software like the Stop Motion Studio app and something to film. This could be their own drawings, plasticine models, Lego figures or any other objects they can lay their hands on. This YouTube video explains how to get started. National Galleries Scotland also has some good resources here.

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Tip #14: Learn to code

Your kids may already be learning how to code at school, but there are lots of online resources out there to help them learn more in a fun way that won’t feel like school. CodeAcademy and offer free tutorials, including how to code your own Minecraft game or dance party, while Code Monkey offers a free trial. They could also check out Arduino – projects to try include making a 3D scanner, games and a robot!

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Tip #15: Get them thinking

If your teen’s into problem solving then they’ll love Brilliant, which offers fun, challenging maths, science and computer science problems that will really get them thinking.

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Tip #16: Experience some culture

You’ll be pleased to hear that museums and galleries are open in areas in level 0-3 – and while your teen may not be super excited at the thought of all that culture, you could remind them that these spaces are indoors, warm, often free and they can meet a friend there. They can use the Museums Are Go map to find somewhere near them. Just remind them that they’ll probably need to book a ticket in advance.

There are also lots of amazing attractions around the world that have opened their doors to the public virtually. This means your teen can travel to some of the world’s most famous locations without leaving the house.

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Tip #17: Take over the world

Okay, not really! But online strategy games can encourage critical thinking and forward planning, and if they play them collaboratively, they can also boost communication skills and teamwork – win win! So if your teen loves online gaming, this could be for them. You’ll find loads of games (including free and low cost ones) at download site Steam.

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Tip #18: DIY décor

Like teenagers themselves, their bedrooms can sometimes be a strange mix of child and adult, with toys, tech, make up, clothes and sports gear lying around all over the place (and let’s not even think about what’s lurking under the bed!) Now could be a good time to encourage them to redecorate, choosing a new paint colour (or colours!) and rethinking how the room is laid out and how they store things. Showing them you trust them to redecorate (and maybe even put up a shelf or two) will encourage them to flex their DIY skills and take pride in their new room.

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Tip #19: Get active

It is really important for our mental wellbeing that we keep active and get moving. But if your teen’s struggling to get motivated, how about suggesting they look at the social media channels of their favourite sports stars and see if they are offering any fitness tips and ideas? Lots of sports people and fitness experts put out regular videos on Instagram and YouTube, often requiring no equipment except comfortable clothes. You could even invest in some equipment like weights or resistance bands if you think it will get your teen off the sofa!

If they think exercise isn’t for them, encourage them to try different things, like running, HIIT (high intensity interval training), crossfit, plyometrics or yoga. 

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Tip #20: Dance, Dance, Revolution

Right now, some of the world’s best movers and shakers are showing their skills online and helping young people around the world learn some new moves. So if your teen loves to dance, why not get them to check out their favourite dancer’s social media, where many are offering free tutorials. There are even free classes online, for example at Y-Dance.

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Tip #21: Check out Young Scot

Your teen may already be familiar with our friends at Young Scot, but did you know they have amazing resources and ideas to help Scottish teenagers during the coronavirus outbreak? Their ‘Things to do at home’ page is packed with things for your teen to do. Here are a couple that you could even try to do as a family. They can check out Young Scot here.

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Teens won't stick to the rules?

Getting your teen to stick to the protection measures in your level may be easier said than done. Young people often feel invincible from danger and don’t always think ahead about the consequences of what they do, so may be more tempted to bend the rules. Rather than yelling at them about it, try some of these tips to help you respond if your teenager starts to get frustrated.