By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Summertime brings with it an influx of busyness and opportunities. From vacations to pool parties and outdoor volleyball to bass fishing, whatever your family's favorite thing to do, you're more than likely to find yourselves doing it on summer break.
But it's fall now, and we parents don't want to miss out on quality time with our teens. Except now we're competing with fall sports and after-school programs, homework, and the never-ending line of friends and activities they wish to do away from us. And that's okay, too! We can still show support and even be involved in much of that. Yet it's nice to make a concerted effort to connect with our teens in order to stay in tune with their struggles, their lives, their walk of faith, and the fact that they are fast transitioning into adulthood.
So, what are some activities to do in the fall with your teen that won't get you a huge sigh and an eye roll? Let's take a look at some ideas after polling parents of teenagers:
1. Corn Mazes / Haunted Corn Mazes
Of course, going to a corn maze is traditional—at least if you live in the regions where they exist! But don't underestimate a good corn maze in the dark. Or even the haunted corn mazes with jump-scares waiting to happen. Teenagers might scoff at first—if they're not of the corn-dodging type—but in the end, I've yet to meet one that didn't have a blast! Even the teenagers who aren't "outdoorsy" can find themselves excited to escape the maze. And did I mention haunted corn mazes? Sure. You can do your research first to ensure they don't err on the gruesome or demonic sides of "haunted," but many just look to make the mazes creepy and full of jump-worthy moments. Those can be the best sort of fun!
2. Fall Carnivals
Have you looked at the carnival options in your area? There are usually some scheduled that many teens will enjoy attending. Other festivals may be taking place, like a Celtic festival or a Renaissance Fair. If your teenager enjoys drama, history, costumes, and the like, these can make for super fun days with lots of photo-worthy opportunities. They may also become an entire family event, as many are thoroughly appropriate and even wonderful to bring the littles along with!
3. Thrifted Painting
Do you have a teenager who enjoys the more artistic side of life? Try thrifting for fun artwork, and then paint fall themes and cute little ghosts on top of them. Picture this. You find an inexpensive painting at your local thrift store of a field, a barn, and maybe a falling-over fence line. Snag it for a few bugs, take it home, break out the acrylics or oils, and have some delightful fun painting little sheet-covered ghosts in the barn's windows or at the edge of the field. Make them friendly ones. Add in a few pumpkins in bright orange. You'll be surprised how much fun this can be! Need ideas? Just search social media for this idea, and you'll find a plethora of inspiration!
4. Warm Cookies & a Movie
Never discount how bonding a freshly baked cookie can be! Turn on a movie, and with the ridiculous amount of options now on streaming services, you are bound to find one you and your teenager can get along with! Those rainy Autumn weekends when outdoor activities just aren't an option? Throw in some chocolate chip cookies (don't psych any teenager out with raisin cookies!) and a flick. Need advice on what to watch? Think old-school and give your kid a chance to connect to the movies you once found amazing! Or take a leap of faith and try a movie they've been dying to see. You may be surprised to find out you actually like it!
5. Bonfires and Teenagers
If you're feeling extra adventurous and generous, plan a bonfire for your teenager and their friends! Seriously! Don't discount the reward of being a safe place for your teen to bring their friends, and what group of kids don't enjoy hanging around a bonfire until even the wee hours of the morning?
Supply with s'mores, offer hot chocolate or cider, and get them started telling stories and cracking jokes. Maybe even engage the assistance of another set of parents! Or if the teenagers are at all musical, invite a few of them to bring their guitars! Worst case, haul out the old picture books your kids enjoyed as toddlers and have them read them as campfire stories. You'd be surprised at the amount of laughs that will earn you!
6. Pumpkin Carving
Are we ever really too old to carve pumpkins? I beg to challenge any teenager to a pumpkin carving contest. Also, as a side note, don't be the boring parent and tell your teens they can't engage in a pumpkin innards/seed fight! Just make sure you have the pumpkins outside, then maybe be the "mature one" and initiate the seed fight.
You could also make it more of a challenge by offering up tools to carve that aren't necessarily the traditional ones. Challenge them to a butterknife pumpkin carving contest. Give them a metal straw and see what they can do with that. Be creative, allow for mess, and just have traditional pumpkin carving fun.
7. Caramel Apple Dipping
Put a little water in the bottom of your crockpot and heat the caramel. Then, pull out the bag of apples you got from the local orchard and put an assortment of toppings in bowls. It's like an Autumn fondue party but with caramel, and who doesn't love M&Ms, Oreos, Heath candy bars, and peanuts rolled onto their caramel?
The nice thing about this activity is that your kids are teenagers now and less likely to get frustrated or super messy with the sticky caramel than the littler ones. This is also another great activity to include their friends in, allowing your teenagers to socialize and spend time with you simultaneously. Don't underestimate how important this can be to your teen/parent relationship!
8. College Football or Marching Bands
Maybe none of the above is your family's style. When all else fails, sometimes you need a good college football game or even a marching band competition! These are festive, fun, and always loud, raucous occasions to celebrate—even if loss is involved. If your teenager loves competition, something along the lines of these options will probably be a win for you!
Don't forget to have your own mini-tailgating party too. Bring some hotdogs and a small grill, crack open some cold soda, and give your kid a day to remember.
Time with your teenager is essential; don't let the colder months steal that from you. Time itself will take them away, and sooner rather than later, there will be fewer and fewer opportunities to build memories with your children.
Don't discount the more traditional fall activities, too. Hiking to see the fall colors, exploring trails and suspension bridges, eating fresh doughnuts with a side of cider, visiting the orchards, and even just making s'mores over a small campfire can be memorable. If your teen isn't outdoorsy, don't be afraid to make popcorn and hot cocoa and have a night of playing board games.
Sometimes, it's the simplest activities that create the most impactful memories—and not just memories but opportunities to build relationships and trust with your teen. So, this Autumn? Be deliberate. Plan time to be with your kids. Cancel other activities that may not be as important, and set your teenager on the pedestal of priority.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.