16 Things To Keep Teens Occupied Right Now



APR 20, 2020

And you thought teens were challenging before! Let’s just say the pandemic and physical distancing have added an entirely new level to the parenting experience.

For the first couple of weeks when school was cancelled, we were all adjusting to life in a pandemic. Not going to lie… I had a good cry or two after our spring break was basically cancelled. We were partially packed and looking forward to skiing in Vermont when it became apparent that we could not risk crossing the border or traveling anywhere. So, despite being extremely worried and disappointed myself, suddenly I was also helping two frustrated, angry teens stay mentally stable and physically active in our home and our neighbourhood.


“Get creative, and have some fun where and when you can.”


Experts kept talking about finding a new normal and a routine and, to be honest, I wondered if we’d ever find our rhythm. But we have found a few ways to keep them occupied, so we are trying to take our lead from the kids — most of the time. And we are all adjusting our expectations and following local, national and provincial guidelines staying at home.

Anxiety is a factor in our home on a regular day, so with heightened anxiety in so many places, we’ve been looking for fun, easy, creative and safe ways to defuse some of that. Baking, of course, has been an almost daily activity here. In fact, it’s become almost therapeutic.


Speaking of baking, check out this one dough that makes five cookies.


Here’s how my teens are staying occupied:

  1. Bread making, cooking and baking — This tops my list and I have to say this is a pleasant surprise. We got a bread maker just this year and my oldest daughter, 18, is making a new loaf pretty much three times a week. My house smells fantastic, like fresh baked bread almost all of the time. YUM!
  2. TikTok — Go ahead and make some silly TikTok videos at home. That first two weeks we did a fair bit of this. My daughters, of course, were already on it. But I caved and joined too, and I even joined them in a couple of their ridiculous dances while also challenging my 11-year-old nephew to TikTok dance-offs. This has been a source of humour for all of us right now.
  3. Writing — Grab a journal and a pen and get writing. I sometimes have extra empty notebooks floating around the house. Someone here always claims them and starts writing stories or just cranky journal entries. Either way, doesn’t matter to me. It can be a good way for them to get their emotions down on paper.
  4. Sketching — Artsy kids? Both of my kids like to draw, paint and do water colours. There are pencil crayons, paints and pastels all over my basement and in my older daughter’s room, so this is an easy one for them to do on their own time.
  5. Walking — We take daily walks to get outside, no matter the weather. Some days my youngest daughter objects loudly and sometimes the girls bicker non-stop. But occasionally we have an excellent walk together, sharing a few laughs while avoiding other people (which, in our neighbourhood, has actually been pretty easy to do). This might not be possible everywhere, but while we can do this, we make sure to embrace the outside. My favourite is to dance down the street, sometimes embarrassing the girls and making them laugh out loud. There isn’t even anyone else around right now, and yet they are still embarrassed at the idea that there could be someone looking out the window, spying me dancing my heart out.
  6. Netflix or Disney Plus (or both)? — My younger daughter asked for Disney Plus for her birthday in early March and I agreed. She’s genuinely enjoying reliving some old childhood Disney series like Hannah Montana because it is nostalgic. We have watched a couple of Netflix series together. Together, we binged Love Is Blind.
  7. Online workouts — Our teens are used to a high level of martial arts and physical activity. I’ve found hundreds of online workouts and a few that I really love. We have also attended a couple of Zoom martial arts workouts and are working on making that a new habit.
  8. Garden — If you have planters, or seeds around, get them started now. When the weather warms up you will be able to transplant them. Some grocery stores have seeds, so consider adding them to the cart next time you do the quick, strategic and safe shopping trip.
  9. Dye hair — Two of us have dyed our hair. Again, I added this to the grocery cart weeks ago and made it a fun thing to do to boost our spirits. My one daughter is in youth theatre and sometimes she is not supposed to dye her hair because of the character she’s playing, but since all of the rehearsals are on hold, dyeing hair is totally OK.
  10. Clay charms — My oldest ordered a batch of clay from Amazon at the start of the month. It is being fashioned into all sorts of jewelry, charms, tiny little garden accessories and more.
  11. Colouring — NOT just for kids. Everyone enjoys colouring from time to time and let’s face it, the act of colouring is genuinely relaxing. My office window is covered with our art right now. Yesterday I left my office to go get the mail at the community mailbox and a grandmother in our area was standing outside on the sidewalk admiring the pictures. “We love your art,” she said, and that made my day.
  12. Inspirational rocks — We haven’t actually done any inspirational rocks yet, but I am seeing these around my neighbourhood. We have some great rocks and paints, so next up: rock painting.
  13. Chalk messages — Drawing chalk messages in the driveway makes me happy and it’s a good way to pass a couple of hours. Also, it makes all the people passing by happy.
  14. Read a book via Facetime — My kids have younger cousins and we also have a few friends with small children. For a few days, my younger girl reads to them via Facetime.
  15. Cycling — Right now, as long as we respect physical distancing, it’s still OK to go for a bike ride. So, we are occasionally doing that. Spring is still happening, despite coronavirus, and we need to move to stay healthy, mentally and physically. This is one way that we do this in my family.
  16. Virtual tours — There are so many! I have been keeping an eye on pandas every day at a zoo in Edinburgh. That lifts my spirits daily. My oldest watches live aquarium feeds and finds that soothing. Museum tours might be more their speed.

It’s not always easy finding ways to engage teens in activities you want them to do, but I find convincing my teens to do something nice for someone else is a worthwhile activity they often buy into. Maybe baking a loaf of bread one night is an opportunity to give to a neighbour or a friend (physically distanced on their doorstep, of course).

Overall, I find it can be helpful for me to have a few tricks up my sleeve for those times when my teens are so frustrated with physical distancing that they are picking fights with everyone in the house. Get creative, and have some fun where and when you can.