15 Low Cost or No Cost Ideas for Spending Time with your Teenager
by Stephanie Partridge
You don't have to spend a fortune to have fun with your family. You can spend quality time together without shelling out lots of money. Too many people think that they have to coordinate a big trip and they focus on saving money for it and planning it, but often that big trip never happens. If it does, the pace is usually so hectic that the family does not really get to spend the quality time together that they had intended. It doesn't have to be that way though. You can start tonight spending quality time with your teen and creating a bond that will last forever. You can start with just the money in your pocket, even if you don't have two dimes to rub together. Try some of these ideas and see if they don't make a difference in your family.
1. Play "Ten Good Things"
This is a game that my youngest son came up with and it has become a favorite with our family. Each person takes a turn saying ten good things about someone else. For instance, my son may say ten good things about his sister, then she may say ten good things about me and I would say ten good things about my son. What usually happens is that everyone starts jumping in helping to make "the list" of ten good things. It is fun and often surprising when you actually hear the good qualities that others see in you. My kids have told me many things about myself that I did not even realize. Family friends come over to play this with us as well. It is just a fun, wholesome, feel-good game where everyone is a winner.
2. Work a Puzzle
Cost: About $10 – $15
You can pick up a jigsaw puzzle for about $10 to $15 and it will engage the family for hours. We clear the coffee table in the living room and gather round to put together the puzzle. Sometimes we are quiet, speaking only to help each other with fitting pieces or asking for a piece. Other times, we are laughing and talking. Always, though, we are bonding.
3. Brainstorm a Family Dream
This is a very fun activity that we enjoy doing. Each person gets a pad of sticky notes or note cards. Select a dream that you share for the family. It could be something practical like getting a family car, or something fun like going to Disney World. Have everyone start brainstorming on the dream to bring it to life. Brainstorm about funding the dream, the work that has to be done to make the dream real and other details. Each dream is different so the details will always be different. Each idea goes on a separate note card. When the brainstorming session is over, separate the note cards into different categories and discuss each idea. You will be surprised at the ideas, the creativity and you may even find some ideas that you can use and make that dream a reality!
4. Watch a Movie
Cost: $4 for the movie
Pop some popcorn, bring along some soda and settle in for a good movie. You can rent online at blockbuster.com, netflix.com and Christiancinema.com. Each of these delivers movies right to your mailbox. Netflix even has a program that allows you to download rentals and watch them immediately.
5. Learn Something Together
Cost: $0 – $100
Learn a new language, take a course in gardening or take an online course in something that interests you. There are many free courses online, but you can also find free courses and classes through your local library and at your local community college or university.
6. Have a Crafts Night
Cost: $0 – $20
Pick a craft that all of you can do and set aside on evening to do it. I was in a thrift store one day and ran across a big bag of little wooden birdhouse wind chimes. I picked up some paint and brushes, laid out some newspaper and we all sat on the floor and painted out birdhouses. We had a blast!
7. Play a Game
Cost: $2 – $5 at a thrift store or around $20 – $30 if purchased new
If you don't have any games and you really don't have the funds to purchase new games at the store, check out some thrift stores and pick up games there. We have purchases several games at our local thrift stores and they cost just $2 to $5. You can also go to http://freecycle.org, join your community's freecycle group and find games (and other uber cool stuff) for free.
8. Have a Ball
Cost: $5 – $10 for the ball
This is a favorite activity in our home. I purchased a soft football (the colorful, foam kind) and keep it in the house. Sometimes we just sit in the living room and toss the football back and forth while we talk. This is great for getting boys to talk. I don't know what it is, but when you get a boy engaged in doing something, he will just open up. Because the football is foam, we don't have to worry about breaking anything and younger kids think it is cool to be able to throw a football in the house.
9. Cook Dinner Together
In our home, each child has one night where they are in charge of dinner. The plan, shop for and prepare the meal for the family. However, we usually all wind up in the kitchen together. Everyone pitches in, we turn on the music and talk about our day. That is one of my kids' favorite times. A favorite of my family's is "Personal Pizza." We gather all the ingredients that someone may want to put on their pizza: cheese, cooked ground beef, pepperoni, cooked Italian sausage, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, etc.
Then we each make our own pizza, starting with making our own dough. We all pretty much stink at actually getting the dough on the pan so that it actually looks like a pizza, but we have a ball doing it. Then each person adds toppings to their own pizza, we cook them and eat! Kids of all ages seem to enjoy this. My friend's boys, ages 4 and 9 were over and they had a great time making their own pizzas. My teenagers were there too and they had just as much fun. But I think the boys' dad had more fun than anyone. Yeah, it is great for kids of all ages.
10. Have a Family Book Club
Pick out a book as a family and get everyone a copy (libraries usually have several copies of popular books). Each week read a chapter, then get together on an appointed day to discuss what you have read thus far. It is a great way to connect.
11. Go for a Walk
Sometimes just getting out and going for a walk together will help bring you together. Set aside a time where you can walk with your teen and make it an important event.
12. Give Movie Night a New Twist
Cost: $4 – $5 for the movie rental
We watch movies in our home, but one of our favorite activities is watching a movie a second or even third time and identifying the context clues (little clues in the movie that indicate what is going to happen next) and symbolism of parts of the movie. It always winds up in a very interesting, deep discussion where we all learn things about each other. My kids come up with revelations and observations about things that blow me away sometimes. You can learn a lot about the way your child thinks when you do this activity.
13. Throw a Dance Party
Sometimes we push all of the furniture to one side of the room and turn the living room into a dance hall. We turn up the music and just dance and dance. That is something my kids tell their friends about all the time.
14. Exercise Together
Cost: About $1 – $3 Dollars per Person per Day
My son, daughter and I hit the gym at 5 am every morning. We work out together some and do our own stuff some, but just the act of getting up early and working for a common goal brings us closer together. Sometimes, my daughter and I take a Latin dance cardio class that our gym offers. It is just something special that we can do together. She tells people that I am her best friend.
15. Just Talk
Cost: Your Time
When it comes down to it, just talking to your teen is a great way to bond. Teens will open up if they know that someone is listening. Sometimes we all just lay across my bed and talk about all types of random things. We talk about dreams that we have, things we want to do and make plans for the future. Many goals have been set during these special times – and many of those goals have been realized.
It doesn't take much to create a time and environment that is good for bonding with your teen. You don't need a lot of money. What you do need is your time. Make that investment in your most precious commodity – your child.
Stephanie Partridge is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a FOIA analyst for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is a single mom to Jeffery, 19; Micah Elizabeth, 17 and Benjamin, 15. She is also the author of the ebook, “Diet is a Dirty Word.”
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