Affordable Activities To Enjoy With Teen Grandkids

by Reader Contributors

Affordable Activities to Enjoy with Teen Grandkids photo

It is easy to find activities that younger grandkids like to do. With teens, not so much. Our readers share some affordable things they do with their own teen grandkids that everyone enjoys.

Hi Gary,
I have a question for your readers.

I have seven wonderful grandkids who all loved spending time with their grandmother and grandfather when they were young. Now that the five oldest are teenagers, I do not often hear from them, much less see them anymore.

Three of the teen grandkids will be spending almost a week with us over the holidays, and I would like to plan a few activities that they would enjoy. When I asked them about it, they immediately requested theme park visits (we live within driving distance of several), which we simply cannot afford. Even their mom and dad said that they find it hard to find activities all three teens like to do together, so I am at a bit of a loss.

Whether you have teen grandkids or teen kids, can anyone give me some insight into what affordable activities teens find enjoyable these days?

Teens Like Physical Activity

When my kids were teenagers (now in their 20s), we always included some type of physical activity in our vacations. This meant hiking, bike riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, swimming, etc. Even just a long walk through a wooded area or park was fun. Even teens who aren’t very active tend to go along with the group on these types of activities. Don’t let pouting or whining deter you. They usually have fun once they get going.

If you live near a cave park, those are cool, or maybe someplace with Indian mounds or hieroglyphs (check your state parks website). Maybe there is a Frisbee course near you or some type of park obstacle course? What about roller skating or ice skating? Does your local park district have open gym time where you/they can play basketball or volleyball? Our local zoo has nighttime zoo lights festivals during the holidays. There are often discount coupons available, or a zoo membership might be the most economical choice for a large family group.

Of course, these all depend on your location, weather, and physical limitations, but there is probably something available near you at low or no cost.

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Talk and Laugh With Grandkids

My teen grandkids like to swim. Our community recreation center has a large indoor pool with slides, a rope swing, etc., for a very reasonable cost. They also enjoy choosing movies from Redbox, fixing popcorn and snacks, and having a movie night. We sometimes spend time playing cards and board games or working on a large jigsaw puzzle. I’m surprised at how much they seem to enjoy these “old-school activities.”

As with most teens, one of their favorite activities is to shop, so I’ve given them $20 each and dropped them off at a nearby mall to shop. If I go with them, I usually let them shop together and then I meet them in the food court for lunch or ice cream and to see what bargains they’ve found. I make some of their favorite meals and desserts when they visit and ordering pizza is usually a hit.

Most important, even if we’re out walking the dog, we talk and laugh a lot and I try to let them know how much I still love being with them.

Can’t Go Wrong with Bowling and Pizza

We have grandkids of various ages. During one Christmas season, we took everyone from mid-grammar school to college graduates out for bowling and pizza. Since none of us were very experienced, we had lots of fun and loads of laughs.

Visit State Parks

I took my teen grandkids on a grandma day to state parks. We packed a lunch and drinks in an ice chest.

First, we went to Gloss Mountains. The kids climbed the mountain, and I could hear them laughing and screaming all the way up and back. The screams were because my grandson was teasing the girls about snakes. I stayed at the bottom because I knew it would be a lot of walking before the day was over. Then we went to Alabaster Caverns, which we all did. From there, we went to Boiling Springs State Park. We saw the boiling springs and had our picnic watching deer. These places are in Oklahoma.

There may be museums that will have a free day during the holidays, and some will have special things going on for the holidays. Some cities will have special functions during the holidays.

Share a Favorite Hobby With Grands

As the mother of teen boys, I feel your pain. I suggest you do not ask the kids what they like. At this age, they really are not sure, and chances are they will name something that you will not be able to enjoy yourself (like an exhausting day at a theme park).

Instead, plan a variety of shorter activities and meals out, and each day, allow some “downtime” for you to rest (and them to catch up on social media). Traditional activities like miniature golf and bowling (try glow bowl night) are fun for all ages, and kids usually like the competition. One or two days where you teach them your favorite hobby or tradition is a good idea as well. There are also stores now that let you come in and make pottery or paint a picture, which should work for all ages and give them something to take home and be proud of.

You don’t have to do something huge to make a memory. The memory should be about spending time getting to know each other.

Grandparents Passing a Joy of Nature

Since my kids were young, and up through last weekend (they’re now 26 and 28), some of our best days together have been when we are outside enjoying nature. If you can still go for walks, find an easy hiking trail that may take an hour or so, where you may be able to walk along a stream or river or see a lake. Perhaps pack sandwiches, chips, and homemade trail mix that you can lug in a backpack. For cheap, you could buy them a new water bottle that they can pre-fill with water, lemon water, tea or something yummy to carry on the walk.

Tell them to dress for selfies because you’ll be bringing a camera and taking some cool pictures of them! If they don’t yet appreciate this type of activity, don’t let them change your mind about it. They may grumble, but being outside is healing and nurturing. They’ll feel really good about the experience afterward and it will become a cherished memory. Bring the dogs if you have them!

13 Grandkids Worth of Experience

My husband and I have 13 grandchildren. We have found fun things to do with our grandkids that are inexpensive.

Each year, we host the “Cousin Buddy Christmas Caroling” tour. On a Saturday in December, we take the participating grandkids around to local businesses that we trade with all year long. I play guitar and accompany our grandkids as they sing the beloved songs of the Christmas Season. It’s a great way to have fun and remind folks of the “Reason for the Season.”

I have been teaching my granddaughters to cook/sew. Last year, we gathered at my house to make jelly and pecan brittle as Christmas gifts for their school teachers. Even the four-year-old granddaughter had fun!

My sister blessed me with extra sewing fabric from cleaning out her sewing room. This summer, the girls and I made 40 aprons from leftover fabric scraps/thread and gifted them to the local high school art department. The aprons were well-received!

We enjoy watching our grandkids participate in sports. The entry fee cost is nominal and we have so much fun cheering them on to victory!

Just Enjoy the Grands

Rent a movie. Make popcorn and drinks.

They probably like crafts. My girls loved to make jewelry.

Do you have any local colleges with sports? They may be playing during the visit. Check out the internet for activities that are free or inexpensive in your area. Make a list and have the teens vote.

Check your local library. Where I used to live, they had teen clubs that met weekly. Last year, they had a battle of the bands, and the audience voted. The audience was filled with teenagers.

Enjoy them and relax. You also could ask them what they like to do besides theme parks. Do you live near a swimming pool? Check around for an indoor pool. Have a cooking day with them. Make presents for family members. Just enjoy them.

Let Grandkids Choose

The thing to do is let them choose. Look online for local events. Find all leisure activities in your area and find all state parks.

You and your hubby should brainstorm a list of all possible activities. Then, let each teen plan an entire day.
Van in AL

Reviewed November 2023

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