The Best Ways to Keep Your Teen Busy This Summer

From one-of-a-kind camps to volunteering experiences that'll make a difference, here's how to help them make the most of summer.



Hanging with friends and hitting the beach is fun, but odds are your teen is looking to do something more meaningful before heading back to school. From stellar camps to training programs that teach them something new, here are some of our favorite ways to keep them busy this summer.


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ADVENTURE CAMPS

If she dreams of being on American Ninja Warrior or is an adventure junkie who loves to hike or raft, this is right up her alley. There are fun options for hiking or outward bound camps across the US. Or consider Apogee Adventures,  where she travels across the country by bike or spends a week hiking in the Rocky Mountains. Or, head to Long Lake Camp Adventures in the Adirondacks, NY for high ropes courses, ATV (all-terrain vehicle) rides, wakeboarding and archery.

COUNSELOR-IN-TRAINING PROGRAMS

If your teen wants to be a teacher, a counselor or is looking for leadership experience, these training camps are a must. Camp Chateaugay in Merrill, NY offers in-depth camp counselor lessons and certifications for both first-aid and lifeguarding. Camp Invention, a STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and math) program with multiple NJ locations, teaches techie seventh to ninth graders to be mentors and coaches.

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ENVIRONMENT AND COMMUNITY SERVICE CAMPS

Learn about the world and giving back at someplace super exotic like Sea Turtle Camp, which sends campers to Costa Rica to monitor turtle activity, all while spending time getting hands-on biology experience, practicing Spanish, rafting and exploring. If you aren’t ready to let him go globetrotting on his own, try a family volunteer vacation through Global Volunteers, where your crew can help underprivileged communities in the US and abroad.

SCIENCE/TECH CAMPS

If she’s on the fast-track to becoming an engineer or just loves science, look into STEM camps, where she dives into projects like robotics or computer science. Created by two engineers, Robot Revolution summer camp in Summit gives teens a chance to build and code their own bots. iD Tech Camp has tons of locations across NJ and offers programs in coding Minecraft, filmmaking, robotics, video game design or computer programming. Check a nearby college campus for other enrichment programs. Added bonus: A camp experience like this gives her a leg up on college applications.

SLEEPAWAY CAMPS

If he hasn't been to sleepaway camp yet, now might be the right time. He'll learn personal responsibility and make life-long friends. Some camps are centered on your kid's passion, like music or the arts, while others are a mixed bag with campfires, swimming and other old-fashioned summer fun. Hands In 4 Youth at Camp Vacamas in West Milford offers swimming, camping, rock climbing, canoeing and a session on leadership training. Camp Fairview Lake YMCA by the Delaware Water Gap offers tennis, hockey, volleyball, rowing, sailing and more.

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SPORTS CAMPS

There are tons of athletic programs with both day and sleepaway options that give your teen high-level sports training and access to traditional camp activities like swimming. Check out River Edge Farm Riding Day Camp in Bedminster (this one's just for girls), where she’ll learn horseback riding and equestrian skills. If she’s the next Carli Lloyd, send her to the United Soccer Academy in multiple NJ locations where she can brush up on skills like ball control. There are camps available for almost every sport—from golf to lacrosse—at every skill level. Many state colleges and universities also run sports camps, like Rider, Ramapo and Rutgers. If she’s looking to play her sport in college, have her coach recommend an intensive program.

SUMMER JOBS

A summer gig is a great way for him to take his first steps into the “adult world.” It’s an opportunity to earn and save his own money, and you might be surprised by how much he loves it. FYI: He might need to get working papers depending on his age. NJ law requires anyone under 18 who works to have an employment certificate. Have him print it at nj.gov/labor or at his school. Find out if any local restaurants, ice cream shops or retail stores are hiring—all smart choices for a first job.

VOLUNTEERING

There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer close to home this summer. It’s a meaningful way for your teen to learn the value of giving back to the community while gaining valuable life skills. Check national organizations like Grow-A-Row, Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. Of course, the library and local animal shelter are probably looking for help, but there are other places she can lend a hand, too. Pro tip: future college scholarships may be available if your teen meets a minimum number of volunteering hours.