After-school activities are helpful for kids from elementary school to high school. They help fill the extra few hours after school gets out before parents are done with a typical workday. About 60% of teenagers are currently enrolled in some type of organized after-school activity, and it’s easy to see why. Kids can improve their social skills, build self-esteem, and explore different interests.
It can be hard to find the right fit sometimes, so we have pulled together a list of the best after-school activities for teens to give you some new ideas and help you fill in the time with meaningful activities.
Check in with your teenagers on a regular basis to make sure they have enough time to get their school work done, care for their mental health, and get enough sleep. It’s easy to overpack schedules when there are so many great options, so setting aside some time for breaks is good as well and creates healthy routines. Browse our list and see what options stand out for your children.
After-School Adventures from Scratch
If you’re looking for ideas to enjoy with the entire family or want your kids to find ideas for things to do after school, check out Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition. This book includes over 50 challenges, as well as tear-out surprises and other interactive elements. Each experience is designed to appeal to kids of all ages, and tasks can be customized to suit any budget or comfort level. Grab your copy today!
Extracurricular Activities and After-School Programs for Teens
Schools and community centers organize all kinds of enrichment programs and classes for kids of all ages. These organized activities are great for college applications and can provide some great structure for the after-school hours. Some are provided free and others may have a cost associated to help cover costs for materials and instructors. Talk to your teenager and see which ones they are most excited to try.
1. Have Fun Learning with a Robotics Team
STEM activities have become more and more popular with younger children. Schools are offering more opportunities for kids to continue their learning and excitement after school. Robotics teams are one of the best examples. There are many robotics competitions held around the United States each year and high school teams work to build robots that can compete against other robots to complete tasks.
The FIRST Robotics Competition is one example and they have almost 4,000 teams that compete each year. There are regional competitions where the winners advance to the next level before competing for the national titles. It’s a cool way to learn more about engineering and creativity while meeting kids from all over the country and even the world.
2. Play an Instrument
Learning to play a musical instrument increases cognitive abilities. It helps use a different part of the brain. Lessons are offered in everything from guitar to drums to voice lessons. Most high schools have band and orchestra options to help meet other kids and play together. There are also individual lessons to improve a specific instrument.
In addition to helping with cognitive abilities, playing instruments can help build confidence, improve patience and memory, and relieve stress. It’s something that all the family members can enjoy while practicing at home. Even if there isn’t interest in joining the school band or orchestra, there are plenty of other kids looking to put bands together to play and have fun creating together.
3. Offer to Help Other Students in a Homework Help Group
Is there a certain subject that your high school student excels in? Encourage them to sign up to help other students with some tutoring and homework help. They say that you learn even more when you teach and this will give your teenager the chance to give back and help others as well. Many schools have organized programs or can direct you to local community centers or afterschool programs that are looking for help.
Recently, there has been a large expansion of online options for tutoring. You can sign up to help someone online with their homework or lessons. Some options are paid and others are volunteer, but it’s a good way to put knowledge and skills to use.
4. Take On Opponents in a Chess Club
The game of chess is a classic and saw a huge resurgence in popularity in the last year thanks to the hit Netflix show, The Queen’s Gambit. Chess can help improve focus, creativity, self-awareness, and memory. Children who play chess can enhance important life skills like learning from mistakes, planning ahead, and coping with loss. Plus, it’s fun to play at home with parents and siblings as well.
Many schools have chess clubs that help teach the game and then give students a place to practice. It is an equalizer where younger children beat older children and beginners can win against more advanced players. The club can help match members with other players and give them a place to observe and get better.
5. Act or Assist in a Theater Production
The beauty of the theater is the variety that it offers. There are so many kinds of productions and ways to get involved. Acting is an obvious option—kids can audition and will be kept busy memorizing lines, practicing choreography, or working on timing, all of which can be great for continued brain development.
If acting and the spotlight are not interests of your teenagers, there are so many behind-the-scenes people needed for productions. Directors, musicians, set builders, and costume designers are all important parts of putting these shows together. It can be a great way to meet new people and be part of something. Plus, it’s incredibly rewarding to see the hard work come together into a finished product.
6. Learn a New Foreign Language
The United States is behind much of the rest of the world in language. 92% of European students are learning at least one other language. In the United States, that number is only at 20%. By taking another language, students are going to be already ahead of many of their peers. Have a fun conversation with your teenager about places they’d like to travel to in the future and choose one of those languages so they can work towards a goal.
Taking a language that is popular in the US can be another great option that can help in the future with employment. After English, the most common languages are Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, and French. Many high schools offer classes in foreign languages, but there are also community courses and online classes to take after school to offer additional practice.
7. Participate in Team Sports
Physical activity is a great stress reliever and helps build great habits. Team sports are a fun way to meet other kids the same age and work together on a similar goal. Most high schools have teams for all kinds of sports. Each season has its own options, so students can choose up to three sports to participate in.
If the time commitment to a varsity team is too much, there are lots of community sports teams that are great options. Local recreation centers are good places to start. There are also pick-up leagues for basketball, hockey, and even some less conventional team sports like pickleball and dodgeball. There is something for every level, so don’t be discouraged from starting something new as a teenager.
Solo After-School Activities for Teens
In addition to the organized activities put on by schools, there is plenty of variety in after-school activities for teens that can be done on their own at home or out and about. It’s good to have options and not spend too much time and energy on just one thing. Screen time is a big issue for a lot of parents today, so it’s important to give teenagers some options away from their screens. It’s also realistic to assume that they will not spend at least some time playing on their phones.
8. Stay Busy Putting Together Puzzles
Some people view puzzles as an activity for toddlers and senior citizens but open any box and you’ll be surprised how many people enjoy putting together a puzzle. You can find all kinds of designs featuring travel destinations, beautiful artwork, or even customize the puzzle to be a picture of your family. It can be a great stress reliever, so keep a bunch on hand at home and pull them out for everyone to work on when they have a little time.
If traditional cardboard puzzles aren’t cutting it, consider picking up a Lego set that has to be built following instructions. It can help prepare them to build Ikea furniture someday.
9. Community Service and Volunteer Opportunities
Sign your teenager up for some community service activities after school. Check-in with local shelters and see if they need assistance with office work, cleaning, cooking, or hanging out with younger kids. It’s such a great way to learn more about the community.
We mentioned tutoring or homework help opportunities above, but there are other ways you can work with younger kids in the area. Coaching sports teams for preschoolers and elementary school kids is often done by teenagers.
Nonprofit organizations are always looking for help and assistance. There are great opportunities to gain some experience in marketing, computer programs, and working in an office setting. There is always something to help with around the office or out in the field, so send an email and see your teenager can spend an afternoon or two each week helping out.
10. Play Video Games
Video games are one of the most popular activities for teenagers and it may seem like an unhealthy afterschool activity, but there are benefits. Video games can work out your mind and increase the brain’s muscle control. It improves manual dexterity and has been used as a therapy method for people who need help regaining control of their hands (like stroke victims). Problem-solving skills are improved as well.
Video games are constantly evolving. Many games now require social skills as teens work with their friends and other team members on games through the internet and online gaming. Virtual reality games are becoming more popular and are more physically active.
They don’t have the best historical reputation, but technology is constantly changing and it’s important to understand both sides. There are some great benefits to having video games in moderation, but you just don’t want that to consume all of your teenagers’ free time.
11. Get a Job at a Local Restaurant or Store
With so many available jobs, teenagers have their pick of a part-time gig. It’s a great way to make some money to start saving for something large or just have a little spending money for fun. There are restrictions in place about how many hours younger people can work, so you don’t have to worry about late nights.
These jobs can help keep kids busier during breaks, which is great if your teenager has outgrown summer camps and other activities. Restaurants and retail shops are great places to start, but internships are also available at some larger companies. It’s the perfect way to start building a resume and making connections while learning important skills they will need in the future.
12. Help Out with Chores at Home
As teens grow up, their chores and responsibilities at home should grow with them. You want to make sure they are prepared to move out on their own when the time comes. After-school is the perfect time to get some of those items checked off. Walk the dog, get some laundry done, help prep dinner, or get some cleaning done.
Each household has specific needs, so there’s no perfect list of chore assignments in your home. Just consider including your teenagers in the conversation and have them assist more in the tasks that need to get completed.
13. Train for Physical Activities
Playing team sports is great for many kids, but it’s not the only way to incorporate physical activity into afterschool routines. Talk to them about training for a running race or bicycle event. There are great training resources available online that come with calendars and plans to best prepare.
Individual sports are great too. Swimming, tennis, dance, yoga, and golf are all options that teenagers can practice after school. Anything that gets the body moving is great. Especially after spending a day sitting at desks and working on the brain, it’s good to have some time set aside to move.
14. Read a Good Book
Encourage your kids of any age to do a little reading that is just for fun. Schools will always assign books that go along with the lessons they are teaching. Sometimes the books don’t come near the personal interests of some of the students. It’s important to keep books that are fun to read around.
Make sure everyone in the family has a library card, so they have access to the entire catalog. Interest in reading may come and go a little over time, but continuing to be introduced to new books and topics can help keep it top of mind. Libraries have lots of great features like book clubs for teenagers and fun reading challenges to get involved with as well.
15. Babysit Elementary School Students
If you live in a neighborhood that has a lot of families, there are probably multiple parents at any given time looking for help with their younger kids in the after-school hours. If your teenager likes helping with kids, have them put out their information to be a babysitter for the after-school hours.
This is a great way to earn a little extra money and help out family and friends with child care. It can be incredibly difficult to find qualified childcare for just an hour or two each day. Having the help of local teenagers that can help the kids get snacks, start their schoolwork, and supervise the young school-age children from pick up at the end of the school day until their parents are done with work is fantastic.
16. Create Crafts and Projects
Do you have artistic tweens or teens at home? Stock your supply closet with paints, markers, colored pencils, and other craft supplies so they have access to create something in their free time after school. It doesn’t matter how many years old your kids are, there are coloring books and craft projects that they will love.
Take a trip with them to a local craft store and let them pick out some things that interest them. If they have some say in the supplies you pick out, they will be more inclined to use the items when they are looking for something to keep them busy. Jewelry making is a popular choice for many teens, but they want to be able to select the beads and items instead of having adults choose for them.
17. Enjoy Some Screen Time
Most teenagers have smartphones. Each household has unique rules about screen time and when they can use their phones and social media. Communicate with your teenager and let them know what the expectations are for their phones. If they are spending hours creating trending TikToks without getting their school work done, there is a problem.
Set limits and guidelines that allow them to keep up with their friends and classmates both online and in the classroom. Phones allow you to set limits for different apps and screen time overall so you can decide together what is an appropriate amount of time.
In addition to phones, watching TV is a favorite after-school activity for many. Again, it’s all about the guidelines and expectations you have for your family. If you’re good with a little relaxation time after the school day, but you want to cap it at 30 minutes – just be clear about it and follow up to make sure your rules are followed.
Discuss the Options With Your Teen
Sitting down and including them in the conversation is important. Find out what they would like to spend more time doing and then use the internet to find what classes and after-school activities are available in your area.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is a huge variety of after-school activities for teens. Kids could apply for part-time jobs, sign up for volunteer opportunities, play on sports team, audition for a performance, or join a club.
There are plenty of after-school activities for teens that aren’t sports. Find out what schools offer in terms of clubs, or check out local community centers for groups or classes.