1. Put Elmer’s glue on your hand and peel it off
This one’s a classic kid thing. Sure, it’s a waste of glue, but it’s fun to freak people out when they think you’re pulling your skin off. Maybe this is where the current obsession with face masks originated from…
2. Pretend the floor is lava
If you never pretended the floor was lava or full of sharks and jumped around various pieces of furniture, I’m so sorry. This was one of my favorite things to do as a kid and was even more fun when you set up obstacle courses and little islands around the room using miscellaneous furniture.
3. Find animals in the clouds
Another kid classic, this one is perfect for a beautiful day or long car rides. Because most of my family lives in northern New York, I spent full days in the car when we drove up to visit them. I was never able to read without getting motion sickness, and I was too restless to nap, so I spent most of the 14-hour journey trying to find as many animals in the clouds as possible.
4. Spend a day at the local library
Who doesn’t love free books? Most local libraries will have programs for specific age groups to help promote a love for reading. With the number of books available, you can pick and choose the ones you love the most and might even come up with a few story ideas of your own.
5. Write a story
It’s okay if it sucks. No one’s first story turns out to be a best seller. I’ll admit that the first “story” I wrote was probably along the lines of a Harry Potter fanfiction that will never see the light of day (assuming I haven’t already shredded/deleted it). Like going to the local library, writing stories when you’re younger allows your creativity to come out through words. These stories can even lead to a bigger future. Aside from stories, I wrote songs as a child, which turned into journal-writing and poetry, which turned into me pursuing a major in creative writing. Who knows? I might make a career out of it.
6. Tell ghost stories at sleepovers
Everyone needs a good scare here and there, don’t they? I’ll never forget when my cousin told me a story about saying Bloody Mary’s name three times while facing a mirror in the dark and watching her pop up. I couldn’t look at a mirror in the dark for longer than I care to admit and even turned my mirrors around before I went to bed. Telling ghost stories at sleepovers seems like a traditional, almost stereotypical thing to do (like gossiping and pillow fights and no one sleeping until 3 AM), but that’s because ghost stories bring us closer together, physically and mentally, grasping hands as you huddle together in sleeping bags, sleepless and nervous giggles tittering quietly as the storyteller whisper eerily in the flashlight. There seems to be an anticipation in ghost stories that both thrills and chills you to the bone like no other, and that is why they’re so important.
7. Play dress up
I once wore a wedding dress and a fireman’s jacket and hat, and yes, there is photographic evidence. Another tool in fostering creativity and broadening one’s imagination, playing dress up allows children to explore new identities and create new realities outside of their heads. So play the princess and have a tea party and learn how to manage your kingdom; fight off pirates who are trying to commandeer your ship or be the pirate in search of treasure; cosplay as your favorite character from that one book you read over and over again, learn their mannerisms, and connect with others who have the same interests. Parade around your house in your new wardrobe and let your mind run wild.
8. Try a new hobby
Not everything is for everyone. I can’t build a robot or play soccer for the life of me, and I know some of my friends might fall flat on their behinds if they tried to dance. It’s okay to try something and fail and hate it because what matters is you tried to make the best of the worst. Now, I say this with a word of caution, and this part is also directed to parents: do not trying everything (or make your child try everything). You will become overwhelmed and occasionally indecisive when schedules start to conflict. Finding a few activities that you really love and sticking with them will help in the long run. This is especially important when it comes time to apply to colleges; many admissions counselors told me that while expressing interest in tons of different things is okay, what they really love is seeing someone who has a few hobbies that they’re dedicated to.
9. Go on an adventure
Explore your hometown and find the quirky local shops. Road-trip with your besties. Walk the trails at a nature park. Go to historical sites with your family. Visit the local farmers’ market. Travel to a new country even if you don’t speak the language. Find something that takes you out of your routine and experience the world beyond your little bubble.
10. Go to a school dance
Whether it’s a middle school dance or prom, school dances are a lovely mixture of drama, the “fist pump in the air when the beat drops” dance move, girls crying in the bathroom, the “awkward swaying and shuffling side-to-side” slow dance, and trying to avoid the teacher chaperones. Sounds fun, right? In actuality, while those things do happen, there is some good that comes from school dances. There’s always food! I think I spent more of my senior prom at the food tables than I did on the dance floor. Even if they don’t seem like “your thing”, I do advocate for everyone to go to at least one school dance (high school dances are marginally better than middle school). It can be fun to dress up and hang out with your friends, and no one will be upset with you if you didn’t stay until the end. You might wind up having more fun than you expect.
11. Try different foods
I’ll admit this is a hard one for me, but I try my best to be an adventurous eater (try being the key word). There’s something comforting in eating foods you know you like, but it can be monotonous and boring if you continue eating the same thing day after day. Trying different foods can be super helpful, especially if you also like to travel. I went to China at the end of my sophomore year and went in with the mindset of “don’t ask what you’re eating; just eat sit”, and for the most part, it worked. I had various meats that I’m still not sure exactly what they were, different types of mushrooms, lotus root, scallion pancakes, and pomegranate juice among other things, and members of my group ate donkey, fish eyeballs, chicken hearts, and some creature’s testicles. I’m not saying you have to get that adventurous when it comes to cuisine, but trying things that are out of the ordinary for you isn’t such a bad idea.
12. Write a letter to your future self
The only thing I like about cleaning out my room is going through mementos from my childhood, and a couple of times in the last few years, I’ve been required to write a letter to my future self with goals that I hoped to accomplish. Looking back on them, the letters can seem light-hearted or painful, but they’re a wonderful step to see where you’ve been, where you are now, and how you got there. If you don’t want to worry about potentially losing the letter in a move or house fire, FutureMe allows you to write it electronically and set the date that you want to receive your letter.
13. Learn how to cook and do your own laundry
At some point in your life, you will probably live the stereotypical “broke college student” life, during which you will not have the funds to afford to eat out every day. It’s equally as likely that you won’t be able to send your laundry home to your parents every weekend or two for them to take care of. Don’t be like my mom’s orientation roommate that needed my mom to teach her how to do laundry because she didn’t know already. Sometime before you leave for college (and I don’t mean two weeks before – give it a couple months at the very least), learn how to cook for yourself and deal with your own laundry (color or weight sorting, how much detergent to use, dealing with delicates, to dry or not to dry, etc.). For tips on how to cook at college, Spoon University provides dorm-friendly recipes and has specific chapters at various colleges and universities.
14. Fall in love
Fall in love with the way someone’s laugh reminds you of your favorite song. Fall in love with how someone’s eyes reflect the moon or how their hair always smells like coconuts. Fall in love with how the inside of someone’s arms feels like home and how beautiful they look when they sleep. Fall in love with your best friends, the smiles you share, the teasing, the inside jokes. Fall in love with the earth – the way snow falls silently on a winter’s night, how the ocean retreats but always comes back to kiss the shoreline again and again, how flowers bloom in hundreds of colors beyond description. Fall in love with words and the way they paint pictures in your mind, unique to those around you. Fall in love with yourself. Fall in love with your crooked nose, your not-quite-perfectly-white teeth, the way your hair flows from your head. Fall in love with the person in the mirror staring back at you.
15. Experience heartbreak
Learn what it’s like to lose. Figure out what it’s like when your heart drops to your stomach, and your body shakes uncontrollably, and you feel like nothing will ever be okay again. Cry. Eat a pint of ice cream on your own because food is the only thing that will never desert you. Scream. Punch a pillow. Curse whatever higher being you may or may not believe in. Then, pick yourself up off the floor, throw away the dirty tissues and empty ice cream cartons, dust yourself off, take care of your personal hygiene, and walk back out into the world. Whether it’s someone or something, whoever or whatever you’ve lost will not be the end of you. Yes, recognize that failure is inevitable and discover what it’s like to feel as if nothing could ever be worse, but also understand that you will survive this mess.
16. Get a job
Between academics and extracurriculars, I never had time for an official job during the school year; however, I’ve had a summer job for the last five years, and I babysit year-round when I can. By having a job as a teenager, you’ll already have experience in things such as resume writing, interviews, money management, tax papers, and time management. Most colleges and universities will offer work study as part of their financial aid options, so having prior experience in the work field will help. Whether it’s an on-and-off babysitting gig or a regular, part-time job after school, jobs teach responsibility necessary for adulthood (and help keep you from having to borrow money from people).
17. Register to vote
Did you know that you can register to vote at sixteen in North Carolina? Voter registration and pre-registration differs for every state, but most states allow you to register at sixteen or seventeen. Despite this fact, according to the United States Census Bureau, the 18-29 year old age group has consistently had the lowest voter turnout from 1980 to 2016, peaking in 1992 at a whopping 52%. Your voice matters, and if you want to see a change in the way this country runs, you have to be loud. If you have the resources to do so, register to vote as soon as you legally can, then use those resources to help disenfranchised people register as well.
18. Take photographs
My grandmother goes everywhere with her camera, and I can’t tell you how many years of cookie baking, pumpkin carving, and candids she has on her computer. I was annoyed with the constant picture-taking for a while (did we really need that many photos of me making cookies every single year?), but I also have been able to recognize how important these photographs. No matter how hard you try, you can’t stop time. In the blink of an eye, you’ll be an adult, ready to take on the world. The best way to freeze a moment in time is through photographs. Portraits chronicle birthdays, weddings, impending babies, holidays, graduations, and loved ones who have passed away. Going into senior year is an excellent time to have portraits done because senior portraits are some of the last childhood photographs you’ll have, but portraits at any stage in life are important because once the moment’s passed, you’ll never be able to do it over again in the same way.