If you listen closely, you can hear the collective sound of teens all over the country groaning, “Ughhhh!!! Back to School already?!” The stores are filled with back to school sales, school supply aisles are fully stocked, and alarm clocks are being dusted off.
Here we are in August and if your teens haven’t gone back to school yet, they’re about to!!! BUMMER!!! Here in Ft. Lauderdale, our kids went back to school on Monday which gave me a perfect opportunity to have a little Back to School FUN (yes, I said fun) with my High School Youth Group Teens. I promoted the night as ‘The LAST CHANCE to celebrate the LAST TWO HOURS of Summer 2015’. My group meets from 7-9pm on Sunday Nights so it literally was their last few hours of summer.
It seems teens these days have WAY more on their plates than we ever did. The biggest worry I had going back to school was what awesome new outfit I was going to wear or how high I was going tease my bangs. (Yes, it was the 80’s) These days, at least for my teens, they are already stressed before the first bell rings on Monday morning. Many of them take online courses over summer, have summer AP homework to finish, or books left to read. I feel for teens these days, we didn’t have any of that crazyness. Summer was just summer. But, here we are in 2015 and it is what it is. So, this was my attempt to put a smile on their faces the night before school started and to bring a little stress free school supply shenanigans!
I combined some school supply minute to win it type games with a good discussion and a brand new challenge to keep everyone focused and positive as they begin a brand new school year.
I began the meeting by simply going around the room and having everyone share what they did over summer. (Our group breaks in July so it was the first time many of them had seen eachother). Once we had a chance to share a bit, I showed them all the video “Word Crimes” by Weird Al Yankovik. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it. It’s hilarious (and so true!). That got everyone laughing and smiling immediately and then I proceeded to begin my famous Back to School Minute to Win It Competition. All of the games use regular school supply items and are easy and fun to do. I will list the game names and items you need first – then the game instructions will follow below.
List of Games and What You’ll Need for Each:
1 Table (either card table or regular 2×6 foot table)
1 Stopwatch (or cell phone with stopwatch capabilities)
Eraser Bounce- Three regular No. 2 Pencils, 3 Regular Size Solo Cups
Back Flip- 12 regular No. 2 Pencils
Rapid Fire- 3 empty soda cans, a bowl of regular rubber bands
Breakfast Scramble- Two cereal box front covers cut into puzzle shapes/pieces (I used Lucky Charms and Capt’n Crunch. I pre-cut each cover into approx. 20 pieces of all different shapes and sizes. I purposely cut words and main character pictures apart. I put each box cover puzzle into a ziplock bag so they would not get mixed up with each other.)
Paper Airplane Navigation 101- A stack of regular printer paper, trash can
Gone- Two regular (old school) trapazoid shaped erasers (the hand held kind that are usually pink – although I found some this year in different colors and patterns), two sheets of printer paper
Lunchbox Rush- Two metal or plastic (old school) lunch boxes. They must have a lock/secure fastener. They must be either metal or plastic so they teens cannot stuff too much in them. Also, you need a good amount of random items. Each must fit in the lunchbox with the lid closed, but not all at the same time. (ie. VHS tapes, small balls, staplers, etc.)
Play it By Ear- 5 small boxes (jewelry size works great) and paperclips in denominations of 5, 10, 15, 20, & 25.
Schedule Balance- Three balloons blown up with regular air, sharpee marker
Stack Attack- 36 regular solo cups
Youth Group Detention- a spiral notebook or lined sheet of paper
Eraser Bounce- 1 player at a time. Arrange the three cups on the table in a row with about a foot of space in between. Player must bounce the pencil off the eraser side and try to get it to land inside the cup. Must do all three in a minute. Or, if several players attempt and cannot do, whichever player gets the most (or 1) in wins.
Back Flip- 1 player at a time. Arrange the 12 pencils in pairs of two and lay them on the table with a few inces of space in between. Player must balance two pencils on the back/top of his/her hand (palm facing the floor) and then let them roll off their hand and catch them with the same hand. (catch by grabbing and making a fist) Once two have been caught, player adds two more pencils for a total of 4 on their hand. Then continue to add until all 12 pencils are being attempted. Must complete in 1 minute.
Rapid Fire- 1 player at a time. Arrange the three soda cans on the table with about a foot of space between them. Player must stand at the designated spot a distance away from the table. They must fling the rubber bands to knock down the soda cans. Knock down all three in 1 minute.
Breakfast Scramble- 2 players at a time. I set each cereal box’s puzzle pieces face up at opposite ends of the table. I made sure each box’s pieces were shuffled as well. Once the clock starts, the players have 1 minute to put their cereal box covers back together (like a puzzle). First player finished wins.
Paper Airplane Navigation 101- 1 player at a time. Player stands next to a designated spot on the floor a good distance away from the trash can. Player has 1 minute to make a paper airplane and send it flying through the air to land inside the trash can.
Gone- 2 players at a time. Give each player a piece of paper and an eraser. Players have 1 minute to erase away as much of their eraser as possible. When the minute is up, hold both erasers up next to each other and see which player was able to make more of their eraser disappear (smaller). The person who erased the most of their eraser away wins.
Lunchbox Rush- 2 players at a time. Place each metal or plastic lunch box on the floor next to a tray or bucket of random items. Each player has to move ALL of the random items to the other side of the room (another designated place) using only the lunchbox. Lunchbox lid MUST BE CLOSED AND FASTENED/LOCKED during the transfer. In other words, they cannot stuff it, or carry it with the lid open. This means they will need to make multiple trips so it becomes a good race. The first one to move all their items successfully to the other side of the room wins.
Play It By Ear- 1 player at a time. Before the meeting, put the paper clips into the boxes. Box 1 gets 5 paperclips, box 2 gets 10, box 3 gets 15, box 4 gets 20, box 5 gets 25. Tape the boxes shut so the lids are secure. Arrange all the boxes on a table in one single verticle stack. Once the minute begins, the player must shake and listen to the box to decide what the correct order is(smallest amount to largest amount). They must arrange the boxes in the correct order (side by side is fine- 5,10,15,20,25) in a minute.
Schedule Balance- 1 player at a time. Write on the three balloons with a sharpee – Balloon 1 should read “Schoolwork” Balloon 2 should read “Social Time” Balloon 3 should read “Youth Group” Give the player all three balloons. He/She must keep all three in the air for one minute without any touching the floor.
Stack Attack- 1 player at a time. Place all 36 cups in one verticle stack on top of the table. Player has 1 minute to stack all 36 cups into a single pyramid and then collapse them back into one stack. (tip- There should be 8 cups in the bottom row)
Youth Group Detention- 2 players at a time. Each player gets 1 lined sheet of paper and a pen/pencil. He/She has 1 minute to fill the entire page (every line…complete left to right) by writing “I LOVE YOUTH GROUP” The first one to finish in 1 minute wins. If neither finish, the person with the most complete page wins.
The games were a great time. Lots of smiles and laughs and cheering. Once that was finished, I began a discussion on how we prepare ourselves for back to school. Many view it as a new year and take on a new attitude. Some take the ‘bummer’ approach. Some try to start out with a positive outlook, but fail before the end of the first week.
Here are a few discussion starter questions I used:
New Year, New You?
Who will YOU be this year?
What are you excited about?
What are you not excited about?
What goals do you set at the beginning of the year?
(To make straight A’s? Keep locker tidy? Stay organized? Get all homework done before dinner?)
How long does that last? (a day, a week, a month, longer?)
Do you start off hopeful and positive and then get discouraged by the time the first quiz rolls around? First week ends? First report card?
After a good discussion, I presented my teens with a challenge to keep them SMILING and POSITIVE amidst the total BUMMER of Back to School. Perhaps you have already heard of the 100 Happy Days challenge? Or seen someone post a photo on social media with a #100HappyDays? If you haven’t already seen it, I encourage you to go to their site and find out about it. I will also do a separate blog post about it as well, but in brief…the project challenges you to be happy for 100 straight days in a row. I thought it was the perfect challenge for my teens to begin their school year with a smile that will continue well beyond their first day. And, ultimately, will succeed in making them more aware of the little things as well as fostering a ‘habit’ of finding something to be happy about every single day (even after the challenge) no matter how bad your day is.
My plan was to have them begin this challenge on their first day of school and continue for 100 straight days (ending date in Nov).
I do plan to write a separate blogpost on this later this week, but for now, check out the 100 Happy Days Foundation website at: www.100HappyDays.com
It was a great meeting for my group and if you decide to use any of the ideas with your teens, I pray it is a success as well!