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Getting teens away from screens

By Tessa Buhrman

, |

Trudging around the golf course and playing tennis are ‘like so yesterday …’ your teenagers say, rolling their eyes skyward. Followed by a ‘there’s nothing to do here’ as their fingers tap the keys and the mayhem of one of a dozen blood-and-gore-filled computer games continues. This lament can be heard from tweens, teens and young adults the world over – gone are the days that residential estates could get away with the bare essentials of outdoor activities like (indoor or outdoor) gym, jogging and MTB trails, and a pool. The youth of today are way more demanding, and as parents and estate developers we need to take heed.

To get them away from their electronic devices we need to offer them more. Way more. Especially in terms of fun, excitement, adrenaline rush and connection – with both peers and parents. Staying connected with your child through adolescence while allowing them the freedom of exploration in a safe environment allows them, through trial and error, to learn about dealing with the consequences that choices bring – something being glued to a screen will never achieve.

There are lifestyle estates targeting niche markets, including golf, wildlife, equestrian and parkland, but none specifically targeting the youth. So, if you were to develop an estate specifically to attract families with teens, what would you do? What activities and adventures would be included in any teenager’s ‘perfect place to live’ estate? What would they deem cool enough to drag them away from their computer screens and into the great outdoors?

Surprisingly much:

  • How about a skate park, complete with ramps, rails and half-pipes? An urban street landscape recreated. Curbs, benches and other obstacles surrounded by walls covered with the obligatory graffiti. Walls that could be ‘cleaned’ on a regular basis, offering a blank canvas for budding artists – where an ‘art’ evening with vibey music and the ‘pchit’ of spray cans would keep youngsters entertained for hours. Perhaps a recreation centre could stock a supply of both new and weathered boards, and even a box of assorted coloured spray paints.
  • Convert the walls of a tall building into a climbing wall, or have a freestanding one custom built for indoors or out. Make sure it offers a variety of ‘terrain’ so as not to get boring quickly; include overhangs, sloped walls and areas of varying difficulty. Of course, you’ll need to have stringent safety systems, and rules about implementing them.
  • Is there a dam, river or estuary on the estate? Take the SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) that you offer to another level by offering SUP yoga. It is said that if you can breathe, you can do yoga, and if you can stand on one foot you can do yoga on the water! The width and length of a SUP board make it exceptionally stable, which lends itself to a variety of yoga poses. And being on the water requires more core engagement as well as a more mindful and slower approach to the practice.

Another option is a paintball park, which will probably appeal as much (or more) to grown-ups with Rambo complexes – a space where the battles on a video game can come to life in a safe outdoor environment, where pixel perfection is replaced by rugged and reckless. And where peers and parents can be involved in the game together. And your little warriors can get their heart rates up for real.

  • What about letting them get their hands dirty by establishing a veggie garden, complete with salad greens, herbs and snackable veggies? Those less inclined to dig in can build scarecrows in funky clothes and wind chimes adorned with glitter and sparkly sequins to dissuade the resident wildlife from foraging.
  • Following on from this, how about offering cooking classes followed by a MasterChef evening where the teens can cook and bake to their hearts’ content, and provide a banquet for their proud parents? You never know, there may be another Jamie Oliver lurking in your midst.
  • If you’re a pet-friendly estate, perhaps set up a Pooch Parade, where residents can sign up for communal dog walks along the streets and communal areas – imagine the cool pooch insta-moments this would create … keeping the obligatory poop-scoop and plastic bag well out of the frame!
  • Or what about an Insta-scavenger hunt? Where a list of ‘items’ need to be found and photographed … these could be themed and played over a few days. Themes could be around nature
    – identifying and photographing different trees on your eco-estate; architecture – different elements of buildings; food, and even just fun.
  • Establish a holiday school – not the boring kind where maths and science are studied, but where fun things like making movies, photography and creative writing are the subjects. All things that encourage the teens to get outdoors and practice their new-found skills. This could be followed by a fun evening of ‘show and tell’ where parents get to watch the movies, ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over the photographs and listen to short stories and poetry readings. Not only does this keep the teens busy and out of mischief, but they’re learning new skills and growing in confidence.
  • Golf estates could have fun night golf evenings – where parents team up with their teens armed only with a few golf clubs, luminous golf balls and a head torch. Sound too complicated?Then perhaps adventure golf is an option – it’s a hoot. Played with only one club (and obviously no golf carts), it’s scored on both strokes and time. Or if you’ve got the space set up a mashie course where the love of golf can be nurtured in a less intimidating environment.
  • What about street cricket? Set up a mini-IPL where teams compete in limited-over games over a period of a few days ending with the four best teams playing off for a cool prize. Or, if you dare, you can make the rules a tad more fluid, and allow for the possibility of every ‘cricket’ match ending up as Calvinball –a game played by Calvin and Hobbes in the eponymous comic strip. The only rule of Calvinball is that it can’t be played the same way twice. This can be a fabulous spectator sport so it can be quite a social event with non-players enjoying a picnic on the sidelines.
  • Another great spectator sport is quidditch – a game with which Harry Potter fans will be very familiar, as it’s been played in the wizarding world for over 1,000 years. Real quidditch is a bit tricky if you can’t fly a broomstick, but Muggle Quidditch, which has a surprisingly large international following, takes that limitation into account. It is played astride a broomstick, but players are permitted to keep their feet on the ground. A quidditch court would certainly set your estate apart.

Offering adventures and activities is not just a great idea for the younger generation but provides opportunities for parents to spend time with their kids in their environment doing things that they love. As the old saying goes … how do you spell love? T.I.M.E.

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