They said it would happen, and it did. I blinked, and the next thing I knew, I had a senior in high school! How did that happen?
I’ve heard from other parents that senior year goes by so fast, and I can see why. College applications or developing future plans, finishing up a rigorous course load, jobs, sports, and tons of graduation activities can make it hard to fit in some quality time with dear old Mom and Dad.
And I get it. I remember what it was like to be 18 and ready to fly the nest (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.)
But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on making some senior memories with my teenager. Time stops for no one, and I wanted to make the most of what could be our last full year together.
How to create a senior year bucket list
The term “bucket list” originates from the phrase “before you kick the bucket,” but now it is more about creating a list of things you want to accomplish in a specific time period instead of before death. Our bucket list allowed us to articulate what my daughter and I wanted to explore together before she left for college. It focused our attention and made us more accountable.
The first thing we decided is this was a bucket list in name only. It wasn’t about completing every task exactly as much as it was about spending some time together. We wanted to complete it during her senior year, but we know that life happens, so we committed to just doing our best and ticking off items whenever possible.
Here are three tips to get you started:
1. Set some parameters
Over the summer, I told my teen daughter my plan. I wanted to come up with bucket list items we could do together that wouldn’t add a lot of stress or extra time to her plate but that would provide us with some great memories and bonding experiences before she flew the nest.
Surprisingly, she sounded just as excited as I was. I think she really liked the idea of us doing something together where she could have input and some control.
We also needed to be cost-conscious because college expenses were just around the corner.
I took my daughter to our favorite coffee shop, and we started chatting about some fun things we both liked to do. Because she does everything from her phone, we decided to create a profile on BucketList.net. There are a few bucket list apps, but they don’t have the resources of Bucketlist.net.
Your online profile lets you make a list, keep a record of achievements, meet others who want to achieve life goals and be inspired by their achievements. We liked being able to browse others’ bucket lists and comments so we could decide what we wanted to do.
We also decided to do no more than ten things on our bucket list. With academics, sports, and college planning, I didn’t want it to seem like another responsibility, so we felt ten activities were manageable (one per month if you broke it down.)
2. Start brainstorming “big picture” ideas
Instead of picking specific ideas to start, we thought we’d come up with some big-picture ideas–headings that could guide us to what we wanted to do together.
For example, we both knew we loved to see new places, so travel was one heading. Then we created a few more to help guide us to our specific list. Here are ten experiences we put together:
- Personal growth
- Just for fun
Breaking it down into chunks, it helped us start to visualize the types of activities we could do, but more importantly, it helped us hone in on some of the things we would both like to do.
3. Create your list
Once we had our big-picture items, the ideas started flowing. We wrote all our ideas on paper and then started two lists: One was for her senior year, the other was a list we would keep for things we wanted to do longer-term that we didn’t think we could fit in for senior year (Yes, I almost cried when she suggested to make the second list.)
Here is what we came up with for our senior year bucket list, and then scroll down below to find more ideas to get your creative juices flowing with your teen.
- Photo shoot: we had a specific session for her senior photos, but we asked our neighbor to take a few of just together at a local park. My teen coordinated the outfits, and we honored her special request to include our dog in a few of our shots.Note: I did make a photo book for my teen and included these shots at the end.
- Blood donation: When your teen turns 17, they can become a blood donor if they qualify. As a long-term donor myself, I was touched that she would even consider it. We picked two dates about four months apart and scheduled our donation and then lunch afterward.
- Hike new trail: we found a hiking area about 45 minutes from home to try out.
- See a musical: my daughter and I both love Broadway-type shows, so we decided to support her friends and see the school musical together.
- Weekend trip: This one was tough because my daughter is an athlete and has two siblings, so finding the right weekend was challenging. We found a great weekend spot and went off-season to keep costs low.
- Movie marathon: my senior agreed to watch three of my favorite 80s movies with me, and I would also watch three of her teen favorites. We started this on one rainy Sunday where we binge-watched three movies in a row while eating popcorn.
- Concert: This is where we decided to splurge (and we also included Dad). We told her to find a show she wanted to attend with us, and we would buy the tickets as part of her graduation gift. We were thankful it was Ed Sheeran!
- The coffee shop tour: once a month, we went and tried a local coffee shop. My daughter loves supporting small businesses, but she also likes a good latte (this was my favorite item on the list.)
- New workouts: This one was hard for me, as my daughter is an athlete and I’m more of a walker, but she loves to try new fitness classes. We found a few opportunities at our local Y and committed to signing up, including Yoga, a partner workout class, Tabata, and funk-aerobics. We also are considering signing up for a self-defense class before she leaves for college.
- Cake class: our local bakery offers a cake decorating class, and while neither of us is artistic, we decided to be brave. It ended up being so much more fun (and delicious than I could have imagined.)
More senior year bucket list ideas
- Go to a sporting event
- Cook your favorite family meal together
- Create a family recipe book
- Volunteer (animal shelter, foodbank, crisis center, etc.)
- Create a shared playlist
- Go to a new beach/park
- Go to every local museum
- Write letters for each of you to open in 10 years
- Do a color run
- Play hooky from work/school together
- Plant a garden
- Do old-school arts and crafts
- Make homemade cookies or ice cream
- Watch a sunrise and a sunset
- Look at baby photos of you and your teen
- Visit farmer’s markets
- Learn a new instrument together
- Try an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
- Take a trip to visit a family member
- Collect goods or money for charity
- Make a family tree
- Get on the water (paddle, canoe, kayak)
- Go on a picnic
- Plan a dream trip
- College visits
- Learn to meditate
Keep an open mind
When the goal is to make memories and spend one-on-one time together, what you do doesn’t matter. Just let your teen take the lead whenever possible, and enjoy!