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How to keep teens entertained when the Wi-Fi cuts out

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This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine. For more excellent entertaining tips, pick up a copy of the issue today.

Do you have sullen teen guests complaining about being so bored? We have three simple ways to keep them entertained while up at the lake.

Get cooking (on a rock!)

Teens are hard to impress, so forget the old-fashioned weenie roast. Preparing a meal on a campfire-heated rock “really has the wow factor,” says Luca Mercieca, the owner of J. Ballard Food Co. in Huntsville, Ont. Along with your chef’s hat, you’ll need a pair of long tongs, a good knife, a thermometer to check your meat, oil to coat your cooking rock (use safflower or peanut), and some salt and pepper. A flat, clean river rock is best; Mercieca suggests one that is around 30 lbs and three inches thick. Avoid rocks with moss, as well as limestone and concrete (both can poison your food).

Place your rock on flat ground and build the fire beside it, about a foot away. Be patient, it takes around 1 1⁄2 to 2 hours for the rock to heat up enough for cooking. “There’s no reason to rush. It’s all about the experience,” says Mercieca.

As for what to cook: the rock is your oyster; consider anything you might grill on your barbecue. Mercieca says you can’t go wrong with meat and potatoes. His final tip for budding outdoor chefs: “Don’t be afraid to get in there and get messy. It’s nothing a little olive oil can’t fix.” Step back, and let the Instagramming begin, #instafood.

Be playas

Need to update the ol’ games cupboard for your teen guests? First of all, RIP, Monopoly: “Monopoly is out,” says Tammy Federico, who gets many teenage customers at Crafts n’ Things Hobbies & Games, her Seguin, Ont., shop. “Even though there is a Monopoly for everything.”

Top teen picks include strategy-based Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride; trivia-ish Wits & Wagers; and Say Anything, where players answer open-ended questions, and “you can make it as tame or as wild as you want.” Also popular: Superfight. Players, using reason and logic, debate why their character (say, the Hulk), when equipped with powers (say, laser-beam eyes), would beat another’s. Zombie-themed games—there are lots, including, obvs, Zombieopoly—are hit-and-miss: “It depends on the person,” says Federico. “I’ve had some teens come into the store and say, ‘Zombies? Ew, no.’ ”

Upgrade movie night

Who says that at the cottage you can’t watch movies, TV shows, or a slideshow of all your food porn? Not us! Stick a phone in Uncommon Goods’ retro-looking DIY Smartphone Projector and it displays the bigified image on the cabin wall. So…Netflix and chill? (Kidding. Kidding.)