TIPS FOR A FUN NEIGHBORHOOD PLAYDATE
Slow afternoons are my favorite. Preparing a large, healthy-ish snack and setting out an art or play-prompt gathers my crew and the children who tag along with them. I love a full yard of kids. Yes, it’s messy and chaotic. But it also creates a wonderful sense of love and community. I like creating a safe, fun space where my kids can bring their friends to play and unwind. I’m going to miss the crazy one day, so I’m embracing it while I can.
Here are my top tips for creating an environment where children and adults love to come together.
Prepare a healthy-ish snack, and lots of it! I like to do a tray of cut up fruit- watermelon or summer cherries are always a big hit. Pair the fruit with a crunchy dry snack like a big bag of popcorn, pirates booty, or pretzels. Then add a “treat” which might be chocolate chip cookies, popsicles or mini Trader Joe’s ice cream cones on a hot day.
I bring out a big pitcher of icy water or juice boxes and a fat black sharpie marker. A marker? YES. This way everyone can label their cups/ juice boxes and you avoid waste and confusion.
Put out a SIMPLE activity to draw the children in when they first get home. The trick here is to use what you have, keep it very simple and inexpensive. Pay attention here…. DON’T put a lot of effort into it. That way you won’t be annoyed if they ignore the activity and run off to scooter. It also ensures that you won’t feel put-out or burned out over time.
SIMPLE YARD ACTIVITIES
My go-to is usually chalk, mallets, brushes and water (SEEN HERE). The kids can draw with chalk, or smash it up and make chalk paint. This activity is great for all ages. There are few kids I know who can resist the mallet to smash up some chalk… so therapeutic!
Sometimes, I’ll dig around in the garage and find old wood scraps and bring out hammers and nails and rubber bands. If they get super into it, I’ll add paint or sharpies.
Another simple one is a large thrifted mirror and paint sticks (SEEN HERE). Not messy, very engaging and lots of children can work on it at a time. Bonus? Clean up is a snap. You just need to hose it all down at the end.
With full tummies and after some time spent relaxing with the activity, the children all usually grab bikes, scooters and wagons and take off running and playing. This gives the adults a chance to catch up and get some much needed grown up conversation in.
Sometimes, I don’t mind if the children wander in and out of the house…. But sometimes, my house is clean and I want it to stay that way. We set clear limits about whether or not going in the house is allowed. I’ll just say, “Our house is closed today, sorry!” OR “It is an outside-only day.” Setting clear and firm limits regarding what you are comfortable with is KEY to enjoying big get togethers and not dreading them.
I am extremely lucky to live on a dead end street with lots of awesome families. My favorite Spring afternoons are spent on the front lawn with the dog running up and down fetching a ball while the kids get dirty and have a blast. Of course, there are many tantrums thrown, kids who argue, and skinned knees. But that’s just part of the fabric.
Do you have any neighborhood favorites? Tips for gathering your favorite crew of people? Share them with us!