How to Make Your House the Hang Out Spot
“In America there are two classes of travel — first class, and with children.” Robert Benchley
In every classroom and every neighborhood, there’s a “cool parent.” Children love visiting this house and frequently use this parent as a confidante. While most parents are more interested in providing solid guidance and supervision, you shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of having a house where the kids want to hang out. If your child’s friends deem you the cool parent, you’ll have a better window into his social life, spend more time with your child and have more opportunities to supervise him.
While it’s never a good idea to attempt to be the cool parent by abandoning rules and prioritizing being your child’s friend over his parent, there are several ways you can gain the respect and admiration of your child and his friends while still retaining your parental authority. Creating a house that is welcoming and fun for children is one of the easiest ways to do this.
Decorations, toys and cool rooms, however, can be extremely expensive. You don’t have to go bankrupt trying to turn your house into a cool hangout spot. Instead, there are cheap ways to make your house inviting and fun for children of all ages. Here are cheap ways to make your house accessible to each age group:
Children Under 5
Children under 5 typically engage in what’s called “parallel play.” This means that they’re more likely to play next to each other rather than actually play with each other, and they often need the assistance of parents to learn how to have fun together. This means that it’s easy to have fun with this age group without spending any money at all.
Try coming up with novel takes on traditional games. For example, allow children to play hide and seek dressed up like their parents, their friends or their favorite superheros. A few old clothes are all you’ll need for this endeavor.
Games that allow children to “break the rules” without actually breaking the rules are also excellent choices. Tape a giant piece of paper to the wall and let kids draw all over the (paper-covered) wall. Or try mud painting. Let your kids moisten a little dirt and use it to paint a muddy canvas. Be sure to carefully supervise children with these sorts of activities, because they’ll quickly go from drawing on canvas to drawing on couches and walls without careful guidance.
Children 5 to 10
Children in this age range are becoming more independent and love engaging in pretend play. Try buying a bunch of superhero masks, swords and helmets at a dollar store and encourage the kids to go crazy playing dress up.
Elementary schoolers also are beginning to understand technology. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars on video game systems, however. Many video game systems can be purchased secondhand at thrift stores and online. Older video game systems have their own charms and make your house interesting because your child will have video games no other child has.
To make his room really stylish try getting a twin trundle bed for your child. This will last him into his teen years and beyond and ensure he is comfortable bringing his friends around.
Ages 10 to 13
Preteens are extraordinarily independent and often embarrassed by their parents. They’re also accustomed to being treated like children by most adults. Show preteens you respect their burgeoning independence by encouraging them to participate in adult activities.
Ball games are popular and a simple goal post in the back yard can give them the opportunity to play games. Better still if there is an adult around to show them some fancy footwork. Much like elementary schoolers, preteens will also enjoy playing with old video games.
Try establishing a weekly movie night for your child’s friends. Movie rentals are extremely cheap, and you can get a pizza covered in toppings for only a few dollars. Let the kids stay up late, talk and have some privacy and you’ll find that all the kids soon want to return to your house.
Ages 13 to 18
Teenagers will appreciate, more than anything else, being given privacy and independence. Avoid the temptation to break all the rules in an attempt to impress your child’s friends with your coolness. Serving alcohol to teenagers, for example, can land you in legal trouble if their parents object.
Instead, try playing the role of older confidante to your child’s friends. Teenagers are often dying for information about adult topics such as sex, relationships and decision-making, and many adults are hesitant to give them honest answers. Position yourself as a trusted friend who will answer questions to the best of your ability. You’ll find your child’s friends will rely increasingly on you, and will also be more likely to tell you if your child is in trouble.
About the Author
Christobel Edwards lives in London, one of the most exciting cities in the world. She became a grandmother two years ago, and views this as an important next chapter in life. She loves getting presents for her grandchild and recently bought her a bunk bed for kids with stairs.