The coolest house in the neighborhood

by beagooddad on September 19, 2006

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We’ve managed to become neighborhood celebrities recently. The neighborhood kids are flocking to our house. Over the last week, anybody and everybody between 3 and 8 seems to want to be in our yard or house. The doorbell actually rings and kids actually say, “Can Geetle and Pookie come out and play?”

Amazing. Next they’ll be wanting slumber parties and lemonade stands.

The way I see it, there are two things everybody needs to know about how to have the coolest house in the neighborhood. How do you get the kids to arrive? How do you keep them under control?

Here is what we did to get the kids to think our house is so groovy.

  • We never said the word groovy out loud.
  • We took our kids outside. The front yard works best since it is more visible to the other kids in the neighborhood.
  • We drew on the sidewalk with chalk. Kids love trying to figure out what you are doing. About the only thing more likely to get kids to gather is a construction site. The insurance liabilities for chalk drawings are way lower.
  • We talked to the kids. I don’t mean we said stuff like, “Get off the grass,” “Don’t touch the soccer net,” “Can’t you see that I’m trying to sleep over here?” I mean we actually talked to them. I asked them what they are doing in school. How old they are? I made sure they knew all of our names the first few times they showed up. I joked with them about their shoes. Kids don’t care as long as you are talking with them and most importantly about them.
  • We let them use our stuff. Our kids have a lot of toys. Since they are twins, we have a lot of things like tricycles, peddle cars, etc. where we have two of the same thing. We let everybody use them. Kids love to play with other toys. And they love to tell you which of your toys they also have at home.
  • We have the coolest basement ever. There are more toys down there than you are likely to find at the local Toys ‘R Us. Between grandparents and aunts/uncles, we have enough toys to shock Santa’s elves. They can bounce from toy to toy every 5 minutes and never have to play with the same thing twice. The basemenet is entirely dedicated to the kids. No adult breakables are anywhere to be found.
  • We have a hamster. While a lot of the neighborhood kids have a dog and/or a cat, we seem to be the only person so far with a hamster. Hamsters are tiny and cute and cuddly. We work hard to prevent the neighbor kids from practicing the cuddly, but still get the benefit of the tiny and cute.

Now that we have attracted their attention, how do we keep things under control?

  • They have to help cleanup. They looked at us like we were joking when we first mentioned this, but quickly fell into line. We didn’t act like there was any option. We didn’t act like it was a punishment. We just said it like it was what you do when you are done playing with toys. We don’t make them shine anything or vacuum. We just expect them all to put away 2 or 3 things. They normally get into a groove and just keep picking up until everything has found a home.
  • We don’t let them be mean. One little boy in particular is a bit of a booger. He’s 4 and has an older sister who talks all day. I don’t really blame him. He tries to keep Geetle from playing with him and the boy who lives next door. No girls allowed, you know. I told him that if he does not share the toys, I will send him home. He believes me so far, but the first time that he decides to challenge it, I will send him home. I am not one of those warn until nobody believes me kind of parents. He also likes to call people stupid. He now knows that calling people stupid will lead to a quick eviction, too.
  • We interact with them. We ask if they need help. We show them how toys work. We play catch with them. We don’t play with any one kid for more than a couple minutes. After all they are there to play with each other.
  • We are nice to them. When they do good things or funny things or helpful things, we let them know how great we think that is. When they leave, we thank them for coming over and tell them that we hope to see them again soon.

If you follow all of the advice above, you will soon be on your way to being the coolest house in the neighborhood.

You might be saying, “But, wouldn’t it be easier to encourage my kids to go play at the neighbor’s house?” Yes. It would be. But, if your kids are at the neighbor’s house, will they spend the entire time watching TV, eating cup cakes, watching neighbor dad drink beer, and searching for hotties on Myspace? Will they start playing house or doctor a little too accurately? And when they get a little older, will the neighbor parents even be around? If any of this is of concern to you, then you should start trying to make your house the cool hangout. Easier is not always better.

If you are interested in reading some other How To type of posts, this post is part of a project over at Problogger where he is collecting and providing links to tons of How To blog posts.

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