This summer, my best friend from childhood and her three kids came to visit. That put 5 kids in my house under the age of nine. By the end of the weekend my friend and I had each sprouted two huge grey hairs and had a laugh over it, but it was well worth the effort to have these kids together.
We decided it wasn’t the summer for us to afford a vacation away, so we made it a “staycation” at my house. We quickly realized after the first few hours of catching up as adults that we couldn’t ignore the kids and hope that they would just entertain themselves. No, we needed to keep them active. “Lead them to an activity then step away” is my friend’s favorite motto and I like it. You show them how to do things and give them ideas but you don’t do it for them. Here are some of the things we did (complete with length of time) with our group of 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 year olds that didn’t cost much and kept everyone happy and exhausted by the end of the day:
(with preparation time, a two-hour activity)
Three of the kids are taking piano lessons so we started by asking for a piano recital but then realized we should include all of the kids and the adults. So we suggested the three piano players play two pieces each and the other kids pick another activity. One kid was the “M.C.” or host of the show, the other kid drew a picture, the other mom wrote a poem and I told knock-knock jokes. It was a huge hit and took up several hours in preparation, setting up the stage and dressing up.
(depending on how hot it is outside, anywhere between a half hour to two hours)
We took the plunge (ha ha) and invested in a big, inflatable kiddie pool and a Slip-n-Slide type product for the yard. The pool was a huge hit because it was really hot outside and the water was ice cold. It kept the kids refreshed and a little clean after running around outside barefoot and working up a sweat. We moms were able to sit by and watch them while enjoying a little fresh air and sunshine.
(half hour tops)
At night, but before it was too dark and scary, we kicked off a round of ghost stories, beginning with one told by Dad. When the kids got the hang of it, they each wanted to tell their own version. Some made absolutely no sense, but it was so cute to see them try to put together a storyline and act like what they were saying was the scariest thing you had ever heard!
BOARD GAMES, CARDS
(depending on the game and how engaged they ALL are, this could go on for hours, especially when there are prizes involved)
We turned off the DSs and TV and gathered around a small table and had a killer game of Bingo. Bingo is so easy that even the 4-year old could play and understand what was going on. We made the prizes exiting enough (extra sprinkles on your ice cream that night) but not so much that others would be upset. And what about cards? Go Fish, Hearts and Crazy Eights are old favorites that need to be passed on to the next generation! Other games we loved and found good for groups included jigsaw puzzles and the story-telling cards where one kid starts the story, based on a chosen card and then the next kid continues it and so on.
BAKING AND COOKING
We wanted everyone to have good meals and snacks, so we asked, why not get them in on the preparation action? Personal pizzas and taco bars are kid-pleasing, interactive meals. For pizzas, which by the way you can make on the grill if it is too hot to put on the oven, we began by giving each kid their own wheel of dough. Then we lined up the sauce, grated cheese (I put out a variety of cheeses), chopped pepperoni and whatever else was around. Kids could assemble their own pizzas and the grown-ups took over for the part that involved the hot oven. Much better than take out! For tacos, we made a similar set up. Every kid had a spot where to sit and we put out tortillas and all of the filling choices like shredded chicken, refried beans, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, chopped green peppers. You can of course add whatever else you think your kids might be daring enough to try.
We also baked cookies and brownies together, which is a messy task but fun for all. At this point, with five kids in the kitchen, we just had to accept that it was going to look like a war zone when all was said and done.
We did other things of course, like visit a nearby amusement park and a museum, go to the playground and just take walks around the neighborhood. The important thing was that we rarely stopped to take a breath and by the end of each day, the kids were so tired, they didn’t mind piling into one big bedroom and sleeping on the floor, beds, air mattresses, etc.
What do you guys do with your kids when they have friends over?