How I Easily Made Our Home Into Our Teens’ Hang-out House
I spent the majority of my childhood in the cheapest house in the nicest neighborhood my parents could afford. While I was lucky to attend well-resourced suburban public schools, the house itself was so embarrassing that I didn’t invite friends over. My parents lived with the outdated original 1960s decor until the 90s. I still remember the yellow and brown linoleum flooring, crazy wallpaper, and dark orange Formica countertops. Thus, it was never the hang-out house for my group of friends.
Flash forward 30 years and I’m the mother of a teen and tween. Our house is the hang-out house for both my kids and their friends. I thought it would be more complicated, but it really hasn’t taken much effort. It’s much easier to host teens than preschoolers. I didn’t host a lot of playdates when my kids were young due to both my work schedule (which made weekends crammed full of chores and errands) and the need to entertain the parent who stays. Now that my girls are older, their friends’ parents are happy to just drop them off here for 4–5 hours on a weekend and leave. I can still do my chores since I don’t have to supervise them closely. Thus, we have groups of girls here nearly every other weekend and I’m thrilled to host them.
After we started a major renovation in 2019, we shifted to outdoor hangouts and upgraded a few things to make it comfortable. So when COVID hit in 2020, we already had a good set-up ready for outdoor gatherings when our county allowed them again.
- Carve out semi-private space for them. No one wants to hang out with the parents nearby, but I want to make sure the kids know we can still walk by so there won’t be any inappropriate shenanigans. I remember high school friends whose parents were completely oblivious and we got away with too much. It doesn’t need to be a fancy space. In a mild-weather area like ours, we make the most of outdoor space since it also provides a noise buffer. We still hear the laughter, but it’s definitely quieter! We have a deck where the kids can sit at the patio table set for 8 or sprawl on the nearby bench seating. Once it’s safe to host indoor hangouts again, we have a large family room with a sectional that can easily fit 8–10 teens.
- Identify activities to make it fun to come over. We don’t have a pool, but we try to make up for it in other ways. We accumulated a supply of board and card games (Exploding Kittens has been particularly popular). We have a basketball hoop and a small putting green. We also bought a small weatherproof speaker so they can stream music. After COVID made all hangouts outdoors, we set up an outdoor projector and screen so they can watch a movie during nighttime hangouts. We also added a WiFi extender so everyone can get WiFi out on the deck (not everyone has a phone yet). My tween and her friends will sometimes play games like Among Us, Minecraft, and Text Assasin with their devices. There are also times when they come over but don’t do any of these activities. They just want to chat and take photos.
- Stock lots of food and drinks. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. I make sure we always have a good supply of non-perishable snacks like chips, crackers, popcorn, and granola bars. I sometimes supplement with fresh fruit and cheese. My older daughter will often bake cookies or other treats for her friends, too. For beverages, it’s been easiest to just put out a beverage dispenser (which I picked up from Target) filled with ice water. When kids come over during mealtimes, I order an extra-large cheese pizza since it feeds so many and is usually an easy crowd-pleaser. Of course, you should check on friends’ dietary restrictions, as we switch it up when a friend with a dairy allergy comes over.
- Make sure your kids know when they can invite friends over. We’ve been known to host hangouts on consecutive weekends and even to host hangouts for each daughter at different times on the same day. With COVID restricting most of our activities, it’s not like we’re going anywhere. But occasionally we just want a family day so we ask our kids to check in with us before inviting friends over. Knowing that they can invite people over at least a couple of times a month means we have become the de facto hang-out house.
- Thank the other parents for chauffeuring their kids over. I actually find it easier to host than to drop off/pick up my kids elsewhere. So I always thank the parents for being willing to drive their kids over. Once they’re driving themselves, it’s a different story but for now, I want to make sure the parents know we happily host and appreciate their schlepping their kids over.
Once we can resume normal activities, I’m sure my house will echo with laughter and squeals again. For now, I’m happy to keep our tweens and teens outdoors where they can see their friends and enjoy a little normalcy.