Where oh where have all the neighbors gone? Well they hibernated in the winter like the rest of us. It looks like they’re slowly coming outside to get used to the new weather. And while the sunshine hasn’t coaxed the blooms out of their buds or convinced you to let the kids wear girls’ skorts and boys’ chino shorts just yet, your neighborhood Punxsutawney Phil is mowing the lawn, just as expected. “It’s just dead grass and leaves, Phil.” He just nods and smiles. Thankfully, the longer days and moderately consistent temps are no longer holding us back from getting outside. It’s time to start planning some “come together” fun, if only for the kids’ sakes. Besides, you’re starved for fresh conversation, too. And because we’re still slightly worried a wild spring snowstorm could sock us, it’s best to get a jump on the sunny days. So hang up those girl’s winter coats and let the breeze carry through your can’t-part-with-yet flannel shirt and light sweater. It’s time to plan some neighborhood fun.
This takes some planning and a creative side as well. Brainstorm a theme: pirates or pioneers. Make a fun story about how the captain of the Flagship Flannel, Rick Ittysticks, disappeared into the night and the only thing that was left of him was a message in a bottle (a treasure map). Have the neighborhood follow the clues around to find the treasure. Collect a favorite item from every house on the street who wants to play. Attach a hint to every item. Think of kitchen items to help them “pan” for gold, or “sift” through the clues. Dress Dad in a plain white men’s t-shirt you’ve marked with an X. Have him challenge the groups to one last riddle to solve the ultimate clue. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Even better: get the parents together to brainstorm a few ideas ahead of time. There’s no better way to break the ice than with fellow parents around the table with a few snacks. Great chance to break out your new table runner.
We’re always ready for a movie night and you can make it extra fun if you get a projector and play a movie on the blank wall on the side of your house. You can make our own projector screen with a fresh white king size sheet. Or, go all out and get a projector screen, Mr. Movie. Get plenty of throws and sleeping bags, pop the popcorn, cozy up in your sweatshirts, sit back and relax. Since you won’t have to wait through previews, up the fun with a little costume party. Invite adults and kids to dress up like their favorite characters. Start the costume parade at one house and have it build until everyone arrives at your theater. Hand out prizes to everyone who dressed up, and let the show begin. We see this turning into an annual event.
Fire up the grill, toss those patties and dogs on and enjoy a weekday afternoon where your friends and neighbors can come and hang out. The nice thing about a weekday event is the time commitment isn’t too much. Great start to more of the fun ahead. Share a dish-to-pass sign-up sheet, so everyone feels like they’re contributing to the fun. Don’t forget to throw on that rarely used apron your neighbor got you ages ago (plus you want to keep that cotton sweater good as new). Have a few games ready to go and watch the kids invent their own. This is a great incentive to take a quick inventory on your lawn furniture and backyard serving dishes, so a little pre-planning is in order. Just keep it simple enough for the next house to carry on the routine in a few weeks.
This is one game you have to teach the kids. It’s a mixture of fun wrapped in healthy exercise. The main objective is to pick a ghost who will hide while the other players search. The ghost then tries to tag a player while the group is in a mad-dash back to home base. Yes, it’s best played in the dark, but start it at late dusk if you have younger kids. Camouflage is a necessity. That black turtleneck and black pants or leggings will hide you in the shadows. Flashlights are also a fun addition for the ghost. The trick is to see if your little spook can keep the beam off until the last minute. Meanwhile, the parents can hang out around the fire pit, prepping the s’mores ingredients and hoping their fleece quarter zips stay chocolate free. Oh, who cares? You can wash the fleece – these memories are for keeps.