In today’s world where children have more independence, many parents spend the after-school hours worrying about their kids. Even before children reach school age, most parents fear that their kids won’t make the right kind of friends.
Experts say that children who are more closely supervised and have firmer boundaries are more successful at keeping their lives and friendships on the right track. Holding your kids accountable and knowing kids eatingwho their friends are — and their friends’ families –– can help keep them from making decisions that you and your child might have a hard time living with.
Try to meet your child’s friends before inviting them over and gently guide your child into making good choices about the people he hangs out with. If that’s not possible, make it a point to discuss this with him after his friends have left. A kind reminder that faithful friends make wise choices can encourage your child to make right decisions on his own.
You can have a positive influence on your child’s social circle by making your house one of the best places to be in the neighborhood. Here are some ideas for transforming your home into a favorite hangout.
- Organized fun. Plan some special events, such as a backyard blast, throughout the year to attract the interest of your kids and their friends.
- Super snacks. Nearly all kids appreciate great after-school munchies, such as peanut butter popcorn. If you’re not the cookie-baking type, you can still stock kid-friendly food in your pantry to keep your children and others coming back for more.
- Great games. Activities don’t always have to be planned, but there should be plenty to do to keep the kids out of trouble. Emphasize games of imagination or craft activities, rather than computer and video entertainment. When hands and minds are busy, children are less likely to get into mischief.
One mom of three kids helped her children plan a neighborhood carnival during summer vacation. They made games with paint, scrap wood and cardboard boxes. They collected fast-food toys for prizes, baked goodies and planned publicity.
Their penny carnival was a huge hit with the younger children in the neighborhood and soon became a summer tradition. Now each year these kids create bigger and better carnival events for the youngsters on their block.
“Not only did it occupy their entire summer with something productive to do,” Terry Vincent, the proud mom, bragged, “but they helped the neighborhood. And, most important, it kept them close to home.”
Help your kids create their own community events to keep them close to home and headed in the right direction. Here are a few ideas:
- Organize a block party. Summer and early fall are good times for neighbors to get together. Ask your children to use their creative skills to make posters to publicize the event and food to share at the party.
- Arrange interesting after-school activities. Let your kids help you plan cookie-decorating parties or book-share meetings at your house. Provide the needed materials and let your kids invite the neighbors. Be sure the kids help with the cleanup.
- Plan a movie night. Have your children pick the movies and invite their friends. (Check with the other parents to make sure the movies are acceptable for their children.) Provide popcorn and lemonade.
- Have a parents-and-kids party. Your children can make the guest list and plan the snacks for the younger crowd. You can entertain the parents in another room of the house. It’s a great way to get to know the kids and their parents at the same time.
Peanut Butter Popcorn
Make some peanut butter popcorn to keep the crowds happy at your house.
Heat the oven to 200º F. Line a roasting pan with foil. Pour in 6 cups popped popcorn. Set the pan aside.
In a large saucepan, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup corn syrup and 1/4 cup peanut butter. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s bubbly. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes without stirring. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Pour the mixture over the popcorn and toss it gently until the popcorn is well coated. Bake the popcorn for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. Then, if you like, gently mix in 1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces. Store the popcorn in a tightly covered container.
Most preschool and elementary-aged children can entertain themselves for hours with an ample supply of art materials. Create a craft cupboard in your home and give your children and their friends free reign with its contents.
You can stimulate their imaginations and watch over them easily as they interact with one another.
Include the following in your collection:
- Construction paper and white drawing paper
- kid-sized scissors
- markers, pencils and crayons
- glue sticks, washable craft glue and glitter glue
- transparent tape
- stickers, stencils and rulers
- educational activity books and “how to draw” books
- household “junk” (such as egg cartons, clean yogurt containers, newspaper, yarn, pinecones, paper towel rolls, buttons, beads and fabric scraps)