Keys to Planning a Family Friendly Cookout

Summer is here and we are all excited to pull out the grill and gather together for bonfires and cookouts. Balancing your own summertime social life can be a challenge as a parent. Kids really do not want to spend a day sitting around watching you with your friends while they wait for whatever is cooking to be ready. I want my kids to enjoy the experience of an all day cookout by making it kid friendly. This way they will be begging to stay instead of asking when they can go home.
The most important part of any cookout is the food. Kids are more likely to be content waiting for the main course if plenty of snacks and drinks are available. Because everyone is different, you want a bit of a variety for the kids to choose from. Don't forget to offer healthy options rather than only things like chips and soda. Most kids will go crazy for fun things like fruit skewers, and their parents will thank you for the healthy addition. When planning the main dishes be sure to include things the kids will like. Hint: That mushroom burger you love is not something most kids will even want to touch. Hot dogs are usually a safe bet for picky kids. So even if yours will eat that awesome burger or some barbecue chicken, toss a pack of hotdogs on the grill for other kids. They will thank you later.
Create an area just for the kids in a safe area of the yard. They really do not want to sit at the table listening to the adults chat about long days at work and who did what in the neighborhood. Give the children a picnic table, some chairs, or even a picnic blanket to sit and relax a bit. If the day is hot a water table is a great way to keep kids busy for hours. Setting up a few stations of not so messy sensory play like Water bead-based sensory bins, play dough, and some old crayons and cheap paper to encourage things like leaf rubbings are frugal and easy.
Take advantage of gross motor activities to help kids bounce off energy. Set up a big hopscotch board the kids can enjoy before everyone arrives. The local dollar tree carries all of the essentials from jump ropes to hula hoops. IF you have plenty of room you can set up a great obstacle course full of fun challenges for the kids to enjoy. Grab a stopwatch so they can see who can get the best time. If going past dark and fireworks are legal in your area the promise of fireworks are sparklers at the end of the night is a great way to help keep kids excited as they get tired and more likely to ask if they can go home. Be sure to stock up of repellent and citronella candles to help keep bugs away from guests because as any parent knows a mosquito bit can take a kid from happy to cranky in no time. you won't see a kid grumble over some after dark s'mores either. cookout

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