My husband loves hosting gatherings in our home. Nothing too wild, but he’s constantly pushing me toward the edge of my hospitality comfort zone. As a result, we’ve hosted Super Bowl parties and a Kentucky Derby shindig, Bible studies, book clubs, wine tastings, rib contests—you name it, and we may have done it.
Over the years, I’ve grown accustomed to opening our home to others. I enjoy it. I value community and friendships, living open-handed and open-hearted.
Yet I sometimes struggle to let my children do the same, providing the space and time to invite their friends to our home. I’m an introvert who values silence, solitude, and a clean house—none of which are possible when you invite all the neighborhood kids over to hang out.
But I’m working on it because I know a supportive community is just as crucial for my children as it is for me. As we head into summer, I’m determined to voluntarily push myself out of my hospitality comfort zone by prioritizing my daughters’ friendships.
Whenever I consider how I want my home to feel for my kids’ friends, I think about my childhood friend Kristina. Her house was perfect for gatherings. She lived on a lake and had a pontoon, great for tubing or swimming. She also had a spacious basement and kind parents who didn’t mind having extra middle school girls in their home. I have great memories of watching movies, playing Twister, and drinking sparkling cider to usher in the New Year.
My friend and her parents—and the way they opened their home—provided the space we needed to connect as 12-year-old girls. The friendships established during those awkward junior high years helped fuel a foundational circle of friends I could rely on as we moved into high school.
The memory of those gatherings at Kristina’s house is why now, as a mom myself to tween-age daughters, I want to foster that same kind of kid-friendly environment in my home. I want to be like Kristina’s mom, and Tammy’s mom, and Melissa’s mom—warm and welcoming, ready to offer a listening ear or graciously overlook a little extra noise.
Making it happen
Part of that is a simple matter of logistics—stocking kid-friendly snacks and frozen pizza, having an extra place setting on hand, and ensuring we have plenty of extra food for dinner just in case another mouth or two joins us.
More important is making space in the family calendar. In our weekly meeting, my husband and I discuss relationships we want to prioritize in the weeks ahead: friends we’d like to invite to our home, events we’d like to host, and acquaintances we’d like to get to know better. Now, we also ask our children the same questions, making sure there’s room in our calendar to develop their own deep friendships.
As we head into summer, one idea I’m excited to incorporate is a summer bucket list of friendship. Developing ten ideas to help my girls connect with their friends throughout the summer seems like the perfect next step.
Because as a parent, my goal is to not only foster a welcoming home where deep friendships can be cultivated but to equip my kids for the years ahead. By encouraging them to develop deep friendships now, they’ll have the skills they need to continue to welcome others into their own hearts and homes in the years ahead.
“…a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9b (MSG)
Summer Bucket List of Friendship for Tweens
If you’d like to develop your Summer Bucket List for Tweens (or Teens), here are ten open-ended ideas to get you started. Although some require adult supervision or help, many can be accomplished at home or with minimal help.
Do an art or craft project together. Ideas: Suncatchers, sidewalk chalk paint, fairy garden, tie-dye shirts.
Visit a local festival—enjoy a parade, watch fireworks, attend a free concert, or play games at a carnival.
Get outdoors. Go swimming at the beach, fly kites, ride bikes, hike in the woods, visit a new park, pack a picnic, or play bocce ball or outdoor Jenga.
Create food-related fun by making root beer floats, banana splits, no-bake cookies, homemade popsicles, or ice cream.
Go on an adventure. Visit the state’s biggest candy store, ride coasters at an amusement park, watch a drive-in movie, or have a mom-and-daughter date with your child’s friend and her mom.
Try stargazing. Our local library has telescopes to check out, or there are apps for phones that help you identify constellations.
Cool off with water by doing a water balloon fight, visiting a splash pad, sliding down a slip-n-slide, or running through the sprinkler.
Create your own fun. Complete a scavenger hunt (there are tons of free printables online) or photo scavenger hunt, build an obstacle course, or create a music video.
Have a sleepover. Ideas: Sleep in a tent (the backyard counts!), attend an overnight church camp together or include a theme (spa night or movie marathon) in your sleepover plans.
Learn something together. Build a campfire (bonus: roast marshmallows or dinner over it afterward!), take a cooking or art class through community ed or a local studio, or sign up for sports or horseback riding camp together.
Looking for more tween friendship ideas and encouragement? Check out Kristin’s book, 100 Daily Acts of Friendship for Girls (geared toward ages 8-12).