My doorbell rings and I see three little faces peering in the windows on either side of my front door.  Since they are staring me down, I have to open the door.  I always find it a bit disturbing to see the neighbor kids with their faces smashed against the glass and hands cupped around their eyes.  My blood pressure immediately begins to rise before I even greet them.  These kids can destroy my home and empty my snack cabinet in less than 30 minutes.  They leave a trail of broken toys behind them.

Our home is the local hang-out for the neighborhood, but this trio quickly squelched my hospitable urges and left me cowering behind closed blinds.  After hiding for a couple of days (with my duct tape repairing broken toys), I realized that it would be better to lay down a few visitor rules than to deny them hospitality.  I wanted to be wise in protecting children with food allergies and also from those who would take advantage of them.  Often these young kids would go from door-to-door, knocking until someone opened and invited them in.  And with our trampoline and large adventure play set in the back yard, I really didn’t want to worry about an accident happening on my watch.

The neighborhood kids now know that it is impolite to stare into windows (a lesson kindly explained).  They are not allowed to play in our home unless they call first and I speak to their parent.  We discuss what video games are appropriate and how long they can stay.  Snacks must also be preapproved.  My kids put their fragile toys out of reach.

If  kids stop by unannounced, they are welcomed but its explained that we will be playing outside.  Our backyard is off-limits unless their parent is with them.  I practice unplanned hospitality by taking breaks from my chores to watch a bike rodeo in our driveway or play basketball with the kids.  Our garage holds an arsenal of water guns for front yard water fights and sidewalk chalk for ‘pictionary’ on the driveway.  And sometimes it’s ok to say that it is not a good time to play.

Our home is still the neighborhood hang-out but I am not hung-up with stress.  Now that’s my kind of hospitality!

What tips do you have to make your home welcoming and “the place” all the kids want to gather?