Playing with the neighbor kids

The end of school has unleashed kids into neighborhoods all over the country.  In 3 days last week we had at least 6 knocks on our door from kids wanting to swim in our pool, some barely after breakfast.  They’re good kids, and we enjoy letting our kids play when the time is right.  But we still do a bit of school in the summer.  We need time for gardening.  I want to cook together, play cards, and read stories curled on the couch with our youngest two. I also want siblings to have time for quiet play together before friends descend.

John and I talked it through and decided we didn’t want to turn kids away every day.  But we also wanted to guard our family time.  So this summer we decided that friend time begins at 3PM.  We’re also hosting a twice-weekly pool time– popsicles included — with neighbor kids.   We’ll see how it goes, but hopefully it will allow a good balance of friend and family time for our kids and their friends.  I’m curious: what do you do at your house?  Do you set some limits?  Or is summer just an endless free-for-all?


  1. Great ideas! We have daily knocks after school gets out. It’s hard sometimes to find the balance between family and friend time. I will often go out with them and hang out with their friends…. this works well when I come armed with snacks or drinks! Our kids are still young enough that they welcome their parents along with their friends. 🙂

  2. J. Johnson says:

    While we don’t have a pool, my daughter is constantly being asked, or asking, to spend most every day with one or more of her friends. While I like her being social, family time is so important. As a teen, she would rather spend time with her friends often. So I insitute family days twice a week, where we spend time together. A couple of days, she will have friends at our house, and the other couple, she will spend at their houses. Sundays are spent with our church family (church, lunch with other families, youth group).

  3. First-time commenter…I’ve been stalking for a bit. 😉 I love your blog and your family!! Cookbook has been ordered. 🙂

    We have the same rule at our house: friends after quiet/nap time. Mornings are for family time, errands, etc. etc.

    Question: how do you guys deal with your kids socializing with friends (neighbors or otherwise) that AREN’T good kids?? My oldest (girl) is just 7 and there are a couple of neighbor girls (9 and 11) who like to come over but are just not good examples nor do they behave well. Their younger brothers, though, are dolls and extremely sweet kids. What a conundrum…still trying to think this one through. Any suggestions, anyone??

    • That’s tough. In that case, I think I’d be in the same room as they played and would not hesitate to spell out behavior expectations. If the problem was unresolved with those measures, I’d ask the kids not to come again until they could follow the rules.

      Even with kids we like, we don’t ever do playtime at houses where we don’t know the parents well. Some folks may think that is too restrictive, but we just don’t feel peaceful sending our precious little girls into homes where we aren’t sure of parental values, or don’t know who else might be in the home visiting on that particular day.

    • Jennifer says:

      I’m with Mary, especially on the your kids going to other kid’s house issue. My kids are still young, 4 & 6, but we’re getting to that age where parents aren’t always “needed” at the play dates. But we have a strict parent-vetting protocol in our house. We try and host the first play date and invite the Mom over as well so I can get to know her better. Then we will go to their house, with me in tow, and then start to make a decision if they are allowed over there without me or not.

      My daughter has a love/hate relationship with one girl at school, and I’m not especially fond of the family (her mom is nice enough, but I know their values don’t align with ours). My daughter came home one day singing “I’m Sexy and I know it” and when I asked her where she learnt that it was from this girl. They are 6! Obviously we’ve chosen to send our kids to school rather than homeschool (though they are at an Anglican Private School) so we have given up some “control”, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dictate who they spend their out-of-school time with, as well as teach them what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour in our house. Needless to say, my husband was furious and we no longer have play dates, with or without me, at their house!

    • Your kids should influence them, not be influenced by the other kids!
      I have a rule that you must follow my rules at my house or you will have to leave.
      Limit your time with naughty kids.

      • I also expect kids to follow our rules at our house. We have some very nice little neighbor kids so in general it is not an issue. But I don’t hesitate to remind a kid of our house rules if they are modeling behavior I don’t want our kids to imitate.

  4. That is a really good plan. I do wish I was better at guarding my family time. We need time to do chores, go on outings as a family, eat dinner together, etc. Our main problem seems to be not so much the neighbor kids, but more so the constant invites to play dates. I have a large group of girlfriends, all with kids close to my kids’ ages, and it seems like every day there is a meet-up somewhere. On the days when we are bored and I have no good ideas, it’s nice to know that there’s someone, somewhere, wanting to play! But, I feel bad turning down invites for no reason other than wanting time to ourselves. I think I will follow your lead and determine that only 2-3 days per week will be for play dates with friends, and the rest of the time is for family and playing with neighborhood kids. I do find that after days spent with the same kids, they tend to get tired of one another and begin bickering. Maybe this schedule will curtail some of that drama!

  5. I had to set limits when the kids were little. I had some neighbors that enjoyed sending their children over to our house for hours on end. They even tried sending their toddlers over too, with the message that “Mom said it’s o.k. I will watch him, not you.”

    In this case the “I” in question was either the seven year old neighbor or a five year old neighbor. I always took the toddlers home, much to the mom’s frustration at having to watch their little one.

    With seven neighbor children playing with my two, I didn’t feel like I wanted to take on the challenge of 18 month olds or two year olds as well. Especially when mine were much older at the time. I was also aware of how well the 7 and 5 year olds “watched” them.

    Eventually the kids were wanting to come over as early as 7:30 in the morning every day, all day.

    So I had to set some boundaries so that we could get other things done. I put a sign on the door that told the neighbor kids whether or not MY kids could play or not. They eventually learned to look at the sign and not ring the doorbell and our days were much more peaceful, lol!

  6. Love your ideas too! We have a great group of neighbor kids, but our door has been knocking/ringing from mid-morning until 9:00 PM! And we don’t have teens…our oldest is 8. We made a little “schedule” for our M-F summer routine and decided that breakfast/Bible time as a family, chores, reading aloud with mom or dad and morning freetime all happen at home before lunch. After lunch they have freetime to play with neighborhood friends and then another quiet time of reading with Mom mid-afternoon…partly to get out of the sun/heat and partly so I can “read their moods” and see if the friend thing is a benefit that day. We also set a “curfew” for the evening when they must be done with friends and enjoy some more family time. I love our neighborhood, but the kids/parents are out playing until the sun sets. I’m exhausted if the bedtime routine doesn’t start until after sunset. So we come in early and enjoy an evening of winding down as a family. That way Mom isn’t totally worn out at the end of the day too!

  7. I have the exact opposite problem. I seem to be the only SAHM in our neighborhood. If my kids want to play with friends during the day we have to arrange something. But when the camp/daycare kids start rolling into the neighborhood @ 4:30 we don’t see our kids until dinnertime. I’ve actually moved our dinnertime an hour later to give them more friend time.

    After dinner is reading time or something else to wind down from the day. We usually just stay put on the screened-in-porch. I’m reading “Summer Of The Monkeys” by Wilson Rawls to both boys. My husband is listening in too.

    • Judith, we have the same situation in our neighborhood. We just moved into the neighborhood in March and saw all of the elementary school signs in the front yards of so many of our neighbors. We homeschool, so we were excited to see a kid friendly neighborhood in the city. Well, come to find out, all of the kids are in daycare–even in the summer, so it is rare to see neighbors. BUT, I count my blessings because we came from another city where we were overwhelmed by some of the kids on the block. There must be a happy medium out there. :).

  8. I’ve known 2 families who use a flag system so that all of their kids outdoor time doesn’t include neighborhood kids and so the neighborhood kids know when it’s okay to come play. They put up a flag when they want to say “come on over.” I’ve not had this problem as we are one of the only ones in our neighborhood without a pool, but I think it’s a neat idea.

    • My whole neighborhood does something similar! If there is a smiley face sign near the door, the kids can play. If it’s frowny, they can’t.

  9. I like the idea of having somewhat of a schedule for the summer. I think it keeps everyone in the “know” what will happen throughout the day. And I can relate to your response to another commenter. Our kids are not allowed to go into someone’s home unless we know the parents very well. I don’t think this is, too, restrictive at all.

  10. Love the ideas. We were the only young family in the neighborhood until about 6 months ago. Although we have loved the arrival of two young families, we instantly had a rotating door. We made the rule of no friend time until 1:30 in the afternoon and then for only three hours. We are doing a small amount of school and lots of home repair projects. It is really helpful for everyone to have a schedule.
    Blessings, Dawn

  11. I’m been reading your blog for a long time, but this is my first time commenting. I really appreciated this post as this is something we’re just starting to deal with at our house. We’ve had several new families move in to the neighborhood recently and have been so excited as the kids seem to congregate in our backyard. But lately, our kids don’t want to play outside because they want to play by themselves without everyone coming over. We’ve been trying to balance being hospitable and welcoming (we’d rather have them all in our yard than have our kids in someone else’s yard) with being able to have family time alone in our yard. Not always easy – especially as we desire to show the love of Jesus to these kids.

    • Ack!! I’m a 23 year old, grad student, not married no kids, doing my dissertation on adoption… I just have to say I seriously never thought about how hard this balance must be!! This gives me something extra to want to pray about and support my friends with kids on! Beaming yall support!

  12. Kate in NY says:

    I have 2 major rules during the summer – – – no “screens” until 4, and family dinner together (unless there is a swim meet or a special circumstance). The rest of the time, it is pretty unstructured and I love it! Where I live, 90% of my kids’ friends are involved in camps (often sleepaway camps – for up to EIGHT WEEKS – that I just don’t get!), so it is more of an effort to actually keep everyone occupied. My older kids generally work on their high school assignments in the mornings, and I read a lot with my youngest (9). We go on day trips into NYC, or to the beach for the day, we take care of our many animals . . . and sometimes everyone is hot and bored 🙂 But every day is flexible, and if one of them has a 24 hour “playdate” with a friend – why not? I find that as long as they aren’t glued to the TV or computer, and as long as we reconvene most evenings for a sit-down dinner – then the rest of the day is totally flexible and FREE. For my kids, who aren’t homeschooled (at least, 3 of the 4 aren’t), I want them to experience the total sense of freedom that only summer can bring. Now, if only my oldest (16) could just find a summer job!!!

  13. LOVE your ideas. I am always in the same boat…..I am VERY guarded with our family time. Wish we could have a pool and popsicle day….alas…no pool:)

  14. Our summer is pretty much a free for all for my oldest son (13) as I allow him and his friends to use the pool without direct supervision (they aren’t allowed in unless I am at home). My daughters and their friends are 10 and do require direct supervision so their friend time is mostly limited to my availability and willingness to lounge poolside. I try to relax rules for them in the summer though, because they are busy through the school year and their commitment to studying and sports is something they all thankfully take seriously. We eat dinner as a family but beyond that, I let them do their own thing.

  15. Live in a small town where kids ALWAYS call before coming over. But with that being said, I talk with parents and get a ‘leave time’. For kids whose parents work during the day, we all have an understanding that their kids will not be coming over to play unless we have spoken to a parent the evening before. This goes for all ages. Communication with parents is the key.
    Kids of all ages respect boundaries.
    But recall when we lived somewhere else and a toddler and little older child from a family were ringing the doorbell early in the mornings and I would send them home saying busy or something. After several days of this, went to talk with parent to discover those kids were better at my house which prompted a call to county social services. If you have little little kids coming to your door–a visit to theirs is in order and upon what you find, other measures may be in order.

  16. christy says:

    We have never had too much of a problem, except one summer when one little boy started bringing his much older brothers to swim. I stopped that super quick.

    We did just move and the neighbor boy loves to be over. I do set limits because I don’t want to be feeding him all the time. His mom is super good about taking him home early though.

    Otherwise our summers are free-for-alls I guess because we stay s

    • christy says:

      so busy that the kiddos don’t get a chance to see their friends and someone is available to sit with grandma(who lives with us) during the summer and my husbands works evenings/nights more in the summer.

      Sorry to finish my comment like that. My computer published it before I was done!

  17. friend time after 3pm and twice-weekly pool time– popsicles included — with neighbor kids is fair enough. of course, you also need time to be with your kids.