5 Tips for a Fun Friend Zone

When you were a kid, was there a house that was the house to go to after school, on weekends, on holiday breaks, and during long summer days? Was there a cool dad who made you the best popcorn? A fun mom who made you feel welcome? Was there plenty of space for adventures, chats, games, movies, and not getting much sleep at those sleepovers? This was the house. Everyone wanted to be there.  

How do you become the house where all the kids want to hang out? 

But Wait… 

Let’s back up a moment: Why would you want your house to be the one where friends gather? You may prefer this because you want to: 

  • Know with whom and where your child is. In your home, you know your kids and their friends will enjoy a fun, engaging environment and – first and foremost – that they are safe. 
  • Keep an eye on older kids/teens while giving them some privacy. Older children/teens are developmentally ready for privacy – within reason! When they gather at your house, you can make sure that they are allowed a little freedom but properly supervised. 
  • Strengthen your relationship with your own child(ren). When you welcome their friends, your own children feel as if you care that much more about them. They’ll know you’re there for them, and they’ll build great memories associated with your home. 
  • Get to know their friends’ parents. Other parents want to know what their kids are up to as well! With plenty of room to entertain, you can invite other parents over from time to time so they feel more comfortable with their kids at your home.  

All right, now what? 

5 Tips to Become the House Where All the Kids Want to Hang Out  

1. Establish a Kid Zone

As parents, we want to know what our children are doing and with whom. We also want the option for a little peace and quiet! At this point, none of us needs to hear “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” one more time or catch another oft-watched scene from Stranger Things.  

Creating a kid zone (you can call it something different for your too-cool-for-you tweens/teens). This enables you to achieve two key goals as the house: (1) to keep kids happy, entertained, and safe, and (2) to take a few moments to read your own book, watch your own movie, have your own conversation, or make dinner.  

Note: This, of course, applies to children who do not need constant supervision. Cecilia Matson, early childhood and parenting expert, says, “When children are not mouthing toys anymore and learn more self-control, and you trust the way they play and entertain themselves, they can play in another room while you are doing something else.” When having a playdate with young children (e.g. under 3 or 4), it is often best to be in the room even if you are not playing/interacting directly with them. 

2. Location, Location, Location 

As in real estate, creating a compelling friend zone comes down to three elements: location, location, location. There are a few considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Where can you position this space so it is least disruptive to the rest of your household – and so you can keep messes out of sight? 
  • How do you balance the right level of supervision with the right amount of privacy?  
  • What kind of activities do you want to encourage? 

Some options: 

  • Basement-turned-game zones. Perfect. For older kids, you can send them down to the finished basement for video games, board games, drawing and art, building models, and other activities. You don’t have to deal with the noise of an overly enthusiastic round of Uno nor the agony of stepping on stray LEGO pieces in your socks. 
  • Home theaters. Movie night, anyone? A theater room is a natural draw for kids. With a giant screen, comfy chairs, and no one saying “TURN IT DOWN!”, it makes for a great experience when viewing the latest (parent-approved) film, TV show, or sporting event. Don’t forget the popcorn.
  • A dedicated kids loft. From homework zones to lounge spaces and even a rock-climbing room, don’t overlook the opportunities on your upper floors. Creating a dedicated recreation space allows kids to have their own private place to hang out, but keeps them close enough for you to keep tabs on them.  
  • Outdoor spaces. Your yard can become the launching pad for great adventures. Whether you have a sprawling lawn, a baseball field out back, or a patio-side pool, kids will love a heaping side of fresh air with their fun. (Another note: Depending on the age of the children and your space, you do have to exercise more caution outdoors. Supervise children and never leave them unattended in or around pools/water features).  
  • Indoor courts. Sometimes the weather out there is frightful… but children still need to burn off some of that seemingly endless energy. An indoor activity area can make a great friend zone. Imagine all the one-on-one or two-on-two basketball games you can have on a court like this? It’s so cool (do the kids say that anymore?) that you will likely have enough for two full teams! Depending on your flooring, this indoor space is also terrific for running laps, playing tag, riding scooters, practicing a two-wheeler, rollerblading, and more.  

Teens who are student athletes or workout aficionados may also enjoy hanging out in a home gym with treadmill, stationary bikes, free weights, exercise balls, workout videos, and, of course, music. 

3. Set the Scene for Fun

When you have a space designated for a kid zone, make it fun and inviting. Little touches – like comfortable seating, pillows, cozy rugs, fun posters, bold colors – make a big impact. Make sure the space is stocked with supplies your child and their friends will need, from games and toys to art supplies and dress-up clothes. (Obviously, this is age- and stage-dependent!) 

4. Feed Them! 

Ok, it’s not a design tip. But the key to being the house where all the kids want to hang out is… Snacks. In alignment with your own routines regarding food, make sure that healthy options are available (e.g. fruit, veggie sticks, air-popped popcorn, whole wheat crackers, water/milk) if anyone gets hungry. Parents definitely want to avoid any hangry children! 

For once-in-a-while gatherings and sleepovers: Indulge now and then. If there are no dietary restrictions/allergies for any of the kiddos, having pizza for dinner and ice cream for dessert (or vice versa!) can make for a special time. And if there are restrictions or allergies, talk to other parents about tasty alternatives so everyone can enjoy a treat.  

A spacious, well-designed kitchen is a plus here! But when designing your designated kid spaces, think about including a beverage station with mini-fridge, sink, and cabinets for storage.  

5. Welcome Them to a Home – Not a Museum

We get it: You have an extensive wine cellar, original art, tasteful furnishings, elegant accessories, and flooring that you’ve always dreamed about. But when children come over, they’re not hoping for a Better Homes & Gardens tour. They’re interested in playing, chatting, watching movies, listening to music, and spending time with their friends. 

When you have specified kid zones, when you take an active interest in them and what they’re doing (while giving them some age-appropriate space), and… when you feed them, they’ll love spending time at your home. Even better, your own children will love spending time at their home! This is a great way to make lasting memories.  

When you have children, you want to ensure they feel comfortable, safe, happy, and free to be themselves – and that their friends feel the same. Is your house the house?  

Connect with G&G Custom Homes to discuss creating a space that works for your whole family – now and into the future.