My friend Nan has the most fun house of anyone I know. I don't know how she does it, but she is a perfect hostess to not only her adult guests, but the 12-and-under crowd as well. Every time I've been there, she seems to produce, miraculously, a brand-new tub of sidewalk chalk or a new carton of bubbles. And the snacks? She always has the best ones. Sometimes we think about taking the kids to Disney World, and then they say, "Nah, can we just go to Nan's house instead?"
I'm trying to take a cue from my friend and keep some simple and inexpensive goodies on hand for impromptu gatherings with young guests. My new favorite? Glow sticks. I buy them at the dollar store (where you can find a package of 8 for $1). I now buy a handful of packages every time I'm there, and I hide them away in a cabinet to save for a special day.
Because you should never under-estimate the ability of a child to be occupied--endlessly, for hours--by something that glows in the dark.
It's a perfect thing to pull out at the end of a cookout with friends, while the kids run around in the darkened backyard. Not to mention that having a few special treats on-hand is a good idea with your own kids, too. We had an unusually long rainy spell earlier this month, and my stash of glow sticks proved to be a real sanity saver when we started climbing the walls.
And if all else fails, you can use them to spell out distress messages on your roof to passing planes: HELP IT'S BEEN RAINING FOR SIX DAYS AND I'M ALONE WITH THE CHILDREN.
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