Our family’s summer calendar has only been open for a few days, and already the sprawling weeks ahead of us are filling up with plans, trips, and activities.
With its long days and lovely weather, summer is perfect for getting out into our communities. I find that to really squeeze every ounce of potential from the summer months, I have to intentionally plan a bit—those long, leisurely days float past in the blink of an eye.
What if, among the swimming lessons, weeks at camp, and family getaways, summer was also about community connection? Here’s a few ways to get to know your neighbors.
1. Plan a block party
Whether you live in a suburban neighborhood or an urban high-rise, summer is a great time to catch up with neighbors you’ve known for years plus meet the new ones you haven’t yet met. As long as there’s music, games, and food, it’s worth it.
It doesn’t have to be fancy: make it potluck, create a family-friendly playlist and pipe it through speakers, and set out a few outdoor games (ideas: here, here, and here). Bonus: sparklers!
2. Form a guerrilla gardening group
Scout out locations in desperate need of floral intervention and transform the landscape of community eyesores—here’s more info about this idea. Then, put up fliers (or use Next Door) to gather for a quick planning meeting and delegate supplies-gathering.
A few days later, garden together! Rinse and repeat throughout the neighborhood.
3. Bake for a cause
Organizations and food banks that provide relief for our communities’ underfed are always in need of support. The Great American Bake Sale is a great way to support No Kid Hungry, an organization that makes sure the kiddos in your neighborhood get fed.
4. Introduce the young to the young-at-heart
Facilities that provide care for aging folks always welcome visitors. Ask an activities director at a local care facility for ways that children and young people could interact with its residents. Music, craft time, performances—tons of options, and they’d all be a blessing.
5. Organize a family book club
Wouldn’t it be fun to read a book as a family and then share thoughts and reactions with other families? Your reading material could be as thought-provoking as The Power of Half or In The Neighborhood, or as light-hearted as Summer of the Monkeys or Hoot. Ask your local public library for ideas on how to organize and spread the word.
6. Step outside of your spiritual box
Choose several weekends throughout the summer to attend services at a church of a different denomination than yours. Introduce yourself to the clergy, and listen for ways other churches are meeting the needs of your community. As a family, discuss the differences and similarities you found between the churches you visited and your home church.
7. Form a 5K team
5K events are a popular way to raise money for charities, and are generally plentiful in the summer months. Invite other families to train for and participate with yours for a local event (search for local-to-you races here and here).
5K events nearly always welcome walkers as well as runners, so children as young as preschoolers could be part of a training team (bonus: find a color run!).
8. Be part of the solution to a community problem
If your kids are old enough, ask them what they see is a community problem or issue that doesn’t get much attention. Investigate the road blocks to a solution, and if possible, begin the process with your neighbors toward solving the problem.
9. Organize a community stuff swap
Create a face-to-face version of Freecycle or Buy Nothing Groups! Spend an afternoon displaying your items, and barter with each other to find new homes for stuff you no longer need.
10. Host an outdoor movie night
Connecting with your community doesn’t have to be serious work—sometimes the best way to is to just have fun with our neighbors. Set up a white sheet or plywood in your yard (or spring for one of these), pop popcorn, set up a projector (this one easily connects to all sorts of devices), and get addicted to sunset films with your neighbors.
If you want to take your community movie night to eleven, our friend Kendra has some fantastic ideas.