Summer holidays are known for the smell of grilling meat and family get-togethers. We’ve all had the opportunity to host a barbecue for family or friends. We load up on the hamburgers and hot dogs, start the grill, and buckle in for a good time. But a barbecue is more than just grilled meat- it can be a stressful event to plan, especially when your cousin Mary comes with her 5 rambunctious boys, your friend brings a disagreeable new boyfriend to meet the group, or when drama takes over the event, but with some planning and some inventive tricks, you can set yourself up for a successful barbecue.
In the following list, you will find twenty ways for you to keep children entertained while offering a memorable experience for children and adults. These recommendations will help your barbecue stand out from the others with the small details that matter so much for a group to enjoy themselves- things like games, protection from the weather, and keeping the conversations going in fun ways.
- Pick a guest to help man the grill. It may seem obvious that you or your significant other would man the grill, but it’s a great idea to include guests, especially for the picky meat-eaters or those who boast great grilling skills.
- Set up a lemonade stand. Children will have something to do and your guests won’t get thirsty. Who doesn’t like lemonade, especially from a child? A win-win for all.
- Buy some cards and set up card games on blankets. This will get the play going and give a chance for everyone to teach and to learn new card games. Plus, cards are cheap, don’t take up much space, and are easily replaceable if they get dirty.
- Consider grilling vegetables. You may have people coming with dietary restrictions- vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, keto, etc. Potatoes aren’t the only thing that tastes good with grilled meat. You can add fajita vegetables, zucchini, asparagus, and more to the menu. They’re delicious, healthy, and a great addition for any barbecue.
- Consider grilling fruits. Like the last idea, a great way to add desserts to your barbecue is to grill fruit. Fruit kebabs and pineapple rings are classics, but you can also make peach or apple boats by cutting them in half, adding butter and either brown sugar or cinnamon sugar then wrapping in aluminum foil and warming on the grill. Grilled fruits smell delicious and keep you and your guests happy and healthy.
- Put out umbrellas. Umbrellas are not just for rain. They are also great for protecting guests from the heat. If you have large umbrellas attached to outdoor tables, that’s great, but if you are using the picnic-style blankets, you can set up open umbrellas around the edges of the blankets to keep your guests cool.
- Have fans or misting bottles for the heat. A variation of the last idea, planning for the weather in summer is a great idea. Hand fans and misting bottles help your guests stay cool and happy. It doesn’t take much money to buy a fan that works. And they can be given as party favors as an added bonus.
- Set up a water station. Add water guns, water balloons, and other water toys to a kiddy pool, a stock tank, or to a Tupperware container near the hose. Children will enjoy soaking themselves and each other and it will keep them and the guests from overheating. Just make sure the fun is away from the cooking and eating areas and you have hours of entertainment ready.
- Add labels and lids to the cold food containers. Eating outdoors, you will want more than just grilled food. Cole slaws, chips, watermelon: these all attract bugs to them. Consider using lids with labels so that guests know what is within while keeping bugs without. You can also go an extra mile and keep these foods in coolers with a little bit of ice to keep them cool and bug-free.
- Stand out with different meats. When we think about barbecues, we think burgers and hot dogs. Consider making tacos, italian sausages, hawaiian pork chops, or chicken for an added variety. You can also mix it up with the traditional burgers by including vegan, turkey, or bison burgers, or changing the hot dogs for different varieties of bratwurst. If you want to stick to the traditional meats but want to take an extra step, add different toppings, such as guacamole, bacon, or sauces such as thai sauce or hot sauce.
- Set up a bubble basket. Everyone loves blowing bubbles, especially children. They’re easy to find, cheap to buy, and will keep children and adults entertained for hours.
- Set up a Play–doh station. Lay down a cheap plastic tablecloth on the ground and let the children go with some Play-doh jars and you’ll finally have a Play-doh area you won’t have to clean up afterwards- it can be rolled up and put straight into the trash.
- Provide sports equipment. This can be as simple as a soccer ball or, if you have the room and equipment, this can be a badmitton or volleyball net. This will give the children a place to run around, expend excess energy, and have fun.
- Pool resources to buy or rent an outdoor bouncer. You aren’t alone in this barbecue thing. Ask your family members or friends to contribute to getting a bounce-house. This is a great way to keep children entertained and, if purchased, can be used over and over again to enjoy at later events.
- Make tabletop s’mores. S’mores will always be the best activity that everyone loves. If you don’t have a fire pit, you can make your own roaster with a clay planting pot lined with aluminum foil and filled with charcoal briquettes. Light the briquettes and you can roast marshmallows, Starbursts, fruit, or whatever you want. Add different chocolate bars such as Reese’s peanut butter cups for greater variation.
- Stage watermelon seed spitting contests. This is a great way for children and adults to enjoy some friendly competition and is always a family classic. You’ll be talking about cousin George’s seed spitting prowess for years.
- Provide ice breaker games. One popular game in my family is the Alphabet game where you pick a topic and then each person must say something that starts with the next letter of the alphabet (ex. Topic: books. First person: “A Walk to Remember.” Second person: “Black Beauty.” Other games include: This or that, Would You Rather, 20 questions, and more.
- Schedule a breakfast barbecue. Grill sausage, bacon, eggs, and, best of all pancakes. With a pan on the grill, the possibilities are endless. Whether you choose to hold the barbecue in the morning or do breakfast for dinner, grilled breakfast is a great way to change things up and keep it fun.
- Go with iced drinks. With all the warm food you’re serving, iced drinks are the best choice. From lemonades to fruit waters to iced tea to beer and sodas- ice is your friend to keep you and your guests from overheating. If you provide cans and/or bottles in a cooler, fill it with water and ice (80/20 ratio) so the drinks float (protecting the hands) and cool evenly (keeping them refreshing).
- Protect you and your guests from bugs. Have bug spray available, use citronella incense, and at the end of the night, you can add sage to the fire pit or warm grill (just not while you’re cooking) to keep the bugs away naturally.
Barbecues are a great way to spend time with the ones you love right there in your own backyard. There’s nothing like good food and games to keep people entertained, happy, and coming back for more. So, whether you’re planning a family reunion, a July 4th celebration, or whatever the case may be, try to implement some of these tips for a successful, fun, and memorable barbecue.
Make your shopping list, send the invitations. It’s time to barbecue.