Home & garden | Why some parents like having the hangout house

Start with amenities like a monster TV or fire pit, add a never-ending supply of munchies and a relaxed attitude toward your kids bringing home a friend — or five — and you may just find that your place has become the place where the tweens and teens want to be.

A hangout house is often the first spot kids think to gather to work on a school project or binge on the latest Xbox game or silly YouTube videos.

”There are some houses that are sort of magnetic,” said Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents magazine. “A hangout house is well-stocked, welcoming, casually decorated and not too fussy, and where there’s an adult present, but on the periphery.”

“A hangout house is well-stocked, welcoming, casually decorated and not too fussy,” says Parents magazine editor-in-chief Dana Points. photo/creative commons

Sure, with more kids around you can count on some extra cleanup or home repairs, a louder-than-usual buzz, and the expense of keeping kids in snacks.

But parents say the upsides are being able to keep tabs on their kids, getting to know their friends and gaining a peek into their real-life worlds.

Samantha Leggat described her home in Livermore as a playground, with lots of activities, such as skateboarding or playing Xbox or Wii.

Sometimes, when it’s just her young teenage boys, they can’t figure out what to do — until a friend comes over. That’s how Leggat prefers it, so she knows they’re not making bad choices or in an unsupervised home.

“I’d rather they be here than anywhere else because I can be the parental person keeping an ear out,” said Leggat. “I’m never hovering over them. I get to know the kids and be providing them with all the things they need.”

Leggat likes the energy of having people around and said the noise doesn’t bother her.

Seven years ago, Tammy Smith and her husband built an expansive home on nearly 13 acres in Trussville, Alabama, so they would have room for a heated pool and hot tub. After Friday night high school football games, her daughters would often pile in with eight or nine girls (plus boys who were eventually sent home) for a swim, pingpong, video games or sleepover.

”It’s nice to know they’re safe because they’re outside with music on, plenty of food and drink— versus a movie theater parking lot,” Smith said, adding that now, her two 20-something daughters still regularly invite friends over.

Another hangout-house parent, Jeff Kasky, said it’s not necessarily what’s in his five-bedroom home that makes it a draw; it’s his relaxed yet not overly permissive approach.

A father of three teenage boys, Kasky resides on a kid-filled cul-de-sac in a gated community in Delray Beach, Florida, with his fiancée, who has a 7-year-old daughter. The four kids enjoy having friends over, especially the two older boys.

Kids play on gaming systems or watch football on the 120-inch, high-definition TV with surround sound, enjoy the fire pit, practice musical instruments and “just lie all over the place” on couches and recliners, Kasky said.

“They know when they come over to our house, there’s no pretense. They can just have a good time. It’s good, clean fun.”

Kasky gives his kids leeway to get a little rowdy as long as the antics stay positive. “I’m not going to tell them to keep their voice down for no reason,” he said.

Supervision is crucial during the teen years, when kids may try to sneak sips of beer when the lights are low during a movie. Parents can subtly remind kids of their presence by throwing in a load of laundry or offering snacks.

“There are parents who, in order to be the cool house, have had to relax that rule and say as long as you are in the house you can have a drink,” Kasky said. ”That’s not acceptable to me for teenagers.”

Having a hangout house is not for everyone, however. “You’ve got to want to be around them and be easygoing and still set the rules,” Smith said.

Conversely, many parents who want their house to be the cool house can’t make it happen, try as they might, notes Points of Parents magazine.

“You might have a formula,” she says, “but there’s some magical piece — a ‘secret sauce’ — that’s intangible, yet needed to have a house full of other people’s kids.”