Photograph courtesy Flickr/mtoz
Set the Stage
To turn her house into hangout central for her 11-year-old son and his friends, Katie Buckland has built a mini water park in her backyard, complete with a pool featuring a steady current, six jets that shoot water into the air, and a nine-foot-high water slide.
Buckland throws six to eight parties each summer, all of them poolside. To keep wayward belongings to a minimum (“I’ve had moms call me six or seven times about a missing sweatshirt”), she has her youngest guests stash their stuff in pool house cubbies and keeps a supply of inexpensive outdoor-only towels and bathing suits on hand, which she replenishes at end-of-season sales.
Put Up Your Guard
After seeing a mother dive into a pool fully clothed to rescue her kid at a party (“a serious buzz kill,” she says), Buckland started hiring certified lifeguards for her fetes (she finds them through her tennis club or on Craigslist). About $20 an hour buys peace of mind.
Fight Burger Fatigue
Buckland grills vegetables, chicken, and crusty bread over charcoal or provides an assortment of cheeses and toppings so that guests can make their own sandwiches. She owns a Sno-Cones maker (which she found on eBay), and for adults, she adds alcohol to the ice and serves the libation in a shot glass: “Perfect when it’s really hot outside.”
Most of Buckland’s events are family affairs, but others—her cocktail parties, for example—are adults only. Guests who don’t get the hint from her formal printed invites (she orders from finestationery.com) sometimes ask to bring their kids, and she always says no. “If you give in to one, you have to give in to everybody.”