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Food, Fun and Friendship: Why Potlucks Matter!


The end of summer vacation is just around the corner and there is just something about all the kiddos getting back on that yellow school bus that makes me want to buck up and celebrate the end of another awesome summer break. What better way to do that than with a gathering of friends for one last summer hurraw! Celebrating the beginning of the school season with a community building potluck can help start the year off right by boosting children’s self confidence and reminding them that they are an important part of a bigger picture. Not to mention, parents can chat, exchange a few good laughs and have an excuse to act like kids themselves while running around with the little ones.

When a lot of people think about community, images of neighborhood kids riding bikes down the street and neighbors sharing coffee on their porches likely pop into their heads. While neighborhood communities are fabulous and a great way to build trusting relationships around the place you live, this isn’t the only way to have a healthy sense of belonging to a community. The amazing thing about community is that it is whatever you make it. You don’t need to live in a small, well connected town to find or create one. What I consider my family’s community is a large network of local friends and families that live all over town. While we see each other here and there at the park, playdates or gymnastics and interact via social media throughout the year, we make a point to all gather together with our families at least once a year in a common place to share food, friendship and stories. 

Over the past few years, my husband has organized a fall and spring potluck in a local park and they are something many in our small community look forward to. They are nothing fancy but being with the right group of folks guarantees they are always memorable. To organize one, we create a private Facebook event, invite our friends and say “Come if you can and bring a dish if you want!” Saturday or Sunday in the early evening tends to not conflict with birthday parties or religious practices so we like to plan it around that time. Having the Facebook event also makes it convenient for folks to let others know what dish they are bringing, if they are coming but will be late, or if someone in their family has a severe food allergy so others know to label their dishes.

At the city park we like to use, there are plenty of gorgeous trees, picnic tables and an open field. Folks bring hula hoops, kick balls, frisbees, children’s books, picnic blankets and a dish to share. While no one is required to bring food, we are never short on grub, that’s for sure. There’s just something about adults and kids all sharing a meal that really cements a gathering. 

While low key potlucks are just a good old fashion fun fest, this community involvement is a crucial part to any child’s wellness. Having a close, trusting relationship with parents sets a good foundation, but it’s imperative for children to have other trusted adults in their lives that they can maintain close, dependable relationships with. Having an annual or biannual gathering with a group of friends and their families can help foster your child’s relationship with other trusted adults in your community circle. Seeing you as a parent involved in community also models to your child that community is valuable and worth our time and effort to maintain.

Before your little tike gears up for school in the coming weeks, considering planning a potluck with family friends or the kids in the neighborhood. Along with those new folders and fresh packed crayons, your kiddo is sure to hop on that bus with a renewed sense of belonging to a greater community.

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