DIY Outdoor Movie Night (with Recipes) — Invite the whole block!

There have been a few times in my short history as a parent where my husband and I have engineered activities that I believe are singlehandedly fun enough to provide all the happiness my kids need for their entire childhoods. And last Saturday, that’s how I felt when we set up the tetherball, grilled some sliders and dogs, broke out our new Epson HD movie projector ($700), hung a bedsheet on the side of the house, and held an outdoor screening of Michael Jackson’s This Is It for my two daughters plus a dozen of their closest neighborhood friends. The resolution on the projector was so incredible that I was able to start the movie even before it was dark, which parents of the younger kids appreciated.

The movie projector was an investment, but to me the purchase seemed bigger than just another gadget to add to the rec room. I viewed it as a way to recapture the summers I grew up with. Other than the technologically advanced projector and the actual movie we played (my six-year-old is MJ-obsessed, so I didn’t have much of a say in the matter), I tried to keep the party old-school – no evite (“Just come on over!”), no fancy food. I wanted to recreate the warm summer nights I remember in the neighborhood where I grew up, where families just made spontaneous bbq plans by shouting across the street, and no matter how many people showed up, there always seemed to be enough food and things to do. We spread some picnic blankets on the patio and the kids munched on popcorn, popping up themselves to dance to “Beat It” or “Thriller” when the spirit moved them.

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THE SCHEDULE

  • 6:00 Arrival. Tetherball, whiffle ball, hula hoops, jump ropes.

  • 6:30 Grill Time!

  • 7:00 Movie Begins (Hand out Twizzlers and Good & Plenty’s)

  • 8:30 Ice Cream Sandwiches.

  • 9:00 Everyone Leaves.

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SUGGESTED MOVIES

YouKnowForKids.com has a fantastic selection of summer movies from the 80s. Here are some other ideas:

  • For kids under 5: My Neighbor Totoro, Finding Nemo, The Muppet Movie

  • For kids under 8: The Love Bug, This Is It

  • For kids under 8-12: Pink Panther, Freaky Friday (original)

THE MENU

I went classic with modern upgrades, i.e. the hamburger beef was grass-fed and the hot dogs were all-beef, uncured, and nitrate-free (from Trader Joe’s).

  • best recipes perfect guacomole

    Perfect Guacamole

    Follow the link for one version or try mine: scoop out the flesh from two avocados into a medium bowl. Add the juice from a half lime, 1 teaspoon finely minced red onion, 10 grape tomatoes (halved), 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, and a generous pinch of salt. Mash with a fork until slightly smooth, slightly chunky. Serve with chips.

    Get the Recipe »

  • best recipes sliders and hot dogs

    Sliders & Hot Dogs

    I served both on whole-wheat dinner rolls. I like giving kids sliders instead of full-fledged burgers – that way they can grab a burger and a dog (always a tough decision for a kid if you can only have one) and not eat themselves sick. This recipe has you doing them in the oven, but if it’s warm out, they’re perfect for the grill.

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  • best recipes quesadillas

    Quesadillas

    I knew there were some vegetarians in the group (mostly parents), so I made a bunch of different combos in the afternoon (spinach and cheese, chicken and cheese, just cheese), wrapped them in foil, and then reheated them right before everyone came over. My fellow Family Kitchen blogger Caroline had a great quesadilla tutorial a few weeks ago that I followed closely or you can try this recipe.

    Get the Recipe »

  • best recipes homemade ice cream sandwiches

    Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

    This was a suggestion from another Family Kitchen blogger – Kelsey Banfield – and what a hit! The kids couldn’t believe their luck. The trick is to make sure the sandwiches are really frozen before you serve – otherwise, the ice cream is too soft and oozes out the side, making for an unmanageable mess. Use your favorite cookie recipe – I used this chocolate chocolate chip one and then stuffed them with vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

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