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How (and Why) to Throw a Block Party

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Read Time: 3 minutes

Vanessa Elias is a longtime friend of Let Grow, a proponent of play, a parenting coach at Thrive with a Guide, and also — because of all these — a planner of block parties. She’s so good at those, she has released a free Block Party USA Guide to help us all organize block parties in our neighborhoods — starting right now.

“Keep it simple!” is Vanessa’s mantra. “No expensive venue. No decorations or favors. No elaborate menu. Nothing staged for social media consumption. Block parties are about putting away phones, meeting and enjoying neighbors, and fostering more free play for children.”

The benefits of a block party? Let Vanessa count the ways:

  • Block parties encourage free play for children. An abundance of free play can make children happier, better problem-solvers, and more energized to pursue learning and develop deep interests.
  • After block parties, you may see an uptick in teenagers being hired by their neighbors – a win-win! Babysitting, pet sitting, watering plants, mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow. Part-time paid work helps teenagers build agency and confidence.
  • Block parties can cultivate a culture of showing up for one another in countless ways. After a block party, a one child started decorating everyone’s mailbox for holidays, and a family with a generator offered charging in their house during a power outage. 
  • When we get together face-to-face, we realize that we have more in common than we are different. Block parties all across the country are proof that neighbors may vote differently and they may disagree on many issues, but you can still laugh together and offer a helping hand. And eat!

In 2018, Vanessa launched Big Block Party Weekend in her hometown of Wilton, Connecticut, with the mission of “building community one block at a time.” The inaugural weekend brought together more than 1,200 residents for approximately 40 block parties. The joy and benefits could be felt immediately and continue to grow. Wilton’s block parties are now a beloved annual tradition. 

“I founded Block Party USA as an easy way to achieve connection, civility, and community – and especially to foster free play for kids,” says Vanessa. As the former head of a entire task force on free play, she knows that when kids play with other kids it reduces their anxiety and boosts independence.

What’s more, when neighbors talk to neighbors, in real life, something shifts. “A block party just once a year can have a profound ripple effect.”

Sounds fun and easy. Make it a pot luck and you don’t even have to cook (much)! Here’s the free guide: Party on!

Vanessa Elias


  1. MMark says:

    I had much contact w/ neighbors as it was w/ the basketball hoops my Dad erected, walking my dogs, playing at the Elba Point Beach, an extensive paper route, parties we teens initiated, summer jobs in Hopatcong, NJ parks, Scouting, sports, camping extensively w/ my family, the local whitewater kayaking club taking me under their wing, so too the State Park naturalist on nature hikes. Hopatcong lacked for many organized activities. No movies, mall, shopping center, little league soccer, tennis courts, medical facilities.

  2. MMark says:

    I grew up in the small, rural-ish suburb Hopatcong NY. 4 different houses all close to the Lake. 2 fronted highways. One, I believe, a dead-end road w/ 4 houses. I don’t even know what Manhattan’s policy is. I live in a bldg w/ a courtyard. The building facing outward is retail space on all 4 sides: operating or abandoned. The one development with blocks had an active beach club and many kids already friends with one another. We heard as kids that “wife-swapping” and other wild parties were “common”–whatever that meant. Ironically, my Dad esp raised us that promiscuity was fine. My parents had some hippie values, tastes. But they weren’t hedonists. In many ways, quite conventional, averse to illicit drugs. There was much mobility, with many friends, family moving far away. Or tied to Catholic schools.