Family doing fireworks

No. 1: Get to know your neighbors

Last year, 36 million people celebrated National Night Out in all 50 states. Millions organized block parties and family activities with their neighbors for the annual August event. Organize your own this year.
Block parties are a great way to finally talk to people you've merely swapped hellos with for years, and they offer you and your children a fun opportunity to party plan.

One suggestion: print out a block map and have your neighbors write their names on their house. Then mail everyone a copy.
Other ideas: Organize street-painting parties where kids brighten up intersections with multicolored designs (check with the city first). Organize a neighborhood scavenger hunt that ends with a barbecue in your back yard.

Or sit out on the front porch or steps with blowing bubbles, sidewalk chalk -- and a cooler of cold drinks for passersby. Help a neighbor with yardwork. Host a backyard campout.