Holidays guarantee entertaining, in one form or another. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the chaos of hosting, cutting dramatically into family time during a season which should be above all, family-centric.
I countered this once by asking our son and daughter to be servers at a small dinner party we hosted. To my surprise, they took on the task with creative fanfare, devising a plan to emerge dressed “alike.” Our petite daughter stuffed herself into her younger brother’s khakis and plaid shirt, and with a mustache drawn on her face, appeared side-by-side with her khaki, plaid-shirted and mustached brother to greet guests, take drink orders, hand out water glasses and clear appetizer plates as needed. They called themselves “Bob and Bob” and ended up stealing the show. They enjoyed their popularity, and my husband and I appreciated their helpfulness, since we were stretched with finishing the meal and welcoming our guests.
This positive experience reinforced my commitment to invite the kids into the process of planning and executing a dinner party so they participate in a meaningful way. After all, we want our kids to get excited about hosting friends. And we want them to take pride in their contribution. But, we probably also need to broaden our definition of involvement. Your kids may be little performers reminiscent of “Bob and Bob,” but here are many other fresh ways to pull kids into the experience of hosting.
PREPARING FOR THE DINNER PARTY
» Under your supervision, have children help create guest invitations, address envelopes and attach stamps.
» Design the menu with your kids. Make a grocery list. For your child who loves to cook, assign parts of the meal to do solo or participate in.
» Let them get crafty. Appoint a child to make decorative nametags for guests and cards identifying food items for a buffet-style meal. Fancy name cards designating where each guest is to sit also adds a nice touch. Also, consider a poster for the front door welcoming guests and another poster labeling the guest bathroom door. Ask kids to research holiday quotes and write them out on heavy paper using their best handwriting. Display artistically around the house.
THE DAY OF THE DINNER PARTY
» Assign a child to help set and decorate the table.
» Task a child to manage a “station” where arriving guests can receive prepared nametags. Alternatively, make sharpies and disposal nametags available for guests.
» If you have a budding DJ in the family, ask him to organize a playlist for the night and keep the tunes coming.
» If your child is a natural behind the camera, have him or her photograph the evening and offer to send pictures to guests afterwards.
» For the child who has nonstop energy, name them “coat-runner” to deposit guests’ coats to a bedroom.
» Nominate the child who prefers to be outside to greet and hold the door for guests.
» If any of your children play musical instruments or sing, challenge them to entertain guests over coffee after dinner.
» Encourage literary children to recite a piece of holiday poetry like Clement Clarke Moore’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Enlisting children’s help requires patience and intentionality. Sometimes, it’s easier for parents to do things themselves without getting the kids involved. But doing so keeps them from experiencing the rich rewards of hosting and feeling involved, a great entrée into a life of friendship and service.
Kathryn Streeter is a D.C.-based mom and blogger.
By Talia Greenberg Hudgins
“It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the chaos of hosting, cutting dramatically into family time during a season which should be above all, family-centric.”