This article appears in Holiday Cookbook 2017.
If you haven’t noticed, your friends are all parents, too. This year, consider inviting their kids to your annual holiday party.
Sure, that’s going to change things, but it can also up the fun and energy. Just be sure you’ve got your plans in place so that everyone can enjoy themselves.
Children learn from all experiences that they participate in from an early age, said blogger and cooking diva Jorj Morgan, author of “At Home Entertaining.”
“Hosting a party with family friends is a most wonderful opportunity for children to interact with others. They learn social skills, etiquette skills, are inspired to taste new foods, dress up and, more importantly, to know how they fit into the world around them,” said Morgan, whose most recent book is “Sunday Best Dishes: A Cookbook for Passionate Cooks.”
When you’re inviting parents and their children, the party should be “kid-friendly without completely catering to the kids,” said Shari Medini, co-owner of the parenting website AdoreThem.com. “Kids are along for the fun of the event, but they aren’t the center of attention.”
The first question is often, should you hire a babysitter? That depends on the desires of the parent, said Sharon R. Einhorn, director of private events at Project Playdate, an child-care service in New York City.
“A method that we have been successful with is for children to have a special section such as a room or activity table. Within this section, we have a detailed ‘Party Plan’ that clearly identifies time that the children and parents can intermix,” Einhorn said.
Anticipate children’s needs by designating a quiet space that can be used for infants to nap or as a “wind-down” area for older children, where there can be a story time or movie.
“Overstimulated children are no fun, particularly at a party,” Einhorn said.
Foods like pizza, sliders and grilled cheese are easy and will please even picky eaters, but kids’ tastes shouldn’t dominate the menu.
Most hosts will probably keep breakable dishes away from toddlers, but “china isn’t usually an issue, especially with children ages 3 and up. What is more concerning is glassware and steak knives,” Einhorn said. “An option for plastic cups or small juice glasses is good because they are more easily held by small hands.”
“Scan your house and put away any toys that might cause issues: your child’s favorite toy that they won’t want anyone to touch, the really cool toy that you only have one of, the rocking horse that is sure to pinch someone’s toes, and the swords and Nerf guns that encourage battles to break out,” Medini said.
“Don’t worry about the tiny details and focus on the things that will have the biggest impact. A successful party for parents and kids alike is the one that allows them to be themselves and socialize in a low-pressure setting,” Medini said.