Munchkins Underfoot!

I have the dishes, the napkins, the crystal, the love of cooking and baking … but how do you do it (entertain) with little ones?

I recently received this letter from a reader with her 4th baby on the way. I love it when I see the hearts of young mommies who want to share their gift of hospitality. That is the first place where hospitality starts, with a desire for wanting to give to others and use your gifts.

I will be sharing an upcoming 3-part series on how I incorporated “entertaining” into my early years of motherhood (with 3 munchkins underfoot).

But let’s start here.

I’ve reached back into my memory bank to when my 3 children were little, and when we entertained a lot! How did I do it?

Going even further back, to my own childhood, I remember how my Mom never used having 3 little girls as a reason not to entertain. She did it, so what did I learn from her?

Of course we are living in a much faster-paced generation, but often what we learned from our mothers can be passed down to us.

I’d love to hear from readers regarding exactly what is holding you up, as a young mother, when it comes to entertaining?

Is it that you are unorganized, or you find entertaining too expensive? Or are your kids very active and it just doesn’t seem appealing at all? Do you lack space, or maybe you feel like you are a terrible cook? Maybe it’s just too overwhelming in this season of your life (very understandable) and you don’t know what to do with the kids, so that you can carry on an adult conversation with your guests!

With munchkins underfoot, is it planning and preparation that is hindering you? What to do with the kids during the meal? Or how to keep the peace and continue the hospitality after the meal?

Keep in mind, I am not talking in-depth, fancy-schmancy dinner parties. Just simple dinners where you invite another couple or two over – along with their kids!

Fire away with your questions, ladies! Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty regarding this entertaining with munchkins around!

(If you have some wisdom to share as a seasoned “hostess” and mother, maybe going back to the days when you did entertain in your home with little kids – feel free to comment on what your secrets were. It will all be incorporated into this 3-part series. Photos: Our friend Andie (almost two), in the kitchen - and soon to be a big sister to twin siblings!)


Holly @aiminghigh said...

We have four small children and pregnant with number five. Our oldest is six. We also have food allergies that makes our food "weird" to others. We have found the easiest way to be hospitable is to host a potluck.
We do themes like Mexican, soup, crockpot, or smoothie (bring your own blender) etc. parties. That way I only have to really be sure I have made enough for my allergy prone family, possibly make something fun to add to the potluck, and tidy up the house.
Serving buffet style works best for us too. People don't seem to mind paper plates or cups and plastic silverware at buffets and potlucks.
Clean up is easier too as most of the dishes go right out the door with your guests. :>)
Hope this helps someone else with littles be just that more hospitable.
Many Blessings,

Leigh Ann said...

Grilling or take-out is always easy for adults. For kids we do pizza or mac-n-cheese. Then we ask people to bring wine or dessert. We also start earlier in the day than we used to so kids are home at a decent hour for bed.

Myrna said...

We built a new house when my daughter was 6 and her brother 4. For the first time I had a formal dining room. So we learned how to eat formally. I had the cutest little rubber toy pig, that would sit at my plate. We'd explain and demonstrate a rule---then watch for infractions--when you forgot how to behave---the pig came to your plate. We added rules and mannerly practice one by one--until they could be well remembered and managed throughout a whole meal. We also learned table setting and napkin folding. At the end of our "training"---less than a month---we had a formal dinner in the dining room---all dressed up---and I used my wedding china & hand cut crystal. The kids were so excited---it was the first time we used the room. They are now 27 & 25 and talk about it still :-)
After the initiation, we entertained in our formal dining room, with our children. They always behaved their best in that room---and if we had younger guests, they gently coached and modeled for their friends. Many a happy event was held in that room, little girls tea parties---but the favorite was when the grandparents visited and they built a fort with blankets and slept under the dining table with grandpa!!!

Abbey said...

I am so looking forward to this series. I have 3 small children and a very tiny house but I do like to entertain. So I could use a little or actually a lot of help with suggestions on where to put people and what to do with the kids.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am really curious to see where this series takes you. I know for me it is partly about the money (husband is still in grad school) and the space. The space more meaning I can't handle all the chaos from having so many kids underfoot (guests plus mine) in such a tight space when I am trying to enjoy time with adult friends :) !!

Marianne said...

I am mommy to my first baby, now 9 months. Most friends have babies, too, and not many have "obvious babysitters"--like family, around. What does one do when the baby goes to bed at 7:30pm? Do we move everything up? So far I've just put the baby to bed and returned to hostessing...what do friends with babies do? I am new to all this, but I'll admit I've let it intimidate me from having guests.

Susie's Thoughts said...

Hi Sandy! GREAT Topic! This is where it is hard for me. I'd choose having friends over without kids or older kids rather than littler ones (although I still do). I find that OFTEN parents come over and want to sit/visit/get to know you all the while letting their little ones destroy my home. I am trying not to be obnoxious about my home...it's just stuff. BUT I can't concentrate on conversation while trying to pull their kids out of the cupboard or stop the kid from hurting my cat or breaking one of my kids' toys. I know it is just a season but I feel anxious, worn down and not at all enjoying the time together. It seems to me that most parents do not have the same rules at a house that I do (ask before unloading/using/climbing, etc.)(or respect authority...when a parent says no...it means no.) Anyway. I have found that for the most part I try to get together with families with littles away from OUR home or do a couples thing only. Any thoughts on this one?

Jen said...

I have a different sort of question but hopefully related to your topic. My husband and I do not have any children, but most of our friends do. We love to entertain but experience a lot of anxiety when it comes to inviting our friends with children to come over for dinner (and bring the kids). My biggest question is, what do I feed them? Thanks!

Michelle said...

Hi Sandy!! I just love your blog...
I am a mother to seven children, 12
years of age down to 7 months. Of the seven children, five of them are girls. I'm definitely inter-
ested in the Balcony Girls.( what
a wonderful idea) I like to use
the pot luck idea or buffet style
too. I find I just need to be super
organized so I don't become too
stressed out. I call on my older
girls to help me out when necessary.

Blessings, Michelle

Jill@Who Could Ask for Anything More said...

I only have one toddler but we entertain a lot. We plan for people to arrive around 7:30 and toddler goes to bed at 8:00 and so then we're free to enjoy "adult" time. Our little guy is good about staying in bed and falls asleep easy, so we're lucky in that regard. If I had more young ones, I'm not so sure we'd entertain as much.

Beth said...

This is a great idea for a topic! My kids are 6 and 18, but we do have friends with little ones.

Regarding the question of what to serve so kids have something to eat... I handle it three ways. When I invite the family I ask the mom if there is anything anybody in the family can't eat. That takes care of allergies and weird diets.

Secondly, I plan the meal to include food that aren't too "weird". A chicken casserole or lasagna instead of fruit-stuffed pork roast, for example. Obviously there's nothing wrong with the pork roast, but it might be outside the experience of a lot of little kids.

Thirdly, I make sure to serve some kind of simple fruit salad or jello, rolls and butter, and lots of dessert. If I'm doing something exotic for the adult dessert I make sure to have cookies and ice cream for the kids. Then I pretend not to notice that the kids are eating nothing but rolls, jello, and cookies. :) Seriously, one meal like that won't kill them unless they've got some serious health issues. And they'll remember your meals very fondly as they get older!

La Tea Dah said...

Entertaining when the kiddos were little meant:

1. organizing! a special meal with family or friends meant I started planning at the beginning of the week. at that time I worked full time, so a special meal required cleaning on wednesday, shopping on thursday, cooking on friday, etc.

2. choose an alternative venue for entertaining. it takes alot of pressure off the hostess. a picnic in the park means you can concentrate on food rather than food and a spotless house! for week-end events our family enjoyed renting a house at the beach (or mountains, or wherever is near) and inviting week-end guests there. sometimes we provided all the meals, sometimes we assign cooks by family. camping is another fun alternative. hospitality goes everywhere --- and isn't limited to home.

3. don't be afraid to ask for help. guests actually ENJOY being asked to bring punch or rolls, a salad, or a dessert. feel free to include them if you don't have time to do it all yourself. the idea is to spend meaningful time with friends, not to be a showcase hostess.


Jen said...

We never really hosted "formal" dinners while our children were young. We were (and still are to a certain extint) into serving finger foods and then playing cards or a game like Gestures or Balderdash. While the adults played, we set the little ones up with Candyland or Chutes and Ladders making them feel "big". Nights like those were simple and fun. We also did the potluck thing, but usually with a theme. Another way to entertain where everyone is welcome is grilling out and playing in the yard with the little ones. It always worked so well for us.

Nadine said...

What a cute baby. When my kids were little we still entertained. We did it after bedtime and also Tom and worked together to get things done. It was very helpful to have an extra pair of hands. I got the kids involved when they got a little older (help set the table, stir something...kids love to feel helpful).

Jen said...

I will be looking forward to all of this. I read all the comments. I had more problems with my little ones when they were under 2...now I can pre occupy a little better. Although what would help me are kid friendly foods and still making it great for the adults. We get tied of the Lasagna, Spaghetti Chili get tog ethers.....lol.

Praise and Coffee said...

Being in ministry for so many years, our house has always been the hang out place.

I have found that people just want to know that you enjoy having them over and they don't care if things are not perfect.

Sometimes we would just do a big pizza night, other times we did "muchie" nights and everyone brought a dish, mostly dippy stuff.

Very rarely did we have big sit down meals, but when we did it was usually lasagna and all the fixins.

Looking forward to your series Sandy!

Barb said...

When our kids were little, I looked at entertaining as an opportunity to teach our kids. They'd help with cooking, table-setting, cleaning, and consideration of how to "entertain" the guests and what to do if the guest's children behaved differently than we expected. We even had a napkin-folding book that our kids learned from, to help dress up the table. I remember one dinner with mostly adult guests where my baby cried and fussed the whole night, often wanting to nurse. It was frustrating, but oh well. As far as errant child guests--we'd politely, but firmly, explain our home rules to our guests. We're inviting people into our home, to get to know us and see how we live, even as we get to know them. They can deal with our rules for the 3-4 hours that they're with us. My policy, anyway...

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

Hi Sandy. Ok, reaching WAY back in time to my young mom days. It was tough, I do remember that! I think I've shared my ideas here before, but here is what I did.

As a young mom with babies, I started to refine what I COULD handle in the way of entertaining. We all have our situations and abilities, so I just had to assess mine. For me, I always struggled with the food part. So, after a few failed attempts at dinner parties, I decided brunch was a better solution for me! My husband was a music director at our church so every Saturday morning at 10AM we had rehearsals. Oftentimes we'd have musician parties afterwards with a brunch. I already had the house picked up for the rehearsal so all I had to do was work on brunch! Combining events like that saved me lots of time.

Then, as my children got a little older, we made entertaining a fun family affair. We'd invite other families over for make your own pizza or ice cream sundae nights. Everyone brought toppings so the expense was minimal. It was fun for every one and a foolproof way to feed folks!

As far as the conversation went, well, to be honest with young kids running around the adult conversation was a bit choppy! But such is life with young families, we just didn't expect any great conversation. It did become difficult during those years and we didn't do as much entertaining because of it. The other moms just didn't want to take their clan out and chase them around someone else's house. But we tried to find things for kids to do and sometimes that worked for awhile.

Eventually during the years when our kids were in early grade school our entertaining took place at parks or in backyards. Moms chatted while kids climbed on play structures.

In order to have adult conversation without kid interruption, we'd host separate date nights with other couples. But of course, finding babysitting was tough sometimes.

As kids got into sports, entertaining took on a new problem. No one had time to get together anymore! Too many practices, games and traveling to other cities for meets all week long. And that is where we are now. Our friends have no time for regular get-togethers! Everyone is too busy. So, we have a once or twice a year party for the adults and we are happy with that, until our kids are all grown up!

Moral of the story, be flexible and creative through the stages of life!

Ok, I've written a book here! Time for me to disconnect...


see you there! said...

I'm a Nana so G-kids are special guests of great importance LOL!

Digging back in my memory bank, when we and our friends had little ones we just set a place for them at the table. They learn manners pretty quickly from example.

If you want to have a more formal dinner consider hiring a teen (or 2) to "babysit" all the younger crowd. The kids can all eat in the kitchen or even a bedroom while the adults get a chance to enjoy some relaxed time. It costs a bit for the sitter but what a gift for the parents - a "night out". Maybe this could work in with a lesson for those wonderful Balcony Girls of yours.


AnneMarie said...

hey!!so... you think I am young... that has me smiling ear to ear! lol! seriously.. .God just laughed at me being a young mom and all these kids are coming a little later than anticipated.. lol! but come they are every 2 years.
I think my problem comes from I have one in school, one thinking she is 13.. she is 4... a toddler and the newborn coming...
I know my parents just did it too.. I remember the dinners, the couples that came... they had such a great time!
I think it's the timing of it all for my family.. the hesitation of my dh when we invite others with kids.. he worries way more than me!! lol! My kids are not quite old enough to leave to thier own devices yet.. the 2 older ones can find fun and know where the fridge is but my 2 year old son climbs.. and climbs.. he is a boy and a toddler for sure! lol!
I will have to come back with more questions.. crying toddler at my side....

GiBee said...

When both parents have a full time jobs and are actively involved at church and in leadership at church, it makes it very hard to keep up with the house enough to feel like you can have people over and not be embarrassed by the state of your home! Especially with little ones into big toys that get placed all over the place.

Aubrey said...

Oh, I love to entertain. I am not shy about simply fixing up a huge pot of some soup with some fresh bread and sharing with as many folks as we can cram into the place. I do like to have sit down dinners, but as I have three children (ages 3, 2, and almost 1) dinner around the table can be, um, hectic? Most of our friends take it in stride, but I find that the routine of having folks over and juggling the kiddos can leave me breathless and a little stressed, thereby missing out on the relaxation of having friend together. Space is a slight issue, but one we don't pay a lot attention to.