I have been blessed to observe my little girl lately and the delight she finds in showing hospitality to others! She loves offering popcorn or water to those who come through our day. She is catching the vision. Even at such a young age, we can encourage a heart of love and service towards others by practically including them in demonstrations of hospitality. They are a blessed addition to our hospitality. But it can often be challenging to prepare for guests when we have little ones demanding our attention. How can we practically include them? How can we make hospitality preparations simple with little ones in tow?
1. Include them in the inviting process. Who are they interested in inviting over? Could they hand out the invitations? Incorporating children in this way really helps to strengthen their social skills. Adopt a “grandpa” or “grandma” from your church or neighborhood and discuss how you could do something special with or for that person.
2. Include them in praying for your guests. In preparation for your guests, try to spend a few moments together praying the Lord’s blessing over your home and guests. Let them pray their own special prayer on your guests behalf.
3. Include them in your preparations. Prepare simple dishes that the kiddos can help assemble. Whether it be simple dicing of vegetables, stirring together a batter, or setting the table. This gives them a sense of ownership over the serving and heightens their anticipation of the evening.
I heard a story of a a godly older woman who shared that as she got ready for guests to arrive, her little ones would be working hard alongside her in the kitchen doing their own project: 1) making place cards w/ a Bible verse on it, 2) drawing pictures for the ones that would be coming, and 3) practicing a song or play for the guests. Together they participated in building the excitement for the evening.
4. Let them serve. Be willing to practice training them how to carry plates, cups, and other utensils to set the table at home in every day life in preparation for also serving your guests. Children as young as three can carefully serve dessert on plates, or offer beverages to a guest.
5. Keep the kids food simple. Remember that little ones are often pretty picky. Why not keep it less stressful by preparing something easy that they will be sure to enjoy – macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs, etc. This way neither you nor your guests isn’t stressing out half of the evening trying to get the kids to eat their food.
6. Keep the menu simple. While we will be sharing some easy menu ideas later, I wanted to mention that keeping our hospitality menus simple has been essential! I stick to one pot meals, or a main dish and salad, or crockpot dinners. No five course dinners in this season of life. Any meal will be a blessing to your guest (remember they just appreciate the break from their own dinner preparations!), even if it is a simple pot of chili and cornbread. It’s hearty and delicious! Or simply, stick to dessert. This keeps your stress levels down, makes clean up easy, and hospitality doable with kids.
7. Consider feeding your kids in advance. I know when we host our weekly Community Group dinner, it doesn’t start till 6pm. By this time the kids are starving and cranky and constantly under my feet. If I can give them something easy and simple in advance, they will stay occupied while I put the final preparations together.
8. Remove breakables ahead of time, in addition to any loud toys you might have. Before we have company, any push or riding toys are moved to the garage. It just gets too loud with hard wood floors to be able to enjoy our company. The best easy toys for company seem to be a big pile of blocks or legos and a selection of dress-ups. They seem to meet the needs of both boys and girls. To keep the mess down, I specifically put half the toys up and out of the way, thus protecting against a big mess.
What inspiring ideas can you pass along for practicing hospitality with kiddos?