Kid Friendly Dinner Parties — by Guest Mom Amy Stigler

February 9, 2009

Hello Everyone! It’s so nice to have been invited to be a guest mom on one of my favorite blogs — thanks Gabrielle!

This week I thought I would do a series of posts about “entertaining with kids.” The impetus is that my husband and I love to host parties, but because we have three young children we needed to figure out a way to entertain that was kid friendly. Formal late-night cocktail parties were no longer very practical.

Luckily, we have found that while we still enjoy the occasional larger scale soiree, one of our favorite things to do is to invite a handful of friends and their children over for dinner. Sometimes we keep it really simple (take out and a movie) and sometimes we go a little fancy (kid-appropriate gourmet & games). Either way, we’ve found it to be the perfect way to catch up with our friends and the kids always seem to delight in these evening ‘playdates.’

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share some of our tips for hosting a family style gathering that is fun and entertaining for the children which in turn makes it enjoyable and relaxing for the adults. Well, as relaxing as a house filled with up to a dozen kids can be!

Just a few immediate thoughts to start off the week:

-We have found that having 2 families (or anywhere from 10-14 people total) is a really good number. It’s not too overwhelming but it still feels festive.
-Saturday evenings are perfect — more preparation time for us and the kids are a bit more rested. 5:30-9ish is the norm.
-Setting up a port-a-crib in a quiet place is always nice for friends with the under 2 set. I also encourage the kids to bring their PJs so everyone can just tuck in when they get home.

-Even on the ‘fancier’ evenings I usually take at least one shortcut — whether its buying a simple dessert (like ice cream sandwiches) or scheduling a post-dinner movie for the kids — it just makes things a wee bit more manageable.
-On the other hand, even on the simplest of evenings I incorporate a few special touches. I will elaborate on this a bit tomorrow.
-Music is key for us and we LOVE pandora. You just plug in a favorite artist and voila! it creates an instant playlist. Some of our favorite ‘kid/dance friendly’ channels are: Dan Zanes, Kool & the Gang, Ray Charles & Bob Marley. And then we switch gears during & after dinner — Edith Piaf, Astrud Gilberto, Billy Holiday, Tom Waits …
-Scattering balloons around is easy and instant entertainment for the kids. Music + balloons = happy dancing kids.

Ok. That is it for now … more to come in the days to follow. Also, I look forward to hearing your thoughts & ideas too.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Melissa February 9, 2009 at 12:32 pm

This will be so fun! I love entertaining but with two small children I have found it to be more work than fun.


2 Anonymous February 9, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Cute stuff already!


3 Autumn February 9, 2009 at 1:18 pm

fun ideas!


4 Christy February 9, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I absolutely loved reading this post and am so excited for the rest later this week. My husband and I have a five month old and are trying to figure out logistically how we can get back into the swing of things – we used to have loads of parties, from small to very large, but haven’t entertained since our daughter was born. I’m loving the ideas on music (never heard of that site before) and desserts – Of course! Who doesn’t love ice cream sandwiches. Brilliant!


5 Katie February 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Looking forward to the rest of your posts and your tips on entertaining with kids! I love to entertain and have friends over, but we all have 2 kids each now so it has become harder.


6 Edi February 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Inviting two families at once is more than I can handle – good for you!

One thing I like to do to get my kids involved in the preparation – is to have them make up place cards for each person. They also help with setting the table and the two of them are always “fighting” over who gets to help pass out the dessert (for some reason they consider it a privilege).


7 Laura February 9, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Great post! I’m wondering if you have any insight for my dilemma — my husband and I have no kids and a small apartment, but we love entertaining. All our friends, though, have kids. We really like kids, but don’t have toys or a playroom or much to entertain them with. What can we do so our friends with kids still feel welcome and not burdened by our invites?


8 amy graham stigler February 9, 2009 at 9:47 pm

great question laura. one thought is to ask your friends to bring along a bag of their children's favorite books, toys &/or dvds. another suggestion would be to keep some kid-friendly art supplies on hand. puzzles and board games are small-space activities that engage kids as well. i hope there will be a few more tips you can use from my upcoming posts. stay tuned ….


9 Janika February 10, 2009 at 9:22 am

To Laura–We are also in a small apartment with no space to entertain (and 4 kids!) , so we entertain in other places! We’ve met friends at parks, restaurants and even at our local children’s museum that has a great seating area to eat a picnic dinner. Find out where your friends’ kids like to go and host a gathering there!


10 Vanessa February 10, 2009 at 10:03 am

I really needed these tips! Just this past weekend I was feeling so frusturated with trying to host with my little kids, haven’t figured it out yet and this will help!


11 Nicola Kramer August 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

Hi there,
Check out Twisty Noodle for coloring pages that you can customize (for free). They would make great entertainment for your littlest guests. Here is one that I created for you…
Nicola @ Twisty Noodle


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