Although I'm kidless, many of my friends are not, so it's not unusual that plans often involve friends and their offspring. Being a bit of overgrown kid myself, I've collected a lot of toys over the years that I bring out when the wee ones come over. But having small guests invade your home without leaving it looking like a tornado hit it when they depart is more than a matter of a few trinkets. Here's what I've learned in the past few years...
- When serving food, think like a kid: Simple food, prepared simply, is always a hit. I like to serve pasta in small fun shapes with butter and parmesan, milk, vanilla ice cream. You can use food colouring in milk or in water; spread out newspaper and let kids colour their food themselves.
- Let your guests know beforehand that you are a host and not a babysitting service: As much as I adore kids (often preferring them to adults), I've got other guests to entertain, so I always suggest that parents come prepared with videos and their child's favorite toys. And no, I am not above sticking kids on my bed with Hulu.com tuned to cartoons. Other good choices: Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Wallee.
- Clear out your home: As much as possible, put away favorite, valuable breakables or any small objects you cherish. Consider rearranging the furniture so that kids can run around without knocking into sharp corners and throw blankets over upholstered furniture that does not clean up easily.
- Have a game box: I have a stash of crayons, stickers and glue sticks as well as a shelf of classic games like Jenga, Twister and Mexican Train Dominoes. These are all games that can be played using the regular rules or broken apart to entertain younger children.
- Set the kids up in their own area: Depending on a kid's temperament, they might do better left to play on their own in a bedroom with music playing and a few books, games and craft supplies.
- Naptime: I've found that a lot of my tiny guests are crazy excited by the idea of being able to jump and nap on my grownup bed, to draw on my carpet with chalk (friends were horrified when I suggested this to their child but then realized it could be vacuumed right up) or to play dress up in my closet (my collection of heels is always a big hit).