Are you hosting a holiday cocktail or dinner party? Got guests coming for New Year's Eve?
During the holidays, most parties are family affairs. This means the hosts have to worry about entertaining not only other adults, but their offspring (and maybe their parents) as well.
You could make your affair 'adults only'. But sometimes it's fun to include the whole family. Plus, sitters can be difficult to find during the holidays.
So your job is to plan a holiday soiree where people of all ages will be comfortable, entertained, and safe. It's easier than you might think.
Here are a few holiday entertaining ideas to get the party started.
While it's great to be able to spend even more time with our kids and our friends' kids, more bodies (regardless of size) mean more work. And when you have to cater to different interest levels and food preferences, a "simple" gathering just keeps getting less simple.
Okay, you know how to entertain folks your own age, but what about their Mom who travels with a walker?
People will sometimes ask if they can bring their extended family along for the party. This is a good opportunity to find out their guests' ages and whether their guests have special needs.
Here are some good strategies for elderly guests, but also for a safe party for all ages:
Assure a safe entry. Make sure your house number is clearly visible. Clear sidewalks and porches of kids' toys or anything someone might trip over. Make sure the entry is well lighted.
Clear walkways. Inside, make sure there is clear, well-lit walkway that someone in a wheelchair or with a walker could navigate safely. Take up slippery area rugs. Mark any changes in floor level with plants or furniture.
Arrange seating. Even if you're planning a stand-up cocktail party, you should always have a few seats arranged in small cozy groups. This makes conversation easy and audible. And it provides a restful place for those who can't stand for long periods of time.
Position tables. Position small tables near some of the seating so guests can put their drinks or food down. Make sure the lighting is pleasant but strong enough so that the tables can be seen en route to finding another cheese ball.
Most adult parties are boring for kids. No clowns. No balloons.
They just don't get what we enjoy about talking to each other over a glass of wine or a martini and nibbling smelly shrimp and cheese.
To keep kids from running wild at your soiree, take the following precautions:
Behavior warning: Remind your children that parties are grownup events and we must use prim and proper behavior. No running. No loud voices. No roughhousing. Pretend you are a prince or princess for the evening.
Damage control: Put breakables on higher shelves. Anything that can be bumped off or into and broken will be. Move delicate possessions to higher ground until the pint-size stampede is over.
Fire safety: Don't leave lighted candles unattended in bathrooms or anywhere little hands might reach. Fireplace candles or lighters go atop the mantel, not alongside the firewood in easy reach.
Pet protection: Put all pets away for the evening. Yeah, they're cute, but dogs and cats can get nippy when mauled by 2-year-olds. More fragile animals like hamsters or birds could be injured. You also lessen the risk of someone accidentally letting the pets escape if you put them in a safe place during the party.
Kid zone creation: Set aside a study or den as a play area. Equip it with a few toys, videos, computer games, coloring books and crayons. The kids don't have to stay there - that would be unsociable. But at least you've provided a kid-friendly environment where they can amuse themselves. Be sure to provide a separate teens-only space away from the little kids to make grumpy teens smile.
If you can possibly find a babysitter for the evening, hire one. Your neighborhood high schooler coldly probably entertain the mini-masses nicely for a few hours - at a bargain rate. It's well worth your investment. It might even save your carpet.
If you really want an adult affair, but want to make it easy on parents who might not have regular sitters to call on, arrange for your sitter to watch the kids at one of your guest's homes (preferably nearby). If you're having a late party (such as a New Year's Eve gathering), it could even be a sleepover affair where guests pick up the kids the next morning.
Just make sure your sitter/kid ratio stays at about one sitter for every five children. If you have more than five kids, hire two (or even more) sitters.
Make a few kid-friendly foods. Kids like carrots, cheese, Goldfish crackers, peppers, popcorn, and pretzels.
If you're having a dinner party, a good bet for the kids would be grilled chicken or burgers, stovetop mac and cheese, or cheese pizza.
Make or buy some special drinks for the kids, like lemonade or juice boxes, or buy some "kid champagne" (a.k.a.sparkling cider).
Make sure they have a kids' table where they can reach their special snacks. This way, they won't be dripping dip all over the adult version.
Give gifts: One way of keeping the kiddies happy is to give them each a little gift. It amuses them for a while, and their parents will love you.
All done? Now you can relax and enjoy entertaining with the entire family this holiday season, knowing you've done all you can do to create a festive soiree for all your guests.