holiday entertaining ideas for families

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, so the host not only has to worry about entertaining other adults, but their offspring and maybe their parents as well.

You could make your affair 'adults only'. But it's very difficult to find babysitters at this time of year. Plus, this is supposed to be family time and such invites could make you look like a Scrooge. The solution?

Plan your holiday entertaining with the goal of keeping people of all ages comfortable, safe, and entertained. Here are a few holiday entertaining ideas to get you started.

Tips for Creating Kid-Friendly Grown-Up Affairs

Most adult parties are boring for kids. No clowns. No balloons. They just don't get it. To keep kids from running wild at your social, take the following precautions:

Having a festive holiday soiree with kids is possible with planning and pre-party damage control.
  • Damage control: Hang precious ornaments high on the tree. Put breakables on higher shelves.
  • Fire safety: Do not leave lighted candles unattended in bathrooms or anywhere little hands might reach.
  • Protect the pooch: Put all pets away for the evening. Yeah, they're cute, but dogs and cats can get nippy when mauled by 2-year-olds. And more fragile animals like hamsters or birds could be injured. You also lessen the risk of someone accidentally letting them out.
  • Create a kid haven: 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.
  • Hire a sitter: If you can possibly find a babysitter for the event, hire one. Maybe the sitter could do a few easy crafts with the kids.
  • Kids' menu: Make a few kid-friendly foods: cheese, Goldfish, pretzels, popcorn, carrots, peppers. If you're having a dinner party, a good bet for the kids would be mac and cheese or cheese pizza. Make some mulled cider or buy some "kid champagne" - the sparking cider. Make sure they have a kid table where they can reach their special snacks. And this way, they won't be dripping dip all over the adult version.
  • Gifts: One way to keep the kiddies happy is to give them a little gift. It amuses them for a while, and it makes their parents like you, and - hey! - it's Christmas. 
  • Dinner parties: For dinner parties, you need to do all the things listed above, plus set up a special table for the kids. If you absolutely cannot find a sitter (try very, very hard), get the parents to take turns supervising the kiddie table. Most kids will actually prefer to have their own table in another room - especially if you let them watch a move - and on this special occasion, I certainly would. You're in survival mode here.

Safety Tips for Holiday Entertaining

OK, you know how to entertain people your age, but what about their mama who comes with a walker? People will usually ask if they can bring kids or extended family.  

This is a good opportunity to find out how many kids and their ages and whether their extended family guests have special needs. Here are some good strategies - not just for elderly guests - but for party safety for all:

  • Safe entry: Clear sidewalks and porch of kids' toys or anything that someone might trip over. Make sure the entry is well lighted.
  • Clear walkways: Inside, make sure there is a clear walkway that someone with a wheelchair or walker could safely navigate. Take up slippery area rugs. Make sure any changes in floor level are well marked with plants or furniture.
  • 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.
  • Tables: Position small tables near some of the seating so guests can put their drinks or food down. 
  • Food: Prepare some plain, low-fat foods that have little or no salt.

All done? Now you can relax and enjoy your party, knowing you've done all you can do - for all your guests. 

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