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Have you noticed that many parties today 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.
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 keeps getting less simple.
You could make your affair "adults only." But sometimes it's fun to include the whole family. Plus, sitters can be challenging to find, especially during the holidays.
So your job is to plan a soiree where people of all ages will be comfortable, entertained, and safe. These party planning ideas can help.
Most family 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 party planning 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 that you are a prince or a princess for the evening.
For safety's sake, party planning should include putting breakables away before the event, making fire safety a part of the party decor plan, and having a pet protection plan in place come party time.
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: Do not 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.
Prepare a kid zone. 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 event, hire one. Your neighborhood high schooler could 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 guests' homes (preferably nearby).
If you're having a later 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, 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 fare.
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. Hint: Think small and inexpensive.
Cave in to videos. If you absolutely cannot find a sitter (try very, very hard), suggest that the parents 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 video, and on this particular occasion, I certainly would. You're in survival mode here.