Entertaining young dinner guests

An interesting coffee table book.
An interesting coffee table book.
The coconut experience.
The coconut experience.

Putting young guests at ease

We have had the privilege of being guests in a number of homes in the last few months. It is always a rather intimidating event for my children but I have noticed that some people have a wonderful knack for entertaining children and are able to easily make them feel welcome.

The following is a list of some of the things that people have done that have helped to make the visit enjoyable for my children. It is not necessary to do all the things on the list. Only one or two of the items will help make the visit pleasant for the children.

1. Have a small selection of books to look at. Photo albums, coffee table books with beautiful photos and short captions, comic books etc. In the home we were in, the books were especially selected and given to the children to look at.

2. Include older children in last minute preparations, such as folding napkins or pouring water. During the meal they could be asked to clear dishes or help to serve dessert.

3. Offer an herbal tea with sugar at dessert time. The children feel grown up and included.

4. Have a brain teaser puzzle to keep children busy trying to figure out.

5. Do you have anything unique that you can take time to show the children? Even just a few minutes that is devoted especially to them makes for a memorable visit. Is there a bird's nest in your yard, a unique plant, an antique item, a pet, things from another country or an interesting food item to show the children? At one of our visits we had a coconut, complete with the experience of opening it, drinking the coconut milk and eating the flesh. We have had uncommon fruits, nuts and cheese that people have purposely purchased to be intriguing to the children. We have seen interesting items found on nature walks, or unique collections. These items are interesting, educational, spark conversation and are memorable.

6. Plan a special dessert for the children. One of their favourite desserts and something super easy for the hostess, was a cup of pudding with a few coins wrapped in plastic and hidden in the pudding. It was a fun dessert and a big hit with the children.

7. Have a toy closet with just the right selection. A few dress up clothes, some cars and trucks, some small dolls, lego or blocks, a few games for older children, some colouring supplies and the children will be able to entertain themselves while the adults keep visiting. Garage sales and second hand stores are good places to purchase your toy closet supplies. Remember that a few carefully chosen toys are better than a large supply that is difficult to store.

8. Tell a story about when you were little. Any story that begins with,"When I was little..." or "I remember when..." grabs the attention of my children and they are likely to listen attentively and ask for more stories.

9. Teach them a game that you played as a child. Recently, the children and I read a story about some children playing marbles, so we learned to play. If it was fun years ago, chances are it will still be fun today.

10. Give them a place to explore. Show them the boundaries of the yard. Tell them where they may not go and give a hint about what is of interest and then let them discover. It can start with looking for pretty rocks or coloured leaves, picking a bouquet or finding bugs. Once they have a start, their imagination will keep them going.

Entertaining children does not require serving Kraft Dinner and hot dogs and having the entire event geared to the younger generation. It simply means keeping all your guests in mind, from the youngest to the oldest and it may not be as complicated to have young guests as you may have thought.

Also, it never hurts to know at least three Knock-knock jokes. Sharing a joke, is an easy way to put your younger guests at ease.

Pick a small bouquet.
Pick a small bouquet.

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