Day 14 :: Hospitality With Littles


o you want to host something (anything) but can’t imagine meal and house prep without the constant buzz of chaos coming from around knee level?

Me either.

And because I want to model gracious hospitality to my littles–and invite them into the process as much as possible at ages 2 & 3–I want to prepare for guests with a joyful heart, not with a heart full of frustration that the floor I just cleaned up is now covered with Play-Dough crumbs and why can’t they just obey mommy and stop fighting so I can freaking cook the potatoes?

There’s just something a little off about opening the door with a smile when I’ve just yelled at my kids.

Heck, even when I didn’t have kids, the standards I set for myself as a hostess could stress me out to the point that Hubs would gentle ask if maybe I shouldn’t host so much after all.  To which I would gently reply, “NO! I’m fine!”

So, while I continue in my recovery from perfectionism, I try to set myself up for success.  Knowing how to avoid prep stress makes it a lot easier to show my babies patience.

And if I’m strategic, I can not only avoid the crazy-mommy trap, but also find fun ways to include my sweet babies in hosting.

Tips for Hosting with Littles

Drastically Lower Your Standards

And then lower them some more.

You may say “I cannot do it all,” but do you really live that way?  I know I often don’t.

I’ll catch myself thinking that hospitality means having a spotless house, serving an amazing meal and dessert, cooking everything myself, and having beautiful decorations.

But in this season of life, if I’m going to practice hospitality, it has to be simple.  I remind myself of everything hospitality isn’t and self-talk my way into forgetting about the imperfections of my home.

Maximize Nap & Nighttime

Even with lower standards, there is work to be done.  I prefer the house to be somewhat clean and tidy and the meal to be fully (or at least mostly) cooked when company arrives.

Thus, I try to get as much done while my babies are sleeping (or happily occupied) as I can.  This often looks like doing a little food prep or cleaning the night before or while they’re engaged in a favorite activity.

Nap-time the day of is usually spent finishing the cooking, tossing some candles and mason jar decor on the table, and doing last-minute tidying.

I’ve learned not to vacuum/mop until the last possible moment because a clean floor evidently cries out to be covered with junk by my toddler.

Put Those Babies to Work

My kids love to “help” clean. So when we’re tidying up for company, I give them spray bottles of water and Norwex cloths and put them to work. The broom and dust pan also illicit much excitement.  And ironically, more mess.

It’s never perfect and things often need a bit more cleaning, but they enjoy the process.  And when my three year old asks why we clean up for company, I get to share a bit of the heart of hospitality: “because we want to bless our guests, sweetie.”

Let Them Be the Hosts, Too

My oldest is three and enjoys helping me greet and and see out guests.  She’s practiced saying “Thank you for coming to our home” so much that she often greets me that way.  Thanks, Bun.  I feel super welcome now.

She could also reasonably help set the table, engage our friends’ babies, and invite other kids to play with her toys while the adults chat before eating. I imagine we’ll be able to delegate more to her as she gets older.

I know if you’re knee-deep in diapers and melt-downs hosting can seem overwhelming.  But in my experience, with a little intentionality and some lowered expectations, a enjoyable evening can be had by all.

What do you find helpful in practicing hospitality with little ones? Or, if you’re in another season of life, have you found ways to overcome other hosting challenges?

This is a post from a 31-day series on Real, Simple Hospitality.  Read all the other posts here.  Check out all the other 31 Day-ers here.

About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.

  • Julia Stockwell Reynolds

    What suggestions do you have for those who are past the “littles” stage in life, but still desire to host families with young ones of their own? Our house doesn’t lend itself well to games/activities/toys for young ones as our kids are 18 and 19 now!

    • Julia, love that you’re wanting to host families in my season of life, even with all the craziness! 🙂

      I suppose I can only speak for myself, but no toys, etc. is no big deal here. My kids love just playing with/talking to older kids. If I think my baby really needs a toy, etc. I’d probably bring one with me. Same goes for high-chairs and all that (we have a small booster we can bring when needed). Frankly, the ratio of older kids/adults to littles is looking great to me when we visit families like yours :).

      If you ended up hosting families with young kids on a regular basis, I suppose you could always pick up a couple small toys from a garage sale or something.

      As long as you’re ok with a little extra ruckus for the evening :), I think it could be great! Young families have much to glean from folks who are farther down the road.

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