Hosting a holiday party can be a family tradition with the proper preparations. According to Steve Poses, professional caterer and author of At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining, organization is the most important aspect of party planning and can reap the most rewards. While you may need to serve kid-friendly chicken strips instead of delicate prosciutto-wrapped scallops, the sacrifice will be worth the joyous memories.
Create a Space for Everyone
It can become chaotic quickly if there isn’t sufficient space for everyone. Consider assigning various areas of the house to guests to allow more room to spread out. Allow the adults to converse in the living room, while children watch holiday movies, challenge each other at video games, or complete activities in the playroom. To keep the kids entertained during ‘adult time,’ set up a table of snacks and beverages, as well as a supply of games, crafts and holiday-themed books.
Plan a Diverse Menu
It can be hard to please kids when it comes to food. Make menu planning easier by choosing simple finger foods, cookie-cutter sandwiches, and sweet beverages. Bite-sized lobster rolls, tiny grilled cheese sandwiches, pigs in a blanket, mini hamburgers and fries, and soft tortillas filled with meat and veggies are sure to be a hit with party goers of all ages. Kids can also enjoy their own non-alcoholic version of a party cocktail. Delish.com has an excellent Iced Fruit Punch recipe that combines assorted fruit juices, ginger ale and seltzer water to make one yummy chilled beverage.
Make It Fun for the Family
Keep kids entertained by providing a variety of crafts and fun activities. Pick up a couple dozen transparent ornaments from the dollar store and provide guests with paints and craft supplies to decorate and fill their ornaments. Or make sheets of gingerbread and challenge families to create the best gingerbread house using royal icing as glue. If the kids are too rambunctious to sit, encourage them to build a snowman outside, have a snowball-throwing contest, or host a sled-pulling competition.
Keep Décor Simple
Holiday décor doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate. Keep it simple by lining the windows and doors with wintery strings of lights, setting the table with dollar store (and kid-friendly) dinnerware, and making the decorated Christmas tree the main focal point. Use accent lighting to put the spotlight on your favorite holiday trinket, or open the windows to allow natural sunlight to flood the rooms. Consider sheer curtains from JCPenney to allow light in while still providing a degree of privacy. Hang stockings on the fireplace, a festive wreath on the front door, and create a warm ambiance by turning on kid-safe battery operated tea lights around the home.
Host a Child Gift Exchange
The holidays are about both giving and receiving. Make your holiday party a little more special for children who attend by hosting a gift exchange. Purchase a variety of small toys (one for each child) or ask the parents to bring an inexpensive gift for their child to exchange. RealSimple.com suggests playing musical chairs to make the gift exchange seem fair to all the children involved. Have the children sit in a circle and pass around the wrapped gifts as the Christmas music plays. When the music stops, each child gets to keep the gift they are holding.
CARROLL MURPHY is a writer from the Midwest who runs an annual children’s hospital charity at her church.