Extending Hospitality With Little Ones At Home

Hospitality is something I believe is vitally important, and something that is unfortunately lacking in our society and even in churches. There are many reasons we fail to be hospitable. Valid or not, all too often we let our reasons become excuses.

Having little ones can add another dimension to hospitality. Gone are the days when we can spend all day perfecting a meal and its presentation for our guests. I can’t even set the table ahead of time for fear my one-year-old will pull on the table cloth, and the dishes will come crashing to the floor! Whether you are nursing an infant, or in the throws of potty training it can be easy to put off hospitality because it just isn’t convenient right now.

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Here are some things I have learned (some the hard way!) about extending hospitality with little ones in the home.

1. Prepare your children ahead of time.

It does not matter how many times we have had company over (and it is a lot), each time we are having someone over for dinner, I still prep my kids. A quick reminder of what is expected of them does wonders. If there are going to be kids, I let them know. Sometimes we put certain toys away ahead of time, if we think they might cause problems or might not be age appropriate for whatever children are coming. Telling my son that tonight we are not playing with Legos because a toddler is coming means I don’t have to answer that question after the guests are here, or worse, we have an issue that could have been prevented. I also quickly remind them of their table manners. Does this take care of every single issue? No, but it sure takes care of a lot. I think that as parents if we focus on preventative discipline we will have a lot less correcting to do. I am all about less correcting.

2. Stick to familiar foods.

I do not introduce new foods to my children when we have company. Only every now and then have I made a new-to-them side dish when company was here, and then I just don’t make them eat it. I have 21 meals a week to introduce new foods and to grow their palates. I don’t want to use precious time of fellowship with company to do that. I’m sure my guests don’t want to have to sit through that either. Since it is in my home, and I know what I am fixing, I am perfectly okay with choosing foods I know my kids will eat.

3. Keep it simple.

We all know the stories about being completely stressed out barking orders to everyone, and then putting a smile on your face for the company. I want my kids to view hospitality in a positive light. If I cannot keep calm through the process than something needs to be simplified. Cut back on the number of side dishes. Make meals that the major work can be done ahead of time. And if something goes wrong with a particular dish, don’t even worry about trying to come up with a replacement. You will only stress yourself out. These are the types of things memories are made of, anyway. “Remember the first time we had you over and you burned the garlic bread?”

4. Involve your kids.

Having your kids help is so important on many levels. The children feel ownership, they are directly involved with the hospitality gesture, and it makes them happier to be around. If you stick your kids in a room all day so that you can get ready for company, you are going to not only have a rough day, but a rough evening with your guests. By that point in the evening they are going to be craving your attention. So just include them. My kids dust, set the table, fold napkins, and help me in the kitchen. By the time our company is here they are excited to have them.

5. Communicate the right attitude.

One way that I communicate that I love having company over is by keeping a positive spirit with my kids. I try to avoid comments about how much work it is. I often say things like: “Isn’t it so nice that we get to spend some time with ____,” or “I’m so glad you will get to play and share your toys with _____.” Simply including comments like these throughout the day sets the tone with our children that we are honored and blessed to be having someone over for dinner. It is also subconsciously preparing them for what to expect. And, if I am having a rough day, it helps set my spirit back in the right place, too!

Even though juggling things can be extra difficult when we have infants or small children, the effort that it requires is so worth it. Remember what hospitality is. It is about the people, not the meal or space. Whatever preparation is involved, remember to keep the focus on relationships. The relationships you are building with your guests, and the relationships you are building with your children are both important.

What do you do to keep hospitality stress-free with children in the home?


  1. Great post! We put away toys that are ‘special’ or especially noisy. Keeping things positive and simple helps too. Something my mum always says but I have not been brave enough to try is “clean up when they’ve gone, not before they arrive”. You have brought up some really great points. Stephanie.

  2. It is so easy to put off hospitality with the excuse of young kids. We just had people over last night and things went pretty smoothly. Our daughter loves it when we have “big friends” over just as much as if we have someone with little ones over. She spent quite a bit of time at the window asking, “Are they coming yet?”

    Last night we did a full meal but I like to simplify and do something like an ice cream bar to make everything easier when possible.

    • Johanna says:

      We actually did an ice cream bar tonight with our home group here. You’re right, it is much easier than a full dinner and a nice change especially for a hot day!

  3. Loved this. Excellent advice. And when all else fails, don’t forget the “laundry basket” trick. 😉

  4. I thought this was very practical. We have people over on a regular basis. And, I have my kids help. They set the table, and clear it. They get to enter the conversation a bit. It is a good thing.
    I am going to post about a well set table tomorrow. My point will be that it isn’t necessary, but there is nothing wrong with it either-if you enjoy doing that. Like I do.=)

  5. We’ve learned not to stress (as much) about cleaning beforehand. It just gets messy again and then you’re doing double duty cleaning. We save the vacuum for minutes before and rooms mostly tidied the night before. Usually the kids like to help out when guests are coming.

    • Johanna says:

      I know I should do this more. Thanks for the reminder. You are right, after the company is gone you can hardly tell I have cleaned! Thanks for the tip!

  6. While Caleb is too young to help out, not share toys, etc. I love reading these posts *before* I get to that stage of life! :-) Hopefully it will help me avoid some common mistakes and make things much smoother and happier for everyone! :)

    • Johanna says:

      Yay for getting prepared ahead of time! You seriously won’t regret that! And by the way, the pictures I’ve seen of Caleb are darling! :)

  7. Rebecca says:

    Great advice but I have a question. We are at a different phase of life, no children yet. We would love to have young families over for dinner etc. but it is a little scary. I know our house isn’t “child proof”, we don’t really have any toys for the kids to play with, and we have busy schedules so we often eat later which seems to interfer with kids beds times. I really want it to be an encouraging time where parents aren’t struggling to get their kids to eat but I’m hoping to avoid serving mac and cheese :)

    • Johanna says:

      This is a great question, and you gave me an idea for a future post, so thanks, and stay tuned! :)
      I would say that not having toys is fine. I know that I often bring a small bag of toys and books for my kids if we are going somewhere I am not sure there will be toys. You could let the mom know you don’t have anything so she can be prepared. Or if you have a room with a tv that is separate and the kids are old enough and parents don’t mind you could have a kid movie available.
      As far as your house, if it something very special to you I would put it away. No point risking a really important object. That being said, though, I never expect people to childproof their house for us. Unless you know the child has a reputation for destroying, just putting away your most special items should be fine.
      Food…I wouldn’t cook for the kids. Most moms won’t fight a food battle at someone’s home. You could try to have one “kid-friendly” side just to make sure there is something they will eat. Or ask the mom to bring one side to contribute. If she is like me she will bring something she knows the kids will eat. Or, if you serve bread or rolls, most kids love that and they can fill up on that even if they don’t eat much of the meal.
      I wouldn’t let it stop you. From my experience, I am always very happy when a couple with no kids invites us, and I just bring things or prepare my kids ahead of time. I think it is really great to interact with people that are not in our same stage! I hope that answers some of your questions! :)

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