I had fun thinking on this question and then also I talked to another friend who I knew had learned how to deal with these issues. So I have a few ideas that I am going to share but then I would really love it if all of you reading this would chime in and add any suggestions that you might have. I would love to hear your experiences.
So I am going to go over a few different scenarios and some suggestions for dealing with them: (thanks to Emily for some of these ideas!)
Our family has nobody that matches up with a.......
A Rough and Rowdy Boy (Could probably range in age from 3 to 12)
- You might want to prepare your house by putting away any breakables that would be easy for him to get to. This can make life less stressful for you and his parents. I am not saying that you box up everything and make your house look undecorated but if it could easily be knocked or bumped and it matters to you then just make life easier for everybody and store it away for the evening.
- Create as much play space as possible. If you can go outside (or maybe incorporate a walk to the park) as part of your time of hospitality that could be helpful. Otherwise see if there are ways to move some furniture to make an open play place.
- Big exercise balls can be fun. They also aren't so easily thrown so they could cause damage. If you have a little exercise trampoline that could also be a nice easy way for them to expend some energy. Think through the things that you already have and think whether some of them might be enjoyable for a boy to play with.
- Do you have nerf guns? Could you create a target that he could shoot at with nerf guns? Or maybe cut some holes in a cardboard box to make a target for bean bags.
- If you have older children then you might visit ahead of time and put one of them in charge of working to entertain the youngster. Think together ahead of time what different things that they might be able to do - if there are games that you have that they could suggest or maybe you have Legos, Lincoln Logs or something of that sort that they would enjoy playing with somebody else. This might be something even a fairly young child could work on. I remember not long ago we were having over some friends and the children were all boys and the youngest one was an energetic 5 year old. My sons planned on entertaining the older boys but we put my 8 year old daughter in charge of the 5 year old. We talked about things they could do ahead of time and she did a great job.
Babies or Toddlers
- Since we have this happen on a very regular basis (as I have music students come and often siblings are along to wait while the lesson goes on) I have a special toddler toy box that I have ready and waiting in the living room. At the last house I had decorated a little box for it and it could slide under a chair between times - at this house we made a toy area in our window seat. It is so nice to have this available to pull out.
- If you don't have toddler/baby toys don't worry. Start pulling a few unbreakable things out of your kitchen like a big bowl, some measuring cups, spoons and such and they will enjoy playing with those often just as well.
- If you have bigger kids it can be very helpful to assign some of them to either work to entertain certain kids (we usually do this before they ever show up and we don't announce the assignments to the visitors it just looks natural - we think anyway) or they keep an eye on certain areas of the house to make sure things are going smoothly, kids are having fun, nobody is getting hurt and the house isn't getting wrecked.
- Pre-think where would be an easy place for diaper changing, how you will deal with soiled diapers (I get out a plastic grocery bag to seal them up in and then they can go in the trash) and so forth.
- Possibly keep (or get) booster chairs and other baby equipment for use when company comes. After my own kids grew out of them I still kept a booster seat and a pack and play and we have found them useful when we have company. If you have a vehicle booster seat you could also use it at the table. Or a telephone book (if you live in a city and have one considerably thicker than ours!) or other big book can also work to boost them up at the table.
A Prissy Girl (and you have a house full of boys)
- Maybe you could set out some books that she would enjoy looking at.
- Talk to your boys about maybe playing a board or card game with her.
- Playing dress-up with old clothes and hats is something that I have found children of both genders but especially girls to really enjoy.
- Realize that they might be most comfortable being a part of the adult conversation and you can work to make them a part of it. My friend Theresa is really good at this - I think she thinks ahead of time about the child/teen and the interests that they have and works to ask them questions and pull them into the conversation that way.
- We have found some games like Dutch Blitz that both teens and younger children enjoy playing and can do together.
- If the adults play a game perhaps the teens can join in with that.
- If you are still working to prepare a meal I have found that teens that don't quite know what to do at your house can feel honored to be asked to help in some way.
I hope these ideas might be helpful in some way. Now I would love to hear your ideas and stories of what has worked for you as you are hospitable to families!