There are many jobs kids can do to help prepare for a dinner party, although mixing the flour into a dish may not be among them.
Hosting a dinner party, no matter how small, can be stressful when you have young children at home. Deerfield mom Debbie Solomon makes the process calmer, though, by letting her kids help instead of trying to keep them out of the kitchen.
“My older daughter likes to help out,” says Solomon of her 5-year-old. “I had her make name cards one time and she was really proud of them. It makes her feel good about herself when she can help and be part of the party.”
Solomon got some of her ideas through her work as a consultant for Entertain With Ease!, a direct-selling company based in Chicago that sells specialty food items, tableware and gift sets centered around at-home entertaining. The company also offers recipes and tips to make at-home entertaining fun and easy, including how to involve your kids.
“Kids at any age can be helpful and work on age-appropriate tasks,” says the company’s president and co-founder Jodi Rosen Ablin. “The process will be more enjoyable because the kids were part of it.”
Ablin recommends giving kids quick but meaningful age-appropriate tasks so they do not become bored too quickly. Kids as young as 2 or 3 can tear vegetables, wash produce or mix batter. For 4- to 6-year-olds, Ablin suggests they set the table, measure dry and liquid ingredients and straighten up the house. Older kids can collect ingredients, prepare simple recipes and help plan the party or meal.
“It’s important to take a moment to consider the task at hand and see how the kids can be helpful,” says Ablin.
The key to success is providing specific instructions for how to complete whatever the task, she says.
“Be sure to be specific and concrete,” says Solomon. “Give them simple tasks and try to involve them in the decision-making process. It shows that you value their opinions.”
Of course, even with simple tasks, children need adult supervision to avoid accidents and injuries.
By getting kids involved in at-home entertaining instead of banishing them to their rooms, the entire family benefits.
“So many important memories come from when we’re gathered together with family and friends and involving kids can provide hours of quality time even before guests arrive,” says Ablin.