Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a babysitter for your younger kids every time you had a party to attend? Of course, as parents we know that’s not realistic. From holiday dinners and weddings to baby showers and birthday parties, social events can mean hours of sitting at a table, long waits for food, missed naps and more. Talk about the perfect recipe for a grade-A meltdown.
But don’t let it stress you out too much. With a bit of planning — and our five expert tips — you can keep your kids entertained from the start of the party to the end.
1. Build a Busy Box
If you’re attending a holiday dinner or party where you know kid-friendly activities won’t be provided, plan ahead and pack your own fun. Fill a small-lidded box with toys, art supplies and activity books to keep your little ones busy throughout the event. (Bonus points if your child hasn’t seen or played with any of the items before!) Here are some ideas:
- Plastic toys or figurines
- Washable markers or crayons, small notepads, stickers, self-inking stamps
- Pocket-sized puzzles — find these at toy stores or online
- Card games like Go Fish, Old Maid or memory matching
Tip: Hosting a family-friendly party? Set up some fun areas for kids to enjoy so their parents can have some grown-up downtime. Use the busy box ideas above, or set up a dress-up station, a drawing table, board games or a movie room. Keep a roll of Bounty Paper Towels and Mr. Clean Clean Freak Mist nearby (but well out of reach of little hands!) just in case of a spill or a mess.
2. Send Them on a Scavenger Hunt
A quiet game of I Spy can help keep kindergarten and elementary school-age kids entertained and seated for a while. Depending on the venue and the crowd, you could even amp up this idea by turning it into a scavenger hunt. For example, say to your child, “I spy something blue and round,” and have them find it and bring it back to you.
3. Keep Snacks on Deck
A snack and a drink can go a long way toward keeping your kid happy at a party. Parties often happen outside of traditional mealtimes, and the wait for food can be long, especially for kids. Filling, kid-friendly snacks like granola bars, fruit leather, raisins, baked veggie chips or popcorn could keep your child satisfied — and save your sanity.
4. Choose Your Seat Wisely
If the event doesn’t have assigned seating, look for tables near other families with kids and sit there. The children can keep each other entertained, and if something does go awry the people around you will likely be a little more understanding of your situation.
5. Accept Help
There’s usually someone at every party who adores children and will happily spend an hour or two playing with your kiddos. Go ahead and let them keep your kids busy for bit while you mingle — and all the better if this person is a trusted family member. Just make sure to check on them every half hour or so to see if they need a break — no one should be your designated babysitter for the night!
You could also coordinate with other guests who have kids to set up a rotation of caregivers. Here’s how it works: Two parents keep an eye on all the kids in the group for a half hour while the rest of the parents enjoy the party. When 30 minutes is up, the duties shift to the next pair.
How do you keep your kids entertained at parties? Share your secrets in the comments!