With two under two, hospitality can sometimes feel overwhelming or not worth the effort. Here are some ideas that have helped us as we’ve learned how to make hospitality easy when you have littles (or at least easier!).
Find a time of day and day of the week that works for your family
Routines, early bedtimes, and nap times make hospitality generally a little bit less spontaneous at the stage of life. Realizing what we can and can’t do helps a ton. There is a time for spontaneity and a time for planning. With littles who go to bed at 7:00pm, inviting other friends with kids over for evening dessert is usually not the best route.
What fits into your schedule? Morning playdates when you’re already spending time playing with your kids? Dinners in which the whole family can be involved? Weekend brunch?
We love having people over for Sunday lunch. The day is already set aside for worship, rest, and fellowship with other believers—making it a perfect time for simple fellowship in our home.
Keep the food simple
Your guests are coming over to enjoy fellowship with you—not to eat at a gourmet restaurant. Planning a simple, nourishing meal that you’re comfortable with making allows you to focus on your guests rather than the details of your cooking. We often resort to meat on the grill, a steaming pot of soup, or a pan of baked spaghetti with a simple side or two.
If your guests offer to bring a portion of the meal, take them up on it! It will be one less thing for you to think about, and there’s just something about enjoying a meal that everyone’s worked to bring together.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to keep the other aspects of the meal simple too. Paper plates, bowls, or silverware can be worth it, so consider keeping a stash on hand. Fill up a big pitcher of ice water and make it accessible near the cups. Sometimes keeping things easy can make your guests feel even more at home.
Give yourself plenty of time to clean up and prepare
If you know in advance that you’ll have company coming, think about how you want to prepare. If you’re hoping to get the bathroom cleaned, floor swept, and rooms dusted, don’t try to do it all in the hour before they arrive. In reality, you’ll probably be feeding the baby or setting the table or finishing up food preparation. Try to do these bigger jobs the day before if you can!
Having a routine to keep the house decently clean on a daily basis also makes hospitality so much easier. There are rare moments when every single toy is picked up, but having a regular schedule of general tidiness makes it so much less stressful whenever friends or neighbors pop by.
And if you can’t prepare in advance or your home happens to be a mess when unexpected visitors knock, take a deep breath and just enjoy them. They’re probably sighing in relief that they’re not the only ones with dust on the baseboards.
Make your home cozy
Make your home an inviting place to be! Put on a candle or diffuser, or bake some cookies in order to welcome them with an inviting aroma. Turn on some soft music in the background. Have the coffee pot brewing or tea bags on the counter.
Don’t apologize for the state of your home
“Opening our home to others is a wonderful gift and a neglected discipline in the church. But we easily forget the whole point of hospitality. Think of it this way: Good hospital-ity is making your home a hospital. The idea is that friends and family and the wounded and weary people come to your home and leave helped and refreshed. And yet, too often hospitality is a nerve-wracking experience for hosts and guests alike. Instead of setting our guests at east, we set them on edge by telling them how bad the food will be, and what a mess the house is, and how sorry we are for the kids’ behavior. We get worked up in all the wrong ways because we are more concerned about looking good than with doing good. So instead of our encouraging those we host they feel compelled to encourage us with constant reassurances that everything is just fine…In many instances, less ado would serve better.”
-Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy
Have age-appropriate toys available
We have two under two, but that doesn’t mean we only have babies and young toddlers over. When hosting families with older kids, try to have a couple of activities that they will enjoy. This could be as simple as some paper and crayons, play-doh, or a board game. Both the kids and their parents will be put at ease when all ages have something to keep them occupied.
Keep a list of things to talk about for guests who may be different than you
It’s a great blessing to have friends who are similar to you and with whom the conversation flows freely. On the other hand, we should strive to welcome guests from all walks of life and to make them feel at home.
It’s not cheating to think in advance about what you can talk about with people who are very different from you. Though it may feel strange, even writing these things down can really help you remember them during the visit and make your guests feel at home through the conversation.
Bless your guests with a genuine interest in them!
Natural conversation-starters for hosting guests:
- What is your family like?
- What does a regular day or week look like for you?
- Do you have any animals?
- What’s your favorite restaurant or local spot?
- Tell me about your job.
- What are some of your favorite hobbies?
- What projects are you working on lately?
- Do you think you’ll live in this area forever, or would you prefer to move somewhere else?
- What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday?
- How did you two meet? (for couples)
- What are your favorite family traditions?
- What are your 5- or 10-year goals?
Prepare your children if you have time
If you know about your guests in advance, prepare your children ahead of time. Let them know who’s coming over and how much fun you’re going to have with your guests.
No matter who is coming over, our toddler gets so excited knowing that friends will be here soon.
Who doesn’t feel loved and appreciated when a grinning toddler meets them at the door squealing, “Come in!!”?
Some of our favorite books on hospitality:
- The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Rosaria Butterfield
- The Art of Neighboring – Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
It takes practice to learn how to make hospitality easy when you have littles
We’ve found that hosting with littles is a learning curve, and it takes practice. The more you host, the more you will realize what works and what doesn’t. If you’re nervous to open your home with a new little one, start with family or comfortable friends. And keep in mind that people are usually more interested in spending time with you than in the food or the state of your home.
How to make hospitality easy when you have littles:
- Find a time of day and day of the week that works for your family
- Keep the food simple
- Give yourself plenty of time to clean up and prepare
- Make your home cozy
- Don’t apologize for the state of your home
- Have age-appropriate toys available
- Keep a list of things to talk about
- Prepare your children if you have time
What strategies have you found to work best for hosting with littles? How do you make hospitality easy with littles? Let us know in the comments!