Mixed company: adults + babies
October 3, 2015 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be throwing a party soon & many of my friends have babies or toddlers. What can I have on hand to entertain babies and toddlers?

What should I do to make the party safe for them*? Is there anything special I can do to make the party more fun/relaxing for my friends who are parents?

*I am particularly concerned about safety because (1) my house isn't baby-proofed and (2) it's a pumpkin carving party so people will have sharp objectives.
posted by CMcG to Human Relations (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Baby sized pumpkins and (non toxic) finger paint.
Do it outside in a yard or park where there more room, easier clean up and less breakable things.
posted by HMSSM at 11:34 AM on October 3, 2015

Can you have a special baby/toddler area that's relatively childproof? I love the idea of giving the little ones mini pumpkins to paint with poster paint or decorate with markers. (If you do this let the parents know there will be paint so they can dress the kids accordingly. You could also have some old t-shirts on hand as smocks).
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:43 AM on October 3, 2015

A baby sitter and a few toys!

Giving the kids paint and pumpkins takes more supervision than you might imagine.
posted by ReluctantViking at 11:49 AM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I love you for asking this question. Thank you thank you thank you from all the parents with young kids.

If I were going to your party, I would worry a lot less about things like uncovered outlets and unlocked cabinets than I would about decorative objects and electronics placed within reach. For this kind of situation, the really big frustration for the parents AND the kids is going to be new, alluring objects that the child isn't supposed to touch. In somebody else's house you can't just move things out of the way, so you have to spend a ton of energy redirecting/explaining/coaching the little ones to leave stuff alone. So yeah, if you have any kind of fragile decorative objects/remotes/phones/plants/art/breakable anything of any kind below counter-height, move them out of the way. That will be the biggest help. Parents aren't going to expect your house to be safe from corner to corner.

If you have coffee tables with very sharp edges, cover them with a blanket. If there are lamps with cords that could be tripped over (and remember babies and toddlers can and do fit in very small spaces where adults won't walk), move them. If you have any low, open trash cans, move them.

Your pumpkin carving area needs to be OUT OF REACH. It will not work to simply put a kid area away from the pumpkins. You also need to be careful not to leave knives right on the edge of the counter - many toddlers can reach that high, and they can't see what they're reaching for. With a crowded environment, there really is no safe way to have knives within reach of babies and toddlers.

After you remove obvious temptations and major hazards, the best thing you can do to make things easier for all concerned is put out a big colorful blanket with some toys. Mini pumpkins is a great idea, but I would caution you against paints or markers of any kind when toddlers are involved - paint will be EVERYWHERE in no time flat and while they really are very washable it's not so easy to wash all your walls, your couch, your railings, etc. Blocks, balls, little vehicles of some kind - those are things that can be safely enjoyed by all ages. You could also set up a little blanket fort, that'd probably be popular. If you have a deck or anything, some unbreakable mixing bowls full of water would likely be a big hit.

If you can make a quiet space available for nursing/feeding, I bet many would appreciate that. Nothing special, just an out-of-the-way spot on a bed/chair with pillow.

Lastly, you might want to consider making one of your party foods likely-child-friendly. I mean they're all different and a lot of babies/young toddlers will eat anything (mine did, until he got a bit pickier closer to two), but crackers are good for like 99% of little kids.

1. Allow access to quiet space for nursing/feeding
2. Remove anything below counter height you don't want kids to handle
3. Cover any very sharp coffee table edges
4. Move lamps with trip-able cords
5. Provide a few simple toys
6. Provide crackers
7. Make sure all pumpkin carving is out of reach
posted by Cygnet at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2015 [19 favorites]

PS. When I mean things you don't want children to handle, I mean things you don't want chewed, thrown, hammered on the floor, etc. I'm sure your friends will be very respectful of your stuff, but keeping a small toddler from exploring objects to the fullest, shall we say, requires a ton of attention and you won't be able to talk to your friend at all if there are objects the kids can touch, but not throw, for example.
posted by Cygnet at 12:19 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ah, one more thing in case you don't happen to have childrens' toys. You don't need to buy any, you could try:

-mixing bowls (you can ball up clean socks to use as soft balls to put in the bowls)
-mixing spoons/spatulas/whisks/measuring spoons/etc.
-cardboard box
-old calculator
-old wallet or credit cards

(purposefully leaving out things unsafe for little babies)
posted by Cygnet at 12:29 PM on October 3, 2015

Stickers. Lots and lots of stickers.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:44 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

For the toddlers in the group, you can do coloring pages (printed out from the Internet or buy a coloring book at the dollar store) and crayons (NOT markers or pencil crayons).
posted by dotparker at 1:12 PM on October 3, 2015

Have the baby hangout space with enough chairs and adult seating (and beverages) near. Make it nice to hang out there for people without babies! This will help the parents feel connected and also give non-baby having baby-loving folks a nice way to connect. Unite the clans!
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:15 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you can block off parts of your house (with closed/locked doors and/or baby gates) and have the party area more or less child-proofed, that will help. Let parents know you are okay with them moving things around that you might have missed, that you've made an effort but you're not a pro at this (and they are) so to give you advice or just MOVE things if they need to. For me the biggest deal (I host a party for families with kids at a big house) was keeping the party in one area and making sure the public spaces in those areas were as free of dangerous stuff AND "attractive nuisances" as possible. Let parents know if there is a quiet space in case someone needs some down time (parent or kid).

A thing that might not occur to you... have a sturdy step of some sort in the bathroom so that children can reach the sink to wash hands. Maybe have straws for kid drinks (kids love straws) and unbreakable plates/cups/utensils for them to put snacks on or in.
posted by jessamyn at 1:35 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

They do have stickers to decorate pumpkins (eyes and mouths, etc.), to combine two of the above suggestions. Honestly, they don't stick very well, but if they are truly young kids they won't mind very much as kids tend to love stickers, and it fits in with your decorating theme. You could also provide paper - even just boring old copier paper, whatever is easy, and they can decorate that with even MORE stickers!
posted by dawg-proud at 1:48 PM on October 3, 2015

I have no children (yet) but I have nieces and nephews and friends with kids a-plenty. I have learned not to leave out candy bowls within kids' reaches for easy grazing... like putting a bowl of crack in front of crack addicts. Put them high up on the counter or middle of the dining table. If you intend on serving snacks, disposable cups are pretty darn good for little ones to hold onto and feed themselves. Cut-up fruit and veggies with optional dips are good snacks to round out the junk foods. Instead of just pop, have some pitchers of non-alcoholic drinks made up that are low(er) sugar, like (watered-down) juice.

If you have stairs, you could ask someone to bring a portable baby gate to block them off. Or alternatively put furniture in the way.
posted by lizbunny at 1:51 PM on October 3, 2015

Quick add-on, I just did a quick perusal of Amazon's pumpkin decorating stickers and there are a ton of options, including sticker sets for actual pumpkins or sticker sheets that have a pumpkin on them and then stickers to decorate that pumpkin. Not necessary for your party, but super cute.

Oh, and on preview, I would thank you as a parent for not setting out candy or choking-hazard food on the coffee table!
posted by dawg-proud at 1:54 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

We have a playpen our kid outgrew ages ago. We keep it tucked in a closet just in case friends want to use it for containing the child while they do something or so a kid can nap in another room safely. I was debating donating it but I think I'm going to keep it around until our friend group has stopped procreating because it's been so useful. Maybe see if one of the parents can bring one for use of all the kids? For toys, my toddler would love to play with a bowl and wooden spoon, a box, plastic cups, a ball...but I'd travel with a few board books and a fun toy or two, anyway. If you want to be really accommodating food-wise, have some whole or 2% milk on hand, vanilla wafers or graham crackers, and apple sauce... or even simply some soft adult food like roasted carrots or chili or pigs in blankets. And play music. Even my most kid-averse friends can't help but smile when seeing toddlers just bounce with music.
posted by adorap0621 at 2:31 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here's your kids menu:
- bunch of bananas, cut in half the short way or apple slices
- sliced cheddar cheese, cut into triangles or string cheese
- bowl of mixed color goldfish crackers

Parents will think you are AMAZING!

You can provide juice boxes but half the moms will wish you didn't so just water works for most. Paper cups and paper bowls work best for kids.
posted by amanda at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you can have one friend come over (maybe with their kid) to give you specific advice before the party, that will probably help a lot as they can point to specific things.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:39 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

For the kids paint big pumpkins with chalkboard paint and put those out for the kids with sidewalk chalk. Chalk is WAY more washable than paint :)
posted by jrobin276 at 7:20 PM on October 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Also if you can designate a flat area approximately 2'x4' like on a bed with a towel or table with soft pad for changing diapers they will think you are clairvoyant.
posted by nickggully at 7:30 PM on October 4, 2015

Play dough is cheap and easy to make and appeals to all ages of kids. Put out any plastic kitchenware that could be used to roll or shape it.

Though if you've got pale carpet, you may not enjoy the clean up.
posted by kjs4 at 5:50 AM on October 5, 2015

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