How to Host a Party at Home with Kids

What do you do with a bunch of kids or children at a cocktail party for adults?

The best advice that I’ve seen is to get a babysitter.

But what if that’s not an option?

In this article, I’ll outline the best tips and tricks for how to handle your younger guests. We’ll talk about hosting a “Kids Party,” playing a movie, and even including them in some icebreakers.

My book The 2-Hour Cocktail Party was written and tested at a time when I and most of my friends didn’t have kids. So I’ll share advice from others who tested my book, so you can see what they did.

The Kids Party Problem

  • Having children at a party often results in the divided attention of your guests.
  • Kids can be a crutch for introverted adults to avoid grown-up interaction.

We need a way to keep the kids and children occupied so that the adults can mix and mingle.

The Solution

Friends of mine who have kids and host parties recommend getting a sitter to help child-wrangle.

Just like what Alex did here, How to Host a Cocktail Party with Kids: Alex in Austin.

My friends with children also recommend throwing a parallel kid party in a separate area of the home. Keep reading to see best practices for how to do that.

Kids Party Principles

Here are the general principles and ideas that Damon in Cambridge shared with me after he successfully hosted a 2-hour cocktail party with his own children and his neighbors kids involved:

  • Keep it as simple and low cost as possible
  • Try to engineer the Kids Party so that it does not require oversight or active chaperoning 
  • Keep it safe and fun!
  • Let people know about this option ahead of time, as well as any food provided (allergy awareness)
  • Explicitly allow parents to have their kids show up in pajamas so that they can get straight to bed after the event (parent convenience)
  • Explain to your kids way ahead of time (first invitation) the plan to have a movie night. Get them involved and excited in helping you choose a movie. Tell them about being a good host, which is a great thing for them to learn!
  • Make sure the movie is chosen well ahead of time. Don’t let this turn into a debate on the night of the event
  • Assume there will be a bit of a mess: spilled popcorn, spilled drinks, and mentally prepare for this — It’s ok, you will survive!
  • Expect to have to do some vacuuming afterward due to popcorn and such. This is fine and totally to be expected

How to: Kids Party Logistics

Here are the things to run your Kids Party for guaranteed success (or close to it!), as provided to me by Damon Dimmick:

  • Choose a room with a door that can be closed
  • Position a TV or projector and streaming / playback device. Check to make sure this works and can be seen / heard from angles.
  • Arrange seating and space for each child. I suggest assigning seats to avoid conflict. Have chairs, beanbags, blankets, cushions, whatever.
  • Do the above well before the party, preferably the day before, but at least a few hours ahead of time, and assume you’ll need more time than you think

Kids Party Supply List

In addition to the supplies for an adult cocktail party, Damon suggests getting these kid-friendly supplies:

  • Big, indestructible bowls for each kid (don’t make them share, that could invite conflict) – you want plenty of snacks so the kids don’t need to ask for more!
  • Microwave popcorn bags (at least one for each kid, maybe more). Pre-pop this and serve in the bowls. Alternately just use the bags but the bowls make it feel special.
  • If any other snacks are given, make them small, individually-packaged items (treats from the dollar store or similar)
  • Individually packaged beverages (pro tip: cans or bottles of flavored sparkling water are the best, as they won’t stain in case of a spill)
  • Napkins + keep a roll of paper towels nearby in case of spill
  • Buy / Rent a film and try to get it as close to 2 hours as possible. If under 2 hours, maybe supplement with a cartoon / tv show / short video to fill that extra gap at the end

Party Time: Do These Things

On the night of the event, do the following:

  • As parents come in, do the usual 2 hour cocktail party stuff with parents, and then show the kids to the movie room as they enter
  • Give them their assigned seats
  • Tell the kids that they are expected to treat each other with respect, etc, positive messaging
  • Ask them not to interrupt parents unless there’s an emergency or they really need help
  • Show them where they can go to the bathroom / wash hands
  • Show a responsible child how to control volume, but ask them not to adjust unless necessary (you should have already tested the volume setting in advance)
  • Have everyone sit, serve them each their specific snacks, and start the movie – if you have the ability to queue up two things back to back, it’s great to have a second film or short video that auto plays on the back-end just in case things go long
  • Find a time between ice breakers where you can go in and check on them just once
  • After “last call” for the parents, check in on the kids and let them know it’s almost time to go home

More Kids Party Advice

Here are a few other notes that my friends suggest for hosting a party that involves children:

“Getting a baby sitter was a huge help. It’s fun for the kids and fun for the parents to be able to give their full attention to their guests and the purpose of the event.”

-Crystal Zurn

“If we don’t have help, my husband and I will be distracted from our party. Without dedicated family or friend assistance, we have to take turns disengaging from our guests to prevent the death and dismemberment of our two active children.”

– Caroline Raasch Alquist

“When we hosted a party for couples, my wife and I hired a babysitter for parents who couldn’t get one themselves. The kid space was completely separate from the party. Parents only went upstairs to check on their children once or twice throughout the night. It worked great for us because having a baby sitter removed a huge barrier to entry for our friends to attend.”

– Justin Evans

Conclusion

You can still host a great party or event for your adult friends and colleagues with kids. Just be sure to get a babysitter, if possible, or use these tips and tricks to host your own simultaneous kids party.

When your kids get a little older, you may want to include them in your events.

Have them welcome guests or help with snacks.

Just make sure they have their own name tags.

Do you have additional tips to add, or feedback on this article? I’d love to hear it! Please email me to [email protected] and let me know if I can add your advice to improve this article.

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About the author

Howdy! I'm Nick Gray. Most people know me as the Founder of Museum Hack. I wrote a book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, about making new friends and building big relationships through small gatherings.

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