Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Q & A: Hospitality to Small Children

We invited our readers to submit questions to us that our staff can answer, and that we can open up to our readership to answer. After all, we're here to learn from one another!

We received an e-mail from S this past week asking the following question:


I know you are also busy with a family, etc, but I am looking for some simple, inexpensive ways to 'show' hospitality to my cousin and her 2 small children. They will be staying in our home for a few days. I have six children, so obviously, we'll have kid-friendly meals, snacks, etc, but I was wanting more creative ideas for making them feel welcome and pampered in our home. If you can help at all, I'd be very grateful.

Here are the answers from our staff, and we invite the rest of you to leave your answers in the comment section.


From Stephanie:

Hi S, thanks for asking such a great question! Hosting overnight guests when you have children is definitely a challenge but can also be fun. You seem to already have kid-friendly food taken care of so I'll just mention a few other ideas.

1. Assuming your cousin and her children will stay in a bedroom your children are moving out of - relocate ALL clothes, books and toys from the room that your children may need during the visit. Help your children understand that space is off limits to them while you have guests. I realize this can be extra work but it will help your guests feel like the space is theirs rather than like they are intruding.

2. Have all towels and washcloths for your guests stacked neatly in the room they will be using. This will help them feel comfortable and not like she's rummaging through your cabinets or closets.

3. Have an extra blanket in the room in case they get cool during the night. Also (assuming the 2 small children are not sleeping in cribs or pack-n-plays) have an extra set of sheets in their room in case there's a "accident" during the night. This way she won't have to wake you up during the night for clean sheets.

4. Put a working night light in the guests' bedroom and bathroom. Small children may be afraid of the dark in a new space so a night light will help. Also, being able to find the bathroom during the night is ALWAYS helpful for guests. I recommend you use regular night lights that have on/off switches and opaque (solid) covers.

5. Make a menu for the days your guests are staying and post it on the refrigerator. This will help your cousin prepare her children for what food they will be eating.

6. Assuming your children are older than your guests, baby proof the house. Consider items that your children have been trained to leave alone (a favorite lamp, a stack of magazines, a candy jar) and relocate them. Your children may be trained not to touch them but hers won't be.

7. Last but not least, make Welcome Bags for each guest. Use plain gift bags and have your children decorate the outside of the kids bags with markers and stickers. Use a pretty gift bag for your cousin. For the childrens' bags take a trip to your local dollar store and fill each bag with age appropriate toys, crafts, a special snack, new cup/bowl. For your cousin's bag include a purse size bottle of hand sanitizer (Bath & Body Works have some nice ones pretty cheap), a pen, a small notepad (a craft store might carry these for under a dollar), her favorite snack food, and a re-usable water bottle. Maybe a purse size bottle of sunscreen, her favorite body lotion. Think about items that will be useful and small.

All of these ideas are simple but take a little time and planning. I'm sure your guests will appreciate your efforts to make them feel special and welcome.


From Crista:

I would recommend that she make inexpensive gift baskets for each guest. Each basket can be appropriate for the guest's age and have a cute little tag with their name on it. For her cousin, she could find some inexpensive girlie/pampering kinds of things. For her cousin's children, she could have age-appropriate toys (e.g., coloring book and crayons, squirt gun or water toys). She might also ask her cousin what her kids' favorite meals are (if they're old enough to have favorite foods) and then make a meal out of those favorites. She could do the same for her cousin. Stephanie can also check around her area to see if there are any inexpensive/free family-friendly events going on and plan at least one "day out" for all.

There's my thoughts :)


From Carrie:

When we have families with small kids come and stay with us (and we frequently do!) I tend to make a run to Michaels (craft store) or the Dollar Store and collect crafty items for the kids to play with. One time I found a package of pre-cut wooden paper dolls for $1! I set out colors and stickers for the kids to create their own puppets and then they were able to put on a puppet show!

Another time we made gigantic gingerbread cookies which the kids got to decorate (and the families got to eat!)

Personally, I'd go for planning some kind of craft or food activity that the kids can enjoy. They get excited and happy and leave with fun memories.

So what about the rest of you? What would you recommend to our friend S as she prepares to have little guests come and stay with her?

Do you have a question that you'd care to pose for the Offering Hospitality staff and readers? Please e-mail us at: offeringhospitality (at) gmail (dot) com and we'll post your question and our answers!


  1. I keep one drawer and small cabinet in the bathroom of extra (all new/unused) items in case guests forget theirs and let them know they are welcome to the items in the drawer.

    Suggested items: Travel Size Shampoos, Conditioners and Lotions, disposable razors Fingernail clippers, tooth brushes, tooth paste, cutips, loofas, and a basket of feminine hygiene items.

    A few other suggestions I heard an a tv show once that I've tried ...

    Put a brand new bar of soap out for guests, you can even leave it in the wrapper on the counter and be sure to dispose of used bars of soap.

    Use white bath towels and wash cloths for a fresh and clean look. Keep a small basket of white wash cloths somewhere in the guest bathroom. Using white towels helps because many face washes, shaving creams and medications put bleach spots on linens and ruining linens would be embarrassing to your guests!

    In the kitchen ... check with your guests before they arrive to find out their favorite cereal and coffee or juice. On the day of your guests arrival, before you go to bed, leave out the cereal, bowls, spoons and coffee items in case your guests are up before you are ... as we know this happens often with small children. (We don't drink coffee in our house, but know our guests usually do and will get the coffee maker out of the cabinet and leave their favorite coffee, sugar bowl, splenda packets and coffee filter on the counter.)

  2. GREAT suggestions, Mandy!! I love the reminders about breakfast being set out for early risers and for using white bath towels! Thanks for the suggestions :)

  3. I love the Q/A post! Different writers' input is fun to read.

  4. I'm loving all the suggestions! Very inspiring! I've only had guests a few times, so I'm still learning. But, one thing I have learned is that you want to entertain your guests, not overwhelm them. I try to plan bigger activities every other day, or maybe even two days in between. Then have smaller activites in between, like doing a craft project, going on a walk to the park, etc.

  5. Lots of great ideas, ladies! I also like having white towels (there's a reason hotels do this!). I typically have a loose schedule for the time our visitors are with us. Normally this is extended family. I make a list of places and activities I think our guests would enjoy and email that to them in advance, including a link the the places website, admission fees and how long it will take us to get there. This helps us to all be on the same page for activities for the week.