My four year old daughter, Ellie, recently hosted a play date for her friends from our home school co-op. Because I want Ellie to one day be an excellent hostess I took a little extra time and included her in all of the hostess tasks*.
|Ellie (in the denim jumper) with her friends|
We planned the event together.
Ellie wanted a special play date so we decided to make it a tea party. As we discussed food for the tea party I steered her toward ham and cheese sandwiches, chips, fruit salad, and lemonade. I explained to Ellie that we wanted to keep the food simple and easy to make. Also, that we wanted to choose foods that our guests would enjoy eating.
Ellie helped clean and prepare our home for her guests.
In all honesty, she resisted cleaning her room at first, and by resist I mean refused with much whining and crying. But I reminded her that the party was for her and that as the hostess she needed to help get ready for it. She agreed that we want our home to look nice for our guests. Eventually she came around and cleaned up her room.
Once her room was clean, we moved her child-sized table and chairs to the living room for a special place to eat. We also brought up her girlie toys from the basement and placed them in her room. As we arranged the toys we talked about how it's important to share with our friends - that she can play with her toys anytime but her friends will only have a few hours to play with them.
We greeted Ellie's friends as they arrived.
As each friend came to our door I called Ellie to come and say "Hi, [Friend's Name]! Come in. May I take your coat? We are playing in my room right now." Then she would take the girl's coat to the boys' bedroom and join her friends in playing.
Now, please understand that she's only four years old so I didn't expect perfection. Practicing a new skill always feels awkward and uncomfortable the first time; so she didn't say all of this every time and she often mumbled it as she parroted me. But I am satisfied with her efforts as a first time hostess.
We also practiced serving our guests.
Ellie didn't help me prepare plates and carry them to the table but she did practice eating last. As she grows older, I will have her help me refill glasses and offer guests second helpings. For this play date the lesson of letting your guests go first was enough.
Our event was just a play date but I'm not sure how I would handle this if it were a birthday party. What are your thoughts on the birthday child being served last at her birthday party? It is her "special day" but isn't it good manners for a hostess to meet the needs of her guests first?
Ellie thanked her friends for coming.
As her friends left, I instructed Ellie to retrieve their coats and make sure they took their coloring pages (our activity for the afternoon) home. She then walked each one to the door and said, "Thank you for coming to my tea party. I had a lot of fun." As the last girl left, we stepped outside and waved as they all drove away.
Ellie learned that hostesses still work AFTER guests leave.
After her friends left, Ellie helped me clean up her room (again). We also returned her toys and table to their usual places. My goal was to teach her that cleaning up immediately after a party is much easier than procrastinating.
One thing I DIDN'T do, but will do next time, was to write thank you notes. Even though this was only a play date, it was a special day (we don't usually have play dates with these girls) and made a good opportunity to practice writing thank yous. Blank white note cards are wonderful for children to practice hand writing a note thanking their friends for coming. Including a photograph or link to event pictures on line would also be appreciated by guests.
Teaching my daughter to be a thoughtful hostess is important to me. It takes a little time and effort on my part but that investment is well worth it!
How are you teaching your daughter to be a competent hostess? At what age did you begin the lessons?
* In this post I have used the term "hostess" and used my daughter as an example. It should be understood that I am using the same methods to teach my sons to be proper hosts.