Those Friendsgivings from your early 20s have changed. Even if you don’t have children, chances are some of your friends do. And like it or not, that means celebrating the holiday is different than when you first bumped beers on Thirsty Thursdays during your college days.
If you’re hosting Friendsgiving this year, you must take into account a potential mini-me, or two, or three. (These things just multiply, don’t they?) But that doesn’t mean you have to baby-proof your house and lock up all the liquor. “Think of kids as a fun addition and they will be,” says cookbook author (and mother) Ali Rosen, who writes about potluck recipes.
“No one will sing louder or have more joy than kids.” If you take Rosen’s advice below and pick up a pack of crayons and a pad of paper at the store, you’ll have nothing to stress over (except, you know, cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal for your chosen family).
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Rule #1: Start Early
At least, start earlier than, say, 8 p.m.. Do you really want kids crying, tired, and out of sorts? Consider inviting guests as early as 2 p.m. Often you won’t have dinner ready for another hour or two anyway. Also be warned—kids need food immediately. “No matter what time dinner starts, make sure to have some snacks on hand for arrival. Simple items like a cheese plate or veggies and hummus can be perfect without adding too much to your cooking plate,” she says.
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Related Reading: How to Host an Easy Friendsgiving Brunch
Rule #2: Have Toys
You can ask parents to bring some toys or activities for their children, but it’s a thoughtful gesture to provide a little something yourself. No need to spend a ton of money at a toy store. Pick up crayons, tape, and paper at the supermarket. “It’s really all about avoiding hunger and boredom,” Rosen says. “So if you can have a few easy games on hand, that helps a lot.” She recommends Jenga, because younger kids can use the pieces as stacking blocks too.
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Rule #3: Child-Proof Your Home
No one expects you to cover all your electrical outlets and rig your drawers and cabinets with child-proof locks. But you can stow away some of your more delicate items that are within toddler reach. Also, let your guests know if you have pets and how they are with children. If they’re not so great consider boarding them for the day (or at least sequestering them in their own room for the duration of the party—the pets, not the kids).
Rule #4: The Food Is Fine
Let’s be real here. Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t usually include a ton of crazy dishes that scare those white-food-only children. The holiday’s traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, rolls, and pies are all about comfort and nostalgia—food that’s friendly for even the pickiest kids. “I am a big advocate of making kids eat like adults,” Rosen says. “So as long as you have variety, there should be enough for everyone. Don’t feel like you have to go out of your way with different dishes for the kids.”
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Related Reading: The Best Vegetarian Dishes for Thanksgiving
Rule #5: Make Kid Accommodations at the Table
Save yourself from potential hazards and forgo the good silverware for your little guests. Grab some disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. Ask parents to bring sippy cups if their child’s dexterity requires it. You don’t have to provide everything. “And if you want to go all out, a kids-only table with a paper tablecloth they can draw on will also be distracting for a good amount of time,” Rosen says. “It’s all about letting your adult friends have a moment to themselves!”
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For more great tips, tricks, and hacks, see our Ultimate Guide to Friendsgiving.
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