Entertaining expert Elisa Marshall of Maman shares her go-to strategies.
mom and son make pizza
Credit: Courtesy of Elisa Marshall

Grown-up events and dinner parties can leave the little ones pretty bored. And if you are the mom of a toddler, like I am, many of your friends are likely in the same situation. If grandma isn't around the corner and a good babysitters is hard to find, I always make sure to keep the kids in mind as I plan a party or get together.

Whether you are hosting with little ones of your own or your guests will have some tiny plus-ones, I'm sharing my favorite ideas, tips, and tricks to help keep the children entertained and having fun so the grown-ups can have a more enjoyable experience.

Movie Night

Movies are a great way to keep the kids entertained, hopefully for an hour or two! Instead of plopping them down on the couch, make it a more fun and interactive experience.

Set up an age-appropriate snack station. I love to set out individual boxes and a snack station, so the kids can create their own snack box. My favorite snacks include popcorn with flavored salts, assorted candy (opt for low-sugar varieties and focus the snacks on the savory side of things—you will thank me later!), chips and crackers, and a variety of juice boxes.

Rather than sitting on the couch as usual, mix it up by arranging pillows on the floor to create a cozy at-home cinema experience that's different from the typical movie night. If you have any ball pits, inflatable pools, or crib matresses, those can also make great floor seats with a few extra blankets and pillows. 

Dress-Up Box

Kids love dressing up and role playing and this is an activity that can especially be fun with a larger group of kids! Start by pulling out your Halloween storage bins and other possible sources of costumes and set up a collection of masks, silly dress-up items, and even face paint. Make sure there is a mirror or mirrors nearby as the kids tend to be more engaged when they can see themselves. Then let their imaginations run wild. Children will have a great time pretending to be characters and making up stories to match. You can even ask them to rehearse and prepare a show for the parents! 

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts take very little prep and can be so much fun for the kids. Provide each child with a basket or a bag and write a list of things for them to collect and find, this works for both indoor or outdoor events. For the younger ones, keep it simple using adjectives, colors, or shapes; something blue, something round, or something shiny, and go into more detail for the older kids. Don't forget, the more challenging you make it, the longer it will entertain them. Prizes help to incentivize them and keep them more focused, too!

Craft Table

If you've got a coffee table and a few floor pillows, you've got the makings of a craft station for the kids. Push the coffee table into a corner of the room and cover it with some kraft paper. I always opt for a general activity, like coloring, that can be entertaining for kids of all ages (and adults too), along with individual age-appropriate activity boxes, because crafting can get complicated if you're hosting children of various ages (and attention spans).

Usually I 'shop' my house for supplies and use mason jars to line the table with various items such as markers, crayons, stickers, etc. and fill boxes with activities that are useful and will keep the kids interested.

DIY Meals

Engage the little ones in the food prep! Although this idea may take a little more supervision, it also turns their meal into an activity itself. A DIY pizza station is one of my go-tos. It's simple to set up—and what kid doesn't like pizza? No need to make or buy pizza dough, I suggest skipping that and starting with store-bought naan bread or tortilla shells, so each kid can make their own individual pizza, choosing toppings from bowls filled with sauce, various toppings, and lots of cheese. You can also give them cookie cutters so they can cut out fun shapes and make multiple mini pizzas.


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