As we have started being more intentional about practicing Biblical hospitality, we have found ourselves with extra little ones in our house on a regular basis. Whether through playdates, watching a friend’s kids for the afternoon, or doing respite care with Together For Good, we generally have extra little ones in our home 3-4 times a month. And though there are a lot of people who have older kids and have tons of experience having extra littles over, some of us are still in the new baby and toddler stage, and it’s very new to be trusted with someone else’s kids for the afternoon. So here are some of the things I’ve learned since we started this journey.
5 Tips For Having Extra Littles In Your Home
1. Have Something To Do
It may sound easy to just let the littles run wild and play with toys. But often, as little ones are getting to know each other, learn each other’s boundaries, and learn the rules of the house, things can sometimes get tense. Having a more structured activity ready can be a game-changer. Whether it be baking cookies or a craft, an activity can really help diffuse bickering, and help everyone get back to having fun. Many stores have started selling affordable, ready-to-go activity kits. Some of our favorite kits have been:
–Jello kits-Target dollar-spot crafts-playdough-Cookie decorating
2. Have kid-friendly food options on hand
I am always trying to get my kids to eat healthier options. When I am feeding my own family, I cook with zoodles and whole wheat pasta. I have been known to make my fried rice using cauliflower instead of grains. But other families have different food rules. So I always find it best to keep a few “kid-friendly” options on hand. My kids are now accustomed to this being our “friend food.” When we have friends over we will make that box mac n’ cheese. Otherwise those boxes sit on the shelf. Some of our favorite emergency friend food is:
–Mac and Cheese-almond butter sandwhiches–dumplings–Microwave steam vegetables-fruit-allergy-friendly snacks (nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free… just be aware of your friends’ allergies).
3. Set boundaries from the beginning and be consistent
I have been known to break the rules when we have new friends over, and I usually regret it. Maybe I let the kids watch a show before lunch, because we have friends over. Well then I better prepare myself that everytime that friend comes over they are going to want to watch a show before lunch. Or maybe I let them take a toy home out of the pile of toys we’re donating anyway. I usually should be preparing myself that they will always ask to take a toy home from our house, or maybe sneak one out. I’m just sharing from our real-life experience. And in my limited experience it’s best to set clear boundaries from the beginning and be consistent. Make sure you know your own limits before that little friend comes over and then stick with it. Just like with our own kids, when we set rules and are consistent, we create a safe space. We don’t know the situations of all the little ones coming into our homes. We may be the only place they feel safe. Being kind, but firm on our boundaries from the beginning can feel weird, but in the end it can pay-off in creating a safe space for our little ones and their friends.
4. Prep your kids
Remember, you aren’t the only one inviting extra little ones into your space. Your own littles will be having people in their space. It is worth it to talk with them beforehand. Talk to them about how sharing our toys is a way we can love others. Give them words to introduce themselves and ask friends to play with them. We often practice saying “Hi, my name is Vale. Would you like to play with me?” Daniel Tiger has become a great resource in our home. It not only gives my little ones words, but gives me words to help them manage social situations from making friends, to saying “I’m sorry,” to when a friend doesn’t want to play.
5. Dish-out Grace
It’s hard learning new rules. Have grace for little ones coming into your space. It can be hard sharing your toys. Have grace for your own littles. And it can be hard learning where to set boundaries and where to relax with a new little person. Have grace for yourself. In the end we are all learning, all growing, and inviting others into our space (no matter how small) can be a truly sanctifying experience. Remember Christ had given us grace where we make mistakes, so we can have grace with others. That’s how relationships continue. Don’t just give up if it feels hard at first. Take grace, give others grace, and keep going.
Let’s Love Others Well
Practice makes perfect. So let’s start opening our homes and our lives to those around us and their littles. Let’s make our homes safe-havens for our littles and their friends. Let’s be apart of the village it takes to raise kids. And let’s work to love our neighbors well.