Entertaining with Emily: How to host a kid-friendly party — or not

Are kids welcome?

Before I became a parent, this question annoyed me to no end. Until my wedding, I never explicitly spelled out “no kids” on an invite. I always assumed that as a childless adult hosting a get-together for other adults —after 6 p.m. and with the promise of plentiful booze — it was a given that I didn’t want tiny humans putting their sticky little hands all over my white walls and soft mouthing my expensive cheese. Plus, I have an arthritic old rescue mutt who I’m convinced thinks babies are hairless cats, and growls or nips if they get too close.

Don’t get me wrong: I love kids, but before I had my own, I never really considered them when planning parties. Now as a parent, I can see the error of my ways. I could have spared my guests the stress and awkwardness (and saved myself some agitation) by just specifying up front whether or not kids were welcome at my gatherings. Luckily, there are plenty of easy ways to finesse the issue in mass email or text form:

Hey, friends! We’d love to have a little get-together on Friday night. We have endless margarita supplies and all the fixin’s for a taco bar. All you need is a babysitter and stretchy pants. Can’t wait to see you!


The only thing more fun than family game night is grown-up game night (okay, maybe it’s Hollywood Game Night, but I don’t see anyone inviting you to that). Come by Saturday around 8. Bring your favorite booze and board games.

If you have your own kids, use them to set an example:

Teddy’s having a sleepover at Grandma’s on Saturday, and we’d love to have you all over for drinks and shenanigans. We’re ready to get loud after 7 p.m. for the first time in months!

For more formal invitations, it’s perfectly fine to write “adults only” or “no children, please,” even if it’s in fine print at the bottom.

As a guest, it’s best to assume that if the party is happening in the evening and the invite doesn’t say something like “bring the whole family” or “we’ll have pizza and ice cream for the kids,” it’s likely not cool to bring your offspring — especially if the host is childless. Of course, there are exceptions, like a close friend or relative who always welcomes your whole family, or any event held at, say, Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Still unsure? Just ask! Maybe your childless-by-choice friend will be momentarily annoyed, but that’s nothing compared to how put off she’ll be if you show up to her cocktail party with an overtired 2-year-old in tow. If she doesn’t give you a straight answer (an emphatic “yes” is what you’re looking for here), get a babysitter.

If you’re a host who’s ready to welcome kids into your social orbit —whether it’s because you have your own, or all your friends do and you want to include them — there are plenty of easy ways to keep them entertained while still maintaining some level of adult fun.

Create a Kids Corner

Put a small table (a coffee table is great!) in a corner that’s within view of the party but also out of the way enough to be, well, out of the way. Stock it with kid-friendly craft supplies like paper, crayons or markers, playdough, stickers, etc. Or hit the dollar store for some random toys and activities. Even if what you get is just a bag of choking hazards fashioned from pure BPA, the parents will appreciate your effort, and for most kids, anything new is exciting — at least for a few minutes.

Put On a Movie

This is literally the least you can do, and the kids will be so happy about it. Put on a movie in a den or spare bedroom. Add snacks. Tell the oldest kid they’re in charge. Pat yourself on the back, pour yourself a drink, and enjoy your party. Worry about vacuuming tomorrow.  

Make a Multi-Purpose Syrup

Making flavored syrups is my favorite kid-friendly party trick. Homemade syrups are always a fun cocktail ingredient, and when they’re added to club soda or Sprite, they feel extra special (and grown up!) for kids, especially if there’s a fun stir stick, straw, or garnish. For adults, this strawberry-basil syrup mixes well with booze and soda, or even sparkling wine.

For more from Emily, follow her on Instagram @theboozybungalow or visit her blog at


1.5 cups water

1.5 cups sugar

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves

1 pound (carton) strawberries, stemmed and quartered

1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it reaches a rolling boil. Remove the pan from the heat, then immediately add the basil and strawberries. Stir, cover and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve (but don’t press or smash the strawberries into it), then stir in the lemon juice and let the syrup cool to room temp. Store it in a sealed bottle or jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

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