The holidays are here and it’s time for food and fun. For a different twist, why not host a fancy holiday dinner party… for your kids and their friends? Our whole family had so much fun with this that it’s become a yearly tradition.
A fancy dinner party for the younger set has many benefits. Your kids learn to plan, organize, shop, clean house, be good hosts, and everything else that goes along with hosting a party. They get to dress up in their finest clothes, practice their “company” table manners, and learn dinner conversation. This is a night where kids are king, and boy do they feel important!
You can certainly make your own rules, but this is how we do it. First, the kids create an invitation list. 8 kids is the maximum our table can comfortably hold and I can comfortably cook for. Next is the hard one – trying to pick a night when there are no extracurricular events we’ve already committed to. The kids then make formal invitations on the computer and mail these out. I admit I tend to lecture a bit about what the RSVP in the invitation means and how important it is to always respond when someone asks you to RSVP.
While we wait for our invitation responses, we decide what will be on the menu. The kids come up with two choices each for the main dish, sides, and dessert. They pour over my cookbooks (mostly just look at the pictures), pick recipes, and make up a shopping list. One of the things they pick out is an easy appetizer that they will make themselves ahead of time. Mom and Dad shouldn’t do all the cooking!
On the day of the party, the kids set the table with our good china and lots of candles. Rather than taper candles, we use tea lights in small glasses as a safety precaution.
On the eve of the party, all the kids dress up in their finest attire. This alone, makes the night feel so special. As a surprise, I create fancy dinner menus and “laminate” them with clear contact paper. Mom and Dad take on the role of chef. Not only do we do the cooking, but we are transformed into French waiters with dubious accents and are dressed the part. We don’t hover around the table, but disappear back into the kitchen when not needed.
It’s a new thing for many children to sit at a table, order their own food off the menu, and be responsible for themselves without any grown ups telling them what to do. And they love it! In order to promote good table conversation, I write up some conversation prompts on paper scraps and put them into a bowl. While they are waiting for their meal or dessert to be served, they read their prompt out loud and answer it. Examples are “If you could get on an airplane right now and go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?” or “What do you think would be the worst job ever to have?” or “What do you have sitting on the dresser in your bedroom right now?” Of course, all the kids chime in with their answers!
We’ve come to think of the fancy holiday dinner party as a Christmas gift we give our kids. We are there to serve them, no strings attached, and they enjoy it immensely. The other benefits for them are learning how to host a gala and all that it requires – planning and organizing the party, making seating arrangements, learning how to set a fancy table, planning the food, etc. While this is maybe not at the top of the list, it’s just something nice for children to learn. Every year the flavor of the dinner party is a little different, because they grow and change. This makes every year so special in my eyes.
If this sounds like fun to you, give it a try and adjust it to fit your family. I guarantee it will be a night to remember for all of you. Don’t forget to take pictures!