A few weeks ago, we threw a surprise brunch at my house for my brother-in-law Lars’ 40th birthday. Lars, my sister Sarah, and their son moved to the Chicago-area less than two years ago (they live around the corner from us — seriously, walking distance — and it’s awesome). After living on the East Coast for most of their adult lives, they are still in the process of putting down roots here, so we decided to do something low key, but still special, for his 40th that would include family, a few of Lars’ close friends, and the toddlers in our lives. Since we wanted the party to be a surprise, we lured Lars to our house under false pretenses on a Sunday morning for a kid-friendly brunch.
I love entertaining at my house, but tend get super anxious about having people over — though I seem to be getting better about that second part. Maybe having a kid forced me to take my type-A tendencies (I have very few type-A tendencies, but this is one of them) out of my ideas about entertaining? I’ve also realized that brunch is the perfect time to throw an adult party that includes small kids — everyone loves brunch food, adults can drink if they want to (but people rarely go overboard with the booze), and toddlers are generally functioning from 9am – noon. Generally.
TIPS FOR HOSTING A FUN, ANXIETY-FREE, AND KID-FRIENDLY BRUNCH
Keep the menu simple and prep to a minimum. I always have grand plans when it comes to cooking, but the truth is keeping it simple saves time, energy, and anxiety (all things that can be in short supply when you’re a busy mom and have a curious toddler under foot). Here are some specific ideas:
- Let your grocer do at least some of the work. Pre-sliced cheese, fruit that’s been washed and cut up, and my favorite salad — no chopping required — were all on the menu. Yes, it’s a little more expensive, but a lot more convenient.
- Two words: Breakfast casserole. I made two. They can be prepped the night before, feed a crowd, and get rave reviews. My family’s go-to special occasion baked french toast casserole is always a favorite.
- Don’t do separate food for the kids. Breakfast food is pretty kid friendly — there’s really no need to do anything special for young kids.
- Prosecco mimosas. Enough said.
Ask for (and accept offers of) help. I put my sister in charge of the cake and then called her when I knew she was at the store to pick up cups and napkins — it saved me the trip. A friend offered to bring a side dish, and after first rejecting her offer — no, no you don’t need to do anything — I realized I was BEING INSANE, back-pedeled and said, you know what, that would be great.
Surface clean and close doors to rooms that you aren’t using. Wipe down counters. Vacuum. Make sure your bathroom is presentable. Don’t stress about the rest. Close your bedroom door, and be done with it. You’re going to have to clean again after the party anyway.
Maximize space by keeping coats and bags out of the mix. We have a coat closet, but it doesn’t fit 20 winter coats, scarves, hats, gloves and diaper bags. Usually I’m not smart about this, and coats get tossed on the couch and bags set down on chairs, taking up valuable space and time when things inevitably need to be shuffled around. This time, I made a point of grabbing everyone’s coat at the door and storing items on my daughter’s big girl bed, away from the party.
Designate a kid area (and maybe turn on a movie). My house is small, and the first floor is one open space. I decided that the best way to handle a kid-friendly brunch for five 2-year-olds and 15+ adults was to try to contain the toddler set in the front part of the house. So I did what any sane parent would do — I turned on Frozen and put out containers of toys and coloring books. Yep, no crafts or special kid activities to see here. The toddlers still roamed around, but that room was clearly their home base, and they were less in the mix than usual.
Set up food and beverages stations. With parties, flow makes a difference. Put all the food and drinks in one place and you often end up with everyone crowded in one area. My main food station was our kitchen island. The dessert was on the buffet in our dining area. Coffee and other beverages were situated around the kitchen away from the island.
Use disposable dinnerware. I know I’m not doing the earth any favors. But when you’ve got a crowd — and especially when you’ve got kids — disposable is the only way to go. Something like Chinet is biodegradable, heavy duty and looks a little nicer than flimsy, cheap paper plates. Plus it’s kid-proof. Definitely worth the cost.Lars had no idea, and it was an awesome surprise — he loved it. We spent the morning eating, chatting with friends and family, and of course singing happy birthday and having cake. It ended up being a really fun, low-stress celebration.
Do you get anxious when you’re prepping for a party? What do you do when you’ll be hosting multiple ages? Anyone else a fan of the kid-friendly brunch?