Gone are the days when dinner parties meant luxe linens and late nights. Now that you’re a mom (and your friends are too), having the girls and their S.O.s over means something completely new. It’s not always easy for everyone to arrange babysitters on the same night, which means there will be times when your invitation is for the whole family. It might seem complicated, but you can totally incorporate the kiddos into your dinner party — without the anticipated pain and strain.

A couple looks after their baby at the dinner table

1. Hire a helper. For your guests, finding individual childcare isn’t always easy. One parent can get a sitter on Friday, but another only has someone to watch the kids on Saturday. Pool your resources and hire one sitter to help out during dinner. Even though the babysitter or nanny doesn’t need to tend to the kids the entire time, they can pitch in as needed.

2. Start the party early. Babies mean bedtimes, and each of your friends’ babies probably has a slightly different one. A late-night gathering may result in overly tired tots who turn what could be a fun evening with friends into more of a horror show. No one wants to have a cranky kiddo on their hands, so play it safe by setting an early start time.

3. More really is merrier. One friend with a baby? It’s likely that they’ll feel a bit like an imposition. But a group of families? They’ll feel that sense of parenting camaraderie. You don’t have to favor your friends with kids by excluding those without, either — just make sure to invite more than one parent to the party.

4. Stock up on kid stuff. Just in case your BFF forgets her baby bag (you know it will happen sooner or later), stash a few extra diapers, wipes, or anything else a parent could need in your guest bathroom. Along with baby necessities, stock your kitchen with toddler- and preschooler-friendly snacks and drinks to keep the littles happy before or after the main meal.

Children blow bubbles at a dinner party

5. Include a range of ages. Chances are you have friends with babies, toddlers, and kids of older ages. Instead of a babies-only dinner, invite friends with children in a range of ages. The older kids can help entertain the little ones, giving the adults a much-needed break.

6. Forget about buffets. Hot foods left out on a sideboard and ambulatory young children don’t go together. It only takes a fraction of a second for a kiddo whose reach exceeds their critical thinking to pull a dangerously hot dish down onto the head or hands. Avoid accidents by serving dinner to your guests.

7. Light for the night. A room full of babies doesn’t mix well with blindingly bright lights. Use a dimmer or create a shaded ambiance with table lamps. Even though it’s tempting to use candles, skip them to forgo the possible fire hazard (especially with curious little hands around).

8. Pick kid-friendly tunes. Your child and your friends’ kids are listening not only to you but to everything else around them. That means you need to make sure that the music is appropriate for guests of all ages. It doesn’t need to be the latest Kidz Bop album, but it should be selected with an ear to lyrics and styles that would be best left for the grown ups.

Do you have a tip for hosting a family-friendly dinner party? Tweet us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)