One of my favorite Home Ec skill is hospitality. It is just in my nature, as a people pleaser (who is trying to learn how to say no more often), to love hospitality.
In fact, when we were converting to Catholicism and I was faced with needing to pick a Confirmation name, I struggled with the choice, even though I knew in my heart that I knew which saint’s name to pick — Martha. Indeed, one of the specific mentions of Martha is the simple statement, “Martha served” from John 12:2.
Because of this, my children have grown up in a home where, I hope, they are very naturally picking up on some of the aspects of hospitality and how to make it something they can offer others.
Ways to Work on Hospitality with Children
As with just about everything you teach your children, your words are important, but your actions are so much more important. If you tell your children that it’s a good thing to take a meal to a family that has welcomed a new baby, for example, but then they hear you complaining about things like finding time to make that meal or that it is inconvenient to actually take the meal to them, they will learn a completely different lesson from your actions.
If your heart is open to the opportunities to show hospitality in a genuine way to family, friends, and strangers, your children will learn from that modeling.
Hospitality without Complaining
As I mentioned above, you should model hospitality without it being peppered with complaints. Even if you’re already good at skipping over the complaining, this is something to teach your children as well. When their hospitality efforts are filled with complaints, talk together about this verse from 1 Peter.
“Be hospitable to one another without complaining. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10
Welcoming and Inviting Others
Skills that can be worked on in this area include:
- Creating invitations that can be sent or hand-delivered to friends or family for an event.
- Working on how to greet people at the door and welcome them into your home. (This is a great one to role play and practice ahead of time. It can include things like politely telling people your wishes about shoes on/off, how to take someone’s coat and put it away, etc.)
- Using polite words and phrases when guests are arriving and leaving. (Just today, I was so pleased to hear the daughter of a friend say to another child, “Thank you for coming to play,” as the other child left their home.)
I’m a huge fan of good manners. In fact, when I was working as an in-home therapist with early intervention, I always encouraged learning the words “please” and “thank you” (often in signs for children with speech delays) with the children I worked with. I told parents that it was my experience as a parent of a child with special needs that adults would often go out of their way to help him when he needed it, and I attributed that to his kind nature and politeness.
In addition to your standard good manner words and practices, it can be a great idea to get together with some other families and have a formal tea or another type of event where one of the main purposes is teaching children etiquette and manners for this type of event. My boys went on a field trip like that when they were in public school, and it made quite an impression on them. (We were treated to lots of lessons from them at the dinner table each night.)
Let Children Help Prepare for Guests
Although it can sometimes get hectic for Mom while trying to get the house ready for dinner guests or to host the whole family over for a holiday, it is a wonderful time to teach children about hospitality by having them help in the preparations.
How Children Can Help:
- Ask them to help with meal preparations. If possible, find a dish that they can work on all on their own. For very young children, this might be to put a salad together, while older children might be able to make a prepared dish or dessert. There is something extra special about knowing that you were the one to create a dish that people are enjoying.
- Let them be the door greeter. This is when role playing how to greet guests who come to your house comes in handy!
- Help to make the house more presentable. Mom doesn’t have to be the only one cleaning before guests arrive. Teach children that one way we show hospitality to our guests is to have our home appear welcoming. This doesn’t mean it has to be spotless, but it does mean that it might be nice if the bathroom is clean and there aren’t school books all over the dining room table.
- Create a little something special. On Easter this year, Molly decided that she wanted to make name cards for each person coming to dinner at our house. While I didn’t have any free time (especially since she thought of this just a couple of hours ahead of time), I quickly sat down and helped to cut appropriately sized cards for her anyway. Then, I told her how to spell names that she didn’t know how to spell while I continued to cook. She was so proud of her cards!
What things have you done to encourage hospitality in your children?
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