It’s 8:45am and I am rushing my four-year-old son to put his breakfast plate in the sink and throw his toys into the bin. As I dress my daughter, I see my son saunter over to the toy bin and instead of putting his things away, he starts to pick up his cars and play with them.
“Hunter, can you put your toys away? Our friends will be here for our playdate in ten minutes,” I remind him.
He lazily drops his cars back in the bin and takes off at lightning speed, yelling around the room.
It was going to be one of those mornings.
When we invite friends into our home, my husband and I like to think ahead and make plans, so our friends feel special and their visit to our home is meaningful. We want them to be comfortable and have a fun time. This can be done organically, but we have noticed that making friends feel loved happens best through intentional thought and care.
Kids want this type of generosity in their friendships because it feels good to create a special moment between friends but they need a parents help to get them there.
As Hunter runs around the room, I drop to my knees and call him over.
“Hunter, why do we put our toys away? Is it because we want everything to be sparkly clean or is it because we want an inviting space for our friends to walk into?”
Immediately, this shifts the “getting the home ready” process to less about appeasing mom and her desire for a clean home and reminds his little mind that we want our friends to feel cared for when they walk into our home. Hunter gets to make the choice on how his friends can be greeted: with pieces of games and toys all over the room or with a clean floor to race their cars on.
A little bit of generosity can go a long way.
Next, we talk snacks. This is Hunter’s favorite part of a playdate. He finds his favorite snacks and puts them in colorful bowls. He is ready.
The doorbell rings and Hunter runs to the door and opens it.
“Hey Henry, you want to come eat some goldfish and play with my cars?” he asks. Before Henry can even answer, they are running off giggling and having a good time.
Friendship for little people can highlight a lot of the things we see in our own friendships. Will four-year-old boys and girls even appreciate a nice bowl of goldfish thoughtfully set out for them? Maybe. But I hope this simple act of generosity continues into their teenage and adult years. My hope is that they will continue to practice how to give their friend’s their best. Whether it is the favorite snack, the best toys, or their full attention; I want my children to practice generosity as a way to make people feel seen and loved.
But why hospitality as a tool to nurture generous kids?
All over Scripture, I see the writers reminding the Christian community to “practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). We welcome others into our circle and do not forget to show a new friend hospitality, “for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2). To me, this means that sharing hospitality with others is just like sharing a La Croix, our couch and comfort with Jesus himself.
We love Jesus by loving others and giving generously. I want Hunter to know: When I do good and share with my friends, God is pleased (see Hebrews 13:16) and my friend’s feel loved.
Kids will need this prompting over and over again. Because as time goes on…the issue arises as kids fight over toys, cry about giving their friend their favorite cup or refuse to share at all.
We share with one another and we do so “without complaining” (1 Peter 4:9), Peter reminds us. Being generous is not just a kid struggle. Examine your own motives when it comes to hospitality. I have even gone so low as not to set out mugs because I was too tired to offer coffee and clean the cups up afterwards. (That story ended with my husband giving me a pep talk, him setting it all up and our friends cleaning their own mugs at the end of the night. I learned my lesson about withholding my hospitality).
When Hunter is struggling to share with a friend, I often remind him: “We invited our friends over to play knowing they would be using our things and our toys. We want them to feel as comfortable here as they do at their home by giving them our best things first. Can we try again? And after a few minutes you can ask nicely if you can have a turn.”
Reminding our kids that our guests are special, and we want them to feel welcomed here, often makes the play a lot smoother…and usually it ends with both kids treating each other with more fairness.
We end the playdate on happy terms.
Now, the clean-up! Hunter has to help clean up all the fun because as the role of host, he needs to take responsibility for the mess. I know this is a lot to ask of young kids, so have grace. Continue to model how you clean up after company comes for dinner or a friend stops by for goldfish in a cute bowl—because grownups can eat goldfish too.
Try practicing these “generous kid” rhythms before and after playdates. Whether they are four or nine or thirteen, they can grow in their ability to create a meaningful moment with their friends. They can set up their room with all the best blankets and pillows for a sleepover and grab a movie they know their friend has wanted to watch. They can make brownies ahead of time. Or plan an activity for them and their friend to do.
Generosity generates a special connection between two young friends.
Generosity inspires a kid’s heart to share with their friends’ knowing that Jesus shares the best with them.
Jesus never withholds the best care, love and friendship from us, so we can generously give our best to others with glad hearts.
Scripture to read with your generous kids:
The Widow’s Offering (Luke 21:1-4)
Questions to talk through together:
What did the widow put in the treasury? Why was this a special gift?
What would you give Jesus to show him you love him?
Why is giving important to Jesus?
How can we give to others with what we have?
Fun-Size Friendships Coloring Sheets
Subscribers of my Newsletter can download four Fun-Size Friendships coloring pages for their kiddos. These coloring pages are a fun collaboration between myself and Mary Clarke Photo & Design. No judgement if you print two copies of each so that you can do one…