It is always a challenge to be a good hostess when you have a few million toys scattered around on the floor after a good day (or few minutes) of toddler play! While I would love to have ALL the toys picked up and out of sight, it doesn’t always happen, nor does it have to! I DO encourage my kids to help me get the house ready for company. This means giving my 2 and 3 year old SPECIFIC tasks to do in the hour before company arrives … pick up a certain toy/book and return it to it’s place and repeat until at least the area around the door is clear :), carry plates (one at a time) to the table, wait and look out the window at the appointed time of arrival.
I also try to let the kids know of our plans early in the day so that we can anticipate the arrival of guests. This helps our day to be focused on others and not just on ourselves … thinking about what the other people (big or small) might like for a special dessert and how we can clean up so that we have places to sit and talk or play together.
If I have actually gotten everything ready a few minutes before company is due to arrive, I like to try to engage the kids in a short quiet activity (read to them or turn on a book on CD.) This is helps my kids to know that they are not forgotten even when Mommy and Daddy are talking with the company and it helps me to sit and ‘be still’ for a moment!
All that said, we have plenty of stories of welcoming friends into a home filled with toys on the floor and children in tears. The last 2 times some of our good friends have come over Zoe has had a bloody nose and been in tears. (She was so excited to see them this last time that I think she tried to jump out the window!) Things like that just happen and I’m learning to make the best of it :)