The rule of thumb passed down by experienced Moms and Dads is to invite the same
number of party guests as your child's age. Resist the temptation to invite every
child in your child's classroom. Be discrete and avoid hurt feelings by mailing
invitations home instead of passing them out in school. A manageable party is a
more enjoyable one both for the party attendants and for you!
Party Time and Duration
An hour is sufficient for toddlers and pre-schoolers when naptimes are still an
issue. Plan your party when the birthday child will be freshest and best able to
handle all the excitement, perhaps a morning brunch is best.
For older school age children, a two to three hour party at any time of day is a
safe bet; evening parties and sleep-overs are popular options for pre-teens.
Always include an RSVP date and phone number on your party invitations. In the event
of a guest failing to RSVP, a cordial call on or after your RSVP date is perfectly
acceptable. Sometimes mail is delayed and other mishaps occur, and you need to be
sure that the invitation was received. In addition, knowing the exact guest count
is necessary for planning purposes.
Children may sometimes express their true, and not necessarily polite, feelings
about a gift they have received. In advance of the party, explain to your child
that it's necessary to thank all the gift-givers with equal enthusiasm, no matter
what the gift. Impress upon your him or her that each guest feels their gift is
special, and that it's the thought behind it that counts.
If you plan to open gifts at the party, make it early before kids are tired, cranky
and hyped with sugar. Of course, this issue can be avoided entirely by opening the
gifts after guests have departed, a time-saving practice which prevents the embarrassment
of the party child making ungrateful comments.
There's nothing wrong with good old-fashioned competition; it gets the adrenalin
going and cranks up the excitement. Just make sure that the elements of each game
are manageable for the age group you are inviting. A trial run with the party child
prior to the party will likely head off any problems.
In addition, small gifts such as a lollipop or small trinket given to every player
for completing the game is preferable to awarding one large prize to the winner
only. Planning a craft activity or end-of-party reading time will involve all the
guests, even the quieter ones.
Siblings showing up uninvited
Be very clear on your party invitation by using the name of the guest invited. Some
people will ignore the obvious and do what's convenient for them anyway, so have
a few extra goodie bags on hand for siblings who just show up.
If you're having an outdoor party, it's good common sense to have a rainy day alternative.
Confirm your entertainer one week before party time, but prepare a handful of games
you can orchestrate on your own, if necessary. If a guest or two are late for the
festivities, don't delay your schedule but keep on as planned. Although no-shows,
delays, and inclement weather are party bummers, you can still pull it off like
professional with a little advance preparation.
Party Child Misbehaving
Here's where some advance coaching is in order. Emphasize the important role your
child has as the party host or hostess to make guests feel comfortable. Discuss
the responsibilities s/he will have such as greeting the guests, showing them where
to sit at the party table, and handing out party favors.
Stress that through helping others enjoy the day, your child will likely have a
better time too. A gentle reminder during the party should be all that's needed
once you've laid down the ground rules.
The party excitement, coupled with sugar intake, can lead to tantrums, tears, and
other misbehavior. Step back a moment and try to handle these problems with patience
and diplomacy. A little attention and redirection is sometimes all that's needed
to remedy the situation. Give the child a special job to do or make them an honorary
If the behavior escalates, don't be afraid to separate the child to a quiet room.
Explain that bad behavior will not be tolerated and that the parents will be called
to take him or her home if it continues.
Duplicate Gift Dilemma
If there's a gift receipt attached from a thoughtful parent, you're golden. Otherwise,
don't get into it with another parent unless you can do so without causing offense.
You can try just returning the gift for store credit, if you know where it was purchased.
Or, stash it away with the name of the original gift-giver taped to it. This way
you can recycle the gift, making sure it goes to an entirely new (and hopefully
Thank You Notes
Thank you notes are an excellent way to promote good manners and appreciation in
your children. Not only are they important social skill builders, they foster good
writing and creativity as well. Kids will learn to enjoy writing thank you cards
if you make it a fun project by using colorful note cards and glittery gel pens
or let them design their own on the computer.
For younger children, it's okay for the parent to write the note and have the party
child sign it. The party child could even draw a picture which Mom or Dad can copy
and send as a thank you. The "fill-in-the-blanks" type thank you note are a great
alternative too. Another super idea is to include a picture of the guest taken with
the party child along with the thank you note.
Incidentally, it's critical to keep a careful list of who-gave-what so thank you
notes can be sent without mix-ups.
Can Parents Stay?
If you're unsure if you can accompany your child to a party, just be up front with
the parents beforehand and ask what their party plans are. The RSVP call is a great
time to ask questions. Most parents of younger children know some kids are more
comfortable with their parents around and plan accordingly. (A pot of coffee and
extra cake or munchies for the adults.) Most parents will offer to help if they
stay an extra bonus for the host/hostess!