Help yourself with these answers to common questions about children’s birthday party etiquette. Questions such as how many guests should you invite, how to handle bad birthday behaviour, when to write thank you notes, what favours to give out.
Who should be invited?
Many children would love to invite their entire school class and perhaps friends from football, dancing classes, neighbours and of course don’t forget favourite cousins. However this can be a recipe for disaster and is generally not really practical or affordable for most families. So where do you draw the line?
Ask yourself how many children you are comfortable hosting, and at this stage do let your budget be a consideration. A manageable party will be more enjoyable for both you and your child’s guests.
Around twenty/thirty children is a good maximum to aim for. Less if your child is pre school age, as too many children can be over whelming for the birthday child.
Small is also beautiful and I have performed for a low as eight children. This allows a more intimate party with all of the guests receiving special treatment and involvement which is not always possible with a lot of children present.
Consider whether you wish your party to be at home or in a hall. Hosting your party at home has a good number of advantages, in terms of cost and practicality, both for you and your child. To a large extent the number of guests will dictate what is best in your own particular circumstances. I perform around 50% of my parties in people’s homes and they are often the most successful. I have two girls of my own and we always had our parties a home and we much prefer it.
Another thing to consider is whether the party will be indoors or out. Typically, it is easier to host a larger group of children in an outdoor setting but you need to know the many disadvantages. For a party at home in doors, again tailor the guest list to the space you have available.
Alternatively you may decide to hold the party at another location such as a community hall, church hall, or a franchise business that offers party packages, in order to invite more children. However be totally honest with yourself about how much time, money and energy you have for your event.
Important: Whether you have a party at home or in a hall do invite your child’s friends, but do not feel obligated to include their friends’ siblings. Often this will create BIG problems for you. You have been warned.
You should not feel pressured to invite the entire class nor invite the guests siblings.
If your child is in school, you might consider inviting just the boys or just the girls for a gender-specific party, or just your child’s closest friends that he or she spends the most time with.
Your invitations should be precise about the type of party being given, with the date, time, and location of the party. Start by telling guests who the party is for at the top of the invitation. “Rebecca’s 8th Birthday Party”, for example.
Next, give the date and time of the party. You definitely want to give both a start time and an end time to avoid confusion about when parents should return for their children.
If you don’t want other parents staying, wording such as “Drop off at 2:00 pm, and pick-up at 4:00 pm” should make that clear.
If the party must start or end precisely at a certain time, for example when hiring an entertainer suggest that the guests may wish to arrive ten minutes early before the show commences to avoid having any stragglers or indeed include the word “sharp” after the stated start time.
Be very specific about the party location. If the party is being held at your home, give your full street address including post code. If the location is elsewhere such as a church hall, give the name full name of the location and the full street address. It is also useful to give your phone number for any guests who may need to call for directions.
Finally, give information on how you want guests to reply to your invitation such as your phone number or email address. Here are some common RSVP formats used on invitations:
RSVP to Linda on [phone number] or [email].
RSVP by June 1 to Linda on [phone number].
Kindly respond to Linda on [phone number].
Please reply to Linda on [phone number].
Should you ask guests to respond by a certain date?
Absolutely, because you really do need to know how many people are coming! To do this, simply put “RSVP by [date]” on the invitations.
Best time for a children’s party, and how long should it last?
Most three and four year old parties are best in the morning when the children are at their freshest and the best time of day to have a toddler party is probably 10:00am–12:00 noon.
For older children from five to ten years old consider 2:00pm–4:00pm. This gives plenty of time for games, snacks, and cake.
Should I let parents stay?
Sometimes you may want other parents on hand to help you supervise the children during the party but generally speaking parents staying is not a good idea other than for the very young children.
How do I handle RSVPs, and importantly, those parents who don’t reply?
If you ask guests to RSVP by a specific date, many parents will reply but sadly there is a growing tendency, because everyone is so busy these days, for parents not to reply.
For those parents you will need to get on the phone to find out who is coming. Just because a parent hasn’t responded, please don’t assume that their child is not coming to your party! After all you really do need a head count for successful planning purposes.
When making the phone call, you can say something like “Hello, this is Linda Dickson, Rebecca’s mum. Will your son Kevin be joining us for the birthday party this weekend?”
How should I address the envelopes?
Address each invitation to the person being invited especially if you do not wish any siblings to attend.
Keep in mind that children under the age of five will arrive with their mum or dad. Many children this age are not ready to socialize at a party without a parent nearby. These parents will linger in the background, and will most likely be willing to help in any way. Let them help you serve cake and clear away dishes.
How can I prevent the birthday child from behaving badly at the party?
Before the party explain to your child what is expected, things like saying hello to each guest as they arrive and being friendly to everyone.
Please be forgiving if he/she forgets their party manners at times but do remind them to thank the guests as they leave and hand each child a party bag.
Set expectations high and increase those expectations each year. Manners are important. Each year your child will be able to handle a little bit more responsibility during the party, building good social skills along the way.
For many children, the day of their birthday party is one of the happiest days of the year. They have been anticipating their party for weeks, and as the excitement builds, the chance of a meltdown increases !!! If this happens to your child during the party, be kind but very firm. Children can be overwhelmed at birthday parties and your job is to help your child calm down and get back into the fun.
What should I do if a young guest behaves badly?
Sadly, inappropriate behaviour can occur. Keeping an eye on a group of excited children is challenging to say the least. I would always recommend asking another adult(s) to help you on the day of the party. This may be a good friend, a relative or a favourite babysitter to help share the load.
Having a party entertainer should help ensure bad behaviour does not happen or at the very least is kept to a minimum. However always remember that your entertainer is there to entertain the children not to discipline them; that remains your responsibility and that of any parents who stay. Always try to remain calm and stay positive.
If the naughty child’s parent is there, ask that they handle the situation. Unfortunately some parents will stand aside and do nothing when their child misbehaves. Always remember it is your child’s party and you do not want any mischievous child ruining your child’s special day.
Some children may need simply to be taken to a quiet spot to calm down before they are ready to rejoin the party. Don’t be afraid to step up to the occasion and take charge especially if wild behaviour is the problem. Try redirecting the naughty child to another activity, or ask that child to help you in the party organisation.
Do I need to send thank-you notes and are they really that important?
Yes and yes again. Thank-you notes are necessary and demonstrates good social skills to your child.
When someone has taken the time to choose a gift for your child, they deserve to be thanked. The note doesn’t have to be long or wordy. Simply mention the gift, say something positive about it and thank the giver for coming to the party. Ideally, the notes should be handwritten and sent within two weeks of the party.
For children who cannot print yet, you should write the note and have your child draw a picture or sign the bottom. As ability improves, let your child write more of the note.
Getting those thank-you notes out the door requires you having a list of the guests and who gave what. Be sure to assign this task to an adult before your child begins opening the gifts. To make this job simpler, create a list of the guests’ names before the party, and then jot down each gift beside the giver’s name as they are opened.
Are Party Bags Expected?
They are in the UK. Goody bags are pretty standard at children’s birthday parties. A goody bag is basically a small thank-you gift presented to each guest for attending the party. Each “favour” bag typically contains a few small toys and some sweets, maybe a balloon, pencil etc.
You do need to prepare the favour bags before the big day, and place them near the party exit. That way they will be right where you need them as guests begin to leave.
Make a favour bag for every child attending the party, plus one or two extra in case any unconfirmed guests are suddenly able to come at the last moment. (Yes, this happens all the time.)
If a parent arrives to pick up their child and a sibling is with them, do not feel obligated to provide that sibling with a goody bag. However, if you are asking some parents to stay during the party, be prepared for some of them to bring along other children. In this instance, you may want to have a few extra goody bags on hand so siblings in attendance don’t feel left out.
Armed with these few birthday party etiquette tips your party should be the one everyone remembers for the right reason.
If you have any questions or comments please contact Pirate Pete.