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Children’s Birthday Party Etiquette

Another wonderful guest post by Heather Reynolds from Birthday In A Box! Thank you!

Birthday In A Box Children's Pary Etiquette

A lot goes into planning a children’s party, and many parents have questions about how to handle certain situations. Birthday in a Box is here to help, putting together answers to the most popular questions.

What information should be included on the invitations?

Your invitations should be clear about the type of party being given, and the date, time, and location of the party. Begin by telling guests who the party is for at the top of the invitation. “Kyle’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 the party must start or end precisely at a certain time, such as one being hosted at a movie theatre, include the word “sharp” after the time.

Be specific about the party location. If the party is being given at your home, give your street address. If the location is somewhere else, such as at a restaurant or church hall, give the name of the location (e.g. City Bowling Lanes, or First Step Ballet Studio) and the street address.

Include any special instructions, such as if the children should dress for messy activities, or bring a swimsuit and towel. If you will be providing a meal, put that on the invitations, too. This is helpful to parents when a party starts or ends close to a normal mealtime. Just add a few words like “Lunch will be served” or “Pizza and Cake”.

Finally, give information on how you want guests to reply, such as your phone number or email address (i.e. RSVP to Debbie at [phone number] or [email]).

How do I phrase a request for no gifts?

It is perfectly acceptable to simply add the words “No Gifts Please” to the bottom of your invitations. Another phrase often used is “Your presence is present enough”. But when it comes to children’s birthday parties, some parents will feel that bringing a gift is part of the celebration, so be prepared for a few guests to arrive with a gift anyway.

Are competitive party games a mistake?

Some parents worry about games that result in winners and losers, but competitive party games still have their place at a child’s party. The key is to make the prizes fairly small, so the other children aren’t tempted to feel jealous. Consider giving small packets of candy, or stickers as prizes. Be sure to include non-competitive activities in your party, too, such as a craft or a group game where the children work together in teams.

Laurie Wrigley, founder of Birthday in a Box, adds this great advice:

“On the subject of competition, I think that children four and under are probably too young for competitive games in which there is a single winner or players are eliminated. While most may be able to handle it, there may be one or two who cannot. Instead, I would advise that each young child be given a participation prize or be made to feel like a winner. For instance, with a musical game, the adult can ensure everyone wins by stopping the music appropriately. Or, if there is a broad range of ages, you may want to pair younger children with an older partner or an adult who can share in the win or loss.”

At what age can children attend parties without a parent?

Kids age four and under really do need a parent nearby at social events like birthday parties, no matter how independent they are at home. Many children become overwhelmed by the excitement and the crowd at a party. By age five and up, most kids are ready to go it alone at a party, provided they know a few of the guests.

What if my child doesn’t like a gift?

There is bound to be a gift that just isn’t as popular with your child as the others. This is where coaching ahead of time can be really beneficial. Make your child aware that this might happen, and make sure he knows that he still needs to thank the guest for the gift in the same way he thanked the others.

What can I do when guests behave badly?

Birthday parties, with high levels of excitement and the possibility of too much sugar, can result in children who break down in tantrums, tears, or wild behavior. Try to be patient and stay positive. If the child’s parent is there, ask that they handle the situation. If not, try offering another activity to redirect an upset child and dry those tears. Some children may need to be taken to a quiet spot to calm down before they are ready to rejoin the party.

For more party planning advice, visit the Party Planning Page at Birthday in a Box.

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