If you're feeling overwhelmed by kids' birthday party etiquette and worried about handling it all, you’re not alone! Planning these celebrations can be a minefield, but we have practical insights and tips for a stress-free and inclusive experience. Here’s how to navigate kids' birthday party etiquette with ease.
Caitlin and Jenny are experienced parents who brings a wealth of practical knowledge to the table when it comes to kids' birthday party etiquette. With proven track records of navigating various birthday party scenarios, their insights are grounded in real-world experiences. Their expertise in creating inclusive and stress-free celebrations makes them the ideal guests to provide valuable advice for parents seeking to ensure their kids' birthday parties are enjoyable and hassle-free.
This episode helps you
Learn the essential tips for hosting and attending kids' birthday parties.
Set expectations and avoid misunderstandings to ensure everyone is on the same page and the party runs smoothly.
Strike the right balance to make sure both kids and parents have a blast.
Ensure every child feels welcome and included at the party.
Make pick-up at the end of the party as seamless and stress-free as the beginning.
Mastering Kids' Birthday Party Etiquette:
Organizing your child's birthday party can seem like a daunting task, especially when it comes to who to invite. While it isn’t necessary to invite the whole class, some schools require it. Strike a balance by inviting a mix of children from different aspects of your child's life such as schoolmates, sports teammates, and youth group members.
Who should we invite?
You don’t have to invite the whole class, but you can’t invite most of the class and leave out a handful of kids.
The right approach here would be to invite a handful of kids from school, a few from youth group, some from swim class, a few family friends, etc. so there’s a balance.
And no matter what, don't hand invites out at school. Email the parents instead, even if the kids are old enough to invite guests themselves.
Do we have to include siblings?
No, you don’t have to include siblings.
But, you do have to be explicit about siblings in the invitation. Say “Due to the size of the space, we are unable to include siblings at this party. Thanks for understanding!”
And, if your kid is a guest, don’t assume your other kid(s) is/are also invited. Hosts often have a hard cutoff number or are paying a rental space per child.
Parents Staying at Kids' Parties:
Parents' presence at children's parties has slowly gone from being optional to commonplace. But you don't have to entertain or feed the parents unless you specifically want to. Clarity in the invitation about whether it's a drop-off party or parents are expected to stay can help steer clear of any misunderstandings and make the event smoother for everyone.
Do parents have to stay? Put another way, Do I have to include “stuff“ for the parents?
No, you don’t have to have a plan for parents—host a drop-off party!
Just make sure you
State this clearly on the invite, and
You have the contact info of a reachable grownup for every child (ask for phone numbers in the RSVP!)
MAKE IT CLEAR that pickup is at X time
Along those lines, if you’re the one dropping off at a party, do pick your kid(s) up on time.
Talk to me about sleepovers.
Do remember that not all kids (and parents) are comfortable with sleepovers.
If you’re hosting the sleepover…
Do make sure you have the other parents’ contact details, and
Do have a plan for what to do if something happens in the middle of the night (What happens as a result of those 3 am texts to parents?)
Do take a few extra minutes to chat with the other adults upon arrival, which can be a good moment to talk about allergies or medicines and instructions for how to use them, what you do (and don’t) have in the house, etc.
If your child is invited to the sleepover…
First, do check in with your child about their readiness and give them an out if they don’t want to go.
For example, many families are opting to make it a sleep-under (Jenny’s go-to move), where kids get in pajamas and party until just before bedtime, at which point they go home.
And, just another thought: If you're hosting the sleepover and even one child/family is uncomfortable with the idea, consider shifting to a sleep-under to keep anyone from feeling left out or pressured to stay when they don't feel ready to do so.
What do we serve?
Do always ask about dietary restrictions. You can do this right in the RSVP.
Think about how terrible you’d feel if
A kiddo felt left out, or worse,
Someone had an allergic reaction at your event!
If your child has an allergy, do consider the generous offer to send them with their own meal or cupcake. That way, the hosts don’t have to figure out arrangements for just one child.
Okay, goody bags? What’s the deal here?
Do give these out if you want to. If you want to distribute goody bags, that's great! Have fun putting them together!
Don't feel like goody bags are a requirement. It’s totally okay to skip them or opt for an activity that results in a fun thing to bring home;
A cool craft/DIY craft kits
A “photo booth” with an Instax/Polaroid camera so every guest can get a picture with the birthday kid and a few others with friends
Don't give out goody bags full of cheap garbage (listen to our Valentine’s Day episode for other fun ideas!).
Gifts are hard. What do we do here?
Do feel free to say “no presents, just your presence” on an invite.
However, if you get gifts anyway…
Do your best to take note of who gave what, and do be gracious upon receipt.
Do send a note (these don’t need to be a big deal—we sent pictures of Sam holding each gift one year)
If you’re attending, do honor the request for no gifts. (A lot of parents still bring something as a kind gesture, but if you do this, keep it small. Have your child make a card or a drawing, add a lollipop, and call it a day!)
Sources for this episode
By Rachel Bowie • Published Jan 31, 2024 | PureWow
Featuring etiquette expert Myka Meier, the founder of Beaumont Etiquette and the author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy: A Five-Step Method to Mastering Etiquette.
Please Let Me Bring Gifts to Your Kid’s Birthday Party | for Slate, by Lucy Huber
The Birthday Party Invite Says 'No Gifts.' Should You Really Bring Nothing? | for HuffPost, By Kelsey Borresen
Well Mannered: What Do I Do If a Birthday Invite Says No Gifts? | for Lauren Conrad, by Ilana Saul
You guys rule.
CK & GK