Hundreds of balloons. An expensive venue. A catered snack table.
Now forget everything you just read.
If your child’s birthday is approaching, you’re probably feeling a little stressed about making sure you host a successful party. However, don’t confuse quality with quantity.
We’re here to help you plan a kid’s birthday party that will make all the guests feel welcome, that parents will appreciate, and that everyone will enjoy.
Here are 6 kid’s birthday party etiquette tips all parents should know.
1. Attempt fairness with invitations
Inviting everyone your child knows to their birthday party is not always possible. Most friends and acquaintances will be understanding if they aren’t invited, but there are still a few strategies that can help your guest list feel fair.
Think about your child’s frame of mind when deciding who to invite. If they say, “I only want to invite these close friends,” your guest list will most likely be fine.
But you should be more cautious if they say, “I want to invite everyone except…” and list only a few people from a class or group they want to exclude.
A mindset of exclusion is much harder to justify, and kids are pretty good at knowing if they’ve been intentionally left out. At this point, it’s probably best to invite an entire class, team, or group.
2. Provide food or snacks
No parent expects you to provide a well-rounded and nourishing meal for their child. However, depending on the age of the guests and the timing of the party, it’s best to provide snacks at the very least.
If your party takes place close to when many people eat lunch or dinner, consider providing a small meal or a larger snack. This isn’t just courteous; it’s also practical. Kids can start to get whiny or “hangry” if they get hungry and don’t have enough food.
A party in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon doesn’t need as much food. Parents will know to feed their kids before they attend. It’s still always a good idea to have some snacks available, though, especially for young children.
Providing food doesn’t have to feel like a burden. You can order pizza, set out snacks that match the party’s theme (like Goldfish crackers at a swim party), or have your kid help make a few easy treats.
A note about allergies: Most parents will let you know if their child has an allergy you should be aware of. However, it’s smart to avoid peanut butter or nuts just in case.
3. Be conservative with kid’s birthday party favors
You might think that sending kids home with a dozen party favors makes you the Parent of the Year.
However, unless you have carefully selected useful and long-lasting favors, chances are the guests will only play with them for a day or two. And parents will be frustrated with the clutter much more quickly.
It’s actually better to send guests home with a few thoughtful favors, like a decorated cookie, one toy, and stickers. The cookie they can eat, one toy won’t take up much room, and they’ll use the stickers pretty quickly.
You don’t have to use that exact combination of party favors, but hopefully, you get the idea.
Are there any favors to completely avoid? Not necessarily, but we do have to put in a cautious word here for slime, glitter, and anything that makes noise.
4. Open gifts after the kid’s birthday party
This tip may seem controversial. Part of the party fun is opening gifts, right?
Not necessarily. Consider these issues that might arise if your birthday boy or girl opens gifts in front of all their guests.
- Your child might not enjoy being the center of attention as they open each gift one by one.
- Your child and guests may not have the attention spans to sit through a lengthy gift opening at the party.
- Some guests may perceive your child’s reactions as favoritism to other guests.
- Your child or their guests may try to play with the gifts at the party.
- A guest who couldn’t spend a lot of money on a gift may feel embarrassed if their gift is opened in front of others.
Opening gifts when the party is over can actually be a compassionate choice that makes everyone feel more comfortable.
If you want to go the extra step to make gift-giving even easier for party guests, consider creating a Giftster wishlist they can all access. Provide a wide range of gift ideas and price points. And don’t worry, here are a few ways to share a birthday wish list with grace.
5. Entertain the guests with games and activities
A kid’s birthday party is a celebration. It doesn’t need to be three hours of non-stop entertainment, but kids do expect a few fun things to keep them busy.
Simple party games, arts and crafts, outside toys, and friendly competitions are all activities that contribute to a successful kid’s birthday party. You could also look for a venue that provides entertainment, like a zoo, museum, or trampoline park.
If parents accompany their young toddlers or preschoolers to the party, they’ll appreciate that they don’t have to be the only ones keeping their kids happy for a few hours. Older kids are better at entertaining themselves but do appreciate new experiences.
Be mindful that a successful, entertaining party doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Consider the quality of activities and focus on helping the guests have a genuinely good time.
6. Thank the guests for attending
Our final party tip is to teach your birthday boy or girl to be grateful.
As guests leave, make sure to thank them for attending and for their gifts (even if you didn’t open them during the party). Older children can write thank you cards for their friends, and younger ones can write their names or draw pictures to show their gratitude.
As a host, especially for a younger child’s birthday party, it’s a nice gesture to send a thank you email or text to parents who brought their children and stayed for the party.
Thank you cards are a wonderful follow-up and conclusion to a successful kid’s birthday party.