So, Bill has had his first birthday party invite now. And it was lovely, but it seems that I am entering a new world that I hadn’t even considered yet. And it’s a bit confusing.
Bill knows all of these children. But I know them most as ‘Blonde Child No. 1’ and so on. I have no idea who they are and when I ask my son what sort of presents they would like, he usually answers with: “Animals.” Dead reliable kid.
These are the rules I have picked up so far. Number 7 is integral.
1. You don’t have to invite the entire class.
With kids’ parties getting bigger and more elaborate all the time, you may feel like you have to invite the entire class and shell out for a big hired space or soft-play centre. But this isn’t always necessary – in fact, many families follow an “age plus one” policy. This means that if your child is turning five, a party size of six is ideal. Just be sure that if you do decide to have a bigger party, that there aren’t one or two kids that are left out. Either keep it relatively small, or be inclusive. I remember some of my best parties as a kid featured my best friends, and there was just enough of us to squish downstairs and have a sleepover (something I am now dreading as a mother).
2. Make the invitations as informative as possible.
Is there a special theme, or are the kids expected to wear a Star Wars costume, or dress up as Elsa? Do the other parents a favour and let them know ASAP on the invitation! And, in all honesty, I’d make it optional. There’s nothing worse than trying to stuff an angry three year-old in an Olaf costume.
3. Consider opening gifts after the party.
Opening up gifts can be super exciting for both the guest of honour and the guests, but it can also backfire and lead to hurt feelings if a gift is received with a less-than-enthusiastic reception. Also, if some gifts are blatantly more expensive than others it can lead parents to feel uncomfortable. It also saves jealous little ones. I have a very clear memory of going to a christening with Bill and him being adamant that all presents were for him.
4. You don’t have to reciprocate with expensive gifts.
So what do you do if your child has received a lavish, expensive gift from one of their friends and you don’t have the funds to reciprocate? A simple heartfelt thank you is enough. It’s not rude to stay within your budget. As far as what’s acceptable, it can be helpful to ask the child’s parent about his interests first so that you find something the child will truly enjoy. This shows that you’ve put thought into the gift as well, regardless of cost. It’s not a competition. I’d take some lessons from the Myleene Klass incident.
5. Expect the unexpected.
If you’re hosting the party, be aware that some parents might bring siblings along. Have a few extra goodie bags or slices of cake on hand just in case. Or have a few toys or games for younger and older siblings on standby. The parents will love you. In the event of a costume party, if some parents don’t get the memo that it’s a comic book theme, it’s helpful to have a few extra Funidelia Spiderman costumes, or masks, on hand so that nobody feels left out.
6. Thank-you notes are still appreciated.
If your child is a party guest, he doesn’t need to send a thank-you card after attending the party; a simple verbal “thanks for inviting me!” is enough. But when he’s the birthday boy, or she’s the birthday girl, you’ll want to send handwritten thank-you notes to all the guests when the party’s over. They don’t have to be long, but they are worth the effort!
Or whatever your tipple is. You will need it at some point. The noise. Oh the noise.