Kids parties: etiquettes and stress preventers



It may be the 21st century but we still abide by customary codes of polite behaviour. Party etiquettes not only help people feel valued, they also prevent stressful scenarios. If you’re new to playing host, or still gaining confidence in the role, check out Pippa Henderson's tips to help ensure everyone goes home with a happy heart.

INVITES:

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Save the date. It can take a while to get around to making and distributing party invites. If you’re conscious of the party date approaching and you haven’t yet nailed the invites, at least send a ‘save the date’ text or email to the recipient’s  parents. This also ensures key guests are actually available and allows you to get a feel for the numbers ahead of time. We have loads of free printable invitations to use here.

Mums the word. My kids get so excited about their birthdays they seem to count down through the 365 days since their last one. It’s only natural for them to share their excitement and discuss their impending party with their buddies. It’s well worth taking a moment, however, to try to explain to them the importance of keeping the event under the radar, as to not upset those they won’t be able to invite. Help them to understand why they can’t invite everyone, and if necessary encourage them to imagine how they would feel if there was a party being talked about that they weren’t invited to. Decide with your child in the privacy of your own home who to invite and commit it to paper, so it doesn’t get out of hand in the playground. It’s really awkward when your kid makes promises you can’t follow through on.

Time it right. It’s with embarrassment I confess that my eldest child’s first birthday party happened right in the middle of her naptime. I was obviously thinking of everything and everyone but her when I planned it! You probably don’t need the reminder like I did, but just in case: take your child’s basic needs and comforts into consideration.

Get specific with guests names. When children are young some families assume a party invite is for the whole family, or all the children in that family, so avoid confusion by making it particularly clear on the invite who it’s for. If a child has a popular name, put surnames on the invites as well – I’ve recently heard of a scenario when the invite has ended up in the hands of the wrong Joshua. Awkward. 

Drop off or stay? If the party is for a young child it’s really helpful for parents to know whether they’re expected to drop off their child or remain at the party with them. Obviously there’s a huge variation of confidence levels in kids, and young children are often uncomfortable in new environments, so if a child you’re inviting is quite shy and reserved, or hasn’t been to the party venue before, you need to bank on the fact that their parent will need to stay for the duration. Keep in mind any implications this will have in terms of catering – it may mean the parent has no choice but to bring the child’s sibling too.

Include RSVP details. Pop your name, phone number and date you’d like an RSVP by on the invite. It’s usually crucial to confirm numbers as the big day approaches, and an RSVP will help you feel more comfortable following up if you haven’t yet heard. 

Be thoughtful about how and where you hand them out. Letting your child distribute their own invites at kindy or school can be a recipe for disaster. It often triggers a flurry of excitement amongst those who are invited, and FOMO amongst those that aren’t – ie, there’s the potential for little hearts to be broken. Pop invites discretely into the children’s bags yourselves if necessary – but if you choose this option be sure to check that the parent actually found it. We’ve also seen little hearts broken when they’ve discovered they were invited to a party after the event. Personally, I like to drive around with my birthday boy/girl and deliver the invites straight into their friends’ letterboxes. This seems like the safest option, and it’s always exciting for children to receive their own personal mail.

ON THE DAY:

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Ensure you have enough helpers. As a party host there’s always far too much to do, and too many people needing your attention. The best way to minimise stress is to have plenty of help at hand. Make sure you’re not the only one knowing the schedule and the menu – the party should be able to continue without you if you get caught up. The best thing I ever did was to get my kids teenaged cousins involved as party hosts. They were so energised but also so relaxed I felt the pressure lift off me, and all the younger kids adored them.

Cater for adults too. Adults generally aren’t too excited about fairy bread, traffic light jelly and cheerios. A cheese platter is a great way to provide quick and easy refreshments for parents who are coming and going, and offer them a cup of tea or coffee as well.

Introduce people. This lovely little courtesy really helps most people feel included and at ease. Don’t assume everyone knows each other, or that they’re happy to introduce themselves. If you can’t remember people’s names, try not to panic, and find a different way to introduce them – eg, Erica, meet Peter’s mother. At least you’ve opened up a connection, and hopefully they’ll pick it up from there.

Make a list of gifts and their givers. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to remember them where all the gifts came from unless you write it down. If you’ll be busy helping the birthday boy/girl unwrap, arrange someone else to do it.

Take home treats. Goody bags are really common these days, and many children have come to expect them, but they can put pressure on hosts tight budgets, and the recipients’ parents aren’t always thrilled with their kids loading up with lollies and cheap plastic toys. If you’re resisting the pressure to cough up some ‘loot’ but still want to display some parting generosity, consider giving out slices of birthday cake and a balloon as an alternative, or for a more meaningful gesture, some stationery in the theme of the party, a small book, or a homemade item, like a cute jar full of animal pasta.

Dropping kids off. If you’ve hosted an enjoyable party (which, of course you will) guests are likely to linger past pick up time, and that includes the adults. It’s worthwhile anticipating this advance, especially if you’re an introvert, or know you’ll be exhausted by the end of the party. If you want to avoid this, you can offer to drop the children home instead. This obviously needs to be arranged before hand, and you need to ensure you have sufficient car seats for the kids you’ll be ferrying. If you’re going to be later than the scheduled drop off time, make sure you communicate this with the parents, and avoid stress all round.

AFTER THE PARTY:

Thank the parents for their presents. Every gift giver loves to know their gift has been gratefully received, and young children are unlikely to pass on to their parents that the birthday boy/girl was delighted with the gift they gave. Pull out the list which was made when the presents were opened to remind you who gave what. Thank the parent in person if possible, if not, a text message should be fine.

Remain mindful of those who weren’t present. It’s pretty common for parties to be well documented on social media these days, and most people are comfortable with that. But if the party comes up in conversation it still pays to be considerate about who was and wasn’t there. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) still resonates after an event, and no-one likes to feel like they didn't make the cut.


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