Birthday Party Etiquette: Your Guide for Planning a Kid Birthday Party

If your kids are at that age where they are making friends and getting invited to birthday parties or wanting to have a party of their own, you may be asking yourself what’s the proper etiquette when it comes to planning that perfect party for your child. Here are some tips to help clear up some of the confusion when it comes to kid birthday parties.

What’s the Best Age to Host a “Friend Party?”

Aside from cousin’s birthday parties, my kids were both started getting invited to birthday parties when they reached preschool age. I think since each kid and each family is different, you need to decide what is best for your situation. I would say probably ages 4 or 5 would be a good age to start having a friend party, if your child is asking. By this age your kids are probably in preschool or have made friends at daycare, library, or play group. Then again, if your child hasn’t asked yet about having a party with their friends, I would hold off awhile; save yourself some time, money and stress!

Who Should You Invite?

When making out your child’s party invites, you’ll need to decide should invite your child’s entire class? How big of a party can your child (and you) handle? If your child was invited to another child’s party, does that mean you have to invite them to your child’s party? According to an article from, the general rule is your child’s age plus one. Doesn’t mean this is what you must do, but a good guideline to follow.

Set Time Frame

This is definitely a must when it comes to kid birthday parties. On the invitations, be sure to list specific times for the party, and keep the party no more than 2-3 hours. Your child’s friends will be tired and ready to head home after then. You’ll also be exhausted and ready for them to return to their parents.

Drop Off or Invite Parents to Stay?

I think is a gray area when it comes to kid birthday parties. Obviously, for a toddler’s party, you would not want parents to just drop off their child, but what about as kids get older?  Last year in my son’s preschool class, I had no problem at age 5 leaving him at a birthday party. We knew just about every parent in his class, so I felt comfortable leaving him with them. This year he’s in a class of 24 kindergartners where I know 1 set of parents. So when the birthday invitations started coming home this year, my husband and I made a point to stick around at the birthday parties.

What about if you’re having a pool party or a party at a larger restaurant venue like Monkey Joes or Chuck E Cheese? Those are places where it would definitely be helpful to have parents stick around to help watch their kids. I recommend either asking a few parents ahead of time or else put something on the invitations about parents being welcome to stay.

Lunch? Cake and Ice Cream? Both?

This can also be a tricky decision. Deciding if you should serve a full lunch can depend on how much money you plan to spend, the time of day you plan to party, where you’re having the party, and whether or not you need to worry about special diets and allergies. If you’re a first time kid party planner, I would go with just serving cake or cupcakes and ice cream. Keep it simple, after all they’re just kids!

Goodie Bags?

After the gifts have been open and everyone is filled with sugar, do you send your child’s friends on their way with a bag of goodies? In my opinion, much of that stuff is going to end up in the garbage after a while. Do kids really need more stickers, pencils, etc? Sure, it’s nice to send them home with a nice little thank you gift, but if you feel like you need to send them with something, how about a small gift certificate to the local ice cream shop or to McDonald’s? That is something the kids will be just as excited about and it’s something that will get used not tossed in the garbage. Last year one of my son’s friends had a candy themed party and sent each guest home with a candy themed dry erase board. I thought this was creative and perfect for 5 year olds who are practicing writing.

Thank You Notes

My kids have been invited to several birthday parties, and after only a handful of them have we received any kind of thank you from the child. Yes, it’s time consuming. Yes, it can add up in postage to mail them out. However, I think sending thank you notes after a birthday party can be a great teaching moment for your child. For more on thank you note etiquette and ideas about how to write them after a kids’ party, check out: Kid’s Birthday Party Thank You Notes.

Alternatives to hosting a friend birthday party

I have not planned a friend birthday party for either of my boys yet, but I know sooner or later they’re going to ask for a friend party of their own.  Instead of inviting your child’s entire class for a party, maybe let your child choose one or two friends to spend the day with. Maybe you could take them to a movie or a place like Monkey Joes, or just take them all out for lunch.

Whatever way you choose to spend your child’s special day, do make the day special for them. Before you go to all the work of planning a big bash, ask your child what he or she wants to do. Last year, my son opted for a special day with a friend and then tickets to a Bulls game with his dad instead of a big birthday party.

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