When a new school year has started, it can fill you as a parent with some joy; the little darlings are back to school and normal routine can commence. But there can be a little bit of dread that comes along with it when those little envelopes start appearing in your child’s school bag. I’m not sure there are any more social situations that induce more anxiety than around a children’s party. Even if you’re the one hosting it, there are certain expectations or requirements that you may have, that can be awkward to vocalise. Do you ask the parent if you need to stay or can you leave? What if you’re the only parent that leaves? How much money should you spend without looking tight or equally, without blowing some unnecessary cash? And that is all without talking about birthday gifts; how much should you be spending?
In the UK, there has been a big backlash recently about someone asking for a contribution to the party for her twins, but not to bring a gift. And that caused a whole heap of drama. So if you have school aged children, or will do shortly, here are some tips or ‘etiquette’ when it comes to children’s parties.
If you’re the host:
- When it comes to the invites, especially in the younger years at school, you need to pretty much invite the whole class. In later years, it is clearer to see who your child is friends with. But in those first few years, mostly, everyone is friends with everyone.
- One of the best things to do is to get an entertainer to run the party. That is likely to be the biggest expense. But at the end of the day, you can relax, mingle and talk to parents, as well as check and prep on any food. If you’re in charge of the games, the food, and the hosting, then it is not going to be fun for you, and can lead to things not running as you planned them to.
- After a morning or afternoon of playing, being with their friends, and munching on birthday cakes, there doesn’t need to be any other sugar added to the equation. So when it comes to party bags, think of small toys or books as a gift, rather than filling it with brightly coloured and sugary sweets. The kids won’t notice, but the parents certainly will, and it will make things go much better for you at the school gates.
- Speaking of party bags, you can easily spend a lot, but a lot of what you spend can just be junk. The small plastic toys or bouncy balls are just going to be money wasted. So instead, think about getting something that would cost the same, but will add more value. A book for each child, sticker pack, or a small game could end up costing the same as plastic junk, but it will have more value.
- Do the parents stay or do they go? This can be a tricky one. But if you’ve ever wondered if you should stay at a party for younger ones, then you can guarantee that others are thinking the same. So in many cases, state it on the invite. If it is going to be a smaller party or held at someone’s home, then you’re less likely to need them to stay. But state what you’d prefer them to do, but make it optional. Then there is no confusion or awkward conversations for anyone.
- If your child wants a party with a theme, then making it a dress-up party can be fun. But it can also be pretty tedious for parents. Coming up with a new costume every other week can be costly for your guests. So decorate with the theme, rather than have people dress in the theme. Or you could get a few accessories, like eye patches and bandanas for a pirate party, to give out at the party instead of party bags.
If you’re a guest:
- If your child has been invited to a party but they wouldn’t be able to make it unless you stay and will have to bring a sibling, then you need to check that it is ok for siblings to be there. Don’t just presume, especially if the sibling is at an age where they would want to join in.
- If there has been an RSVP contact on the invite, as well as a date to do it by, then it is simply rude to not get in touch before that time. Even if you can’t go, the parent planning the party is likely to presume you are when making their plans and you’ve not been in touch. So save time and money and reply on time.
- Sticking to timings is really key with parties. The invite will state the time of the party, so make sure that you’re not the one arriving twenty minutes late to collect afterwards. The host will want to be clearing away the party and have their own child to deal with, and not wanting to babysit your child. So unless an emergency has come up, be on time.
- Unless it has otherwise been stated on the party invite, then you should just presume that you should take a gift for the birthday boy or girl. The cost can depend greatly on the age of the child and your relationship with the family. If it is a party for a niece or nephew, then you’re likely to spend more on a gift for them than you would at a classmate’s party.
Have you got any funny stories to tell from hosting a birthday party for one of your children? When done well, it can be quite fun, especially if you have an entertainer to take care of things on the day. It can also be a good chance to meet and talk to other parents, which can be useful as the school year starts out.