Inviting Your Guests
Young children do not usually have a well-defined circle of friends like older kids do, making it easier to come up with a guest list. Consider limiting the invitees to family and close friends. But beware, numbers can add up fast!
If your child participates in a playgroup or goes to preschool, don't feel obligated to invite all members of the group or class to a formal party. Instead, provide a special treat for everyone the next time playgroup meets at your house or take cupcakes for your child to share with her class. She'll love the chance to celebrate her birthday one more time! If you do invite young children to a party, you will probably want to ask their parents to stay. Keeping a throng of preschoolers safe and happy while simultaneously attending to all that's required to keep a party running smoothly is no one's idea of a stress-free experience.
To Gift or Not to Gift
Should your child open presents during or after the party? That is a question that has plagued parents for years. Opening gifts during the celebration helps children of all ages learn lessons in good manners and gracious behavior. Plus, it's good practice for the young guests to learn to enjoy the act of giving. Postponing the unwrapping ceremony until after the party ensures that your child's candid reactions will go unheard by the gift givers, potentially sparing feelings and avoiding tears.
If your child does open gifts at the party, you might consider choosing a team of adults to assist with the process: One person to help the birthday child open the presents, one to take pictures, one to record the gifts, one to fill a trash bag, and one other poor soul to do battle with those annoying boxes in which toys are tied and taped in every imaginable way. After the party, enlist your child's help with the thank you cards, even if all he can do is scribble. The earlier he learns the importance of thank you notes, the better!
If you ask parents not to bring gifts, don't be surprised if your request seems to have gone unheard. This year I tried a different approach. Since the party's theme was music, I asked guests to bring a musical toy to be donated to our local ARC chapter in lieu of gifts. The donations were appreciated by those who received them, and my birthday child got the gift of being the one to make the presentation on his special day.
What to Serve
If the party is scheduled during a mealtime, parents of your guests will expect you to serve something more substantial than cake and ice cream—and will plan their child's meals around that assumption. Your menu doesn't have to be elaborate. Again, simplicity is key, and offering healthy choices that are easy for young children to eat is crucial. Try small sandwiches, little pieces of cheese pizza, sliced fruit, berries, or finger foods, such as crackers with thin cheese sticks or a light smear of peanut butter. Be mindful that some children have food allergies and check with the parents when planning your menu.
Birthdays should be fun for all, including you, so stick to the basics so everyone can enjoy the celebration! If you follow these birthday party tips, planning your child's party will be a piece of cake, and a memorable event for everyone!