Sometimes things are age specific. Theme parks and kids parties tend to be such things. Few parties can entertain all age groups – although there are a couple of exceptions, such as our family Christmas party – aha!
Ok, ok, enough of that…
So imagine, it’s party day, and everything is almost set and ready. Any minute now a consignment of 7 year olds are about to pile through the door for your eldest child’s party.
Except…. you still need to finish setting the table and put names on party bags. Unfortunately this is the exact moment your youngest child has decided to have a hissy fit, need a nappy change or has tipped the yucca plant over the cat.
Does anyone still have yucca plants?
Or, perhaps this scenario is the other way round… Everything is almost set and ready. Any minute now another consignment of 7 year olds are about to pile through the door for your youngest child’s party.
Although… there’s still the decorations to put up, and the prizes to sort. Unfortunately this is the exact moment your eldest, the 11 year old going on 15, has decided to be as unhelpful as any 11 year old could be, and is skulking around questioning and belittling everything that is about to happen. Worse, later, they tease some of the younger children so much that they feel uncomfortable joining in with the party games and it all falls apart.
From experience I know this can happen. Both these things can cause huge stress and bring a party down. Age specific parties are necessary, some things, like lego and bare feet, just don’t go together well and someone ends up stomping around the room. Generally, different aged kids at the same party can be a cause of great pain.
So what’s the best way to solve it? Well I’m no parent guru but I’ll try to give some suggestions here.
The best thing to do with younger children is to hand them over to willing grandparents, family members or friends. If you can arrange for a couple of hours before as well as the couple for the party even better. It will allow you time to set up and to concentrate on your eldest child during the party. After all, receiving attention is what a party is all about, so your elder child will appreciate having their parent’s attention to themselves, even if all they do is go off to play with their friends and seemingly don’t notice you at all!
What if this isn’t an option?
Try to plan the party time around the younger ones nap time, although this can backfire if they don’t sleep and you end up with a grumpy toddler. Reserve as many of their favourite toys throughout the day and only bring them out during the party. Remember, whatever the big children are doing will always look more fun than whatever the toy is in front of them.
Unfortunately colouring books and reading won’t cut the mustard, especially when their sibling look as though they are having the best fun ever. Find an activity to make the younger one feel important and that their contribution is going to be a real bonus to the party. Here are a few ideas, you will need to work out whether they are appropriate for your child:
- Add decorations such as smarties to biscuits
- Shell peas
- Shell peanuts (not if any of the children are allergic)
- Add marshmallows and fruit onto sticks
- Put the rice-crispy mix into the paper cupcakes – all bonuses as they won’t need much food later
- Adding stickers to the party bags
- Let them have a ‘tea party’ with their toys in one corner of the room.
- Colouring in…
I know, I know, it goes against what I just said, but this colouring in is for a ‘special box’ to hide the birthday cake, or something to make them feel part of the party even if they are not.
Don’t be tempted to let the younger ones join in unless the older sibling really is happy for them to do so. Explain to them why they can’t join in, that this is ‘John’s’ party, they can play later. These are the older child’s friends, and it is their party. Plan anything you think the younger sibling will have fun doing and distract them from wanting to join in. This is so much easier to plan before the day than try to think up something on the day.
Now switch this scenario the other way round, with older children attending a younger sibling’s party and things are slightly different. A bit of foretelling is worthwhile here. Explain that you will need their help, that you recognise that this is a ‘little ones’ party and they may get bored but if they could help with…… that would be great. Carrots are so much friendlier than sticks, a little bribe could work wonders.
Remind them that they mustn’t make fun of any of the younger ones, however silly the little ones are being. Tell that they were young once – kids love this, it makes them feel so grown up.
Teasing is more likely to occur if they have their friends with them, so it’s worth sending them to their friend’s house for a bit or not to invite their friends round unless they’re going to be away in their room and not come out which is a hard ask when there will be lots of noise downstairs.
Otherwise put older ones in charge of things like:
Designate them chief pizza maker
Let them make fruit and marshmallow sticks, as above, but they can chop the fruit too.
Party bags – perhaps ask them to make something to go in them, like rubber band bracelets – made to order.
Official photographer or camera person – say you need some really good shots of…. sibling, friends, cake, decorations, the cake when singing ‘happy birthday’ – worth a disposable camera or two, and you may get some good shots.
Candle lighter, of course it will need supervision but an older brother or sister will love helping with the candles on the birthday cake.
Blind folder and game helper, most children like the responsibility
What may work for one child may not for another – a little pre-planning and organising will help. If all goes well it should set the siblings up for the rest of the year.
If you have any tips or comments on age specific parties, or if you disagree and think children of different ages can mix well at parties, and most importantly, know how to make that work, then please feel free to leave a message