‘How many children should I invite?’ will be one of the first things you think about when deciding on a children’s party. Children’s parties, although fundamentally the same, have changed over the years. Where a small handful of best friends, and perhaps the odd couple of cousins, would once have been a sufficient number to invite to a children’s party, today parties have often become more… well, just more.
How young is too young?
In the understandable excitement of having a child, birthday parties often start from as early as the age of one. This is more a celebration of having a child, rather than a children’s party. So if the idea of having a christening doesn’t appeal, this can be a lovely occasion for everyone to meet your new little one.
Between the ages of 2 and 4
A child’s party at this age is more like a playgroup session. It can be exhausting if taken too seriously. Entertaining the adults is as big a part of the event as entertaining the children. However, kept short everyone can have a great time. The children will be happy with a box of play toys. The adults will be happy to have time for adult conversation for five minutes. Do not attempt a theme party, you honestly won’t have the time – it will be a waste of money, give it to charity. Introduce one or two very simple party games, no more. Don’t be impatient, wait until they’re older when you will all appreciate it. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Expecting children at this age to all sit at a table at the same time is difficult, and so again, it is best kept short. Keep sugary food, especially drink, to a minimum whilst remembering that it is a party. But, this will make a big difference to their hyper-activity levels, so it’s a wise idea to have the food near the end of the party.
The adults will be happy with tea and cake, maybe a drink, and your good friends will be happy to get involved. Let them help.
As to the number? Think of the number of adults you can handle and work from there. Make it clear on the invitations that you expect them to stay, but remember that they will most likely need to bring the siblings too. If siblings are not invited, don’t be surprised if the parents think they can leave their little ones with you. Keep in mind how many children you can sit round a table, if being held in a village hall or similar, make sure you have the facilities to prepare and clear away. Remember entertainment for the older siblings, they will be the most difficult to look after.
From the ages of 5 up.
Children at this age can usually be left at a party quite happily. And you will watch the parents skip away quite happily to enjoy a quiet couple of hours.
So, to the question of ‘How many children should I invite?’ here is a good rule – take the age of the child and add one, maybe two more. Don’t be tempted to add any more. This is especially true if you are holding the party in your own home. Don’t assume that because another adult has offered to stay that it will be ok to double the number, it won’t. Most often you (or they) end up wanting to chat, the kids become restless, and chaos ensues. So unless that other person is a party entertainer, don’t be tempted, honestly, you’re better off on your own.
As they enter school you find that children and parents begin to compete where parties are concerned. Social etiquette can become awkward too.
Similar to the adult world however, if your child has been asked to a party, unless you decline, it’s only fair to invite them back. Teach your child not to boast about their party, before and after. Explain to them that it’s hurtful for the children who couldn’t attend.
If you invite the entire class however, don’t be surprised when your child isn’t invited back. It happens. This can be particularly hard when your child appears to be the only one not invited. Navigating around this can be difficult, usually more for the parent than the child. Don’t make an issue out of it as ultimately it only makes it harder for your child. Best to tell your child that you couldn’t have gone on that day anyway as you have ‘insert-nice-treat-here’ to go to.
If you do have a smaller party then keep it to your child’s very best friends. It is always delightful watching your child have a good time with the friends that they have chosen. A smaller party has the advantage of allowing you to get to know them too, leading to some nice conversation openers with your child later.
Of course sometimes what type of party you have can dictate the amount. It would be costly to book an entertainer for just a small handful, and likewise inviting the entire class into your home, unless you know the weather is good and you have a huge garden, would also be unwise. Venue parties and entertainers are great for larger numbers but book early as these tend to go fast, and nobody, believe me, nobody wants to go to a party at 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning. Even children don’t want to eat pizza at 11 in the morning.
Never, never, never, invite most of the class and then exclude one or two.
However irritating those children are, invite them. Check that your child has remembered everyone, or get a list of classmates from their teacher. Or invite less in the first place. Either invite the whole class, or leave out at least 40%. Ask your child to explain why they couldn’t invite everyone. This is actually good practice for a child to break bad news gently.
If a parent asks if a sibling can stay, decline politely unless you know the child well. Otherwise those will be the ones who either sit awkwardly not joining in, or make a nuisance of themselves. Using the venue operators as an excuse is the easiest way.
Make sure that the invitations are clear as to time and place. Some tips on how to get your child to write an invitation are here. Some guests will be slow at replying. It may be a good idea to say something like: ‘Please RSVP by (…date…) if we have not heard from you by this date we will assume that this invitation has been declined’. It may seem slightly unfriendly but this will help enormously, especially if you need to inform the venue operators of numbers. It will also give you time to invite other children. However do expect a phone call from a parent in a panic to say that they forgot. Forgive them, they’re parents after all.