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Kids Party Etiquette

Helpful tips on the guest list, gift dilemmas, rude parents and more!



by Lisa Kothari
Kids Party Planning Expert

Kids’ parties are no longer easy-to-navigate events that entail little more than cake, ice cream, running around, and a round of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.  When parents get ready to plan a kids’ party today, situations like requesting gifts on a gift registry or asking for No Gifts at all become options, trying to get that all-important RSVP become a nightmare, and parents showing up with their kids and behaving rudely.  It’s a new day and if you are looking for ways to navigate these situations in this current age of kids’ parties, check out the new etiquette guidelines:

How Many Kids to Invite?
The Golden Rule is always in vogue: invite the number of kids your child is turning plus one more.  If your child is turning five, invite six kids.

When to Send an Invitation
Given how busy the birthday party circuit is these days; send your party invitations one month in advance of your party so people can mark the date down early.

RSVP To Do’s
In your invitation, provide an RSVP date that is ten days before your party.  If you are a guest parent, as soon as you receive the invitation and know your reply, pick up the phone or e-mail the host parent your response.  They will appreciate it beyond words. 

As the host parent, anticipate that people will not RSVP.  As a back-up plan, make sure to have contact phone numbers for each of your guests and as soon as the RSVP deadline passes, get on the phone to gather your responses.  Some people you will not be able to connect with; make sure you have enough of everything at your party to accommodate a few extra guests.

Gift Registries
At first this idea seems silly for kids’ parties and some may even label it greedy, but simple registries for kids’ parties, reduce the chances of several issues coming up, including:
•    Duplicate gifts being given
•    The gift isn’t age-appropriate
•    The child is not interested in your present
•    The child already has your gift

If you are going to consider a gift registry, keep the following tip in mind: make sure you pick gifts that are reasonably priced for your kid’s friends to choose from.  If you are also sending the registry to family, who may want to spend more, divvy up the registry to reflect this.
Two companies on-line that make it easy to register for kids’ party gifts include: Wishpot and MyKidsRegistry.com.

No Gift Trend
One of the hottest trends in kids’ parties today is the request for No Gifts on the party invitation.  There may be several reasons for this, including: limiting extravagance, teaching philanthropic values, and including all guests in the giving.  However, it is so ingrained in people to bring a party gift, that it is very difficult for guests to take it seriously. 

A few ways to handle the request for No Gifts include:
•    If you are worried about people spending too much money, state directly on your invitation Gifts Under $10 are appreciated and reiterate this during the RSVP phone call.
•    If you want to teach a philanthropic lesson, ask people to bring items that support a favorite family charity or non-profit in your community.  As an example, if you are having a puppy party, ask guests to bring items for the local humane society.  This allows people to still bring something to the party and benefits a charity.
•    If you want to include everyone in giving and receiving at your party, organize a book exchange and request that each guest bring a book that is exchanged during the party among all of the party guests.

Another alternative to traditional presents, that is also green, is to ECHOage your party.  Completely on-line, the service allows host parents to send e-invitations to their guests and choose a charity for people to use half of the money they would spend on your kid’s party present to go to a charity and the other half of the money is given to the host parent toward one big present for the birthday child.  Charitable contribution combined with gift giving all on-line. 

How to handle rude parents
If your child is six-years-old and younger, expect that the guests’ parents will stay during the party.  If you are worried that a particular parent will be rude during your party, then give the person a job to do at your party.  If this parent is busy, she will probably be less likely to cause trouble.  Also, don’t expect that parents hanging out at your kid’s party will pitch in, most won’t.  So, make sure to line up your help well in advance so you can relax during the party and enjoy it yourself!

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Lisa Kothari is the founder and president of Peppers and Pollywogs, a kids' party planning company that provides parents with ideas, entertainers, and interesting web-based tools (customized rhymes and cards for your invitations!) to make kids' party planning easy. She has recently written and published Dear Peppers and Pollywogs, What Parents Want To Know About Planning Their Kids' Parties which is available at Amazon.com and Peppers and Pollywogs.

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