The Scoop on Kids’ Birthday Party Etiquette

see more by

kids' birthday party etiquette

This post is on kids’ birthday party etiquette and my [humble] opinions on the topic. Do you agree with them? Disagree? Please dish in the comments below!

When I was first navigating the birthday party scene for pint sized guests as a new mom, I found many questions and scenarios commonly arose that I would like to chat about here.

+1, +2, +3…(the sibling thing)  

To invite or not to invite the siblings of friends, that is the question.

In my opinion, it depends on how well you know the family and where you are having the party. If it is close family friends, of course I always include the siblings.

And, if it is a house party for a 4-year-old or under where a parent will stay at the party, I also tend to include the siblings and make it a family party. Easier for the parents of guests to be able to bring all their children if space isn’t an issue.

However, if you are talking about a party at an outside venue when you are allotted X number of kids and every kid thereafter is + $$, the siblings can be a problem and add up quickly.

If you do not want to (or can’t) invite siblings:

1. Have your party on a weekend when normally the other parent is home to watch the siblings.

2. Host a “drop off” party where the parent can drop off and pick up their child.

3. Clearly state the ONE child invited’s name on the invitation.  You can also do this on Evite or Paperless Post as well so the child’s name comes up alone in the RSVP’s. When adding your invitee’s email, just edit the name to say the child you wish to invite.

That will (hopefully) put the kabosh on extra guests. Not always, but it will help!

Drop off parties 

For the littles, ages 1 – 4, a drop off party is typically not standard (and you wouldn’t want it that way anyway!)

But after kids go to preschool and are used to being dropped off somewhere, for ages 5 +, I am a big fan of the drop off party. A drop off party means you don’t have to feed and entertain the adults, allowing you to solely focus on the kids.

Words of advice on hosting a drop off party:

1. Keep your number of invitees limited to your child’s closest friends; too many kids can be overwhelming.

2. Enlist the help of the grandparents or a friend or two to help you if more than just a handful of invitees.

3. Host the drop off party at your house or at a privately rented venue for your peace of mind.

4. Clearly state it is a drop off party on the invitation so parents know in advance.

The “No Gifts” Idea

I know many of you look around at your living room filled with plastic toys and overflowing toy baskets and think, “I do not want any more toys in this house!!!” I get it. I have been there.

However, in my opinion, writing, “No Gifts” on a child’s invitation (with the exception of a 1-year-old birthday party because they have no clue) can be confusing to the guests.

Here’s why. No matter how clearly you state “No Gifts,” some people will bring them anyway and then the people that follow the rules might feel like they should have brought a gift. And if your child is over 2 years old they will likely associate birthday parties with presents and the fact it is their turn, finally.

I suggest to graciously accept the gifts and then you can choose to donate some after the party.

Let Parents Know the Scoop  

This is sort of a silly thing, and it could be just me, but I always like it when I know when it is stated on the invitation what kind of food (if any) will be served at the party.

This lets me know whether my kid will need to eat lunch or dinner after (or if I need to feed them before). It doesn’t matter what is being served – it just helps to know. Something like, “Pizza and cake will be served.” Or, “Join us for cupcakes to celebrate…” Is this just me?!

I also like when it is made clear what the host wants on the invitation.  I love things like, “Siblings Welcome!” or “Drop Off Party.” Basically the more info (regardless of what it is), the better.

Please Say Thank You

Again, just my opinion, but I urge you to acknowledge your child’s gifts with a thank you in some sort of way.

A hand written thank you note is best.  I am Old School this way.

That being said, we are all moms and know how crazy life can be, so an email or a text with a photo of your child with their gift is also acceptable. The most important thing is for the person to know your child received their gift, however you want to communicate it.

Involve Your Kids in Their Thank You’s

As soon as my daughter could write, I had her sit down the day after the party and write her thank you’s, don’t wait or you risk not doing them. Actually that goes for most all thank you notes, do it immediately, or it will fall off your list!

I think it is an important etiquette lesson for kids to show their gratitude in a handwritten note. It is also good practice on their penmanship.

It can start off by being as simple as having your child sign their name, and then when they can write the entire card, go for it.  Even if you have to split them up and have them do a few a day for the week following the party.

This year I taught my oldest how to address the envelopes as well, and she actually enjoyed doing them putting the stamps on, etc. So you can actually make it a fun project for them. Hopefully.

Those are my two cents on the topic! Anyone else have etiquette questions they wonder about or any opinions on the above??



You Might Also Like

  1. 1
    Susanne says:

    It’s a lot to navigate, so helpful! Couldn’t agree more with your points!

  2. 2
    Amy says:

    All are great etiquette suggestions and I totally agree. Here’s another one that i always have a problem with…RSVP’s if on the invitation it says RSVP by a certain date. There is a date for a reason! Please RSVP it helps the party host plan accordingly and eliminates extra costs of over buying for the party host. It’s rude to not RSVP and then show up, Or RSVP and not go. This seems to always add an extra level of stress for me, it makes me so worked up even now when typing and I’m not even in the midst of throwing a party. Ha ha

  3. 3
    Jen says:

    The RSVP’s – cant believe I forgot that one! I have a feeling a follow up post is needed after I get more comments.

    Yes, couldn’t agree more, please RSVP on time!

    Moms need to plan the number of favors, food, and if at an outside venue, they often need to call in the final number of kids the week of.

    Here’s my advice: RSVP the minute you get the evite or invitation in the mail! Look at the calendar and hopefully you will know right away.

    If you don’t RSVP immediately, the evite will get lost in your inbox or invitation will get lost on your desk and you risk forgetting to RSVP (guilty as charged on occasion).

    If you RSVP immediately it is done, and the party boy or girl will be very excited as RSVPs roll in right away. Thanks Amy for bringing this up!

  4. 4
    Deb M says:

    Great post! 100% agree. What about goodie bags for guests. I don’t like them. They seem wasteful and most ends up in the trash. What do you think??? Why did this trend start? I don’t get it. 🙂

  5. 5
    jen says:

    The goodie bags. Another hot button of mine.

    Here’s what is ridiculous to me – today’s parties for kids are over the top fun. Forget a simple cupcake, now parties are bounce houses, real princess visits, elaborate food spreads, I mean AWESOME parties.

    Do kids need to go home with something extra? In my opinion NO!

    And most times the kids are so overwhelmed with party fun by the time they leave they wouldn’t even remember about a favor anyway.

    I also don’t like when it is more candy or junk or little toys that will just clutter up the house and not get played with. Sorry, but that’s my honest opinion!

    I think if there is a useful favor that goes with the theme – great. One year we did a Fancy Nancy party and I found paperback books for $2 which I thought was a great favor. Or this year my daughter and I made elastic hair ties and it was a fun thing to do together and it was a gymnastics party, so it fit the all girl party theme.

    But if we were going to do a favor just to do a favor, I would have not done them.

    In my opinion, most parents would be very happy to walk out of a party without a goodie bag! Do you guys agree?

  6. 6
    Jen B says:

    With twins and another child less than 2 years younger, the sibling issue has come up countless times. And my husband works a lot on weekends, so there’s usually just me for all the kids. Many parents have been gracious enough to allow all 3 kids to attend (when they all were younger, under 6), and when the party is at a place that charged per child, I offer to pay the extra for my other child(ren).
    And because of our situation, we’ve almost always welcomed siblings to our parties…which often have been huge!
    This year, as my babies turn 8 and Little One will be 6, we’re toning it down a little. 😉

  7. 7
    Deb M says:

    Yes, I agree!!!! 🙂 Books are useful, so I would like one of those any day. Little toys are annoying. Kids don’t need any more candy. I think it is all over indulgence which can be a huge problem. I think some moms see parties as a way to compete or one up. Just not my thing. It is to celebrate the child and should be modest. I like Pinterest and all, but my kids’ parties will never be like that. LOL!

  8. 8
    Nichole says:

    It also bothers me when people don’t RSVP. Knowing approximately how many people will attend helps tremendously in food and beverage preparation. It’s disrespectful not to RSVP. I’m not a fan of goodie bags, but I like having guests take home something like a wrapped cookie or cake pop.

  9. 9
    Michelle says:

    I agree with all above! Regarding favors, I try to find a way to tie them in. My son had an Angry Birds party, so we did little bags of “Angry Bird Poop.” Yes, sounds gross, but they were just colorful M&Ms and the kids all got lots of giggles from it! My daughter did a Sweet Shoppe themed party and the kids each got to hit the candy table to fill up little bags of whatever treats they wanted to take home. I’ve moved away from goody bags of penny junk that just gets thrown away. I have fun doing a theme for each party and incorporating things that way! Happy partying everyone!

  10. 10
    Lisa says:

    Okay, I’m one of those mom’s that skips thank you cards sometimes. I used to be ON it. But sometimes I literally cannot fit it in to my schedule. So I try very hard to take a photo of my child using the gift and text it to the person that gave it to us. I was glad to read that is an acceptable form of thank you. I’ve seriously carried guilt for not doing hand written cards. But now that my kids are getting older and can write, I plan to have them do it themselves!!!

  11. 11
    jen says:

    Love your comments and the angry bird poop gave me a good laugh – thank you!!

    Regarding the thank you’s – I think the most important thing is to acknowledge the gift – whether note, text or email, I don’t think it matters.

    It just bugs me when there is no acknowledgement because in the back of my mind I always wonder if it was received!

  12. 12

    Thank you for popping by my site earlier. Love your site! This will definitely come in handy when we finally have a little! For now I can just read and store the info! I totally agree about the thank you notes! Nothing worse than getting a gift, wrapping it, and having no idea if they even opened it! Thanks again!

  13. 13

    All great tips! I personally do not assume a parent is comfortable with a drop-off situation until 3rd or 4th grade. There are so many allergies, concerns for child safety, behavior issues that still need to be managed, etc. There are a lot of kids who can be dropped off at younger ages and will be fine but there’s still a gray area. So I think any parties that include kids younger than 8, you might need to plan to have some parents in attendance.

    I am really glad to see that the “open all the gifts in front of the guests” part of the parties is starting to end. No one likes sitting through it. The birthday child is rushed through it yet expected to act appropriately gracious for every gift. And younger kids can’t help but give their opinion when they open it “I already have that!” “This isn’t the one I wanted!” So I’m thrilled that parents are starting to save the presents to be opened at home.

    For my 10 year old’s birthday this year, we made a rule. She brings the presents home and she can open one. Before she can open another one, she has to write the thank you note for the first one. It prolonged the excitement of the gifts, encouraged her to be grateful and appreciative of each one and it got the thank-you notes DONE right away!

  14. 14
    Jen says:

    Shannon – great tips! Regarding the drop off thing, I so agree. For the drop off parties I have thrown I have said on the invite, “drop off but you are also welcome to stay” this way parents knew they could do what they were comfortable with. I LOVE the idea of write a thank you after opening each gift. Gonna remember that one!

  15. 15
    Amy says:

    It is really hard for me to not do favors for my guests, but I always try to do useful ones, or do a activity or craft at the party that acts as the favor. Like my daughters last party we made fairy gardens and everyone loved them!

    I do not like the little plastic trinket favors, so finding one item that goes with the theme are perfect to hand out. A few favors I’ve done for parties are: books, real goldfish, where the wild things are puzzles, hot wheels monster trucks, stuffed animals, coloring books, art sets, stick horses, swords, fair wings, wooden trains.

  16. 16
    Jen says:

    Amy – darling ideas for favors! I would rather have no favor at all than little trinket favors, and I truly don’t think my kids care. 🙂

  17. 17
    Beth says:

    Advice Please. My son, (turning 8) has made his guest list for his party. There were some boys from his class last year that he really had a rough time with. They were not on his list, but now both of these boys have invited him to their parties. They will not be in his class this year, but other friends might be in class with them. I’m really not sure what to do about the necessity of inviting these boys. Clearly if he accepts their invite, they should be invited, but what if he doesn’t?

    • 18
      jen says:

      That’s a tough one. Here’s what my gut says. My feeling is that he made his decision when he made his list and didn’t include them. Especially if there were some issues last year. A celebration for a birthday boy or girl should be about sharing the day with close friends, of which it doesn’t sound like these boys are. My gut tells me not to invite them.

      I would probably have previous “plans” on the day of their parties and not attend. I think it makes it awkward to go to a party but not return the invitation, especially if the parties are within a close time frame. Those are my two cents. What do you think?

  18. 19
    Beth says:

    Thanks.Jen, That was exactly what I was thinking. It’s definitely a tough one. I’m friends with one of the moms, so I understand why he was invited. The other…I have no idea why he was invited. Perhaps the moms even made them invite him.

    I like your other comments. Since we’ve had 7 birthday parties, I’ve wrestled with a few of those other issues myself.

    Not inviting a sibling costed my son a friend. We lived in an apt and space was an issue. Unfortunately, the mom was extremely insulted.

    As for Goody bags and plastic toys. My son still LOVES getting them, and shopping for them, most are absolutely cheap and not worth anything. INSTEAD, I try to find 1 decent item and then maybe a special cookie that I make myself, (instead of candy). If it kind of looks like a Pokemon, all the better. Of course there are parents who don’t want their kids to have any sweets, but you can’t make everyone happy.

    Not that you were asking my advice, but thats what i’ve tried.

    Thank you so much.

Show Mobile Version