Magical Monday

Birthday Party Do’s & Don’ts!


We know that there are rules for hosting and attending birthday parties for your kids, but do we ACTUALLY know them? Do you have to invite everyone in your child’s class? Shouldn’t your close friend just assume that your child will come to her kid’s bash without an RSVP in the mail or on Facebook? Are goody bags or thank-you notes absolutely necessary?

Below are some answers to Queen Mother’s most asked questions:

Getting the party started!

Q. What’s the best age to start throwing a birthday party?

A. Honestly? Around 4 or 5. By then, a child has friends, a distinct taste in toys, and some experience with cake and ice cream.

Of course, few of us can hold out this long. So if you must have a party for your 1 or 2 year-old, that’s fine! Just make sure there are lots of grown-up food and drinks, and be aware that the birthday baby may not be very interested. Know that it’s smarter to try to keep the attention off your baby as much as possible at the party to provide less stress and work around their nap and feeding schedules.

Q. How many kids should I invite?

A. The general rule is age plus one. That means four friends for a 3-year-old’s birthday. For toddlers, it’s best to invite at least one friend they see a lot and feels comfortable around. (If your child goes to daycare or preschool and is used to being with a large group of kids, she can probably handle a few additional guests.)

On the other hand, grade-schoolers have definite ideas of whom they want to invite, so you can use the opportunity to teach them to be considerate of others’ feelings. Better to invite everyone and hope for some no-shows. Inviting 4 out of 12 kids, however, is more a matter of discretion and will work better if the bash isn’t held immediately after school. Teach your child not to talk about her upcoming party around those she didn’t invite (and then cross your fingers).

Q. My child went to So & So’s party. Do I have to reciprocate and invite her?

A. It depends on how old your child is and whether they’re actually friends. But you needn’t reciprocate for every acquaintance. You already bought a gift for each child’s party, so your social obligation has been fulfilled! LOL! What if your child’s the one who’s been left out? Gently explain that there wasn’t enough space at the party or that it was limited to very special friends.

Keep up with the Joneses…?

Q. The other moms have been throwing elaborate and expensive parties for their 3-year-olds. How can I keep up?

A. Don’t even stress! All a child this age really cares about are cake, songs, characters and presents in the company of friends. Whom do you want to impress: the Joneses or your preschooler? School-age kids might indeed start to notice the disparity in birthday extravaganzas. If your child doesn’t understand why they can’t have a bash as big as their friend’s, be casual but firm. Simply say, “This is how we do it in our family.”

Q. Do I have to RSVP?

A. Absolutely, whether your child will or won’t attend. RSVP as soon as you get the invitation so that you don’t forget and the hostess can get an accurate head count. We’re all terribly busy these days, but it takes only a minute to dial a number and say, “Tim would love to go.”

And since you’re on the phone (or on e-mail), you might ask which sort of toy the birthday child would like. Are they into science? Trucks? Princesses?

Q. The invitation is addressed to my child. Does that mean we’re all invited?

A. No. That’s why you RSVP—to clear up ambiguities. In some communities, there’s an unspoken understanding that moms of young kids (under dropoff age) may have to bring the infant sister. But the toddler twin brothers? That’s pushing it. Find out what the host has in mind and then respect those limitations.

If you’re giving the party, be as specific as possible on your invitations. If space is an issue, it’s absolutely fine to write “invitee and one parent only.” Clear instructions like this are never rude.

Q. At what age can I drop off my child at a party?

A. The general rule is age 5, but this can vary, depending on your community and your child. By 7, it’s usually understood that the kids don’t need you hanging around anymore to interfere with their candy consumption. When in doubt, ask the host when you RSVP.

Q. How do I make sure parents pick up their kids on time?

A. Simple: You clearly write on the invitation when the party begins and ends. Gently remind parents when they drop off their child.


Q. How much should I spend on a gift?

A. The range is typically between $5 and $15. My own cautionary tale: For my daughter’s sixth birthday, my husband and I decided to splurge and bought her a $60 child-size guitar. It sits in her room, largely ignored. But the bright-pink stuffed unicorn that her grandmother picked up at a dime store for $3 never leaves her side.

Q. Should my child open presents at the party?

A. It’s a split, with some parents enthusiastically for it and others strongly against it. Those in the “no” camp believe that opening gifts can send already excited kids over the edge, resulting in a frenzy of torn paper and discarded cards and hurt feelings about slighted gifts.

Opening presents after the party means you get to avoid all of the above. It also extends the celebration for the birthday child and allows him to wind down a bit before tackling a pile of gifts (and you get to keep track of who gave him what!). However, most kids will tell you that opening presents is one of the best parts of a party (next to the cake and the characters, that is). In the end, it’s up to you to decide. Take into account the size of the gathering, the kids’ ages (children under 4 are less likely to be able to sit through opening a slew of gifts), your own child’s personality, and the current level of chaos.

Q. What do I do if my child sneers at a present in front of the kid who gave it?

A. You correct them, and then ask them to apologize. But next time, it’s a good idea to prep them for this. Rehearse what to say. You can even make a little game out of it: “What would you say if Benjamin gave you an iron for your birthday?” “Thank you very much. I really like it.”

Q. Are goody bags still a thing? How much should I spend on them?

A. The goody bag is alive and well. Kazoos, candies and plastic bracelets may be junk to us, but they’re treasure to a 4-year-old. Stick to your guns and a budget, though. Any more than $5 per goody bag is avoidable!

Q. Do we have to write thank-you cards?

A. They’re a gracious touch, and learning this early is a nice idea.Young kids can draw a picture of the present, then you fill in the words yourself. An older child can sign his name and, by age 6, should be able to write their own note. Don’t worry about the spelling.

Lost track of who gave what? Don’t mention the gift specifically—thank your guest for coming and being part of your child’s special day.

For more ideas and to discuss your upcoming Party, please contact

“We promote Intelligence, Curiosity, Hope, Kindness, Faith, Adventure, and Dreams in ALL of our Princes & Princesses! We are more than just a picture, we are a real life example of pure magic.”

with sparkles & magic,

Princess Sarah


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