30th Jul 2016 MC IT

Children’s Etiquette: The Birthday Party

043-judy-garland-and-vincente-minnelli-theredlistHaving 5 children is a handful in itself, but times that by 6, add some party poppers and you’ve got yourself a full-blown children’s party. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget all birthday party social etiquette; should your child open presents in front of everyone? How will you handle the invite list? Should I have food for parents too? My birthday party etiquette rules below have certainly got me out of a few sticky situations and I hope it can help you guys too… 


At a birthday party it is inevitable that you’ll be serving birthday cake, but a lot of people wonder if it’s necessary to serve food too. In most cases food will be expected a birthday party, nothing to elaborate, mostly finger food and snacks. The best judge is usually time if you know your child eats at 12:30 at school or nursery and your party is between 11 and 1, you should indeed provide food.

Parents will usually stick around, which prompts the question, do I cater for them too? Of course, it would be thoughtful to be able to offer adult food options, perhaps some light finger food or some healthy nibbles instead of chicken nuggets and fruit shoots. But don’t go too overboard, you’re certainly not expected to dish out the champers and seafood, but nevertheless, it’s a sign of a good host to be prepared.

When it comes to allergies, don’t freak out.  Parents of children with food allergies are usually hyper-vigilant about it and very good at notifying anyone that needs to know. Always try to serve cake and food that is peanut-free as a precaution, and nowadays always have a gluten-free and dairy-free option. It most likely won’t go to waste and will save any awkwardness or unwanted surprises on the day.


Let’s make this clear, you are under no obligation to invite the entire classroom. There’s a growing trend of the age plus one rule, a 4-year-old should have five guests. However if you are planning on inviting nearly the whole class, you need to invite the whole class. You simply can’t exclude one or two and not expect a backlash. If you are inviting a select few try and invite half or less, another option is of course to divide by gender. In all of these situations it’s very important to teach your child about the importance of discretion.

Now, email or paper? In the 21st century it’s tempting to opt for the easy route, e-vites. However it’s nice to get your child involved in creating them so the old fashioned way is best. Get fun decorations and hand deliver (if possible!). There’s also an added degree of charm in a child’s handwriting and drawings that cannot be conveyed over the internet.

The RSVP’s. Give plenty of notice. If you haven’t heard back from any, politely remind them of the date and say your just trying to get a head count for food. A lot of people worry about it being too pushy, but as long as your polite and give them a lot of notice, there’s nothing more you can do.

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If you do decide to open presents while guests are still there, it’s important to get organised. Make sure everyone’s sitting and comfortable. A little reminder of the party bag at the end of the day is a great way to diffuse the jealousy of not having any presents to open themselves. Once presents have been opened and appreciated, make sure to hide them away. Another really thing to remember is, even if you’re child does open their presents in front of everyone, it’s still very important to send out thank you notes.

A lot of people worry about giving presents and the correct amount to spend, but honestly it’s just the thought that counts. Spend what you feel is appropriate. If you are worried ask the parent about the child’s interests so the gift will be truly appreciated.

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Gift bags

It is still customary to thank guests with a goody bag at the end of the party. Of course it doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, the simplest things can provide hours of entertainment. Gather a collection of some simple toys like pinwheels, bubbles, balloons, colouring books and of course to finish it off, a generous slice of birthday cake.

 If you want to be a little unique and original with your goodie bag and put some extra thought into it some great ideas include sending your little guests home with some homemade muffins or little sweets such as fudge.

Thank you notes

Thank you notes are an absolute must, it’s important for two reasons; if someone has taken the time to choose a gift for your child, they deserve to be thanked. However if you decided not to except gifts or some guests attended without, it is still polite to say thank you for attending. The notes should be handwritten, ideally by the chid and sent no later than two weeks after the party.

And there you have it, all your etiquette rules for a fabulous birthday party.