Few childhood milestones spark more parental anxiety than birthday celebrations. Whether party planning makes you swoon or sweat, it’s possible to plan a party both you and your child will enjoy. Read on to keep the ‘happy’ in your child’s birthday - from the first party all the way through the teen years.
Early Years: Ages 1 to 5
For babies and tots, parents are free to select the party theme (since your little one probably can’t weigh in) and design the guest list to suit the party venue. A common mistake? “Going overboard and inviting the entire pre- Kindergarten class, creating a gigantic, noisy shindig that overwhelms the birthday child,” says Grace L.P. Beason, owner and lead event planner of Grace Leisure Events. “For preschoolers, I’ve found it works well to keep the number of kids down to really close friends and siblings, rather than inviting the entire class. The party can get huge once you include all the parents,” she says. When it comes to party size, take your cue from the season: Winter parties are often indoors, so the cold months are perfect for smaller parties with indoor activities like crafts and games, while the warmer months are ideal for ‘the-more- the-merrier’ parties at parks and other outdoor locales.
School Years: Ages 6 to 12
“The birthday party scene picks up steam in elementary school, and parents of grade-schoolers often find themselves juggling multiple party invites in a single weekend. This can lead to some party etiquette pitfalls,” says Lori Losee, owner of Elegant Affairs. When guests are invited to so many parties, overwhelmed parents often fail to RSVP on time or [don’t RSVP] at all. “This is my biggest pet peeve,” says Losee. “Also, not bringing a card or gift unless specified by party host not to bring one, or bringing uninvited siblings to parties.” Grade school usually signals the start of drop-off parties, notes Losee.
Make sure to check with party hosts about whether you’re expected to stay or to go, and what time the party ends. Always pick your child up on time. Party hosts are usually beat afterward and nobody wants to wrangle an unexpected party straggler after the other revellers have gone home.
Teen Years: Ages 13 to 18
The teen years can be an awkward birthday phase for parents; older kids may balk at the themed parties they enjoyed in grade school or reject parents’ party ideas outright. “But it’s still possible to plan something festive, even if teens don’t want a traditional party,” says Beason. Instead of bailing on birthday fun, get creative: “Why not try and get some great concert tickets to a local band (for tweens or for teens with parents escorting), rent out a private room and have a fiesta with a piñata and dancing, or learn how to make ice cream at a local ice- cream parlor. Explore your local business community,” suggests Beason. For inspiration, draw on your teen’s favorite pastimes. Activity-based parties - think cooking, jewelry-making, science or hiking - are trending, making it easy to dream up a festive, memorable fete that even a too-cool teen will enjoy.
Malia is a nationally-published sleep and health journalist, and a mom of three. Her most recent book is Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, and Tirades.
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