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Bringing Siblings to Birthday Parties

16 years ago, my five-year-old son sobbed into my arms because he wanted to go to the birthday party only his sister was invited to. “I’m sorry,” I told him, “I know you want to go, but you weren’t invited.” Back then, an uninvited sibling at a birthday party was a rare sighting. Fast forward to my seven-year-old’s party this past Spring. Siblings are so prevalent at birthday parties nowadays that I didn’t even know some of the children in attendance.

What changed in between my older son’s experience and my youngest daughter’s? Everything. But I believe the prevalence of Internet-only invites, such as Facebook and Evite, are the biggest culprits. When my son sobbed his heart out those many years ago, all I had to do was show him the hand-written paper invitation that bore only his sister’s name. These days, the invitation is most likely to have arrived via computer with no clear way to discern whether a single child or the entire family has been invited to the party.

Whether the invite was issued over Facebook or email, one thing is notably missing: the envelope. So, how is a parent to know who is invited amongst what might be many siblings? Sometimes the answer is obvious; the birthday child is years older than the other siblings and the party is inappropriate for younger kids. Or the invitation may specifically note that siblings are invited. Other times, it can be harder to tell.

Is it okay to ask if a sibling can come to the birthday party? Many parents feel it’s okay. Other parents feel strongly that asking can be a burden. “It’s rude to even ask, because the mom would have a hard time saying no,” says Stephanie Gorrel, mother of three. Some parents end up stuck between a rock and a hard place; perhaps the child won’t be able to go to the party unless a sibling tags along or a child is too young or too anxious to attend the party solo.

How can parents know whether to broach the sibling dilemma with the host? Luckily, whether or not the invitation directly notes the intentions of the host, there are clues within the invitation itself:

  • Does the birthday party location charge per child? Whether it’s a giant bouncy house extravaganza or a gymnastics jamboree, inviting siblings can get expensive quickly, especially if multiple families bring additional children. However, this is one of the easiest parties for hosting parents, so if you are unable to find childcare for your other children, asking if you can drop off your invited child’s sibling, especially one over the age of six, is not necessarily an imposition.

  • Do you know the birthday child’s siblings? If not, they probably don’t know yours either. In this case, assume other children in the family are not invited.

  • Is the party in a public park? If so, the parents aren’t paying a per-child fee and may not mind including siblings.

  • Is the activity age-appropriate for your other children? A rock-climbing wall is a much different experience than an arts and crafts party. If the activity is geared toward a certain age, the party may not be appropriate for younger or older siblings.

  • Is the birthday party being held at home? If so, consider the size of the host family’s home. Is it large enough that a few extra children will not make things feel too crowded? Does the host parent pine for quiet time or does a little chaos fit right into the family? Knowing the answers to these types of questions will go a long way in figuring out if it’s okay to ask about siblings attending the party. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, asking about siblings attending the birthday party may not be the way you want to find out.

Childcare for other siblings can be a tricky business, but no one wants to be rude on purpose. Taking into consideration the location of the party, the closeness of the families involved, and the activities taking place at the party can go a long way into figuring out if a sibling will be welcome or not. Even if conditions are ideal for the presence of a sibling, it is always important to ask the host. But keeping these conditions in mind will help you keep the host from an awkward position on what would otherwise be a day of fun.

Freelance writer Jill is a teacher, wife, and mother of four kids. Check out her website, Do Try This at Home,




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