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Solutions for Birthday Party Predicaments
By Carol Band
Cake, Candles and Chaos
Birthdays are a reason to celebrate, and many kids rate their birthday party as the highlight of the year. But sometimes, that party can bring about hurt feelings, considerable expense and a parent’s vow of “never again!” Each year, we call on Carol Band, longtime Parenthood.com contributor, birthday party expert and mother of three, to tap parents, experts and her own considerable experience for ideas and insights. This time, Carol, herself, tackles some of the most frequently asked birthday party questions – who to invite, how to handle a rambunctious guest, when to open the gifts, and more.
You're Invited (or Not)
Invitations do more than introduce a party theme. They can make one kid’s day, or make another child feel left out. Send your invitations well in advance by mail, e-mail or simply by making a phone call.
More About Guests...
• Four-year-olds are generally OK to be dropped off for a short party. But get parents’ cell phone numbers in case of an unexpected meltdown.
• Plan an activity to kick off the party that engages kids and keeps them occupied until everyone has arrived. A craft project related to the birthday theme is perfect.
• How many guests to invite? The rule of thumb is the birthday child’s age, plus one. Six kids for a 5-year-old’s party.
Q: My child doesn't want to invite everyone in his class. I like the idea of a smaller party, but how do I pull it off without hurt feelings? – Anxious in Albuquerque, NM
A: It’s OK to selectively invite classmates to a birthday party, but be sure to mail the invitations to the guests’ homes or e-mail them to the parents. Never, ever send your child to school with a fistful of invitations to distribute at school – especially if everyone isn’t invited. If only one or two kids are omitted from the guest list, speak to your child and see if she can’t be convinced to include everyone. A birthday invitation can mean a lot to the kid who is always left out.
Q: I’ve sent out the invitations two weeks ago, but only one person has RSVP’d. Is it pushy to call to ask if they are coming? – Impatient in Pittsburgh, PA
A: Call them. Be nice as you explain that you need to know how many to expect at the party. That’s just common sense – as is RSVPing.
Q: OK, I’ll say it. One child on my son’s guest list is a monster. I am worried that he’ll be too much for me to deal with and ruin the party. – Frantic in Framingham, MA
A: Don’t wait until the kid throws cake and torments your dog. Be proactive by involving the child before he has a chance to act out. Ask him to help hand out prizes, move chairs or blow up balloons. If there are other parents at the party, enlist their help. If all else fails, take the child aside and threaten to call his parents. And if that doesn’t work, make good on your threat. You also have the option not to invite this child. Weigh the consequences of not sending an invitation.