Miss Manners has been busy doing the party circuit the past couple of months and as usual has a few gems of wisdom to impart to us parents. Frankly, before kids we thought planning and executing a kids party would be a walk in the park. We dreamed of beautiful table decorations, immaculate and well-behaved children who would delight in a game of musical chairs and eat perfectly cut finger sandwiches. No one told us it required almost as much preparation as Christmas lunch, the negotiation skills of a UN ambassador and that we would be praying for it to finish before it had even begun!
There are a minefield of decisions to consider: the guest list, the venue, the entertainment, the party bags! So put down those balloons and party poppers for a few minutes and read up on Miss Manners 5 ways to create the perfect kids party without having an emotional breakdown!
Invites & RSVPs
Unless you are inviting the entire class don’t have your child be a merry little post-person handing out invites in the playground. No one wants to be that poor little kid (or parent) by-passed for the party of the year. Invite rule of thumb: if you are going to invite half or more than half of the class then you should invite the whole lot, otherwise just stick to the kids or parents you get on with!
Make it as easy as possible for people to RSVP: give a cut off date and phone number / email detail. People should really RSVP the second the invite hits the kitchen table because there’s nothing more irritating than having to chase. If your child is ill on the day make sure to give the host as much notice as possible. We’ve heard of hosts invoicing parents for no-shows (can you imagine) so don’t be one of them.
Parents & Siblings at parties
Well we’d really rather we didn’t have either and that you just left your kids for two hours of mayhem and sugar inhalation. However, if your child is too young to stay alone then it’s probably easier all round if you do stay. But please don’t just stand there chatting: get off your bum and offer to help with the party games or serving food. Just don’t expect to be waited on with tea and biscuits!
Unless you have pre-arranged it with the host, your child’s younger sibling is NOT invited to the party! Beg, borrow or steal a sitter for the two ours and if you have zero choice in the matter then take along a snack and drink for them. Do not sit them down at the birthday table (unless invited to) and absolutely do not expect them to receive a party bag!
We’ve witnessed some beauties from little ones and not so little ones over the years. Any child who asks the host ‘when is the food ready?’ or whinges that they’re hungry will get a fast pass to the end of the queue. Asking for gluten free bread (really!) or informing the host they don’t like the brand of crisps on offer will see their party bag dramatically reduced (or downright disappeared).
Help your child be a birthday star that Miss Manners would be proud of. Help them to greet their friends as they arrive for the first 10 minutes (even if it means glueing them to your side), to say thank you for their presents and to give a friendly welcome to the children who don’t know anyone.
Food & Loot Bags
Make life easy for yourself and pre-pack little cardboard lunch boxes ready and waiting on the table. This could include a drink, a piece of fruit, chocolate biscuit, crisps etc. You can then circulate with sandwiches and other treats afterwards. Just make sure you over rather than under cater. And don’t feel the need to compete on the birthday cake front with the “see-my-beautiful-(hand made)-princess-castle-turrets-cake” photos on Facebook. We’re so over that. Just buy a cake. Honestly most people will be too polite to ask you if it is shop bought anyway. Use one cake for blowing out the candles and save yourself the hassle by buying a second one for cutting up in advance for the party bags.
Gotta admit, we hate loot bags. A piece of cake and a balloon just isn’t enough these days. If you are giving out party bags then try to give something worthwhile. Instead of Christmas cracker plastic piece of rubbish buy something more useful: multipacks of books, a harmonica or a small puzzle. Make sure your child contains any element of dis-satisfacation at the array of party bag paraphernalia to the car, not the host.
Thank you & Gifts
Make sure you are close by when your child’s gifts are opened, pen & paper poised to keep track of who they were from. If your child is attending a party there’s no hard and fast rule about how much to spend on gifts. But anywhere between £7-£10 seems to be about right. It’s helpful to mention in the card what the gift is in case your envelope gets detatched.
Even your child receives a boat load of plastic tat as gifts, make sure to say thank you. In writing. Apart from it being polite, it teaches your child that someone has spent time and effort choosing, purchasing and wrapping the gift especially for them. If your child can write the card great, if not a signature, squiggle or thumb print will do. Don’t forget to say what the gift was and how great it is (even if it’s already on your re-gifting shelf. It’s okay, we all have one!).