Once your kids are old enough to spend time around other kids—whether it’s at preschool or school—you can expect one thing to pop up like clockwork: birthday party invitations. They just keep coming and coming and coming.
They’re a great fun, interactive and social time for kids, but often adults aren’t too sure of what is appropriate for them at the party – should they stay or should they go? How much should they spend on a present? And if you’re hosting, then there are a raft of other questions too.
So here are a few dos and don’ts on birthday party etiquette to help you enjoy the day too:
When is it appropriate for a parent to stay or leave a child’s birthday party?
If you’re the host
Sometimes you may want other parents on hand to help you supervise the children during the party. This is often helpful when you’re hosting a group of kids five or younger, or a large group of kids. To make this request clear, you can add wording on the invitations asking that the invited child come with one parent. A good time to confirm this request is when the other parents call you to respond.
If your child is the guest
If there is nothing to indicate that your presence is requested on the birthday invitation, you can assume that you do not need to attend with your child. However, if you would prefer to stay with your child for the party, you can raise this with the host parent when you RSVP.
At what age can children attend parties without a parent?
When your child is a guest, plan to stay at each party he attends through the age of four. Kids this age really do need a parent nearby at social events like birthday parties, no matter how independent they are at home. Many children become overwhelmed by the excitement and the crowd at a party, and you can’t be sure that your little darling won’t have a breakdown.
By age five and up, most kids are ready to go it alone at a party, provided they know a few of the guests. The best way to decide is to simply ask your child if he wants you to stay for a while. Your child will let you know if he is ready for you to drop him off and leave.
Food for adults?
The general rule of thumb is that if you request that a parent stay, you should provide something for them to eat. You can either provide enough kids’ party food for everyone, including adults, or something more suitable for adults, e.g. a cheese platter.
If you are just dropping off your child, and then picking them up, it’s not good etiquette to help yourself to the party food, unless it is offered.
What about drinks?
As per above – if you invite adults, then provide them with something to drink. Not every parent is okay with adults drinking alcohol at a child’s party though, even if it’s just one glass of wine. So if you are not sure if the parents attending your child’s party are okay with it, gauge their response casually when you RSVP, and if anybody is against, serve a delicious alternative like sparkling grape juice.
If you are taking your child to a birthday party, check with the hosting parent about any potential alcoholic drinks for parents when you RSVP. This way, if you are uncomfortable with the alcohol situation, you can politely decline the invitation and before you turn up and have to pull away a disappointed child from the party they were looking forward to.