It’s that time of year again… Elsie’s turning seven, and we’re planning a kid’s birthday party. Ten years ago I was elbow deep in planning for our wedding, and there are many reasons why planning a kid’s birthday party is more stressful. There are definite similarities… cake, songs, the guests will cry. But kid’s parties do have their own unique challenges, here are just ten.
1 Kids have unreasonable expectations
Some time ago I promised Elsie she could have a piñata at her birthday party. Since then she has requested a roller skating disco party, which involves small children doing loops in the dark, with lots of flashy lights and loud music. A few days ago she checked in on the piñata and couldn’t understand why it was a bad idea.
“Everyone’s going to be wearing roller skates, Sweetie. And it’s really dark, so it’s probably not safe, and you’d have trouble finding the sweets. Plus I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be allowed…”
“But you said I could have a piñata!”
2 You are catering for the fussiest people on the planet
In planning a kid’s birthday party, pizza is the go-to party food because it’s one of the only universally acceptable foods to the under 18s. Unlike grown-up guests at a wedding, kids will not politely smile and eat enough to get them through. They will make it public news that they only like pink lemonade, not the yellow stuff. And make sure your pizza looks as generic as possible, or risk tears over a sprinkle of oregano.
3 Kids are honest
Prepare yourself for brutal honesty. I’m not sure when the white lie filter kicks in, but I haven’t seen much sign of it yet. Last weekend, we went to a kid’s pool party; and despite living in Arizona, the weather was still a little chilly in early March. On leaving the pool, Elsie shouts with appropriate drama:
“I am soooo cold, I never want to swim again!”
“Where’s the pizza? I’m soooo hungry!”
I assure you my child is not a total brat; she’s just saying the first thing that comes into her head, because she’s six. At least your wedding guests will politely shiver and quietly ask their neighbor when lunch is served.
4 Party bags are very important
I can’t see any wedding guests kicking off about the quality of their party favor. However, be prepared for kids to be scanning the room for those party bags. I have a real issue with buying small plastic bags and filling them with total crap. A pocket sized dinosaur, one of those parachuting men that never work as well as you’d hope, and a whistle that will very quickly and conveniently go missing. It’s a total waste of money and a personal pet hate. I have suggested alternatives such as giving a single small plush toy… something more substantial that might actually have use, and not end up in the trash within a week.
“But will it come in a bag?”
It seems the bag itself is extremely important. At the recent pool party the hosts gave out a fun airplane craft kit, and sure enough the end third of the box was snuggly squeezed into a multicolored party bag. So give them anything you like, just make sure it comes in a bag or risk public shaming.
5 Parents don’t RSVP
You may have to chase a few of your wedding guests for a response, but planning a kid’s birthday party is another level. I have tried traditional paper invites, and the more common evite. Both get the same response rate, and it’s not good. Maybe it’s our own fault, we’re sending an abbreviated request in a foreign language. For those that are unclear, R.S.V.P. stands for ‘répondez, s’il vous plaît’ which means ‘please reply’. Many parties, such as the one we are planning next week, is paid for per child attending, therefore knowing how many kids are coming is important. And then there’s those pesky party bags… how many do I need? No-one wants to risk a little one in tears because we’ve run short, so you know you’ll buy extra, and then you’ve got ten annoying whistles to slyly dispose of afterwards.
6 Cake is Important
OK, so cake is also important (and extremely expensive if I remember rightly) at a wedding. But for Elsie, it’s the number one most important factor for a party. If you’ve watched Elsie baking chocolate chip cookies or chocolate fudge cake you’ll realize she’s big into cake. We had to leave a couple of parties early last year when the Twins were young, and had major tears because she didn’t get cake. Cake even takes precedent over party bags, and I’m with her, it’s my favorite part of taking her to parties too.
7 Friends change on a daily basis
Hopefully those invited to your wedding are friends for life. Unfortunately, kids are not so loyal, and this can make planning a kid’s birthday party difficult. The easiest thing to do is invite the school class, but what about ballet, swim club and buddies from the park? Numbers can spiral out of control, but if you just invite the besties, things get political. I’ve made the mistake of sneaking a few of the moms at ballet an invite at the request of my daughter. Unfortunately another girl in the class caught wind of this, and proclaimed loudly that Elsie was not invited to her party now. Elsie quickly tried to add to the list in response, to which she was told “It’s too late now.” Yes, the politics of kid’s party invites can almost rival a wedding.
8 Present etiquette is very unclear
Do we open presents at the party or at home afterwards? Most parties I’ve been to open their presents after the party, because kids don’t have the attention span to watch, and some people may feel self-conscious as their deck of Top Trump cards is placed beside that $50 Lego set. Personally, I am less concerned with value (because kids really don’t understand that stuff), and more concerned my present might just get shunned… see point 3 above. Having said this, last year at Elsie’s party, when we started to give out the party bags of crap, one parent expressing their disapproval at our choice not to open the presents at the party. It seems you can’t keep everyone happy.
9 You’re competing with sporting activities
Kids are on a busy schedule. Unlike grown-ups, that mostly like to do as little as possible at the weekend, kid’s weekends are filled with soccer, lacrosse and baseball. Yes, six year-old play lacrosse now. At least a wedding is important enough to override sports practice, but it seems yet another birthday party is not. You might invite 30 kids, but you’ll be lucky to get double figures turning up, because the other 20 are busy working towards their football scholarship.
10 You’ll be planning a kid’s birthday party again next year
Hopefully, you will only ever plan one wedding. However, you are unlikely to be so lucky with planning a kids birthday party. All this faffing about with guest lists and plastic bags of land fill is over with quickly, and you’re left feeling exhausted, relieved, and secretly pleased with leftover pizza and cake. I would suggest not going overboard in the early years, because next year they’re going to expect the same. We waiting until Elsie’s 5th for the official birthday party, and since it’s been expected every year. It seems I’m stuck planning a kid’s birthday party every year from here on out. At least the Twins can share a party… although I was told by a twin once that she was traumatized as a child because she was always expected to share a cake with her sister. One party, two cakes… note to future self. I think by the time the Twins are turning seven I’ll be so done with planning parties, I’ll just chuck them in the back yard and deliver a slice of pizza in a party bag an hour later. Job done.
Wish me luck…
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