For anyone planning a birthday party for a young child, I would like to offer some advice regarding the guest list.
This is a VERY, VERY important aspect of your party planning process that I believe will have a tremendous effect on the enjoyment of your child's party--for you, your child, the guests, the parents--everyone!
Now please note that I do not believe that this is the end-all be-all answer, rather it is just my opinion based on my experience. I have chosen to share this advice with you because my passion is for planning parties for children, and I would feel a bit selfish if I didn't share with you some of my lessons I have learned along this wonderful journey!
The Party Guests
When it comes to creating the guest list, I suggest that for the ideal outcome, you keep the number of guests equal to the age your birthday child is turning. I believe that it can be do-able to add or subtract up to two additional guests (so if your child is turning 6, have 4-8 guests). In my experience, this is the absolute best way to keep the group manageable, and allow the opportunity for you, your child, and every guest to get the attention and greatest enjoyment out of the birthday celebration that you all truly deserve!!!
I have seen it far too many times where the entire pre-school class, sports team or ballet class are invited, and when you get to 15, 20, even 30 guests under the age of 5, it will likley be an incredibly stressful and out-of-control event. To be honest, I have found it down right exhausting, and not the ideal situation for having the best celebration of your precious birthday child!
The Parents Of The Guests
I believe it's important to not forget to factor in the parents, guardians, or caretakers of your little guests, into your total number of people you plan on attending your child's birthday party. Sometimes parents prefer to stay for the duration of the party, other times the may drop them off and pick them up when the party is over. Regardless, I suggest having enough to nibble on and sip as well as plenty of seating for all parents to sit comfortably, just in case they all decide to stay.
I recommend you might consider not having the parents stay for the duration of the party. I say this because it can be very confusing and distracting for a little one to have multiple authority figures in the same room. The conversations likely to develop between parents can overshadow the activities of the party. Children can get frustrated easily in this sort of situation.
You can, however, invite the parents to the party, encouraging them to participate with their child in crafts requiring their help or special activities and games you can design for parent-child participation. I feel I should warn you, however, that this can be a tough subject, because the line of appropriateness for expecting parents to help out at your child's party may not be taken the way it was intended.
The Siblings Of The Guests
Another group to consider when making your guest list are the siblings (often younger) of your child's guests. Don't be surprised if parents show up with their 5 year old guest, along with their 2 year old and 6 month old. And do not be surprised if the parent begins chatting with another adult and their younger children begin making their way into the party. You may not know for certain how many siblings will attend until the day of the party, but I think it is best to be prepared for the possibility of this occurance.
How do you prepare? I recommend having a special room or area set up with age-appropriate toys, books, games, activities, possibly a dvd, and a babysitter (1 babysitter for every 4-6 siblings) to help keep an eye on the children, primarily for their safety and well-being. This will also help keep the siblings away from your child and his or her guests-far too often have I seen younger siblings "interrupt" the party and cause a meltdown.
Why not incorporate siblings into the planned party activities? Children at different ages, as you know, have very different capabilities. The ability for a 2 year old to play pin the tail on the puppy is far different than the ability of a 4.5 year old. The younger ones can get frustrated very, very easily, distract your attention from your birthday child and the guests (all of whom will want your attention), causing tears to be shed by the frustrated sibling, even the birthday child.
Since we are on the subject of age, let me make my point on that quickly.
Age of Guests
It is important to keep in mind that the age range of the guests will affect what activities, games and crafts you will be able to do that will be comfortable and at the appropriate level for most of those attending. As mentioned earlier, the capabilities of a 2 year old and a 4 year old vary greatly, as do those of a 5 year old and 8 year old. So keep this in mind when not only creating your guest list, but also when planning the activities for your party.
Last but certainly not least, family is always a special part of any child's birthday celebration. Whether you expect cousins or aunts and uncles, grandparents or nieces and nephews, keep in mind the effect the presence of these individuals will have on the celebration as a whole. Older children may get bored easily, and more adults and people can cause more distraction and overstimulation for the birthday child and his or her guests.
Family is personally very important to me, and I think excluding family from the celebration of your little one's birthday is not the answer. Rather, I suggest having a separate more casual birthday celebration with family members (your child will likely be happier having two parties in their honor, anyway!). This could be a gathering for cake and ice cream or a meal; an afternoon in the park, at the country club, by the pool, or at your home.
I hope that this information may shed some insight on things to consider when planning your child's next birthday celebration. I believe all children deserved to be celebrated, and I like to create parties that are the most delightful experience as possible for everyone in attendance.
I warmly welcome any questions or your comments!