Monday, January 18, 2010

Childrens' Party Tips #2: The Guest List

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.

Extended Family

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!


Bethany said...

Many good points about the guest list! What a wonderful idea to have a separate area for siblings, especially younger siblings of party guests. I'll have to keep that in mind for my next soiree!

Marie said...

This is great information and I couldn't agree with you more...I recently threw a baby shower that was for ladies only and 2 of the moms brought their 4 yr old daughters anyways. I didn't allow them to go upstairs to play in the playroom alone (my husband took our 3 kids out to play during the shower) because I didn't feel safe w/ them upstairs alone with no supervision. I told them they could go up with an adult but obviously, the ladies wanted to be part of a shower. Hard situation and frusturating, so I wonder what would be the best solution for that? The girls did fine but were quickly bored.

Kate Landers Events, LLC said...

Hi Marie,

Thank you for your wonderful comments and great question! It sounds like you did a great job under the circumstances you were in! Kudos for staying calm.

As inappropriate as it may seem, some adults will bring children to adult-only events. And often times, they do so without any prior notice.

I feel that for a baby shower, the focus of the guests should primarily be on celebrating the guest of honor, the mother-to-be. When a child (or two, as in your case) is present, they can distract you as the hostess, the parents of the children and even other guests which will likely lessen the enjoyment of everyone involved at the shower.

The answer should be simple. Proper etiquette should be followed by everyone.

Typically when an invitation is addressed to one name on the envelope, it is that one person who is invited--and the recipient of the invitation should know that. When the invitation clearly states "A Ladies Luncheon & Bridal Shower" and no where does it read "families welcome" or "children welcome" or anything to that effect, they should know it's not appropriate for them to bring anyone other than themselves to the shower (by the way, I do NOT recommend putting any sort of wording on the invite saying "no children, please" or anything of that sort).

You would hope that every guest would want the lovliest shower possible for the "mother-to-be" (guest of honor) at the shower, and that bringing their children would be inappropriate and interfere with the celebration and enjoyment of everyone at this special event.

Unfortunately not everyone knows this etiquette, nor follows it.

To be prepared, I would have someone (not a guest!) at the shower, be it your husband, a highly trusted teenage neighbor who babysits for you time to time, your nanny, a niece--to supervise children that may show up to the shower. If no one brings any children? The person responsible for caring for the children is off the hook, they can enjoy the shower, or go home early. You should of course pay the babysitter for the 2 hours you were going to pay them had children come, but I consider this a small price to pay for peace of mind knowing that your shower will be more pleasant and less stressful for everyone, especially the guest of honor and you!

Another note: if the mother is nursing and it is an infant (likely to be sleeping most of the time), the mother will likely want the baby to be with them at all times while participating in the shower. This is a touchier subject, but the baby is much less likely to be a distractiong if they are quietly sleeping in their carrier. And you can invite the mother of the child from the moment they enter to come see a room you have set up for her to nurse in, where to change any diapers and where she can take the baby if he/she gets fussy. Again, this is just a method of "prevention".

Thanks again for your great question.