Kids' Birthday Parties: Frequently Asked Questions

Learn the dos and don'ts of throwing your child a birthday bash.

Here are some frequently asked questions about throwing a kid's birthday party:

Should I invite friends or just family?

That depends on the age of your birthday baby. For the very first parties -- 1 and 2 years old -- you might want to just have family or close friends and keep it an intimate affair. After all, at this age, a little stimulation goes a long way. Just the cake will be an eye-opener for your 1-year-old. Preschoolers and up may want to invite friends from the playground or day care.

My child is old enough to invite friends. How many should I invite?

For a preschooler, here's a good general rule: invite the number equal to the birthday child's age plus one. For school-age children, the party size can be more flexible. Be certain, though, that you do not leave out just one or two children in a classroom. If you feel the need to invite an entire day-care classroom, be sure to emphasize that parents should attend with their children.

How far in advance should I send the invitations?

Give at least two weeks, but not more than four. That's enough time for the attendees to arrange transportation and purchase a gift, but not so much time that the invitation gets misplaced or forgotten.

Do I need a theme?

It's a nice idea, both for you and the children. A theme helps you organize what you'll need ahead of time. And kids get into it. But don't feel pressured to stick like glue to your theme. If your birthday boy or girl wants an astronaut cake on dinosaur plates with ladybug napkins, go with it.

How long should the party go?

For the under-3 crowd, an hour is plenty. For 4- to 6-year-olds, two hours works well. Older children can enjoy a two-hour party, or a bit longer, provided there's plenty of varied entertainment.

How can I throw this party without going crazy?

Ask for help. Arrange for friends and relatives to assist you on party day. One helper per six children is a good guideline. Assign them specific tasks, such as helping to run party games, serving food, and cleaning up. Perhaps some of the parents of party guests will be willing to pitch in. You can return the favor on their child's party day.

Sources: The Best Birthday Parties Ever! A Kid's Do-It-Yourself Guide (The Millbrook Press, 1999) by Kathy Ross; Great Parties for Kids (Williamson Publishing Co., 1994) by Nancy Fyke; Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and Other Party Games (Morrow Junior Books/New York, 1993) by Joanna Cole and Stephanie Calmenson; Rainy Days and Saturdays (Workman Publishing Co., 1995) by Linda Hetzer

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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