Weighing up party options

Four or five is early enough to start birthday parties — any younger and it’s a party for grown-ups.

ORGANISING your child’s birthday party is rife with decisions: What age should you start giving a party? How many kids do you invite? Where do you have it? What about entertainment? And gifts? Should you give goody bags?

“Birthday parties have become big theatrical events. They put parents under extreme pressure,” says Joanna Fortune, clinical psychotherapist. So when should you start?

“Four or five is early enough — any younger and it’s a party for grown-ups,” says Fortune, who says big crowds can be over-stimulating for young children.

Parents who opt for an outside venue avoid the post-party clean-up and there’s the advantage of definite beginning and end points — everybody has to arrive and be picked up on time.

“If hosting it at home, it’s not rude to state on the invitation card: ‘we don’t have space for parents to stay’ and to designate a specific pick-up time. Or you could limit it to one parent per child.

“Otherwise, you’re having two parties — one for adults and one for kids,” says Fortune, who suggests a guideline popular in former days to determine how many children to invite — child’s age plus one, so six guests are enough for a five-year-old.

Inviting your child’s entire class is becoming more common, but large groups can be over-whelming for little people. “Many schools prefer invitations not to be handed out in the classroom, particularly if everybody’s not invited.”

Fortune has met parents who “go all out with clowns, face painters and bouncy castles” because they’re afraid children will be bored.

“Parents shouldn’t feel they need to impress anybody but their own child and all s/he needs is a cake with candles, singing and playing.”

To help keep costs down, it’s a good idea to check with the birthday child’s parents if there’s a a particular gift s/he would like. Most parents will suggest something small and practical.

Nor should you feel obliged to give them goody bags. If you do, why not give a pack of seeds so they can plant something in their garden, suggests Fortune, whose golden rule is ‘keep things simple’.


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