Remember getting invited to a friend’s birthday party when you were a kid? Remember feeling so excited to get to see your friends, do something special and have birthday cake? It was such a blast!
How about now? How do you feel when your child gets invited to a birthday party? Excitement? Dread? Mix of both? Last weekend, my kids were invited to a friend’s party and they were super excited to go. While I was there, I was chatting with one of the dads who said, “My social life is bringing my kids to parties. We have three today and another one tomorrow.” I laughed because four seemed like a record weekend and yet I could easily see how that could happen.
Like it or not, the birthday party circuit is a part of your life as a parent. There’s tons of advice out there on how to reduce the stress of planning and throwing a party—but how about managing all the birthday party attendance that becomes part of your life as a parent? Yes, you can take the stress out of going to birthday parties and having fun going to them, too!
If you have younger kids, know that tagging along on the birthday circuit doesn’t last forever. My oldest is 10 years old and his parties are all of the drop-off variety these days, which has opened up a whole different kind of reality. Last month, I ran into some friends who were out on a date night while their kids were both at simultaneous birthday parties. Living the dream! If the stars ever align like that for us, I’ll be pretty excited. But in the meantime, I also really do like doing the birthday party thing and look forward to going to them. Once both my kids are older, I think I’ll genuinely miss it.
What’s so great about birthday parties, anyway? Here’s what I think.
Birthday parties offer a chance to see your kids hanging out with their friends.
I long to be a fly on the wall when my kids are at school to be able to watch them and play with their friends. It’s one of my favorite parts of hosting playdates and a great chance to see a part of their world that I might not normally get to see. Parties let you do all that and get to know their buddies and see them together.
You get to connect with other parents in your community.
I love talking to fellow parents. At this last party, I had a great conversation with another mom about why she chose to send her kids to the schools they were going to and I really learned a lot. I genuinely find these conversations fascinating and a great way to meet parents within our school and neighborhood, trade information and make parent friends.
Your kids learn how to be a good guest.
My kids look forward to these times because of all the fun naturally. But I think it’s also great for them to learn how to be generous and thoughtful about their friends. They learn how to be a good guest. We try to teach our kids about giving and generosity in other ways too but this might be one of the most tangible ways that they learn to do that.
So, how do you maximize the fun and cut back on the stress? Here are my seven best tips for how to have more fun at your next kids’ birthday party.
Plan Your Savvy Birthday Party Circuit Strategy
1. Find your magic number. How many parties are too many parties? Through trial and error, figure out what works best for your family and politely decline the ones that go over your number. For our family, I have learned over the years that we can do one birthday party a weekend and have a blast—any more than that and things start to come apart at the seams. For a special circumstances we might break that rule, but generally we try to hold to it—and we’re all happier because of it. But your family may be different. Maybe you’re like the dad I talked to and four is great for you. Find your sweet spot as a family and try to stick to that.
2. Divide and conquer. If you’re co-parenting and only one partner goes to the party, the other one can do something else and relieve you at another point. One of you may enjoy the birthday party scene and the other not so much. Or if you know another family that is invited too, carpooling might save time and energy.
Tackle All Those Gifts Like a Boss
3. Stock up on birthday cards. If your kids don’t like making cards and you don’t want to have to run to Target just to buy yet another a birthday card, stock up on gender neutral birthday cards ahead of time.
4. Keep some gift cards towards experiences on hand. My son once got a pair of movie tickets as a birthday gift and loved it—so now, we often like to give those as gifts to others. Other experience-type activities that are great are gift certificates to a local frozen yogurt place, ice cream shop or kids bookstore. Another upside with these kinds of gifts is that there is no wrapping required! Just stick it in the card.
5. Save yourself a trip to the store. If buying a gift, put your Amazon account to use and order it as soon as you RSVP so you aren’t scrambling with that last-minute Target run.
Party Like a Pro With Your Kids
6. Talk through expectations. You can remind your kids about wishing the host happy birthday and thanking them for the invitation. If you think there’s something at the party they may struggle with—taking turns, watching someone else open gifts, not being the one who gets to blow out the candles—talk about it ahead of time. While having these talks don’t guarantee these issue won’t surface at the party, they’re good to have regardless.
7. Ask a follow-up question. After a party, I really like asking my kids not just if they had fun but also asking them how they were a good friend or demonstrated kindness to others. Over time, I think this helps them learn that it’s nice to have a good time but that it’s also really important to be kind and celebrate others. If I noticed them doing those things, I point them out too.
Do you love or hate the birthday party circuit? What are your tips on how to take the stress out of juggling multiple birthday parties?