Top Tips on How to Nail Birthday Party Etiquette – all the Dos and Don’ts!


Let’s talk about kids’ birthday parties. Because once your kid starts school, these parties come thick and fast – and you might even find yourself in a sticky party host situation. So here’s the dos and don’ts of hosting (and attending) a celebration for pint-sized people.

What’s the deal with kids’ birthday party etiquette?

We asked our Facebook community and you guys certainly answered. Oh boy, some of you made PERFECT common sense, some had wise words of warning and some of you had stories that were crazier than a hired party clown, leaving us speechless.

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Birthday party etiquette – have manners gone out the window? Source: Bigstock

Gone are the days where a kids’ birthday party just involved balloons, a jug of cordial and pass the parcel. Farewell, those simple days of yesteryear. *sob* Here’s the scoop below!

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The guest list

When it comes to the nitty-gritty of inviting guests, there are typically two categories parents stick to. They either invite the WHOLE class or in many instances, kids invite a number of kids that coincides with the age they’re turning. Turning 10? Invite 10 kids!

When my daughter was in grade 1, I invited the whole class so no one was left out – soon worked out that was STUPID. I had so many people in the house it was ridiculous.” – Facebook

The invitations

Discretion is key. We know even as adults, it can feel disappointing to miss out and this leads to big feelings for young kids. For this reason alone, try to refrain from your children handing out party invitations in class.

So how DO you smuggle party invites to kids? If you’re from a town where everyone knows where everyone lives, post them (or hand deliver to letterboxes / front doors). If you don’t know where everyone lives, talk to your child’s teacher and ask if they can place invites in kids’ school bags.

I would give invitations to parents or create a Facebook invite. That way they get reminders too. It’s hard to invite everyone so I think putting a cap on it is a good idea.” – Facebook

Destination parties

If you’re the kind of cool mum that is chill enough to take 10 kids to the cinema, a water park or somewhere else fun (hello, Kmart party!) for some birthday fun, factor in paying for ALL (invited) guests’ entry fees and costs. If it looks like it will blow the budget, look for a cheaper alternative or save it for next year.

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Pool parties are AWESOME – but just make sure you pay everyone’s entry fee! Source: Canva

The all-important RSVP

Always, always include an RSVP date on your party invitations, along with your phone number and email address so it’s SUPER easy for people to shoot you a quick text back.

Here’s a tip: When sending out an invitation, don’t include your home address on it. Parents will then NEED to RSVP to you to find out your address details.” 

Party favours – yes or no?

It’s a yes from me. A longtime birthday party tradition, party favours, lolly bags or goodie bags are part of the hosting fun. When I was growing up it was merely some mixed lollies and a balloon in a bag but today, it can be anything from beautiful cookies, bubble wands, colouring books – whatever takeaway gift tickles your fancy and fits in the budget.

Check out our story on The Loot Bag Re-Invented (Ideas Other Than Lollies for Take Homes) for some more ideas.

Presents – open at the party or leave until later?

Let’s be honest, opening presents at kids’ parties can be fraught with danger. Particularly if your kid has no filter or lacks graciousness when excited.

Hearing “I’VE ALREADY GOT THAT” or “I DON’T LIKE BOOKS” being blurted out can be akin to fingernails down a blackboard for parents. On the flip side, it can be really exciting for guests to see what they all bought the birthday kid.

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The present opening might require some coaching before the big day. Source: Bigstock

Say thanks!

It’s SUPER important to receive gifts in the same spirit of generosity in which they were given.

Always send a note saying thank you for your gift. Something along the lines of “Hey Tommy, thanks for coming to my party and for my awesome gift – I LOVE Lego! I hope you had as much fun as I did! From Jim”. Short and sincere is all it needs to be.” 

Unexpected guests arriving

Even though people SHOULD have RSVPd, there’s often a parent or a sibling who might stick around for the duration of your party that you didn’t account for. I make it a rule to have a couple of extra party favours and enough food to cater for a couple of ring-ins you otherwise wouldn’t have expected.

I have no problem with siblings coming if the parents are also staying, I just ask everyone to RSVP with exactly who from each family will be attending so I know numbers. ALWAYS RSVP!!! ” – Facebook

young kids holding balloons and presents, kids party
If there are siblings staying, do try to include them. Source: Bigstock

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What if we can’t afford to attend the party?

If there’s an expectation that you have to pay for your child to attend a party (if you have to buy a ticket to the cinema, mini-golf, an amusement park or costumes etc), it’s perfectly fine to decline the invitation.

Instead, offer to have the birthday child over for a fun playdate at home to celebrate at another time.

Do I take a gift?

Yes, you should take a gift. Buy or even make a gift. Either way, a gift is a must. Do set a budget though – and remember there will be LOTS of parties throughout the school years. So it might not be wise to drop $50 on a gift every time an invite makes its way home. Be a bargain hunter – you can get lots of great gear for under $20, even under $10! On the flip side, if NO GIFTS is stated, respect the host’s wishes.

I ask for no gifts as people’s presence is enough present and I don’t want the focus to be on what you get. Making memories and having fun is enough of a gift!” – Facebook

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Take a gift. But be wise about how much you spend – you’ll be buying many more! Source: Bigstock

Many parents are embracing the FIVER party which is a much more affordable option for gift giving. Definitely something to think about if you’re planning a birthday party soon.

What about my other kids?

Your other children aren’t invited to the party, so shouldn’t attend. If at all possible, try and arrange for siblings to be looked after by someone else for the duration of the party if you have to stay.

If I specifically want a drop off party I write “drop off : time , pick up : time” so there is no confusion.” – Facebook

If you don’t have to stay, by all means, the whole family can drop the attendee off and then skedaddle.

Do you stay or do you go?

Ask the host what she’s comfortable with – more often than not the host has enough on-hand help to be able to drop and run!

I reckon this depends on your child’s age. Under 5s might not be ready for mum to leave just yet. But your 10-year-old will probably be more than happy to say, “See ya mum” and enjoy a few hours with his mates.” – Facebook

Drop off and pick up – don’t be tardy!

Be punctual. Don’t drop off too early where hosts are still trying to do last minute set-ups and don’t be any more than a few minutes late to pick up your kids from a party!

Please, if you drop your child off do not send someone else to pick them up unless you let the host know in advance…I don’t know if ‘Uncle bob’ who just showed up at the gate is legit and I’m running a party so I have not got the time to do a five point background check. This happened 3 times at the last party we hosted!” – Facebook

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Always pick-up the kids from a party ON TIME! Source: Bigstock

There you have it folks, all the do’s and don’ts of throwing and attending kids’ parties. MANNERS is very much the name of the game regardless of if you’re a host or a guest, so let’s not forget to use them!

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Avatar of Lexi Klaebe

South Australian mum and self proclaimed foodie, Lexi can most days be found in the kitchen, apron tied firm and armed with a whisk or wooden spoon!

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