Keeping kids' parties manageable Planning: To make sure your child's birthday is happy, try including parents, maintaining time limits and organizing thoroughly.

Child Life

February 02, 1997|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

What's the best way to handle a birthday party for young children? I'm seeing parents leaving kids at birthday parties for three and four hours at a time. What is the host parent supposed to do when children are having fits and throwing tantrums when their parents aren't there?

Lisa, Scottsdale


One of the best ways to head off all these problems, particularly with preschoolers, is to invite the parents to come enjoy the birthday party along with their children.

Readers who called Child Life also suggest limiting the number of party guests and keeping the party short. If you're an organized host, unforeseen disasters should be rare.

For her son's fifth birthday, Mildred Alexander of Catonsville wanted a party that the adults would enjoy as much as the children.

"We [had] a pool party at a local swimming facility that had a setup for young children," Alexander says. "On the invitation I stated that parents and children were invited to swim. I felt that it was a great party because both the parents and children could get in and swim."

When the parents attend the party, they are available to handle any discipline problems that arise with their own children. In addition, they are already on hand when the time comes to leave, says Dorothy Askew of Chesapeake, Va.

If having the other parents on hand for the entire party won't work for you, do as one Lakeport, Calif., parent suggests and invite parents to return in time to enjoy refreshments with the children toward the end of the party.

"I try to have another table or another area so that the birthday children are at one place and yet their brothers and sisters don't feel left out," this mom says.

Be sure your invitation is specific about the ending time of the party, advises Linda Hetzer of New York City, author of "50 Fabulous Parties for Kids" (Crown, $10, $13 Canada).

"Also mention the ending time of the party again when the parent drops the child off," Hetzer says. "You can make it funny by saying something like, 'I'll see you at 5 o'clock, and by then I'll be a basket case.' "

In addition to sending a written invitation, Debra Siegel of Westminster calls each parent before the party and offers to take the child home if the parent can't return at the appropriate time.

"Also, you should always know where to reach the parent in case of an emergency," Siegel says.

Here are some other tips:

Limit the party to 1 1/2 hours until the children are 6 or 7, Hetzer says. Hold the party to two hours until they reach age 11.

If you are stuck with late guests, be ready with a quiet activity such as books, a game or a video, suggests Carolyn Parks, a parent from East Point, Ga.

Limit the number of guests to the age of the child, says Mary Elen Elwell of Ocean City. "We found our 2- and 3-year-old children enjoyed small, simple parties," Elwell says.

Don't open gifts until the end of the party. When her child was allowed to open the presents at the beginning of the party, "all the children wanted to do was play with the gifts and run around the house," says Linda Noel of Freeland.

For children who take naps, schedule the party in the morning while they are still fresh, parent Paula Stewart says.

Think through every aspect of the party and plan even more entertainment than you think you'll ever need.

"If one game or craft isn't working, you can quickly move on to something else," Hetzer says. "If children start to fall apart, you can distract them with a new activity."

Can you help?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at (800) 827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2212 The Circle, Raleigh, N.C. 27608, or send e-mail to

Language barrier?: "I am Spanish-American and my wife is German-American. We are planning to teach our children to speak Spanish, German and English," says Tom S. Jr. of San Mateo, Calif. "Do young children become confused when different languages are spoken at the same time? Will this create problems in their learning? Would other parents please share their experiences?"

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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