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Tips for Party Etiquette

Parties are the spice of life – a time to gather with friends and family, laugh, talk, play games, and enjoy one another’s company. Still, there are some rules of etiquette when it comes to hosting or attending a party that are good to keep in mind. Here are some tips for handling common party concerns.

Tips for Hosting:

Should I invite all of my child’s friends to the party?

Not necessarily, that could lead to quite a chaotic party! However, be careful when sending invitations so there aren’t hurt feelings among those not included. It’s best to keep the number of guests to a minimum in order to maintain control over the party. For preschoolers, try two to five guests, for school age children, try five to ten guests, and for older kids, try to keep the number to under a dozen.

How do I handle guests who haven’t RSVP’d?

While most guests understand the importance of responding to invitations, some aren’t timely with their replies. As the party date grows closer, reach out to those who haven’t responded and ask if they plan to attend. You could start the conversation by saying, “I just wanted to make sure you received the invitation,” which often softens the tone of the conversation and elicits a non-defensive reply.

How can I help my child be a good party host?

Children sometimes don’t understand party protocol, so it may be beneficial to rehearse ahead of time. Review the fun things that will be happening at the party, and how to behave in each case. Ask your child to remember that guests are there to celebrate, and to be thankful and appreciate they attended.

How do I handle games so that all guests feel included?

Non-competitive games, like treasure hunts and talent shows are always best for children’s parties. These activities ensure there are no losers. If you choose to play competitive games, offer prizes for all players, so everyone feels like a winner.

What should I do if a guest becomes unhappy or unruly?

Sometimes a guest can become overwhelmed by all the activity and may require special attention. If you find a child who is upset or unwilling to participate, have them help you with the party details, such as timing games or passing out balloons, so the guest has something to occupy their time. On the other hand, if you have a guest who is misbehaving and disrupting the party, feel free to take the child aside and let him or her know you’d like them to cooperate, or you’ll have to call their parents. Make sure to do this away from the rest of the party – so he or she has a chance to calm down and rejoin the group without feeling embarrassed.

How do I handle opening gifts at a children’s party?

The gift dilemma offers two schools of thought. Some recommend you don’t open the gifts at the party because the other children will want to play with the presents, and the birthday child may not want to share his or her new toys. Others say children learn the party is not about them and will enjoy watching the birthday child open their gift. Think about which method will work best for your child, and act accordingly.

Are thank you notes still expected?

In this day and age of digital correspondence, many people send thank you e-mails rather than cards. That’s why sending a hand-written, personalized card via snail mail is so appreciated today. It shows that you took the time to let the host or guest know you really enjoyed the gift or party. It’s also a great habit for your children to learn.

Tips for Attending:

How can I help my child be a good party guest?

Again, rehearsing ahead of time can be helpful for your child. Review the fun things that will be happening at the party, and how to behave in each case. Remind them that the party is to celebrate a special day for their friend, and that soon, they too will have their own special day.

If the occasion calls for a gift, how much should I spend?

The idea behind the gift is to show your friend who is celebrating that you care. Consider your budget, then try to find something fitting within range. A gift that shows creativity makes it even more special than simply buying something expensive.

Do you have any tips for attending and hosting parties we’ve missed? Share them with us on Facebook!


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Written by: Penny Warner

Penny Warner has more than 25 years of experience as an author and party planner. She has published more than 50 books, including 16 specific to parties. Additionally, Warner writes a weekly newspaper column on family life, penned a column for Sesame Street Parents magazine and has appeared on several regional and national TV morning programs. Her latest book, 'How to Host a Killer Party', debuted in February 2010 from NAL/Penguin.