living: celebrating

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It’s great to have some activity/activities planned for any birthday party where the kids attending 2 and a half and older.
First & Second Birthday Parties
These parties are usually mostly for adults—family and good friends, and some children.  Most people find it’s best to keep it simple and schedule it for the morning or right after nap, depending upon your child.  Try to time the party so your child sees everyone arriving, rather than waking up to a house full of people.
Third, Fourth, Fifth, etc. Birthday Parties

Three year olds (and older) are usually so excited for their birthdays, and parties.  Know your child, and make sure you have enough to do—some kind of entertainment as a focus (maybe a singer) or you have the party at an age appropriate place (gymnastics, etc.).  Three year olds and up need to be busy.

If your child is in school, guidelines may request that you invite every child in the class to the party, or just one or two.  While at first some people balk, this rule is a lovely one.  It allows parents and children to get to know each other without the snubbing that would happen if you were making a “list”.  It allows children to make friends and not have to keep secrets (keeping a party a secret for a four year old is impossible).  It ensures that parents don’t “slip up” and talk about the party with or in front of parents who aren’t invited.  It enhances school and classroom community.

Eventually, when your child is 6 or 7 or 8, people may choose to have smaller parties.

Keep a List
Most kids I know have ideas for birthday parties all year round—when my daughter suggests something for her next party, if we are home (or she is really serious) I add it to the list--  our lists include:

  • Birthday party ideas
  • Halloween costume ideas

I keep my own list of gift ideas—it’s satisfying to write it on a list and sometimes this allows you to evaluate and pare down.
Can I say, “No Gifts”?
Usually saying “no gifts” creates a bit of tension for the people you have invited.  And, there is something wonderful choosing a present for a friend, and getting presents is fun too!
What do I do with all the presents?

Open them!  And then put ¾ of them in the closet and take them out throughout the year.
Who writes the thank-you notes?
I always write the notes on flat note cards so my child can draw on the back.  I try to write about a way we have used the present, and I read the card aloud so my child knows what I’ve written.

Gift Bags or Donation?

It can be shocking, but by the time they are 3 or 4 years old, kids expect a gift bag at the end of a party.  You’ll make the decision that is best for your family.
We did made a donation for my daughter’s fourth party.  She understood the meaning, chose the person for our micro-loan, and we gave out her favorite chocolate (a small bar) with a brief explanation pasted on the back and a balloon.  She has since told me that she would like a gift bag for her next party.
While I agreed to this originally, the stock market crashed and I felt awkward, so I “floated” the no gift bag idea again and suggested sponsoring a child or an animal.  Later that week my daughter learned about Haiti in school (a teaching assistant had volunteered in an orphanage) and we chose, together, to sponsor a little Haitian girl the same age.  We have been writing to her for almost 6 months (June 2009) and the children really enjoy the back and forth.  I know it’s a bit forced, on my part.

*Note:  It’s a good idea to alert the parents beforehand, or at the party so they can help explain.  If kids are used to getting a gift bag, the absence of it will be difficult for some—easing the transition is helpful.
Gift Bag Trauma
Historically, people feel the need to give a gift bag at the end of a birthday party.  After a few parties both the children and parents begin to expect one.  If the idea doesn’t thrill you, here is one way to make this more meaningful: donate to a charity and write a short note that you attach to a balloon or a small simple gift (bouncing ball, small pack of stickers, etc.).
Birthday Parties at School
Most schools allow you to bring something and read a book on your child’s birthday (or half birthday, if your child is born in the summer months when school is not in session.


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