A birthday party dilemma

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  April 15, 2009 05:25 AM

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My 4-year-old has become a bit of a social butterfly, flitting from playdate to birthday party to after-school adventure in the cul-de-sac with the neighbors. Which is great, except now I'm faced with a birthday party dilemma: Invite the whole class or just a few kids?

In the past, we kept things pretty simple. Just the neighbors, a handful of family friends, and out-of-state family members who would travel to our place for the occasion. We kept the activities simple, too: decorating something or other with stickers (always a hit with the preschool set), playing dress up, running around in the yard.

After attending several gymnastic parties and a few others with princess themes, though, I'm not sure that a simple family gathering will do. And I'm not sure that I want it to.

When I was a kid, in the (gulp) '70s, my parents used to insist that I invite my entire class to my summertime birthday parties -- plus my classmates' parents and siblings. We had a pool and a huge yard and kids would swarm around like cake-fueled bees while the parents would sip beer and eat grilled chicken and much fun would be had by all.

Or so I assume. I never heard my parents complain. But I'll level with you: The idea of inviting all of my kids' classmates and their families to my house is enough to give me the vapors.

On the other hand: The idea of my 4-year-old knowing about a classmate's party but not being invited to it breaks my heart, and I don't want to make another child feel that way. In fact, that's how most parents seem to view the issue. "I know life's not fair," Momlogic's Julie wrote recently. ""But I don't know why my son has to learn that lesson in second grade. Isn't that a little young to adopt a 'life sucks, then you die' philosophy?"

Have birthday parties just become too PC? At Cafemom, one member points out: "Everybody has become so worried about hurting other's feelings in this regard that I've seen parents nearly go broke because they not only felt compelled to invite every kid in the class but they take it a step further and invite all the kids in the same grade!... If your child does not hang out with people at school, why would you want to invite them?"

So I'm throwing the question out to you. Do you invite your child's entire class to the birthday party? Why or why not?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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74 comments so far...
  1. I think we're all taking this birthday party question a little too seriously. Personally, I believe that celebrating my child's birth should be done with those people who share her life with her on a daily basis- her family and a few close friends. This notion that we need to "invite the whole class so that feelings don't get hurt" seems ridiculous to me. When we graduate high school, do we invite every senior in the class to our graduation party? When we get married do we invite every co-worker in our office? As for the comment "I know life's not fair, But I don't know why my son has to learn that lesson in second grade. Isn't that a little young to adopt a 'life sucks, then you die' philosophy?" Isn't that going a bit too far? Recognizing that not everyone becomes a close friend in the second grade , should hardly lead a child to believe that "life sucks and then you die"...we are responsible for modeling coping mechanisms for our children. I see this as an opportunity to teach the truth to children about social experiences. Why are we so darn afraid of letting our children experience the world? Isn't our job to help them become independent, successful adults? How can we do that when we shelter them from every hurt feeling?


    Posted by Kay April 15, 09 08:51 AM
  1. Totally agree with Kay's comment. Children will get over it if they are not invited to every single classmate's party. They are much more resilient then we give them credit for. They need to learn from a young age that they aren't always going to get invited to every little party or event. Why not learn it now, then when they are a teenagers and expect to get everything they want.

    Posted by RAD April 15, 09 09:29 AM
  1. I think that not all children in the class should be invited BUT invitations should be mailed to the invited children's homes and not given out in class so that those who do not receive invitations do not feel left out.

    Posted by Kim April 15, 09 09:35 AM
  1. My daughter's preschool's policy was - you should invite either all the children in the class (classroom, not level) or all the children of the same sex as the child, or no one. That worked for us.

    And the bankruptcy aspect only comes with the elaborateness of the party. A party at home, with a few pizzas, some fruit and a cake should not bankrupt you. As for all the parents, you could ask some to stay, and make clear to the others that it's a drop off. If they don't want to bring the kid then, they don't bring the kid.

    Posted by delilah April 15, 09 09:35 AM
  1. No, I never have invited the whole class. My two daughters have had small birthday parties at home. To determine the number of guests, we count age plus one. Before their first "friend party," I was very strict with the girls to NOT mention their party at school or in front of other children who are not being invited.

    My reasons for this decision include a small house, and not wanting my children to grow up with grandiose expectations. I want them to learn to enjoy the simple things in life.

    I will admit to questioning whether I should be allowing my girls to go to parties of children who I know won't be invited to our parties, but if the parents want to invite the whole class... who am I to question their decision?

    Posted by HollyP April 15, 09 09:38 AM
  1. I've had two "invite the whole class" parties, because they were being held at venues where that made sense (where you pay the same price for any number of kids up to 25). For home parties, we usually set a number limit and let the kids choose who to invite. We do have a few rules - one year my son wanted to invite all of the boys except one, and we said that was not OK. Most of the time, I can't afford to include the entire class, and I don't particularly want to entertain children who my kids don't even like, so I don't bend over backwards to include the entire class. In any case, we teach our children not to discuss parties (either theirs or others') in group settings, as there may be other children who weren't invited and it's not right to rub that fact in. It's about teaching your children to be thoughtful and courteous.

    Posted by akmom April 15, 09 09:43 AM
  1. Totally agree that parents take the whole birthday party thing way too seriously!

    A 4-year old barely knows when his birthday is approaching. Wait until they are 10 and start the party planning 6 months advance (on their own), with itinerary, guest lists, themes, etc.

    We've never invited the whole class to any birthday party. We've tended to keep the parties small and with close friends. Even so, it's difficult when you tell the child you can choose only 4 or 5 or 6 friends. There is always someone left out.

    When they are older, they learn that lesson. When they are 4, they are just happy to have a party -- I've never known a 4 year old to be comparing his party to other parties he's been to and to be disappointed that his isn't as grand or big, etc.

    The parents who feel compelled to invite every kid in the class are the ones throwing the over-the-top sweet-16 parties on MTV costing in the 10s of thousands of dollars. Ridiculous, over indulgent.

    Posted by Mary April 15, 09 09:45 AM
  1. I heard a great Birthday Party rule of thumb from a friend: "Invite the same number of children that your child is years old." My daughter turned 4 and we invited 4 kids. They had a blast. Since you've been invited to a bunch of parties, it might be harder to choose, but I would stick to just kids that your child is really friendly with. I also don't understand the cost of some of the parties that people are paying for.

    Posted by Christine April 15, 09 09:46 AM
  1. Depends on how big the class is. If it is 15 or 20 kids that she sees everyday, then yes, I would invite them all. (It is not like inviting a whole class of 300 to a graduation party.) Alternatively, you can invite just the girls (or boys if you have a boy). Maybe just have the party at a playground and make it informal with cake and ice-cream. It doesn't have to cost alot if that is even a concern of yours.

    Now that our daughter is turning 6, we are planning a party for all her school friends. She has been invited to all these kids birthday parties, and it is a great chance to her to socialize with some classmates whom she doesn't usually play with. We will have a second small party at home for family and some family friends. Pretty informal.

    I think we are right to try to protect our kids from having their feelings hurt, at least until they are big enough to understand. Four is not big enough to understand, and 6 is stretching it too. Maybe about the same age that kids should stop trick-or-treating is the age that kids can start to pare down their parties...9 or 10.

    Posted by bv April 15, 09 09:48 AM
  1. I would invite the whole class, but at a minimum you should invite all the kids whose birthdays / after school adventures your "butterfly" was invited to.

    If you take and do not give, your butterfly might find himself left out next time and you'll have to explain why.

    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you...

    Posted by HBX April 15, 09 09:49 AM
  1. I agree, inviting the entire class seems to just be taking the birthday party too far. Maybe it's best to tell your child "you're seven, you get to invite seven friends to a family get together for your birthday." It seems like birthdays and celebrations just get too out of hand - everyone will understand, especially in this economy! As a child I rarely had a birthday party, it was always cake with family at the next holiday get together (my birthday is close to Thanksgiving) and I grew up not expecting a huge lavish afair, my parents reserved "big" parties for major milestones and I think I'll do the same with my children.

    Posted by ZurisMom April 15, 09 09:59 AM
  1. As the kids are little, we have always kept the birthday parties small, just family and a few friends. My son's last year in preschool, we invited the whole class because his birthday was one of the last times they were all together, but I would never do it again. The only reason it worked for us was because he has a summer birthday and the kids just played outside. We get more invitations to birthday parties in the summer than during the cold months, so I have to assume that plenty of kids are having parties that they don't invite the whole class to. My plan this year is for him to just invite a couple of friends.

    Posted by jenny April 15, 09 09:59 AM
  1. Are you a slave? Don't be a fool. A few friends are OK. But unless you own an assembly hall or gymnasium and pool, teach your child the realities of life now. Invite only a few of your child's (and your!) close friends. Set a time and abide by it. And if your child gets snubbed by a few others as a result, those few others are not friends anyway. Let's be reasonable. And if your child is devastated by having a small party instead of a bash, that child is already spoiled. Time to correct it.

    Posted by Colifton Cooley Dean April 15, 09 10:00 AM
  1. I think inviting one or two close friends from a large class of, say, 20, is fine. As is inviting all of the kids of the birthday boy/girl's gender. But once you go beyond that, it is a small step to excluding just a few. I'd rather err on the side of overinclusiveness and make the party simpler. If my kids had summer birthdays, I'd opt for the option the author's parents chose as a child.

    I agree inviting whole grades is excessive - we've invited all of my child's class, then cherry-picked just those with whom my child is friends in others.

    Posted by JennT April 15, 09 10:01 AM
  1. Personally, I think inviting the whole class - or at least all the girls - is the right thing to do. I certainly don't think you need to "invite" the parents - although since the kids are so young some will inevitably want to hang around, especially if they don't know you well. So have an area with a cooler of water and softdrinks, and a couple of munchies for them, but don't feel like you have to entertain them. Frankly, I don't think it's a whole lot more work to have 10 or 15 kids vs. 5 or 6. A few more goodie bags I guess. We've always done as you describe -I have twins with a June birthday, so weather has been my friend - everyone in the backyard, pop-up pool, pinata and other games, crafts set up in a quiet corner for those that need peace.

    Posted by Kathy April 15, 09 10:12 AM
  1. My thoughts - what does your child want to do? In reality, its their day, so shouldn't it be up to them? At four, I think the capacity is there to communicate what they want. I gave the options to my four year old, and he told me he didn't care about anyone else but his best pal coming over for his birthday party. So, I threw him a birthday party of 2! him and his best buddy... They had a blast!

    Posted by darcy April 15, 09 10:12 AM
  1. First you have to settle the question of WHERE, and that will dictate the WHO. It sounds like your best bet is TWO parties. One for the bulk of the children (it is not necessary to invite future psycopaths, mean kids or those who bite!) at a planned event outside you home: gymnastics, pool, art, cermaics, what have you. Then throw a BBQ for your friends and family, neighborhoods friends, and their kids.

    Posted by alquimista April 15, 09 10:14 AM
  1. There are plenty of ways to have birthday parties which are inexpensive and still include everyone. Isn't that what we are suppose to be teaching out 4 year olds? To include everyone? Look to your local community, have a tour of a fire station, get a park permit, and have an old fashion field day, with races and games, have a scavenger hunt at a local beach for sea glass or other ocean wares. Be creative. These are things which are not limited to just a few children. If you want to be crafty, Oriental Trading Company has plenty of ideas for creative kids for pennies on the dollar. Birthday Express, has party supplies, which give you discounts if you buy more products. Think outside the box and I bet you will be able to come up with something fantastic that will fit your budget and include everyone.

    Posted by Shawn April 15, 09 10:38 AM
  1. I told my now 5 yr old that she could invite 5 classmates, we came up with the names together and I quickly put the invites in the kids' folders. It's a common practice and I know for sure we've been not invited to some parties - we're all having the same dilemma. There's no reason to worry. At that age, everything is dramatic so you can't win anyway.

    Posted by kmira April 15, 09 10:38 AM
  1. 4 year old's may be too young to talk or care about whether they were or were not invited to a classmate's bday party. 2nd graders are different. I don't think the whole class needs to be invited but it would be rough to invite everyone except for one kid - that's cruel. Inviting everyone in that grade just seems like a plea for presents.
    And is it the norm for people to give presents when they are invited to a bday party even if they don't attend?

    Posted by ladyofthehouse April 15, 09 10:51 AM
  1. The difference between high school seniors and four-year olds is important. Invite the whole class or none (and not everyone will come anyway). You can start excluding kids when they're older -- even second grade -- but at four or five years old I don't think they can really get it.

    Posted by Jim April 15, 09 10:53 AM
  1. Start learning the lesson in the preschool. For one thing, a child might learn earlier that there are consequences of not being nice and not being a good friend. If you are not a good friend, you do not get invited. And, you also learn that you have to work with limited resources. Start now, not at 16 when those Super Sweet 16 parties use the invitation as a weapon.

    Posted by Karen April 15, 09 10:53 AM
  1. Everything in life should be this simple.
    You need to invite the whole class. You do.
    The only way around this is if you have a girls-only or boys-only party.

    I just had my 5 year olds kindergarten class over. But I did it on a Friday between 1-3pm. Parents loved the idea of not having to commit to something on the weekend and my daughter got the loud and fun birthday party she wanted.
    The only adults there were the mothers and they had a good time chit chatting while their kids ran around and played games supervised by me.

    Posted by Lynn April 15, 09 11:00 AM
  1. My rule of thumb is -- all the kids of the same gender in my child's classroom (my daughter and all the girls) plus anyone she hangs out with on a regular basis (extended day friends and family friends). Invitations to home only. Still it's tricky..

    Posted by lislis April 15, 09 11:11 AM
  1. For my son's 3rd birthday party, I invited his whole preschool class (about 10 of them total) and only 3 showed up so even if you do invite them all, chances are...not all of them will come. In the end, then, nobody gets hurt. I think it's hurtful to children and they don't understand un like a co-woker per say being not invited to a wedding...I also don't understand why you can't just have a low key pizza, cake party that doesn't cost an arm & leg either. Why does everything have to be so expensive and grandiose?

    Posted by Erica April 15, 09 11:12 AM
  1. Seriously, this is an easy one: do what is practical. Invite true friends only. Besides, who really wants to drag his or her kids to every other random, loosely connected classmate's party? Between my two daughters, that could be 50 Saturdays a year! I think parents need to get a grip; I can't even believe this question is being asked.

    Posted by JPDad April 15, 09 11:12 AM
  1. I've gone through this several times now with my three sons. Invite the whole class. Classes at this stage only have about 20 kids in them, and I can guarantee that only about half of them will show. If the weather's nice let them run around outside and play. They'll make their own fun. Even if you have to have it indoors, there are plenty of activities that will keep them reasonably corralled, like some type of crafts project. They're too young to be deciding who makes the cut socially. They have plenty of time to weed out classmates when they get a little older. Plus it gives your kids the opportunity to get to know the other kids in a setting other than school - and that can make a huge difference in how kids act. They may actually end up making more friends.

    Posted by jozkid April 15, 09 11:19 AM
  1. Last year, our daughter wanted to invite her entire preschool class (19 kids), plus her 2 best friends who didn't go to her preschool, plus her 2 cousins who would be in from out of state. Yes, that is 24 kids, total. We wound up renting a pavilion at a local park, ordering a couple of sheet pizzas (delivered right to the pavilion!) and providing chips, veggies with dip, juice boxes and bottles of water. Oh, and a cake of course, which we baked ourselves so it would be half chocolate, half vanilla per our daughter's request, and also to accommodate the severe food allergies of her best friend, a couple of classmates, and one of our nephews.

    We brought a boom box and played kids' music at the pavilion. The kids spent an hour running around the playground, then ate, did cake, played Pin the Tail on the Donkey, pulled the pinata strings (pinata was filled with noisemakers and small toys, and was in lieu of doing goody bags) and we were done. A great time had by all and total cost for 24 kids (22 showed up) plus at least 1 parent per kid, and in a few cases, some siblings as well was under $200. That is considered "quite reasonable" for a child's birthday party in our neck of the woods, believe it or not.

    This year, Kiddo really wants to invite the whole class again. (Her bday is next month, so this is a timely topic for me, LOL!) After asking her which of the kids in her class of 17 she actually plays with, she named all but 4. Well, there's no way I'm inviting all but 4; it just feels too exclusionary at this age, and I already dread the thought of cliques and popular v unpopular kids that seems to start earlier and earlier in school now, so I don't want to be helping that along any.... So, we're doing the party in the park again and she can have as many kids as she wants.

    Let's just hope it doesn't rain!

    So far, there have been 2 birthday parties that I know of in Kiddo's class this year to which she was not invited. Then, there was one girl who had a "girls only" Build-a-Bear party, one boy who did a "boys only" Laser Tag party and the rest have done full class (including one at Chuck E Cheese, oh my) parties. I agree, though, that at this age at least, if you're not doing a gender-based party or *only* inviting one or two kids, then whole class just seems to be the way to go.

    I'm sure as she gets older, she'll become more selective, but you're only young once and I think it isn't bad to do a whole-class party, as long as the budget permits.

    Posted by Heather @ nobody but yourself April 15, 09 11:20 AM
  1. As a teacher, principal, and a newish parent (I have a 4.5 year old and a 2 year old), I embrace the principle of inviting a child's whole class, or at the very least, all of the children who are of the same gender as my child (we have this policy throughout the school, so it includes Bar and Bat Mitzvahs). This is not only one that I personally hold but also one to which my school adheres. Kay, who wrote the first comment, is right that children need to learn the lesson of "life isn't fair" or one can't have it all - something that my teachers and I combat each day (e.g., a child does not get his first choice of electives). Yet, to a 4 year old, a birthday party is a huge deal (my 4 year old begins planning his next party 9 months before!). A child isn’t just a student of a class, but is a contributing member of a community that is built by them in the class, fostered by the teacher, and reinforced by the parents. These are their social peers for a good many and important years. It helps to build the social skills that we want our children to have so that when they do grow up to be adults, they have feelings of responsibility for one another; they will care about others’ feelings for they would not want to purposefully hurt someone – which is what happens when 5 children or 3 children are, or the worst case scenario, 1 child is not invited – even when we rationalize that someone isn’t so close to them or “is just a classmate.” Here is a concept: the birthday party is for the child. So, invite the child’s friends and classmates. It’s not for the parents. Yes, you want parents to come to be part of it, help out, and monitor their own children. But, it should not be expected that you are hosting a gala and must feed everyone, give everyone a place setting, or a parting gift. After all, you are the parent of the birthday child and you should be allowed to enjoy the festivities.

    Posted by Ariel April 15, 09 11:22 AM
  1. It's a tough call - after 2 daycare groups, and kindergarten this year, the potential party list (friends from prior groups plus the 'whole class' of kindergarten) grew to about 30 kids. Clearly this was not practical. So we decided to do a weekend away to celebrate my daughter's birthday in a really special way.

    The downside? Her birthday was one of the first in the class, and I have a feeling I inadvertently set her up to be dropped from other kids' lists because she didn't invite them to HER birthday.

    Posted by KBeach April 15, 09 11:27 AM
  1. For the record I am i not in favor of the whole class invited concept. But I would not advertise the party at school.
    On a more importanst issue,:Since when can a school policy dictate who you can and cannot invite to your home? Is this not the last bastion of choice?
    The school dictates no peanut butter no hugging, touching no anything at school.
    I will be damned if they tell me who I have to invite into my home.

    Posted by quinzgirl April 15, 09 11:36 AM
  1. Birthday parties at that age (age 4) are tough because it is not clear who the party is for. One possible solution that I can suggest is to pack a very special goodie bag for the entire class (preferably without any candies) and distributed at preschool. I did that one year with my daughter and we went through the Oriental Trading catalogue together and picked out things that she likes and would like to share with the class on her special day. She packed each goodie bag for her friends with a personal touch in each. We had a small celebration at home afterwards with just the immediate family members.

    Posted by Lucy April 15, 09 11:41 AM
  1. WOW! I can see that this is another really polar issue in the Mommy Wars. The lesson to be learned here is that you will never please everyone - inviting the entire class isn't necessarily the solution because doing so causes other questions and problems to creep up. Plus it perpetuates the cycle and the question year after year. I agree with JPDad that we don't even enjoy the huge number of parties to which we have to commit on the weekends. It's crazy! When my son doesn't know the child well enough to know what he or she might like as a gift? Then they're not really a friend and shouldn't have been invited to the party. That's just my feeling.

    And so, ultimately you should do what you want to do and can manage financially and emotionally. You'll never please everyone. Do your best to understand what your child wants for his or her birthday and accommodate his or her wishes to the best of your ability and desire to do so.

    Posted by Robin Horrigan April 15, 09 11:42 AM
  1. #33: Right on.

    OMG If I never go to another pizza party for a toddler again it will be too soon! Frankly, I've been relieved that as my kids get older, they are not invited to every single party.

    And #17 -- having TWO parties? Stab me in the eye with a fork right now.

    Posted by down with pizza parties April 15, 09 11:58 AM
  1. Hi,
    What I do is send my daughter to school when it is her birthday with a cake and enough gift bags for everyone in the class. Her teachers have not minded at all playing host to a small party since the whole class can have a piece of cake during snack time. She is 7 and it has worked out great for the last 3 years.

    That also helps with the whole invite everyone and now my daughter has enough presents to supply the opening of toys r us. This way she enjoys her birthday with hschool friends a to.

    Posted by Mom April 15, 09 12:03 PM
  1. We don't do "party place" parties (I imagine someday we might, but for now no), so our parties are small. We've had a blast at the other people's party place parties, but I find that the birthday child gets a little lost in all the hoopla and it's so hectic there's no way to enforce the behavior I'd like my childre to display among his friends. Because we have house parties in the winter, they have to be small. I find with boys it's best to invite one less than the age. If inviting four kids means leaving the fifth kid that they usually play blocks with out then I would let the number go up. Having small parites falls under the "In our family we do things this way" category, which is always a good lesson to reinforce at any age.

    Posted by Pat D April 15, 09 12:05 PM
  1. I am surprised that no-one has touched on another issue related to large parties -- too many gifts! Sure, you can have a "no gifts" party, but these two bring up a host of other issues (some people will not go along with this request, then the others feel bad). I think most parents will be relieved to be excused from bringing their kids to parties all over town, and trying to buy appropriate gifts for classmates they hardly know.

    Many schools allow children to bring in a special snack, or have some other way of recognizing a child's birthday with the whole class at school. Do we really need to celebrate with the whole class again at home? I think it is fine to have just real friends at the party. I would agree with an earlier post that said you couldn't invite all-but-one from the class.

    Posted by momandcook April 15, 09 12:30 PM
  1. HELP! I have a slightly different issue. Maybe this is its own topic.

    My 7 y/o wants to invite not just all the girls in her class but all the girls in her grade. It's not a cost or a number issue (24) but my daughter has not been invited to a single party all year and it's April. She has a couple of close friends whose birthday's haven't arrived yet - so I know she hasn't been snubbed by them. I'm worried that she came up with the idea to invite everyone becasue she hasn't been invited at all - even though I doubt she could articulate it. I know other kids have had group parties - I've seen the pictures Facebook and kept that info from her. I've asked her teacher if she has troubles making friends and playing with other kids and the teacher hasn't reported any problems, but I think she can be bossy and I know she prefers playing with boys. (I thought it was interesting that the list was all girls.) But I'm honestly worried if I invite all these kids, that either only a few are going to show up and she'll feel hurt or if somehow it will seem like she is trying to force friendship where there isn't any with a birthday party invite.

    What do I do?

    That's a tough one. I'd be inclined to ask her why she wants to invite only the girls when some of her good friends are boys, and see if she can articulate a reason. Is there time to invite a couple of the girls from her class over to play before finalizing the party list? That might give you an idea as to whether there's a budding friendship there, or whether your daughter is trying to create one, or whether there's some other issue at play... -- LMA

    Posted by Red-Mama April 15, 09 12:31 PM
  1. When I was younger, my older brother's classmate had a birthday party and invited basically everyone but him. He was heartbroken and cried for days, and was too embarrassed to go to school because he thought everyone disliked him. That's a tough thing to throw at a five year old, and it was even tougher for my mom to try to resolve the situation. If the class size isn't so huge, maybe it would be a better idea to extend the invite to everyone. If it is, however, I suggest the family be discreet in extending the invitation... and to of course invite other kids for playdates later on if you see fit.

    Posted by Rachael April 15, 09 12:45 PM
  1. Our rule was to invite friends with whom you'd had playdates within the past year, allowing for one or two "almost" friends if needed. This helps as they get older and accumulate friends. Parties were on weekends, and invites went to class list addresses with a note that the child was excited to celebrate "with a few good friends," so to please not talk about the party in school. Best party ever? The girls frosted cupcakes my daughter and I made, danced and jumped on bubblewrap in the livingroom, strung big beads into necklaces and bracelets galore. I also spread mural paper on the floor with crayons and we hung up the results at the end. One mom complimented my "retro theme." Easy, fun and I was even cool, to boot!

    Posted by Hannah Roveto April 15, 09 12:51 PM
  1. Before my kids start school, birthday parties are limited to mostly their "friends" who are really my friends' children, plus maybe a child or two from daycare who they seem to be close to. For the youngest grades, I do have them invite all of the boys in their class (I have all sons) plus a few girls they are friends with if they want to. They're so little and everyone talks so I think it's mean to not invite all of the same-gender kids. Even if my kids have been told to not blab about a party, other kids probably will - so we pick places where you pay the same amount for a large number of kids or have the birthday party when weather gets warm enough to play outside at our house or the local playground. As the kids get older (3rd grade and up) they generally get choosier and have more friends outside of their class than in their class so that's when we start to see the invite lists dwindle without hurt feelings.

    Posted by Jen April 15, 09 12:55 PM
  1. I have several nieces and several little girls on my street, so when it was time for my daughters' birthday parties, I only invited those kids. My rule was no one from class -- it would be just too out of control. Then we started receiving invitations from kids in school and I felt bad... until I realized that not everyone has a bunch of kids around. So maybe my daughters were being invited so the birthday child -- who may not have kids their own age on their street or be cousin-less -- could have a festive time. So now I still say no to inviting classmates, but yes to invitations

    Posted by lotsofparties April 15, 09 01:22 PM
  1. We definitely do not invite the whole class. To be honest our son is not "best friends" with everyone in the class, so we only invite his closest friends. My son is 4 as well and he is able to articulate who he would like to invite, which makes it easier. In addition to school friends, we invite our friends and family with kids, and the neighbors who he plays with. With all those people it can really add up. The nice thing about his school is that they usually have a birthday celebration for each child on or around their birthday. This enables all the kids to celebrate birthdays with each other in the classroom with icecream sandwiches or goodies. So no one feels left out.

    Posted by RJL April 15, 09 01:23 PM
  1. I have a five year old and eight year old. My eight year old's birthday usually falls on a 3-day holiday weekend so the one time I tried to hold a party most people did not attend. Instead I have a family party for them and send cupcakes to the class on or near the birthday. So far this hasn't been an issue. I am sure next year I will need to throw a party, but it will be close friends only!

    Posted by Michelle April 15, 09 01:26 PM
  1. A four year old doesn't care at all. It's only the parents that do. The thing I find really ironic is that by the age the kids are old enough to have their feelings hurt by not being invited to a b-day party (2-3rd grade) is exactly the time that parties start being smaller! By far the best parties for our kids have been small, where they can concentrate on a few good friends. If you are renting something out, by all means invite lots of folks but don't do it because you feel you have to. Your 4 year old and his friends won't even remember the party anyway. When you talk to people they are silently relieved to stop the madness because many feel it has gotten out of control...

    My

    My

    Posted by Win mom April 15, 09 01:27 PM
  1. Someone mentioned the school "dictating" who you invite to your home. Of course, the school cannot do that, nor is that the intention. However, as a teacher, I have seen WAY too many party invitations distributed at school, and always one or more children end up in tears as the handful of invitations dwindles in the birthday child's hands, and someone realizes they are not getting one. Invite whomever you like, but send the invites through the mail or by the phone to save the hurt feelings and embarassment of uninvited children here at school.

    Posted by Too Many Tears April 15, 09 02:06 PM
  1. I agree with a post above, invite 4 children if your child is turning 4 yet odd numbers do not tend to work out well. i find that through the years my daughter charlotte works well in even numbers, by having an even number each child has a buddy. For such a young age i believe a party at the house is appropriate with family and a select few from class, invitations mailed to the childs house.

    I think its great writers above teach the children not to speak of invites around other children. Also there are a lot of recipes online on smittenkitchen.com that you might enjoy for cupcakes and treats. Hope it goes well!

    Posted by rose April 15, 09 02:07 PM
  1. Kids know and care, even kids as young as three and four. I invited the entire class until my children were in third grade and planned the activities accordingly. For my family it was better to have a toned-down party with the entire class than a more elaborate party for fewer people.

    My personal nightmare birthday party story did not involve my children, but happened when I was subbing for a teacher assistant at a preschool in an affluent community near Boston. Not only did one student invite every child in the class except one, but everyone car-pooled to the party and left in a group from the school parking lot, leaving that one excluded child AND THE TEACHERS crying on the playground. That was eight years ago and I have never forgotten it. Even now, every time I see that mother I need to walk away. What a message to send to these children!

    Posted by DonnaD April 15, 09 02:11 PM
  1. I have never felt obligated to invite the whole class, I think birthdays should be shared with special people who have a special relationship with the birthday person regardless of age. I have twins in seperate class rooms so if I invited both classes (in November mind you) it would be standing room only in my tiny little house and no fun would be had by anyone!! My dilemna this year is one twin being invited to a party and the other one not being invited, this is hard for them to understand and I admit hard for me as well...

    Posted by Del April 15, 09 02:18 PM
  1. what about a small at school party? Send in cupcakes, hoodsies hats tableclothes (all under 20.00)--let all the kids enjoy the time--no clean up for you, no real expense for the other parents, no weird other parents issues.....

    Then do the traditonal family thing at home....thats what we did for our son at his preschool...they took pictures and emailed me and it was perfect! They have strict no peanut, no snack issues so we did appropriate foods which included popsicles --Dora and Diego hats and tablecloths....so easy and pleased everyone....

    Posted by Maureen Maderos April 15, 09 02:20 PM
  1. Those who say a 4 year old doesn't care must not know the same 4 year olds I do. They plan their next party starting a month after their last and I am told it is an almost daily topic of conversation at the pre-school, including who is, and is not, going to be invited (the kiddos use it as some warped reward and punishment system, apparantly). We are lucky to only have 8 kids in our son's preschool class, mostly boys, and they were all invited to his 4th party and will all be invited to his 5th. The party is at our house, low key with homemade games and activities and sodas for the adults that choose to stay the 2 hours of the party. Our son is required to either donate a newly recieved toy or a toy in good condition to a local charity to offset the accumulation of gifts and teach a good social awareness.

    Posted by C's mom April 15, 09 02:21 PM
  1. One of my best memories was my kindergarten birthday party when my mother invited my entire class to the party. As she put it, "When are they all going to like each other ever again?" You might as well take advantage of the kids getting along while you can and create great memories for your child. What harm can it do?

    Posted by davenpma April 15, 09 02:22 PM
  1. Everyone will NOT be invited to my son's birthday parties when he is in school. I want him exposed to real life. It's silly how every single player on a sports team gets a trophy. People are so scared of hurting feelings that in our haste to do so, we forget that it is normal and a part of life. I don't expect cruelty out of it, but we can be realistic.

    Posted by CommonSense April 15, 09 03:07 PM
  1. OK, sorry to comment again, but... My oldest son had trouble making friends when he got into kindergarten because he was so shy. We had only recently moved into our house in a new town and he didn't have a base of friends in the neighborhood. In the early part of his school year he received not one invitation. We decided to throw the mother of all birthday parties for him as an attempt to get some other kids to know him in a setting outside of school. We hired a magician (which is great BTW, because the kids are entertained for a long period of time and in only one spot) and had pizza and cake and the usual stuff. Well, it worked. Those kids still talk about the magician and his "big underpants" and my son has really opened up socially. I can only attribute it to that party (and we invited everyone). It really is hard for kids at that age not to be included.

    Posted by jozkid April 15, 09 03:14 PM
  1. I'm sorry to say that in my opinion, delilah's comment is completely off the mark. Any school that would have a "policy" about what you do in your own home (she said that her preschool has a policy for birthday parties) is going too far. Secondly, all the machinations about inviting same sex, all the kids, no kids, drop-offs, don't bring the kid - are way too elaborate and completely unnecessary. Kay, the first poster, summed it all up nicely. This is the perfect time to help a child begin to understand how the world works.

    Posted by EW April 15, 09 03:35 PM
  1. why not have a family party as you have in the past. Speak to her day care/school teacher and ask if you can bring a "treat" to school for her birthday..ie: cupcakes but be careful what you bring, make sure the school allows it due to allergies.
    You may want to bring a fruit platter, make flowers out of the fruit, (use cookie cutters) celebrate it that way but don't sweat over it..my goodness, this is carried way to far

    Posted by sally April 15, 09 03:54 PM
  1. Post No. 1 by Kay is perfect! So true and they have to learn sometime.

    I just have to comment though on some posts here. As for those that let the "school policy" dictate your child's birthday party decision - that is absolutely ABSURD! Why should a school have a say in how I throw my child's party. We have to raise our children, not the schools! Ridiculous! Grow some people. Little Johnny and/or Jenny will have to get over it.

    Posted by Darkebe April 15, 09 03:57 PM
  1. I've done what # 50 did above, send some small cupcakes (in order to not ruin diner appetites) and ice cream cups to school and let them all celebrate together without having the kids having to get each other gifts.

    We then have another celebration at home with family, and cousins without all of the pressure of staging an event.

    Posted by Carl_S April 15, 09 04:11 PM
  1. Seriously, all this hullabaloo over a child's birthday. No wonder so many kids grow up with an inflated sense of their importance in this world! Just have a modest, simple celebration and teach your kids that holidays/birthdays, though meaningful, are absolutely nothing to have a panic attack over. Enough with this overindulgent silliness!

    Posted by Rae April 15, 09 04:14 PM
  1. I'm back again, whatever you people do at home is fine, but can we just leave the schools out it? My son is coming home with increasingly elaborate goodybags from school and here people are suggesting that people have the parties hosted there. Preschool is one thing, but it is really silly in the older grades. Can we all just agree to stop one-upping each other all the time? Can school just be school? Send in the cupcakes or the fruit and be done with it.

    Posted by PatD April 15, 09 04:18 PM
  1. So far I've been lucky enough to avoid this issue. My daughter just started pre-school so she really wasn't a "social butterfly" yet for her last party in November. It was 5 of "her" friends, who are really children of my friends, the parents, grandparents and aunts. A nice small gathering as we live in the city and have limited space.

    I also always had small parties home-based parties when I was a kid...and loved playing pin the tail on the donkey, batting at pinatas and doing egg tosses. But I also was not invited to some parties - and while I'm sure that was hard at the time...I'm not sure it's had any lasting effects.

    I also think my daughter already understands the concept that some are friends and some are not. She was having a playdate and had had enough of the child that was not sharing well. When they were taking their time to leave...she started to push this playmate out the door. She has requested not to play with this child anymore...and I'm sure she would not want them at a birthday party.

    I certainly was appropriately horrified and humored by her behavior. We talked about how it was not nice...but on the other hand...don't you wish you could treat some adults in your life this way? Maybe she can teach us a thing or two.

    Posted by bbmom April 15, 09 05:18 PM
  1. We've had a couple of 'invite the whole class parties'. The problem we have is that both my sons have more female friends than male friends. If I invite just the boys, half their friends aren't there. But this is the last year I plan to do that. It is just too much, and some of the kids are ill behaved. So next time, no more than 10-12 guests.

    Posted by BMS April 15, 09 08:34 PM
  1. As a single parent in these tough economic times, I wouldn't be able to afford to invite my 5 year old's whole preschool class. I think that parents need to explain to their kids that being "not invited" to a classmate's party comes down to money sometimes and it could be not personal. I would never be able to afford a parties that my friends throw for their children. I'm trying to teach my child the importance of being thankful for he has. "A thankful heart is a happy heart," is what I remind my son when he grumbles about not having everything his friends have. As for other families, I've seen parents in my son's preschool bring a simple special treat like cupcakes and give classmates a little goodie bag full or dollar store party favors. In short, I think frugal celebrations for my child is teaching him the value of being humble and thankful. Plus, a great time with a few of his close friends will be more memorable than having everyone in his sunday school and preschool class attending his party.

    Posted by bsymom April 16, 09 09:29 AM
  1. A number of people have written that we should 1. Dismiss what the school recommends for birthday parties, and 2. Send in cupcakes and party bags to school.

    My daughter's school doesn't allow cupcakes and party bag and such. It is during school time, so therefore they get a say on that. Every kid on his / her birthday gets a small gift from a gift box the teacher has. And that is plenty exciting for my daughter to be happy to go to school on her birthday. Second, they don't allow distribution of birthday party invitations on school grounds if all of the kids are not invited. Again, it is during school time, so they get a say on that. And it makes sense, they are trying to instill a sense of community, not exclusivity. They do provide names and addresses of the families (with permission of course) for you to do what you would like. What you do outside of school is your own business, of course. However, it is a dangerous precedent to tell your kid that the rules that are set up at school are "flexible". They might extrapolate that "flexibility" to other rules as well. :)

    Finally, as for cost, some of the best birthday parties my kid have been to have been at a playground with a soccer ball, or a jungle gym. Just plan at a non-meal time and bring a small cake that kids can share. Total cost is probably less than $20. Every one will have fun.

    Posted by bv April 16, 09 10:15 AM
  1. Oh, the days of bringing cupcakes to school to celebrate birthdays . . . I want to know where you all live, because I'd be drawn and quartered if I even THOUGHT that anywhere within my school district. This isn't even about allergies, it is about using "food as reward." Makes me want to scream - it is a birthday for goodness sakes.
    When my daugher was in pre-school/daycare, we invited the entire class (age group) of about 15 kids to a party at our house. ONLY ONE parent responded and TWO kids showed up. That was the end of that for us. Talk about disappointment for my daughter! Luckily, we had a second, family/family-friend party that was very well attended.
    She's older now . Last fall for her ninth birthday, I took her and her best buddy to Boston and out to lunch and for ice cream. They had a blast, and so did I. We had a smaller family/friends party at home, too.

    Posted by finny April 16, 09 10:38 AM
  1. No No No!!!! The DUMBEST thing you can do is try to shield your precious darlings from all the icky things in the world!! Its like parents who don’t make their children behave because “they are only four” then wonder why their kids won’t listen to them when they turn fourteen. You can’t change boats in mid-stream…let your kid grow for six or seven years protecting them from hurt feelings then suddenly say, “yeah, well life ain’t fair!” As a parent, you have to stay consistent from the day you bring them home from the hospital. Adjust accordingly for age, but remain consistent. Think of a habit you’ve had for seven years: nail biting, smoking, hair twirling….now try to suddenly end it….Yeah, that’s what its like when you switch parent mode on your kids. We shield them from hurt feelings and don’t take them to funerals then wonder why they have no empathy and go shoot up a mall.

    That aside, no. Don’t invite the whole class. Invite the kids your child hangs out with, or set a guest list limit of ten or seven or however many you want. Themed parties aren’t for the kids, its for the parents to show other parents how cool they are, or how much money they have or whatever – its dumb. Ask any sixteen year old what kind of party they had when they were four and they’ll just give you a blank look. Hey, better yet – what kind of party did you have when you were four? Yeah. A simple party with a few guests and a few games to entertain the kids is all anyone needs at four.
    yoshim

    Posted by Yoshimi April 16, 09 12:02 PM
  1. Must agree with Kim. Absolutely do NOT give out invitations; Valentine's Day cards, &c at school if they're you're not going to invite the entire class. Don't give them out at recess. Don't give them out at the playground. MAIL them. You'd be surprise at how many parents shell out big for a party, but go cheap on a few stamps. It makes the children feel left out. Yet, there are also parents who don't care how the other children feel, as long as their own little darlings are happy. Go to the school principal and ask how s/he prefers these matters to be handled, as well. Many teachers won't all invitations to be distributed in/after class, and rightly so.

    Posted by reindeergirl April 16, 09 04:55 PM
  1. I am a children's birthday party planner and entertainer (Princess Sharon www.PrincessSharon.com)
    I am torn here- I set up my parties for 8 children. I am a true believer in keeping it simple, though you wouldn't know it by my lavish events! :D
    I have a degree in early childhood education, music and theater, and I combine education with music and really really fun activities, games and dress-ups.
    I think, even at 4,5,6 years old, there is a really good lesson in "inviting." Not going crazy and having everyone and the kitchen sink, but acclimating your child to just the children in his or her class DOES feel simple to me! In my opinion, birthday parties run MUCH MORE SMOOTHLY for me when there are just the kids in the child's class. They have already learned to work together and they just have fun. They know how to follow rules together and they are comfortable. When children are able to follow rules and feel safe, they have MUCH MORE FUN! I vote for the whole class (or just the girls!) I think they have enough stimulous in their day and their very own class IS the simple thing! My 2 cents...Princess Sharon

    Keeping

    Posted by Princess Sharon April 16, 09 10:28 PM
  1. If you want to go nuts..invite all...if you want a decent party invite 4..the age of your child. Send the invites to their homes. I have 5 children, all grown, parties are getting out of hand...you can have a nice time without going broke and crazy!!

    Posted by Prrizzo April 17, 09 05:43 PM
  1. When my son was in second grade, a neighbor insisted in inviting everyone in her son's class as well as all the children in the neighborhood to his birthday party. My son came home in tears saying "Jon must not have gotten my present because he didn't know what it was!" He was hearbroken. Only invite true friends to the birthday party!

    Posted by Claudia April 24, 09 05:40 PM
  1. A lot of 4 year olds are just making friends- new schools etc. I dont think it means some bigger lesson on life (i.e you are present-hungry or a spoiled brat) if you invite the whole class. My daughter is shy and hasnt gotten invited to any parties all year (she will be turning 4 next month.) Im hoping that by inviting the whole class of 15 she will get a few more playdates out of it for the future. I hope all of her classmates parents arent as judgemental towards me for my decision as you all are!!

    Posted by louann April 30, 09 07:24 PM
  1. Please read my scenerio: My child plays daily with two other children in the neighborhood. One of the parents had a sleepover b.day party and limited the party to only 2 friends. My child was NOT one of the two friends invited and was devestated. Also, the little b.day boy had verbally told him the day before the party that he wanted him there, then the day of the party said he wasn't allowed to have more than two. To see my boy drop the phone and his blank, pale & hurt little 9 year old face broke my heart. So others feelings DO need to be considered.

    That's heartbreaking... I'm so sorry your child was hurt that way. I hope his friendship with the birthday boy wasn't badly damaged... -- LMA

    Posted by sad in va May 5, 09 11:29 AM
  1. hmm.. I think we do not have to teach children at 4 that life is not fair. There will be enough moments in their life to figure this out. If a preschool class is small I would invite the whole class. I have seen how this can build on their relationships with each other and parents have a chance to talk and build on their relationships too. My 4 year old and I have had many conversations about how nice it is that his friends are coming to share in his birthday but also that we don't "request" certain toys but are happy that a friend picked out a toy " just for you". I did do goody bags but not because I needed to out do other parents but I wanted to teach my son that it is nice to think of others. Most parents have responded that they are coming and that their child is so excited too. We certainly can't do this as class sizes get bigger but for now, I will enjoy the fact that he is 4 and trust that as he grows up he will remember that we try to think of and include others in the best way we can.

    Posted by sue February 17, 11 01:36 AM
  1. When our kids are younger, we enjoy inviting the whole class to a park to play & celebrate. It's simple, cheap, and a great opportunity to meet the other parents too. Usually, the kids all get along well enough that it's a great time for everyone. As the kids get older and form more close-knit social groups then those invitation lists naturally shrink. We see birthdays as a great opportunity to teach our children to include others whenever possible, and we focus our energy on making simple "thank you" treats for their friends who came. And meeting our children's peers and their parents helps us intentionally connect with people in our kids lives that are normally outside our area of influence. I think parents will largely dictate their kids events based on their own biases, so there won't be a right or wrong answer to this. If people bother you, don't invite too many, ha!! By the way, we DID invite the whole school to our oldest daughters high school graduation party. Of course, only her friends came. But we could have handled more :)

    Posted by Mykidsma October 1, 13 04:54 PM
 
74 comments so far...
  1. I think we're all taking this birthday party question a little too seriously. Personally, I believe that celebrating my child's birth should be done with those people who share her life with her on a daily basis- her family and a few close friends. This notion that we need to "invite the whole class so that feelings don't get hurt" seems ridiculous to me. When we graduate high school, do we invite every senior in the class to our graduation party? When we get married do we invite every co-worker in our office? As for the comment "I know life's not fair, But I don't know why my son has to learn that lesson in second grade. Isn't that a little young to adopt a 'life sucks, then you die' philosophy?" Isn't that going a bit too far? Recognizing that not everyone becomes a close friend in the second grade , should hardly lead a child to believe that "life sucks and then you die"...we are responsible for modeling coping mechanisms for our children. I see this as an opportunity to teach the truth to children about social experiences. Why are we so darn afraid of letting our children experience the world? Isn't our job to help them become independent, successful adults? How can we do that when we shelter them from every hurt feeling?


    Posted by Kay April 15, 09 08:51 AM
  1. Totally agree with Kay's comment. Children will get over it if they are not invited to every single classmate's party. They are much more resilient then we give them credit for. They need to learn from a young age that they aren't always going to get invited to every little party or event. Why not learn it now, then when they are a teenagers and expect to get everything they want.

    Posted by RAD April 15, 09 09:29 AM
  1. I think that not all children in the class should be invited BUT invitations should be mailed to the invited children's homes and not given out in class so that those who do not receive invitations do not feel left out.

    Posted by Kim April 15, 09 09:35 AM
  1. My daughter's preschool's policy was - you should invite either all the children in the class (classroom, not level) or all the children of the same sex as the child, or no one. That worked for us.

    And the bankruptcy aspect only comes with the elaborateness of the party. A party at home, with a few pizzas, some fruit and a cake should not bankrupt you. As for all the parents, you could ask some to stay, and make clear to the others that it's a drop off. If they don't want to bring the kid then, they don't bring the kid.

    Posted by delilah April 15, 09 09:35 AM
  1. No, I never have invited the whole class. My two daughters have had small birthday parties at home. To determine the number of guests, we count age plus one. Before their first "friend party," I was very strict with the girls to NOT mention their party at school or in front of other children who are not being invited.

    My reasons for this decision include a small house, and not wanting my children to grow up with grandiose expectations. I want them to learn to enjoy the simple things in life.

    I will admit to questioning whether I should be allowing my girls to go to parties of children who I know won't be invited to our parties, but if the parents want to invite the whole class... who am I to question their decision?

    Posted by HollyP April 15, 09 09:38 AM
  1. I've had two "invite the whole class" parties, because they were being held at venues where that made sense (where you pay the same price for any number of kids up to 25). For home parties, we usually set a number limit and let the kids choose who to invite. We do have a few rules - one year my son wanted to invite all of the boys except one, and we said that was not OK. Most of the time, I can't afford to include the entire class, and I don't particularly want to entertain children who my kids don't even like, so I don't bend over backwards to include the entire class. In any case, we teach our children not to discuss parties (either theirs or others') in group settings, as there may be other children who weren't invited and it's not right to rub that fact in. It's about teaching your children to be thoughtful and courteous.

    Posted by akmom April 15, 09 09:43 AM
  1. Totally agree that parents take the whole birthday party thing way too seriously!

    A 4-year old barely knows when his birthday is approaching. Wait until they are 10 and start the party planning 6 months advance (on their own), with itinerary, guest lists, themes, etc.

    We've never invited the whole class to any birthday party. We've tended to keep the parties small and with close friends. Even so, it's difficult when you tell the child you can choose only 4 or 5 or 6 friends. There is always someone left out.

    When they are older, they learn that lesson. When they are 4, they are just happy to have a party -- I've never known a 4 year old to be comparing his party to other parties he's been to and to be disappointed that his isn't as grand or big, etc.

    The parents who feel compelled to invite every kid in the class are the ones throwing the over-the-top sweet-16 parties on MTV costing in the 10s of thousands of dollars. Ridiculous, over indulgent.

    Posted by Mary April 15, 09 09:45 AM
  1. I heard a great Birthday Party rule of thumb from a friend: "Invite the same number of children that your child is years old." My daughter turned 4 and we invited 4 kids. They had a blast. Since you've been invited to a bunch of parties, it might be harder to choose, but I would stick to just kids that your child is really friendly with. I also don't understand the cost of some of the parties that people are paying for.

    Posted by Christine April 15, 09 09:46 AM
  1. Depends on how big the class is. If it is 15 or 20 kids that she sees everyday, then yes, I would invite them all. (It is not like inviting a whole class of 300 to a graduation party.) Alternatively, you can invite just the girls (or boys if you have a boy). Maybe just have the party at a playground and make it informal with cake and ice-cream. It doesn't have to cost alot if that is even a concern of yours.

    Now that our daughter is turning 6, we are planning a party for all her school friends. She has been invited to all these kids birthday parties, and it is a great chance to her to socialize with some classmates whom she doesn't usually play with. We will have a second small party at home for family and some family friends. Pretty informal.

    I think we are right to try to protect our kids from having their feelings hurt, at least until they are big enough to understand. Four is not big enough to understand, and 6 is stretching it too. Maybe about the same age that kids should stop trick-or-treating is the age that kids can start to pare down their parties...9 or 10.

    Posted by bv April 15, 09 09:48 AM
  1. I would invite the whole class, but at a minimum you should invite all the kids whose birthdays / after school adventures your "butterfly" was invited to.

    If you take and do not give, your butterfly might find himself left out next time and you'll have to explain why.

    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you...

    Posted by HBX April 15, 09 09:49 AM
  1. I agree, inviting the entire class seems to just be taking the birthday party too far. Maybe it's best to tell your child "you're seven, you get to invite seven friends to a family get together for your birthday." It seems like birthdays and celebrations just get too out of hand - everyone will understand, especially in this economy! As a child I rarely had a birthday party, it was always cake with family at the next holiday get together (my birthday is close to Thanksgiving) and I grew up not expecting a huge lavish afair, my parents reserved "big" parties for major milestones and I think I'll do the same with my children.

    Posted by ZurisMom April 15, 09 09:59 AM
  1. As the kids are little, we have always kept the birthday parties small, just family and a few friends. My son's last year in preschool, we invited the whole class because his birthday was one of the last times they were all together, but I would never do it again. The only reason it worked for us was because he has a summer birthday and the kids just played outside. We get more invitations to birthday parties in the summer than during the cold months, so I have to assume that plenty of kids are having parties that they don't invite the whole class to. My plan this year is for him to just invite a couple of friends.

    Posted by jenny April 15, 09 09:59 AM
  1. Are you a slave? Don't be a fool. A few friends are OK. But unless you own an assembly hall or gymnasium and pool, teach your child the realities of life now. Invite only a few of your child's (and your!) close friends. Set a time and abide by it. And if your child gets snubbed by a few others as a result, those few others are not friends anyway. Let's be reasonable. And if your child is devastated by having a small party instead of a bash, that child is already spoiled. Time to correct it.

    Posted by Colifton Cooley Dean April 15, 09 10:00 AM
  1. I think inviting one or two close friends from a large class of, say, 20, is fine. As is inviting all of the kids of the birthday boy/girl's gender. But once you go beyond that, it is a small step to excluding just a few. I'd rather err on the side of overinclusiveness and make the party simpler. If my kids had summer birthdays, I'd opt for the option the author's parents chose as a child.

    I agree inviting whole grades is excessive - we've invited all of my child's class, then cherry-picked just those with whom my child is friends in others.

    Posted by JennT April 15, 09 10:01 AM
  1. Personally, I think inviting the whole class - or at least all the girls - is the right thing to do. I certainly don't think you need to "invite" the parents - although since the kids are so young some will inevitably want to hang around, especially if they don't know you well. So have an area with a cooler of water and softdrinks, and a couple of munchies for them, but don't feel like you have to entertain them. Frankly, I don't think it's a whole lot more work to have 10 or 15 kids vs. 5 or 6. A few more goodie bags I guess. We've always done as you describe -I have twins with a June birthday, so weather has been my friend - everyone in the backyard, pop-up pool, pinata and other games, crafts set up in a quiet corner for those that need peace.

    Posted by Kathy April 15, 09 10:12 AM
  1. My thoughts - what does your child want to do? In reality, its their day, so shouldn't it be up to them? At four, I think the capacity is there to communicate what they want. I gave the options to my four year old, and he told me he didn't care about anyone else but his best pal coming over for his birthday party. So, I threw him a birthday party of 2! him and his best buddy... They had a blast!

    Posted by darcy April 15, 09 10:12 AM
  1. First you have to settle the question of WHERE, and that will dictate the WHO. It sounds like your best bet is TWO parties. One for the bulk of the children (it is not necessary to invite future psycopaths, mean kids or those who bite!) at a planned event outside you home: gymnastics, pool, art, cermaics, what have you. Then throw a BBQ for your friends and family, neighborhoods friends, and their kids.

    Posted by alquimista April 15, 09 10:14 AM
  1. There are plenty of ways to have birthday parties which are inexpensive and still include everyone. Isn't that what we are suppose to be teaching out 4 year olds? To include everyone? Look to your local community, have a tour of a fire station, get a park permit, and have an old fashion field day, with races and games, have a scavenger hunt at a local beach for sea glass or other ocean wares. Be creative. These are things which are not limited to just a few children. If you want to be crafty, Oriental Trading Company has plenty of ideas for creative kids for pennies on the dollar. Birthday Express, has party supplies, which give you discounts if you buy more products. Think outside the box and I bet you will be able to come up with something fantastic that will fit your budget and include everyone.

    Posted by Shawn April 15, 09 10:38 AM
  1. I told my now 5 yr old that she could invite 5 classmates, we came up with the names together and I quickly put the invites in the kids' folders. It's a common practice and I know for sure we've been not invited to some parties - we're all having the same dilemma. There's no reason to worry. At that age, everything is dramatic so you can't win anyway.

    Posted by kmira April 15, 09 10:38 AM
  1. 4 year old's may be too young to talk or care about whether they were or were not invited to a classmate's bday party. 2nd graders are different. I don't think the whole class needs to be invited but it would be rough to invite everyone except for one kid - that's cruel. Inviting everyone in that grade just seems like a plea for presents.
    And is it the norm for people to give presents when they are invited to a bday party even if they don't attend?

    Posted by ladyofthehouse April 15, 09 10:51 AM
  1. The difference between high school seniors and four-year olds is important. Invite the whole class or none (and not everyone will come anyway). You can start excluding kids when they're older -- even second grade -- but at four or five years old I don't think they can really get it.

    Posted by Jim April 15, 09 10:53 AM
  1. Start learning the lesson in the preschool. For one thing, a child might learn earlier that there are consequences of not being nice and not being a good friend. If you are not a good friend, you do not get invited. And, you also learn that you have to work with limited resources. Start now, not at 16 when those Super Sweet 16 parties use the invitation as a weapon.

    Posted by Karen April 15, 09 10:53 AM
  1. Everything in life should be this simple.
    You need to invite the whole class. You do.
    The only way around this is if you have a girls-only or boys-only party.

    I just had my 5 year olds kindergarten class over. But I did it on a Friday between 1-3pm. Parents loved the idea of not having to commit to something on the weekend and my daughter got the loud and fun birthday party she wanted.
    The only adults there were the mothers and they had a good time chit chatting while their kids ran around and played games supervised by me.

    Posted by Lynn April 15, 09 11:00 AM
  1. My rule of thumb is -- all the kids of the same gender in my child's classroom (my daughter and all the girls) plus anyone she hangs out with on a regular basis (extended day friends and family friends). Invitations to home only. Still it's tricky..

    Posted by lislis April 15, 09 11:11 AM
  1. For my son's 3rd birthday party, I invited his whole preschool class (about 10 of them total) and only 3 showed up so even if you do invite them all, chances are...not all of them will come. In the end, then, nobody gets hurt. I think it's hurtful to children and they don't understand un like a co-woker per say being not invited to a wedding...I also don't understand why you can't just have a low key pizza, cake party that doesn't cost an arm & leg either. Why does everything have to be so expensive and grandiose?

    Posted by Erica April 15, 09 11:12 AM
  1. Seriously, this is an easy one: do what is practical. Invite true friends only. Besides, who really wants to drag his or her kids to every other random, loosely connected classmate's party? Between my two daughters, that could be 50 Saturdays a year! I think parents need to get a grip; I can't even believe this question is being asked.

    Posted by JPDad April 15, 09 11:12 AM
  1. I've gone through this several times now with my three sons. Invite the whole class. Classes at this stage only have about 20 kids in them, and I can guarantee that only about half of them will show. If the weather's nice let them run around outside and play. They'll make their own fun. Even if you have to have it indoors, there are plenty of activities that will keep them reasonably corralled, like some type of crafts project. They're too young to be deciding who makes the cut socially. They have plenty of time to weed out classmates when they get a little older. Plus it gives your kids the opportunity to get to know the other kids in a setting other than school - and that can make a huge difference in how kids act. They may actually end up making more friends.

    Posted by jozkid April 15, 09 11:19 AM
  1. Last year, our daughter wanted to invite her entire preschool class (19 kids), plus her 2 best friends who didn't go to her preschool, plus her 2 cousins who would be in from out of state. Yes, that is 24 kids, total. We wound up renting a pavilion at a local park, ordering a couple of sheet pizzas (delivered right to the pavilion!) and providing chips, veggies with dip, juice boxes and bottles of water. Oh, and a cake of course, which we baked ourselves so it would be half chocolate, half vanilla per our daughter's request, and also to accommodate the severe food allergies of her best friend, a couple of classmates, and one of our nephews.

    We brought a boom box and played kids' music at the pavilion. The kids spent an hour running around the playground, then ate, did cake, played Pin the Tail on the Donkey, pulled the pinata strings (pinata was filled with noisemakers and small toys, and was in lieu of doing goody bags) and we were done. A great time had by all and total cost for 24 kids (22 showed up) plus at least 1 parent per kid, and in a few cases, some siblings as well was under $200. That is considered "quite reasonable" for a child's birthday party in our neck of the woods, believe it or not.

    This year, Kiddo really wants to invite the whole class again. (Her bday is next month, so this is a timely topic for me, LOL!) After asking her which of the kids in her class of 17 she actually plays with, she named all but 4. Well, there's no way I'm inviting all but 4; it just feels too exclusionary at this age, and I already dread the thought of cliques and popular v unpopular kids that seems to start earlier and earlier in school now, so I don't want to be helping that along any.... So, we're doing the party in the park again and she can have as many kids as she wants.

    Let's just hope it doesn't rain!

    So far, there have been 2 birthday parties that I know of in Kiddo's class this year to which she was not invited. Then, there was one girl who had a "girls only" Build-a-Bear party, one boy who did a "boys only" Laser Tag party and the rest have done full class (including one at Chuck E Cheese, oh my) parties. I agree, though, that at this age at least, if you're not doing a gender-based party or *only* inviting one or two kids, then whole class just seems to be the way to go.

    I'm sure as she gets older, she'll become more selective, but you're only young once and I think it isn't bad to do a whole-class party, as long as the budget permits.

    Posted by Heather @ nobody but yourself April 15, 09 11:20 AM
  1. As a teacher, principal, and a newish parent (I have a 4.5 year old and a 2 year old), I embrace the principle of inviting a child's whole class, or at the very least, all of the children who are of the same gender as my child (we have this policy throughout the school, so it includes Bar and Bat Mitzvahs). This is not only one that I personally hold but also one to which my school adheres. Kay, who wrote the first comment, is right that children need to learn the lesson of "life isn't fair" or one can't have it all - something that my teachers and I combat each day (e.g., a child does not get his first choice of electives). Yet, to a 4 year old, a birthday party is a huge deal (my 4 year old begins planning his next party 9 months before!). A child isn’t just a student of a class, but is a contributing member of a community that is built by them in the class, fostered by the teacher, and reinforced by the parents. These are their social peers for a good many and important years. It helps to build the social skills that we want our children to have so that when they do grow up to be adults, they have feelings of responsibility for one another; they will care about others’ feelings for they would not want to purposefully hurt someone – which is what happens when 5 children or 3 children are, or the worst case scenario, 1 child is not invited – even when we rationalize that someone isn’t so close to them or “is just a classmate.” Here is a concept: the birthday party is for the child. So, invite the child’s friends and classmates. It’s not for the parents. Yes, you want parents to come to be part of it, help out, and monitor their own children. But, it should not be expected that you are hosting a gala and must feed everyone, give everyone a place setting, or a parting gift. After all, you are the parent of the birthday child and you should be allowed to enjoy the festivities.

    Posted by Ariel April 15, 09 11:22 AM
  1. It's a tough call - after 2 daycare groups, and kindergarten this year, the potential party list (friends from prior groups plus the 'whole class' of kindergarten) grew to about 30 kids. Clearly this was not practical. So we decided to do a weekend away to celebrate my daughter's birthday in a really special way.

    The downside? Her birthday was one of the first in the class, and I have a feeling I inadvertently set her up to be dropped from other kids' lists because she didn't invite them to HER birthday.

    Posted by KBeach April 15, 09 11:27 AM
  1. For the record I am i not in favor of the whole class invited concept. But I would not advertise the party at school.
    On a more importanst issue,:Since when can a school policy dictate who you can and cannot invite to your home? Is this not the last bastion of choice?
    The school dictates no peanut butter no hugging, touching no anything at school.
    I will be damned if they tell me who I have to invite into my home.

    Posted by quinzgirl April 15, 09 11:36 AM
  1. Birthday parties at that age (age 4) are tough because it is not clear who the party is for. One possible solution that I can suggest is to pack a very special goodie bag for the entire class (preferably without any candies) and distributed at preschool. I did that one year with my daughter and we went through the Oriental Trading catalogue together and picked out things that she likes and would like to share with the class on her special day. She packed each goodie bag for her friends with a personal touch in each. We had a small celebration at home afterwards with just the immediate family members.

    Posted by Lucy April 15, 09 11:41 AM
  1. WOW! I can see that this is another really polar issue in the Mommy Wars. The lesson to be learned here is that you will never please everyone - inviting the entire class isn't necessarily the solution because doing so causes other questions and problems to creep up. Plus it perpetuates the cycle and the question year after year. I agree with JPDad that we don't even enjoy the huge number of parties to which we have to commit on the weekends. It's crazy! When my son doesn't know the child well enough to know what he or she might like as a gift? Then they're not really a friend and shouldn't have been invited to the party. That's just my feeling.

    And so, ultimately you should do what you want to do and can manage financially and emotionally. You'll never please everyone. Do your best to understand what your child wants for his or her birthday and accommodate his or her wishes to the best of your ability and desire to do so.

    Posted by Robin Horrigan April 15, 09 11:42 AM
  1. #33: Right on.

    OMG If I never go to another pizza party for a toddler again it will be too soon! Frankly, I've been relieved that as my kids get older, they are not invited to every single party.

    And #17 -- having TWO parties? Stab me in the eye with a fork right now.

    Posted by down with pizza parties April 15, 09 11:58 AM
  1. Hi,
    What I do is send my daughter to school when it is her birthday with a cake and enough gift bags for everyone in the class. Her teachers have not minded at all playing host to a small party since the whole class can have a piece of cake during snack time. She is 7 and it has worked out great for the last 3 years.

    That also helps with the whole invite everyone and now my daughter has enough presents to supply the opening of toys r us. This way she enjoys her birthday with hschool friends a to.

    Posted by Mom April 15, 09 12:03 PM
  1. We don't do "party place" parties (I imagine someday we might, but for now no), so our parties are small. We've had a blast at the other people's party place parties, but I find that the birthday child gets a little lost in all the hoopla and it's so hectic there's no way to enforce the behavior I'd like my childre to display among his friends. Because we have house parties in the winter, they have to be small. I find with boys it's best to invite one less than the age. If inviting four kids means leaving the fifth kid that they usually play blocks with out then I would let the number go up. Having small parites falls under the "In our family we do things this way" category, which is always a good lesson to reinforce at any age.

    Posted by Pat D April 15, 09 12:05 PM
  1. I am surprised that no-one has touched on another issue related to large parties -- too many gifts! Sure, you can have a "no gifts" party, but these two bring up a host of other issues (some people will not go along with this request, then the others feel bad). I think most parents will be relieved to be excused from bringing their kids to parties all over town, and trying to buy appropriate gifts for classmates they hardly know.

    Many schools allow children to bring in a special snack, or have some other way of recognizing a child's birthday with the whole class at school. Do we really need to celebrate with the whole class again at home? I think it is fine to have just real friends at the party. I would agree with an earlier post that said you couldn't invite all-but-one from the class.

    Posted by momandcook April 15, 09 12:30 PM
  1. HELP! I have a slightly different issue. Maybe this is its own topic.

    My 7 y/o wants to invite not just all the girls in her class but all the girls in her grade. It's not a cost or a number issue (24) but my daughter has not been invited to a single party all year and it's April. She has a couple of close friends whose birthday's haven't arrived yet - so I know she hasn't been snubbed by them. I'm worried that she came up with the idea to invite everyone becasue she hasn't been invited at all - even though I doubt she could articulate it. I know other kids have had group parties - I've seen the pictures Facebook and kept that info from her. I've asked her teacher if she has troubles making friends and playing with other kids and the teacher hasn't reported any problems, but I think she can be bossy and I know she prefers playing with boys. (I thought it was interesting that the list was all girls.) But I'm honestly worried if I invite all these kids, that either only a few are going to show up and she'll feel hurt or if somehow it will seem like she is trying to force friendship where there isn't any with a birthday party invite.

    What do I do?

    That's a tough one. I'd be inclined to ask her why she wants to invite only the girls when some of her good friends are boys, and see if she can articulate a reason. Is there time to invite a couple of the girls from her class over to play before finalizing the party list? That might give you an idea as to whether there's a budding friendship there, or whether your daughter is trying to create one, or whether there's some other issue at play... -- LMA

    Posted by Red-Mama April 15, 09 12:31 PM
  1. When I was younger, my older brother's classmate had a birthday party and invited basically everyone but him. He was heartbroken and cried for days, and was too embarrassed to go to school because he thought everyone disliked him. That's a tough thing to throw at a five year old, and it was even tougher for my mom to try to resolve the situation. If the class size isn't so huge, maybe it would be a better idea to extend the invite to everyone. If it is, however, I suggest the family be discreet in extending the invitation... and to of course invite other kids for playdates later on if you see fit.

    Posted by Rachael April 15, 09 12:45 PM
  1. Our rule was to invite friends with whom you'd had playdates within the past year, allowing for one or two "almost" friends if needed. This helps as they get older and accumulate friends. Parties were on weekends, and invites went to class list addresses with a note that the child was excited to celebrate "with a few good friends," so to please not talk about the party in school. Best party ever? The girls frosted cupcakes my daughter and I made, danced and jumped on bubblewrap in the livingroom, strung big beads into necklaces and bracelets galore. I also spread mural paper on the floor with crayons and we hung up the results at the end. One mom complimented my "retro theme." Easy, fun and I was even cool, to boot!

    Posted by Hannah Roveto April 15, 09 12:51 PM
  1. Before my kids start school, birthday parties are limited to mostly their "friends" who are really my friends' children, plus maybe a child or two from daycare who they seem to be close to. For the youngest grades, I do have them invite all of the boys in their class (I have all sons) plus a few girls they are friends with if they want to. They're so little and everyone talks so I think it's mean to not invite all of the same-gender kids. Even if my kids have been told to not blab about a party, other kids probably will - so we pick places where you pay the same amount for a large number of kids or have the birthday party when weather gets warm enough to play outside at our house or the local playground. As the kids get older (3rd grade and up) they generally get choosier and have more friends outside of their class than in their class so that's when we start to see the invite lists dwindle without hurt feelings.

    Posted by Jen April 15, 09 12:55 PM
  1. I have several nieces and several little girls on my street, so when it was time for my daughters' birthday parties, I only invited those kids. My rule was no one from class -- it would be just too out of control. Then we started receiving invitations from kids in school and I felt bad... until I realized that not everyone has a bunch of kids around. So maybe my daughters were being invited so the birthday child -- who may not have kids their own age on their street or be cousin-less -- could have a festive time. So now I still say no to inviting classmates, but yes to invitations

    Posted by lotsofparties April 15, 09 01:22 PM
  1. We definitely do not invite the whole class. To be honest our son is not "best friends" with everyone in the class, so we only invite his closest friends. My son is 4 as well and he is able to articulate who he would like to invite, which makes it easier. In addition to school friends, we invite our friends and family with kids, and the neighbors who he plays with. With all those people it can really add up. The nice thing about his school is that they usually have a birthday celebration for each child on or around their birthday. This enables all the kids to celebrate birthdays with each other in the classroom with icecream sandwiches or goodies. So no one feels left out.

    Posted by RJL April 15, 09 01:23 PM
  1. I have a five year old and eight year old. My eight year old's birthday usually falls on a 3-day holiday weekend so the one time I tried to hold a party most people did not attend. Instead I have a family party for them and send cupcakes to the class on or near the birthday. So far this hasn't been an issue. I am sure next year I will need to throw a party, but it will be close friends only!

    Posted by Michelle April 15, 09 01:26 PM
  1. A four year old doesn't care at all. It's only the parents that do. The thing I find really ironic is that by the age the kids are old enough to have their feelings hurt by not being invited to a b-day party (2-3rd grade) is exactly the time that parties start being smaller! By far the best parties for our kids have been small, where they can concentrate on a few good friends. If you are renting something out, by all means invite lots of folks but don't do it because you feel you have to. Your 4 year old and his friends won't even remember the party anyway. When you talk to people they are silently relieved to stop the madness because many feel it has gotten out of control...

    My

    My

    Posted by Win mom April 15, 09 01:27 PM
  1. Someone mentioned the school "dictating" who you invite to your home. Of course, the school cannot do that, nor is that the intention. However, as a teacher, I have seen WAY too many party invitations distributed at school, and always one or more children end up in tears as the handful of invitations dwindles in the birthday child's hands, and someone realizes they are not getting one. Invite whomever you like, but send the invites through the mail or by the phone to save the hurt feelings and embarassment of uninvited children here at school.

    Posted by Too Many Tears April 15, 09 02:06 PM
  1. I agree with a post above, invite 4 children if your child is turning 4 yet odd numbers do not tend to work out well. i find that through the years my daughter charlotte works well in even numbers, by having an even number each child has a buddy. For such a young age i believe a party at the house is appropriate with family and a select few from class, invitations mailed to the childs house.

    I think its great writers above teach the children not to speak of invites around other children. Also there are a lot of recipes online on smittenkitchen.com that you might enjoy for cupcakes and treats. Hope it goes well!

    Posted by rose April 15, 09 02:07 PM
  1. Kids know and care, even kids as young as three and four. I invited the entire class until my children were in third grade and planned the activities accordingly. For my family it was better to have a toned-down party with the entire class than a more elaborate party for fewer people.

    My personal nightmare birthday party story did not involve my children, but happened when I was subbing for a teacher assistant at a preschool in an affluent community near Boston. Not only did one student invite every child in the class except one, but everyone car-pooled to the party and left in a group from the school parking lot, leaving that one excluded child AND THE TEACHERS crying on the playground. That was eight years ago and I have never forgotten it. Even now, every time I see that mother I need to walk away. What a message to send to these children!

    Posted by DonnaD April 15, 09 02:11 PM
  1. I have never felt obligated to invite the whole class, I think birthdays should be shared with special people who have a special relationship with the birthday person regardless of age. I have twins in seperate class rooms so if I invited both classes (in November mind you) it would be standing room only in my tiny little house and no fun would be had by anyone!! My dilemna this year is one twin being invited to a party and the other one not being invited, this is hard for them to understand and I admit hard for me as well...

    Posted by Del April 15, 09 02:18 PM
  1. what about a small at school party? Send in cupcakes, hoodsies hats tableclothes (all under 20.00)--let all the kids enjoy the time--no clean up for you, no real expense for the other parents, no weird other parents issues.....

    Then do the traditonal family thing at home....thats what we did for our son at his preschool...they took pictures and emailed me and it was perfect! They have strict no peanut, no snack issues so we did appropriate foods which included popsicles --Dora and Diego hats and tablecloths....so easy and pleased everyone....

    Posted by Maureen Maderos April 15, 09 02:20 PM
  1. Those who say a 4 year old doesn't care must not know the same 4 year olds I do. They plan their next party starting a month after their last and I am told it is an almost daily topic of conversation at the pre-school, including who is, and is not, going to be invited (the kiddos use it as some warped reward and punishment system, apparantly). We are lucky to only have 8 kids in our son's preschool class, mostly boys, and they were all invited to his 4th party and will all be invited to his 5th. The party is at our house, low key with homemade games and activities and sodas for the adults that choose to stay the 2 hours of the party. Our son is required to either donate a newly recieved toy or a toy in good condition to a local charity to offset the accumulation of gifts and teach a good social awareness.

    Posted by C's mom April 15, 09 02:21 PM
  1. One of my best memories was my kindergarten birthday party when my mother invited my entire class to the party. As she put it, "When are they all going to like each other ever again?" You might as well take advantage of the kids getting along while you can and create great memories for your child. What harm can it do?

    Posted by davenpma April 15, 09 02:22 PM
  1. Everyone will NOT be invited to my son's birthday parties when he is in school. I want him exposed to real life. It's silly how every single player on a sports team gets a trophy. People are so scared of hurting feelings that in our haste to do so, we forget that it is normal and a part of life. I don't expect cruelty out of it, but we can be realistic.

    Posted by CommonSense April 15, 09 03:07 PM
  1. OK, sorry to comment again, but... My oldest son had trouble making friends when he got into kindergarten because he was so shy. We had only recently moved into our house in a new town and he didn't have a base of friends in the neighborhood. In the early part of his school year he received not one invitation. We decided to throw the mother of all birthday parties for him as an attempt to get some other kids to know him in a setting outside of school. We hired a magician (which is great BTW, because the kids are entertained for a long period of time and in only one spot) and had pizza and cake and the usual stuff. Well, it worked. Those kids still talk about the magician and his "big underpants" and my son has really opened up socially. I can only attribute it to that party (and we invited everyone). It really is hard for kids at that age not to be included.

    Posted by jozkid April 15, 09 03:14 PM
  1. I'm sorry to say that in my opinion, delilah's comment is completely off the mark. Any school that would have a "policy" about what you do in your own home (she said that her preschool has a policy for birthday parties) is going too far. Secondly, all the machinations about inviting same sex, all the kids, no kids, drop-offs, don't bring the kid - are way too elaborate and completely unnecessary. Kay, the first poster, summed it all up nicely. This is the perfect time to help a child begin to understand how the world works.

    Posted by EW April 15, 09 03:35 PM
  1. why not have a family party as you have in the past. Speak to her day care/school teacher and ask if you can bring a "treat" to school for her birthday..ie: cupcakes but be careful what you bring, make sure the school allows it due to allergies.
    You may want to bring a fruit platter, make flowers out of the fruit, (use cookie cutters) celebrate it that way but don't sweat over it..my goodness, this is carried way to far

    Posted by sally April 15, 09 03:54 PM
  1. Post No. 1 by Kay is perfect! So true and they have to learn sometime.

    I just have to comment though on some posts here. As for those that let the "school policy" dictate your child's birthday party decision - that is absolutely ABSURD! Why should a school have a say in how I throw my child's party. We have to raise our children, not the schools! Ridiculous! Grow some people. Little Johnny and/or Jenny will have to get over it.

    Posted by Darkebe April 15, 09 03:57 PM
  1. I've done what # 50 did above, send some small cupcakes (in order to not ruin diner appetites) and ice cream cups to school and let them all celebrate together without having the kids having to get each other gifts.

    We then have another celebration at home with family, and cousins without all of the pressure of staging an event.

    Posted by Carl_S April 15, 09 04:11 PM
  1. Seriously, all this hullabaloo over a child's birthday. No wonder so many kids grow up with an inflated sense of their importance in this world! Just have a modest, simple celebration and teach your kids that holidays/birthdays, though meaningful, are absolutely nothing to have a panic attack over. Enough with this overindulgent silliness!

    Posted by Rae April 15, 09 04:14 PM
  1. I'm back again, whatever you people do at home is fine, but can we just leave the schools out it? My son is coming home with increasingly elaborate goodybags from school and here people are suggesting that people have the parties hosted there. Preschool is one thing, but it is really silly in the older grades. Can we all just agree to stop one-upping each other all the time? Can school just be school? Send in the cupcakes or the fruit and be done with it.

    Posted by PatD April 15, 09 04:18 PM
  1. So far I've been lucky enough to avoid this issue. My daughter just started pre-school so she really wasn't a "social butterfly" yet for her last party in November. It was 5 of "her" friends, who are really children of my friends, the parents, grandparents and aunts. A nice small gathering as we live in the city and have limited space.

    I also always had small parties home-based parties when I was a kid...and loved playing pin the tail on the donkey, batting at pinatas and doing egg tosses. But I also was not invited to some parties - and while I'm sure that was hard at the time...I'm not sure it's had any lasting effects.

    I also think my daughter already understands the concept that some are friends and some are not. She was having a playdate and had had enough of the child that was not sharing well. When they were taking their time to leave...she started to push this playmate out the door. She has requested not to play with this child anymore...and I'm sure she would not want them at a birthday party.

    I certainly was appropriately horrified and humored by her behavior. We talked about how it was not nice...but on the other hand...don't you wish you could treat some adults in your life this way? Maybe she can teach us a thing or two.

    Posted by bbmom April 15, 09 05:18 PM
  1. We've had a couple of 'invite the whole class parties'. The problem we have is that both my sons have more female friends than male friends. If I invite just the boys, half their friends aren't there. But this is the last year I plan to do that. It is just too much, and some of the kids are ill behaved. So next time, no more than 10-12 guests.

    Posted by BMS April 15, 09 08:34 PM
  1. As a single parent in these tough economic times, I wouldn't be able to afford to invite my 5 year old's whole preschool class. I think that parents need to explain to their kids that being "not invited" to a classmate's party comes down to money sometimes and it could be not personal. I would never be able to afford a parties that my friends throw for their children. I'm trying to teach my child the importance of being thankful for he has. "A thankful heart is a happy heart," is what I remind my son when he grumbles about not having everything his friends have. As for other families, I've seen parents in my son's preschool bring a simple special treat like cupcakes and give classmates a little goodie bag full or dollar store party favors. In short, I think frugal celebrations for my child is teaching him the value of being humble and thankful. Plus, a great time with a few of his close friends will be more memorable than having everyone in his sunday school and preschool class attending his party.

    Posted by bsymom April 16, 09 09:29 AM
  1. A number of people have written that we should 1. Dismiss what the school recommends for birthday parties, and 2. Send in cupcakes and party bags to school.

    My daughter's school doesn't allow cupcakes and party bag and such. It is during school time, so therefore they get a say on that. Every kid on his / her birthday gets a small gift from a gift box the teacher has. And that is plenty exciting for my daughter to be happy to go to school on her birthday. Second, they don't allow distribution of birthday party invitations on school grounds if all of the kids are not invited. Again, it is during school time, so they get a say on that. And it makes sense, they are trying to instill a sense of community, not exclusivity. They do provide names and addresses of the families (with permission of course) for you to do what you would like. What you do outside of school is your own business, of course. However, it is a dangerous precedent to tell your kid that the rules that are set up at school are "flexible". They might extrapolate that "flexibility" to other rules as well. :)

    Finally, as for cost, some of the best birthday parties my kid have been to have been at a playground with a soccer ball, or a jungle gym. Just plan at a non-meal time and bring a small cake that kids can share. Total cost is probably less than $20. Every one will have fun.

    Posted by bv April 16, 09 10:15 AM
  1. Oh, the days of bringing cupcakes to school to celebrate birthdays . . . I want to know where you all live, because I'd be drawn and quartered if I even THOUGHT that anywhere within my school district. This isn't even about allergies, it is about using "food as reward." Makes me want to scream - it is a birthday for goodness sakes.
    When my daugher was in pre-school/daycare, we invited the entire class (age group) of about 15 kids to a party at our house. ONLY ONE parent responded and TWO kids showed up. That was the end of that for us. Talk about disappointment for my daughter! Luckily, we had a second, family/family-friend party that was very well attended.
    She's older now . Last fall for her ninth birthday, I took her and her best buddy to Boston and out to lunch and for ice cream. They had a blast, and so did I. We had a smaller family/friends party at home, too.

    Posted by finny April 16, 09 10:38 AM
  1. No No No!!!! The DUMBEST thing you can do is try to shield your precious darlings from all the icky things in the world!! Its like parents who don’t make their children behave because “they are only four” then wonder why their kids won’t listen to them when they turn fourteen. You can’t change boats in mid-stream…let your kid grow for six or seven years protecting them from hurt feelings then suddenly say, “yeah, well life ain’t fair!” As a parent, you have to stay consistent from the day you bring them home from the hospital. Adjust accordingly for age, but remain consistent. Think of a habit you’ve had for seven years: nail biting, smoking, hair twirling….now try to suddenly end it….Yeah, that’s what its like when you switch parent mode on your kids. We shield them from hurt feelings and don’t take them to funerals then wonder why they have no empathy and go shoot up a mall.

    That aside, no. Don’t invite the whole class. Invite the kids your child hangs out with, or set a guest list limit of ten or seven or however many you want. Themed parties aren’t for the kids, its for the parents to show other parents how cool they are, or how much money they have or whatever – its dumb. Ask any sixteen year old what kind of party they had when they were four and they’ll just give you a blank look. Hey, better yet – what kind of party did you have when you were four? Yeah. A simple party with a few guests and a few games to entertain the kids is all anyone needs at four.
    yoshim

    Posted by Yoshimi April 16, 09 12:02 PM
  1. Must agree with Kim. Absolutely do NOT give out invitations; Valentine's Day cards, &c at school if they're you're not going to invite the entire class. Don't give them out at recess. Don't give them out at the playground. MAIL them. You'd be surprise at how many parents shell out big for a party, but go cheap on a few stamps. It makes the children feel left out. Yet, there are also parents who don't care how the other children feel, as long as their own little darlings are happy. Go to the school principal and ask how s/he prefers these matters to be handled, as well. Many teachers won't all invitations to be distributed in/after class, and rightly so.

    Posted by reindeergirl April 16, 09 04:55 PM
  1. I am a children's birthday party planner and entertainer (Princess Sharon www.PrincessSharon.com)
    I am torn here- I set up my parties for 8 children. I am a true believer in keeping it simple, though you wouldn't know it by my lavish events! :D
    I have a degree in early childhood education, music and theater, and I combine education with music and really really fun activities, games and dress-ups.
    I think, even at 4,5,6 years old, there is a really good lesson in "inviting." Not going crazy and having everyone and the kitchen sink, but acclimating your child to just the children in his or her class DOES feel simple to me! In my opinion, birthday parties run MUCH MORE SMOOTHLY for me when there are just the kids in the child's class. They have already learned to work together and they just have fun. They know how to follow rules together and they are comfortable. When children are able to follow rules and feel safe, they have MUCH MORE FUN! I vote for the whole class (or just the girls!) I think they have enough stimulous in their day and their very own class IS the simple thing! My 2 cents...Princess Sharon

    Keeping

    Posted by Princess Sharon April 16, 09 10:28 PM
  1. If you want to go nuts..invite all...if you want a decent party invite 4..the age of your child. Send the invites to their homes. I have 5 children, all grown, parties are getting out of hand...you can have a nice time without going broke and crazy!!

    Posted by Prrizzo April 17, 09 05:43 PM
  1. When my son was in second grade, a neighbor insisted in inviting everyone in her son's class as well as all the children in the neighborhood to his birthday party. My son came home in tears saying "Jon must not have gotten my present because he didn't know what it was!" He was hearbroken. Only invite true friends to the birthday party!

    Posted by Claudia April 24, 09 05:40 PM
  1. A lot of 4 year olds are just making friends- new schools etc. I dont think it means some bigger lesson on life (i.e you are present-hungry or a spoiled brat) if you invite the whole class. My daughter is shy and hasnt gotten invited to any parties all year (she will be turning 4 next month.) Im hoping that by inviting the whole class of 15 she will get a few more playdates out of it for the future. I hope all of her classmates parents arent as judgemental towards me for my decision as you all are!!

    Posted by louann April 30, 09 07:24 PM
  1. Please read my scenerio: My child plays daily with two other children in the neighborhood. One of the parents had a sleepover b.day party and limited the party to only 2 friends. My child was NOT one of the two friends invited and was devestated. Also, the little b.day boy had verbally told him the day before the party that he wanted him there, then the day of the party said he wasn't allowed to have more than two. To see my boy drop the phone and his blank, pale & hurt little 9 year old face broke my heart. So others feelings DO need to be considered.

    That's heartbreaking... I'm so sorry your child was hurt that way. I hope his friendship with the birthday boy wasn't badly damaged... -- LMA

    Posted by sad in va May 5, 09 11:29 AM
  1. hmm.. I think we do not have to teach children at 4 that life is not fair. There will be enough moments in their life to figure this out. If a preschool class is small I would invite the whole class. I have seen how this can build on their relationships with each other and parents have a chance to talk and build on their relationships too. My 4 year old and I have had many conversations about how nice it is that his friends are coming to share in his birthday but also that we don't "request" certain toys but are happy that a friend picked out a toy " just for you". I did do goody bags but not because I needed to out do other parents but I wanted to teach my son that it is nice to think of others. Most parents have responded that they are coming and that their child is so excited too. We certainly can't do this as class sizes get bigger but for now, I will enjoy the fact that he is 4 and trust that as he grows up he will remember that we try to think of and include others in the best way we can.

    Posted by sue February 17, 11 01:36 AM
  1. When our kids are younger, we enjoy inviting the whole class to a park to play & celebrate. It's simple, cheap, and a great opportunity to meet the other parents too. Usually, the kids all get along well enough that it's a great time for everyone. As the kids get older and form more close-knit social groups then those invitation lists naturally shrink. We see birthdays as a great opportunity to teach our children to include others whenever possible, and we focus our energy on making simple "thank you" treats for their friends who came. And meeting our children's peers and their parents helps us intentionally connect with people in our kids lives that are normally outside our area of influence. I think parents will largely dictate their kids events based on their own biases, so there won't be a right or wrong answer to this. If people bother you, don't invite too many, ha!! By the way, we DID invite the whole school to our oldest daughters high school graduation party. Of course, only her friends came. But we could have handled more :)

    Posted by Mykidsma October 1, 13 04:54 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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