The Politics of Birthday Parties


Last weekend we threw a birthday party for our twins for their 3rd birthday. It was really the first birthday party we had given them. The other two were mostly small, family affairs and since they didn’t go to school there were not too many friends to invite.

This time they are in Nursery School and have 10 other classmates. I thought about inviting all of the kids but decided against it. I didn’t know most of them, I didn’t know their parents and I wanted to invite just the people my boys knew well.

Then it dawned on me, was this going to be a problem? Is there birthday party etiquette? Do 3 year olds know when their classmates have a party? Is there talk around the sandbox on Monday morning about the weekend’s activities?

So, just as I was doing up the invites the boys got an invitation to a classmates’ birthday party. Feeling guilty I added that little boy to our list. That brought my total to 8 kids: 3 from Nursery School and 3 children of my friends. I was feeling good about it.

Then, I realized that many of these kids had older or younger siblings – do I invite them? I was having the party at a local indoor playground it certainly could hold more kids. My husband always makes too much food so why not? But, do you make loot bags for the siblings you didn’t invite? I had no idea.

I made loot bags for the invitees, brought lots of food, and hoped for the best.

The result, a fantastic birthday party that the boys loved.

Did I break the unwritten rules of birthday parties? Maybe. But, I doubt it will affect the boys’ social lives for long.

Have you ever struggled with the ‘rules’ of kids’ birthday parties?

Kerrie blogs at Family Food and Travel.  She is a mom of twin boys (born March 2010) who she often refers to as the ‘twinado’.  Kerrie loves, writing, travel, photography, and fabulous food.  Prior to kids, Kerrie was an avid reader and scrapbooker and hopes to one day return to those activities.  Kerrie once considered herself successful, that was until she attempted toilet training twins.


  1. My daughter is 4 and went to her first birthday party this year. There is a rule in the JK/SK class. All birthday parties must invite all the class or all the boys/girls. The odd parent does sneak in invites and having my child be left out knowing her friends were going to a party was heartbreaking. Yes it is a part of life and growing. But they do talk about it on the play ground. The one Saturday she woke and put on her party dress, then tried to convince me to take her to the classmates party. Even without an invite lol At the young age I aways wonder if parents will stay orleave and if they stay do I need to feed them
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    • Great point about parents I had parents there for my boys' party since they were 3 and it was in a public place. I the rule about inviting all makes sense once they are in JK/SK. With our boys some kids come 1 day a week, some 3 days, some 5 days. If I invited them all it would have been 20 + 2-3 year olds!
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  2. Happy Birthday to your boys!

    I've never done a big birthday for my kids. Just family gatherings. I wouldn't know about any of this etiquette… good questions though! Sounds like it all went well regardless.

    Wishing you a lovely week.
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  3. Yep, the 'rule' typically is the whole class or all boys/girls. I wouldn't include younger/older siblings unless the parents specifically ask if they can bring them.

  4. Nena Sinclair says

    My sons are too old for kiddie parties now, but when they were little, I remember going through the same thing when it came to their parties. I always made a few extra goodie bags "just in case" unexpected kids (siblings of their friends) showed up. It sounds like the party turned out great! 🙂

  5. I have never done a big, invite the whole class party. We definitely don't follow the rules. My son is 11 and is now officially done with parties. He simply gets to have a sleepover with a good friend. We always invited the number of kids for the age he was turning. We have also asked people not to brig presents one year and instead did a toonie party where all kids bring two toonies. One for birthday child and one for charity. As our son wanted to save for a specific toy and didn't need loads of them this worked out great!

  6. For JK we invited the entire class plus outside of school friends. We ended out with 21 children that came – there were a few siblings that we had join the party as well the day of and it turned out fantastic! (It was the same price for 21 or 24 children).

    For SK DD decided she wanted just the family to go to Great Wolf Lodge for a couple days which cost more than a birthday party would have but a fantastic time too!

    This year we're back to a friend's party and we're trying to figure out numbers (movie theatre party) that won't break the bank. My DD has only been invited to one party this year and she was extremely sad about missing out on a few that others in her class had been invited to (she has an anxiety disorder and doesn't make friends as easily). I don't want to leave any children out but parties really can get out of hand.

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