• Kids Birthday Party Etiquette: Kids Left Starving and Miserable

    kids birthday party etiquette kids left starving miserable

    I’m not even sure where to start with this post. So just bear with me as I’m trying to put my thoughts into words. It is a bit of a difficult subject to deal with especially if your child has been on the receiving end.

    I’m still a bit perturbed by what transpired.

    Now before I continue, let me just mention that I come from a family culture who loves food and entertaining. My mom taught us that you never let someone leave your house without offering them something to eat and drink. It is up to them whether they accept the offer or not.

    There is nothing worse than hosting a party and your guests end up leaving miserable, tired and hungry.

    About a week ago my youngest daughter received an invitation for a school friend’s birthday party.  The invitation stated that the party would be at their house and the time of the party would be from 13h00 till 16h30.

    With parties scheduled from 14h00; we usually give our girls something light to eat at home before they head off to a party. This particular Saturday things were a bit rushed. After breakfast we headed off to the shops to get a gift, ran a few errands and headed back home so that she could get dressed for the party. So basically she only had breakfast and snacked on some biltong.

    When I asked her if she wanted to eat something, she indicated that she wasn’t hungry and said “well there will be food at the party so I’ll nibble on something there if I get hungry“.

    As my girls are older, all their parties are drop off and go unless specified on the invitation that parents are welcome to stay. Even so, we usually just drop off and go – and that’s what we did with this particular party.

    After a time lapse duration of 3.5 hours; I collected her from the party at 16h30. On leaving, she received a party favor bag filled with sweets and a slice of birthday cake.

    The minute she put her foot into the car, she was cranky. The poor soul was so hungry. On our way we had to stop at McDonalds just to get her something to eat. Although not a healthy balanced meal, I just had to get her something as she was an emotional wreck. She scoffed that burger as if she didn’t eat for days. To our surprise, we noticed two other children who attended the same party and their parents entering McDonalds – they too were starving and their parents looked at us and just shrugged their shoulders.

    After being satisfied, she said with so much disappointment in her voice: “there was only water and juice on the table – nothing else. We just played games all the time. Even if they just had a bowl of fruit, carrot and celery sticks – we would’ve been happy.”

    Not wanting to show my child that I was actually upset and promote negativity; I told her that “not everyone hosts parties the same way.”  There was actually nothing else I could say to justify the reasoning behind not serving food as I didn’t have the answers.

    Let me tell you why this is upsetting me. Firstly, if you plan to host a children’s party, it should ultimately be about your child and his/her friends and not about what the parents want.

    Secondly, I’m upset for the fact that my daughter was eagerly anticipating this party just to be highly disappointed at how it turned out.  As a family, we had to deal with her being cranky, grumpy and hungry afterwards.

    Thirdly, what makes it ok to give a sugar overload to take home but not giving any other form of nutrition for 3.5 hours?  Do I really need to pay the price for my child’s sugar-rush behaviour afterwards? I think not!

    So with this in mind, here’s my take on etiquette when hosting a children’s birthday party


    Deciding on having a birthday party for your child requires planning no matter how big or small. Whether you decide to splurge or have a minimal budget – you need to plan.  Involve your child in the planning, to find out what theme he/she wants and who they want to invite. A party doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair, keep it simple but organised. When planned properly, it will be a fun event which will engrave beautiful memories for your child and their young guests.


    Communicate essential information to your guests by stipulating it on the invitation.  Eg. If it’s a dress up party, inform guests that they need to have a costume. If it’s a pool party, specify that they need to bring their swimming costumes and towels.  In this case, the guests should’ve been informed that “no food” will be served at the party. RSVP information and deadlines should be clear.


    Send out invitation at least 2 – 3 weeks before the party. Allowing parents to RSVP in time and  to avoid date clashes. Always put an end time on the invitation.  Be mindful of hosting a party too early in the morning with the venue location being far. This is always an inconvenience for parents to wake up early and to drive a distance. For younger children, parties should be kept to a minimum of 2 hours.

    Food and Drink

    Children typically don’t eat much, however when a party is scheduled over lunch time, party food should be served. Even if it is just light finger snacks for them to nibble on. Consider your guests; it doesn’t mean because your child is a picky eater or can go without food for hours that’s the case with other children. Make sure you cater for those with special dietary requirements and food allergies. Not all children’s eating habits are the same and you need to find a good balance between sweet, savory and healthy snacks. Avoid fizzy drinks with too much sugar and always have water on the table. Ultimately the food needs to be tasty and kid-friendly.


    Should you not serve finger food and only cake make sure that you have enough cake or cupcakes should children want seconds. Bear in mind that cake has no nutritional value. Plus if your party falls within lunch time then just serving cake is a big no-no.


    Too many physical activities at a party without proper intervals for snacking and drinking can leave children feeling tired and hungry. Games played should be fun, safe and not competitive.

    Opening Gifts

    Personally, I don’t allow my children to open up gifts whilst their guests are still at the party. This is merely to avoid chaos from ripping open gifts, snotty comments with regards to unwanted, disliked or duplicate gifts and feelings being hurt. Although we teach our girls that they should be thankful for every gift received; you can’t control the outbursts and behaviour of other children at the party.

    Goody bags

    Although goody bags are always associated with parties, you don’t have to feel obligated to hand out edible treats. Make it inexpensive. Instead of giving a goody bag filled with sweet treats, why not give a small cactus plant, seeds or let your child make their own personalised favors. If you incorporated crafts as part of the activities then the children can take what they’ve made home. This makes for a lovely memorabilia.

    Thank you

    It is just good manners to send out a thank you note or message to those who attended the party. This will teach your child to show gratitude and appreciation.

    So let’s hope that the rest of the 2018 birthday party season will be fun and memorable.




    1. March 6, 2018 / 8:52 am

      That’s shocking! I can’t believe that. I always try to consider the other people’s side of the debate to try to judge if I am being unfair. But in this case, even if the reasoning was lack of funds, surely a sandwich each would have been enough.

      • Noleen Miller
        March 6, 2018 / 9:53 am

        I was so shocked – still can’t believe it actually happened. Well I’m not judging but why didn’t they serve the cake at the party instead of sending it home.

        • March 11, 2018 / 5:03 pm

          Exactly! It doesn’t make sense. Those poor kids. Thanks for linking up to #lekkerlinky

    2. March 6, 2018 / 10:11 am

      I’m going on the other side, while not ideal, no one dies if they don’t eat in 3.5 hours. I find the 1 pm start confusing because if you eat lunch at 12, then it’s after lunch and if you eat at 1, then it’s for lunch. I’m guessing they thoughteveryone had eaten. Or they forgot to put the food out. Maybe they didn’t have the money for it – why they didn’t give them the cake halfway thru is weird. If you are asked to a party, you are there to celebrate with the host. It’s not really about what you get out of it. I have to say, I over cater cos I have no idea what kids eat and then we chuck it all in the bin. Maybe they were tired of doing that. Lesson learnt for next time – eat before or ask.

      • Noleen Miller
        March 6, 2018 / 10:26 am

        We always give something to eat before but just had a very rushed day at at the time the youngest wasn’t hungry. Was also wondering why the cake wasn’t given halfway through the party. Could be that they’ve experienced wastage in the past but then at least ask who is hungry and take it from there. My daughter said none of the kids wanted to ask for something as they were embarrassed to. Anyway different strokes for different folkes.

    3. March 6, 2018 / 10:42 am

      I’m sorry about the lack of food that sucks. We always have heaps of food for my son’s party it keeps my wife busy for days, she can’t help herself. I 100% agree about the favour bags though, we usually get little plastic toys and the like for it with minimal sweets. Thanks for sharing #DreamTeam

      • Noleen Miller
        March 6, 2018 / 11:17 am

        Me too – after all it’s about the kids and making it special for them. So we make sure that we have enough for them to eat and if leftover we always give doggie bags to take home. We’ve been moving away of giving edible favor bags – just makes it so much special if you give something meaningful.#Dreamteam

    4. March 6, 2018 / 9:36 pm

      I’m not sure what to say except that it’s a pity it turned out that way for all involved. I agree with your party etiquette… 🙂 #lekkerlinky

      • Noleen Miller
        March 7, 2018 / 10:21 am

        I have no words either. Some have asked me why I didn’t approach the mom, but I suppose I can’t judge and I’m not going to name and shame either. Hoping that it will not be a bad memory that will linger for those who attended the party. All we can just do is teach our kids the proper way of doing things. Thanks for reading my post.#lekkerlinky

    5. Jenine Jacobs
      March 7, 2018 / 12:14 pm

      I cannot believe it. Very shocking indeed. To think that we normally over cater.

      • Noleen Miller
        March 8, 2018 / 9:37 am

        Shocking indeed Jenine. So true we usually over cater but you know what – I would rather do that and send doggie bags home with the kids.

    6. March 8, 2018 / 9:14 pm

      Wow I can’t believe there wasn’t even hot dogs. Or fruit, at least, like your daughter said. Shame.

      • Noleen Miller
        March 9, 2018 / 8:41 am

        Nothing, just a bag of sweets and cake was given as the kids left to take home.

    7. March 8, 2018 / 11:29 pm

      Oh no, that’s terrible! I can’t believe, people – parents! – would do that! There are no words…

      • Noleen Miller
        March 9, 2018 / 9:49 am

        Words failed me as well. Some people do things differently, I suppose but it doesn’t mean I agree with their etiquette.

    8. March 10, 2018 / 10:55 pm

      I can’t believe there was no food! Every party I’ve been to has had food! Also, the food usually takes up about half of the time so reduces the pressure to entertain… Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

      • Noleen Miller
        March 12, 2018 / 9:09 am

        I know we always try and make it special for the kids by having kid-friendly food and although they just nibble here. After playing they do tend to hungry. To not give anything for 3.5 hours is ridiculous.#globalblogging

    9. March 12, 2018 / 10:00 pm

      The feeder that I am is literally stunned at the idea of a party without food – especially where children are concerned. My two don’t seem to be able to go more than 20 mins without a snack of sorts. I think each to their own and appreciate that not everyone is quite as foodie as much of a feeder as I am, but at the very least you would hope that they would have noted on the invitations so that you knew to provide food before. Thanks for linking to #DreamTeam x

    10. March 13, 2018 / 12:34 pm

      Just had my child’s birthday party and I totally agree with your party etiquette. Having proper food for the kids and the parents is critical. And just plain good manners. #lekkerlinky

    11. So sorry your daughter had a bad experience, and how strange to put cake in a bag at the end while serving nothing to eat for over 3 hours ? Very unusual indeed! #fortheloveofBLOG

      • Noleen Miller
        March 14, 2018 / 2:42 pm

        Very unusual indeed. She is kind of over the bad experience but will be weary when receiving another invitation from that friend.#fortheloveofBLOG

    12. March 15, 2018 / 11:12 pm

      What an awful experience! I am so sad for your daughter! Sugar lows and the blues are the worst when you get your kinder back. We get a lot of tired and cranky post-party blues too. Here’s to more nutrition! #dreamteam

      • Noleen Miller
        March 16, 2018 / 9:16 am

        I know it was an awful experience but as kids are they get over it quicker than adults. Totally agree – nothing wrong with putting out food even if they eat or don’t eat.#dreamteam

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