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.
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.
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.
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.