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I voted other: I firmly believe that you should be able to decide who to invite to the party. BUT, if you choose NOT to invite all the kids in class, I think it is quite rude to hand the invitions out at school as was done in your case. If you are selectively inviting kids to the party, invitations should be mailed to the home so the non-invited kids aren't made to feel left out.

I'm dealing with this issue right now in my daughters' pre-school. During this, our fist year at the school, we had a party with friends and family for our 3-year-old and just invited a few of her new school friends - mainly those whose moms I'd become friendly with. I just mailed the invitations to them at home from the address list handed out at the beginning of the year. Next year when we know more kids I might invite the whole class and I can just distribute the invitations at school.

My girls go to a private school in Seattle and initially the rule was that everyone be invited but it changed somewhere around 1st grade. Now, there are no rules and everyone kind of respects the social norm. However, I am a firm believer in your child's school experience will bring up your own issues. I can't tell you how many times my feelings have been hurt and then I have this internal dialogue:

Me: That fricking mother, no the fricking kid!

Me: Why aren't WE included?

Me: Why am I not included in that little click of moms?

Me: Did she look at me funny?

Me: You idiot. Aren't you a grownup?

Me: Well, most of the time I am.

I am hoping it gets easier in middle school, at least I won't be there as often.

Ditto to Amy's first paragraph. If all kids in the class are not invited for whatever reason/s, then the invitations are to be handed out after school to the invitees.

I agree with Amy. Invite whom you like, but out of courtesy, mail the invites to thier homes. Definately

sorry, more specifically: the invitations are not to be handed out on the school grounds. You deliver them off by hand or post them..

What Amy said. How rude to invite SOME kids at school. If you only want some (and that is perfectly fine) you send the invitations through the mail or you call.

My son's school has not had a rule about inviting everyone. Those rules suck! You know why? We invited a non-school friend to my son's 6th birthday party last year (she was a NICU friend, if you can believe that). The girl's birthday was just a few days before Benjamin's birthday. So when I saw the mom and kid at another boy's party and we talked about parties, she thanked me for our invitation and explained that she had to invite every damn kid in her daughter's class, and there was a specific limit to the number of kids that could attend a party at the place she was having it (a kids' gymnastics place). Because she didn't know how many classmates would actually show up, she couldn't invite my kid with a reciprocal invitation. It was rude and awkward and didn't need to happen that way—if only the kindergarten teacher hadn't informed the class that invitations were an all-or-nothing deal.

My son handed out his party invitations at school this year. He gave out six invitations. Do you know how many second-graders there are? 24 in his class, about 160 overall. I think the kids realize that no sane parent is going to invite anyone other than the kid's closest friends. Ben hasn't complained about not being invited to people's parties, though I'm sure he has seen invitations passed out. It's not a crisis.

Now, please do not ask me to think back to my own childhood. That was much more traumatic.

I voted for "other," specifically "mail invitations to home." You shouldn't feel obligated to throw a huge 20-kid bash if you only want a few kids over for the party, but it is incredibly rude for parents to pass out invitations to a few and not to others in plain sight like that.

I completely agree with the previous commenters: Invite whoever you like, but hand out the invitations in a way that doesn't make anyone feel bad.

The snag about inviting everyone is that at the party itself (especially if it's a kids' party) everyone will in the end know/feel whether they've been invited out of true friendship or out of pure courtesy. For me, personally, that's more humiliating and condescending than not being invited at all.

My daughter's school let parents bring food/drinks/cake to kid's birthday for the whole class to share. I think it is a great idea. I usually give each kid a small favor. If I feel the need to invite her friends to celebrate her birthday at home, then I won't feel so guilty that some kids are left out.

Yep, I agree with the above. If you aren't inviting everyone, then disperse the invitations outside of the school setting.

Just a word to the wise -- even if you send the invites to the kids' home, word will get out amongst the parents and either people will get their feelings hurt, and/or you (the parent) will feel like a heel. I had to balance that tightrope recently and am not sure at all I did it well. I won't elaborate but remember that kids switch around classes each year -- if you invite the "class" from this year, that will leave out buddies from last year that are now with a different teacher (assuming the school has more than one room per age group).

I do send a special treat to the class for the actual birthday for everyone, it makes the birthday kid feel special and is nice for all.

I voted "other". Decided I did not want to enter the area of inviting the whole class so just had a family B-day for 3rd B-day. (If I did do it though, I would feel like I had to invite the whole class) I brought in a special B-day treat, the whole class sung Happy Birthday, DS got to wear a special B-day crown, etc. (so I feel like he got to celebrate with the other kids at school anyway)

My other worry with large group B-day parties is I really don't want all those presents. He gets enough from grandparents and aunt and uncles.
I'm still new to this myself and wondering how people deal with the present issue.

I agree - I would mail them if you don't want to invite everyone. Alternatively, what I did because my dd's birthday came early enough that we didn't have the address list yet, since I couldn't afford to invite all 26 or so kids, I invited all of the girls. I cleared it with the teachers and let them know we couldn't afford to invite everyone. This worked well, because out of 12 or so girls that were invited, 4 attended, which was a really nice amount for the party, not too big, not too small. The only issue was (I didn't realize when I made out the invites), there was a set of B/G twins, and I only invited the girl. Turned out to be a non-issue, though, because the boy had a sports game that conflicted anyway, and the mom seemed glad that they were starting to have different friends.

Oh, and in regards to the above post. I have told people before not to bring anything unless they really wanted. I want to celebrate, not collect gifts. My kids have also been to parties where it was requested "no gifts" or in lieu of gifts please donate to an XYZ type of charity.

In our school, an all girls school, the "rule" is if everybody is invited then invitations can get handed out. If only a few girls are getting invited then the parents need to send out SMS's or e-mails to the "invitees" parents so as not to cause jealousy amongst the non "invitees" parents, such as me and you Tertia!!!!
I think it works.

The whole class?? We have found a cultural difference here. i 've never had or heard about a childrensparty with the whole class... |Here the basic rule is as many children as you age. My son becomes 6 in june and is alowed to invite 6 friends for his 'kinderpartijtje'

When our triplets were in preschool, there were only 16 in the class, and they were 3 of them, so we invited the whole class. Friendships are pretty fluid at that age anyway, they didn't really have best friends. But that was a lot of little kids to keep entertained and out of trouble for 2 hours! Same thing in kindergarten when they were all in one small classroom.

In grade 1 and 2, the kids have been in separate classrooms. They each invited a few friends, and delivered the invitations to their homes. The friends were invited to that particular child's party, and brought a gift just for that one child. We had them sit at tables together with their friends, and each had their own decorated cake, then opened their own gifts, sort of 3 parties at the same time. It worked out pretty well. Busy and noisy, but all done in 2 hours, and no mess at my house - we went to a gymnastics place last year, and a bowling alley this year.

Unfortunately at school the kids sometimes hear about birthday parties that friends attended on the weekend to which they were not invited. We talk about how they can only invite 4 friends, or 6 friends, and how it can be hard to choose. So they can understand that their friends probably have the same kinds of limits on who they can invite. I hope other children and parents understand the situation - I'm pretty sure most do.

@Mijk: We have that rule as well in Germany. It's not carved in stone, though, so parties with the whole class are not unheard of either.

In preschool I think it's absolutely necessary to invite the whole class. By elementary school I think it's only fair to respect your child's wishes as to who s/he likes/doesn't like, but then it's also your responsibility to be discrete when inviting. No invites handed out publicly. My son turned 7 this year and this was the first time he wasn't interested in having a party for the whole class (35(!) kids here in Israel). Many of his friends are also starting to do the same thing this year, they've pretty much outgrown the big parties with the entertainer.

I'm a mail them home person, if it's possible. Even if i can afford to invite every child and can find a venue that would accommodate everyone, for some children, huge parties are not fun.

That being said, i did invite everyone from my daughter's kindy class to her fifth birthday. Occasionally a huge bash is fun - even if you have to rent a hall to do it. Oy! But since her birthday was early in the year, i chalked it up as a nice way for the parents to meet.

Her sixth birthday had about four guests. We found each equally as enjoyable, i think.

My daughter has 32 kids in her preprimary class so I did a blanket "only the girls" invite. That was still 22 kids! My reasoning was anyone whose kid didn't get invited would know it was a gender thing and not a value judgement. My 2nd daughter is in kindy in a class of 22 so I'm planning on inviting them all. The politics of birthday parties are a minefield.

Our school only have one rule; unless you're going to invite ALL kids in class you can't hand out invitations in school.
Life isn't fair, and party-invitations are part of learning I think.
My two are invited to about half of the parties, but I've never seen any kind of negative reaction from them when they're not invited. (But of course I've muttered to myself on their behalf, I'm a mom after all! *LOL*)

I am so with you on the high school thing! Whilst I was certainly not a geek at school, I also wasn't one of the cool kids with the "in" crowd. And as juvenile as it is, whenever I bump into one of the cool kids, it pleases me immensely to see that they are no better than me now!! Ha ha
Now - about parties. My oldest has just turned 4! He invited 10 friends from his preschool to his party, held at a venue called "zoomania" This cost me 10 Pounds per head - this is before party bags, cake etc... I REALLY can't afford to invite a whole class!
At this age - I think the gender thing is good - my son invited only boys - and it was all the boys in his class. That way, no one felt hurt. (I hope!OMG - I hope "I" never upset anyone!!)

This year several families will join efforts to do a single party inviting to all the class children. Last year I was so sad to see how my daughter's classmates were fully aware of the party they were not invited to. I thought at 3yo they wouldn't know, boy I was wrong !

I rarely weigh in on your site, (You getting so many comments and all, could you really have time to read mine?) But I thought perhaps another option on the poll would be a good idea?

I have a very limited budget and could only afford a few children and parents to show up for the party. Also, I the extra money to buy a present for a child my son doesn't really play with could get rather costly too. I would rather invite the few kids he plays with and only be invited to the children's parties that he knows well.

Thanks for listening!

I dont think one should be forced to invite the whole class, as well as all the family and friends who aren't in the class but must be invited (cant fit 20 three year olds in my lounge during the Cape Town winter anyway). I do think there should be a rule that absolutely no invites are handed out at school, whether the whole class is invited or not.

My children are older than most on here - 10 and 13 - and we're English. I absolutely agree with those who say you only send out invitations at school if everyone is invited. However, as the children get older the parties IME tend to get smaller, partly because they tend (IME, at least) to become activitity based, eg ice skating, jewellery making, etc - and those sorts of parties always have a limit on numbers which is usually much smaller than the size of the class. When most parties are for less than the whole class, over time it broadly evens out so that your child gets invited to some and not others, and I think that's perfectly valid preparation for life: I don't get invited to everything either! But one other thing I think bears saying is that we have always had the rule - if you are not inviting everyone in the class, then you should only be inviting about half the class. If there are 20 in a class and only 10 or 12 get invited to a party, then the other 8 or 10 know plenty of others in the same situation, and as they get older can easily understand that this time they weren't the birthday child's closest friend. If there are 20 in the class and 18 are invited, then that's totally different for the ones who are left out, and personally I think that's unforgiveably unkind.

What happened to the "invite the number of kids equivalent to the years old your child is" rule?

I would not give the invitations out at school, but there is no way I am trying to invite 20+ 3 year olds to a party. I cannot imagine trying to coordinate all that! What kind of a world is it when we have to create a chaotic, insane day (that's 40+ people if parents come) that will probably exhaust the kid to oblivion. What's wrong with having a few friends over for a cupcake?

I just don't get this concept that everyone has to be invited to everything.

So glad my son has a summer birthday.

My daughter's school has a rule, but I think it is reasonable. They will provide a list of names, phone numbers and addresses for as many kids as you like - starting of course with those your child spends the most time with. you can invite as many or as few of them as you like, but invitations can not be distributed at school. Period.

I think it's very reasonable, allows the parents to decide how many and while yes, word might get around the feelings are much less likely to be hurt than if invites were given at school.

I'm with Amy (that is the rule at our school, unless the whole class is invited, invites are mailed home). First, I cannot imagine a school that would have the nerve to tell you how to run things after school hours. I make the rules at my house, thanks.

Second, I do understand that word might get around anyway but people should be respectful of that kind of thing. You can only do what you can do. There are 25 children in my daughters class and 21 in my sons (they don't all go all 5 days a week). That is just an overwhelming number of children for a party, in my opinion.

So I voted other for inviting who you want but only sending invites to school if everyone is included. There is no reason to be rude or rub anyone's nose in the fact that they aren't invited.

I think if you're going to pass invites out at school - it should be the whole class. Otherwise, mail the invites to those you wish to invite. That is how it is done out our school.

Parents should decide who is invited to their child's party, but if everyone in a class isn't invited, the invitations should probably get passed out in a place other than the classroom.

It was pretty sad when, as a kid, I saw other kids getting invited to parties while I wasn't.

Came back to add about the comments saying there are x number in the class and that is too many. They won't all show up! Usually it's less than 50%.

What seems to be getting left out of the question is this: what is best for YOUR child? Whom do THEY want to invite? Some are social and happy to have many at thier party, others, like my daughter, have one or two close friends and want to play with just them. (she is 4). She dislikes large parties, and would be unhappy with the whole class at our house (as would I). I think that the KIDS should have some sort of say in THEIR party. I strongly agree with the rule about NOT handing out invites in class or at school. We have been invited to many, and left out of some. It is fine. There are many reasons why a parent may not want the whole class at their house. That should be respected. This is an "issue" that would have been uneard of just 20 years ago. Then, parties were small affairs with just a few kids or neighbors, and now it seems to cause all sorts of angst for the parents. Don't ge too worked up about it., The kids will take thier cue from you, and be fine. There will be many many more parties to come!

We've faced this, too, and for my son's party we told him he could invite six kids from his preschool to come to our house for the party. He picked them, and it was sort of a weird mix, IMO, but it was his choice.

Most other parties in his class involve renting out some huge place that has a ton of inflatable bounce houses or a playground or something, where there is more "bang for the buck" if you invite the whole class. But we didn't want to shell out $250 for a 4-year old's party so we kept it small and intimate. The other moms that came thanked us for having a small party because they wanted to do something similar for their kids but didn't want to be the only ones!

Am in a hurry and haven't read the other responses, so sorry if this is a repeat, but the only way invitations should be allowed at school is if EVERYONE is invited. Otherwise, deliver them outside of school. At my kids preschool, everyone must get one, or they can't be handed out at school.

I just had this issue to decide on myself. Boog just had his 4th birthday party on Saturday. I only invited 3 kids out of his class of 21, and only 2 came. Then again, I invited some of my co-workers kids, too and they all came. I ended up with 8 kids including Boog and 6 adults, plus my family. The house was absolutely packed. I couldn't have shoe-horned any more people into my house and been comfortable and we have a tiny back yard. And, as it was, I spent a couple of hundred (US) dollars on party favors, games and food.

I certainly hope that none of the other kids in Boog's class felt badly that they weren't invited. I asked Boog who he wanted to invite and he told me the kids names that got invitations.

In any case, the party turned out great, and everyone had a good time, especially Boog. And really, that's what it's all about right?

As a mother of twins, I absolutely don't believe in the rule where you have to invite everyone in the class. It is fine for pre school where the kids are very young, and the classes small, but when they get into grade school? There are 30 kids to a class here, and if the twins are in separate classes that's 60 kids!!! To top it off, my boys were born on November 29, which is right after Thanksgiving and smack dab in the middle of the pre Christmas lallapalooza. As it is, we squeeze their birthday into our annual tree trimming party. I don't think they are ever going to have one of those big theme birthday parties with invites and the whole shebang.

I can see that the painfully obvious solution has been presented several times already: If you are inviting every single child in class, feel free to hand them out at school. If you are excluding any children in the class from the invite list, then mail them to the homes. Much more gracious way to handle this by the inviting parent.

I have never allowed my daughter (now 8) to invite more kids to a party than she is years old. And even this year, when she turned 8, we allowed her to invite only 3 people (impt to end up with an even number!). We just don't like doing parties at all--too stressful--so we have made an effort to have small intimate parties with just a few friends that she really likes.

My younger daughter--same age as Adam and Kate--she gets invited to parties where her whole class gets invited, and again, we usually politely decline, because we don't know the families all that well and we have other priorities on weekends. If it were someone we knew she was close to, she'd go--but if it's just the "got invited because she's in the class" then no.

In order to avoid issues with not inviting the whole class, I have tried always to send invitations by e-mail or to each invitee's home, so that it is not done at school where jealousy etc. becomes an issue. I do think that if you invite most of the class you have to invite the whole class. (It was an issue this year--as my daughter only has 6 girls in her whole class, and if we had, for example, said she could invite 5 girls, she would have chosen one friend not from her school and 4 from, which would have left one classmate out. Which is partly why we reduced the party size this year.) (It was also during spring break, so she had trouble finding people who were in town at all!)

Anyway. Recognize that it's not just about money, or even liking some classmates over others, but also about parents who are nervous socially or just don't want to hassle with a houseful of kids, so they try to celebrate in other ways.

I agree, though--you DO start to recall all that social climbing nonsense from high school as you see your kids start to live in that land.....ugh.

PS, we call it high school too.

I think it depends on how many kids the parent wants to invite to the party. Say your kid only has 9 classmates at school, like our two year olds do. Not too bad, right? But he also has 5 friends from playgroup and you have 7 good friends of your own w/ kids. All of a sudden, you are talking about inviting 21 kids! That is too many for me. I dont see the big deal about handing out invitations at preschool/daycare since the parents who do where I work just put the invites in the kids cubbies. Most of our parents dont see each other much and certainly dont socialize, so I dont think anyone cares. This is why Id have to say it's a case-by-case situation :)

As many others have said, the "rule" at schools here pertains to those parents who insist on handing out invitations AT SCHOOL. If you are going to disburse invitations in class, then you need to invite THE WHOLE CLASS. No school has the right to tell you how many/which kids to invite to your child's b'day party, but they DO have a right to control situations on school grounds (i.e. potentially causing hurt feelings IN A CLASSROOM by handing out "some" invitations).

Not only can I not imagine how huge and expensive it would be to host parties for ENTIRE CLASSES (times 3!), but to ATTEND every.single.birthday (and provide presents) for each classmates. ACK!

Hey, while we're on the subject of b'day parties, can we please discuss the whole "party favor" issue? What's UP with this trend?! I never ever got bags of treats and/or GIFTS from parties that I attended during my childhood. Nothing like adding to the expense of your child's b'day party by having to reverse-gift the guests! SHEESH!

I don't know if that's the norm in SA, but I *think* it has been happening in the US for a while now, in an effort to make all the kids (attending a party) feel "special" and "included." WTF? I personally think it's TOTALLY acceptable for kids to learn that everything is NOT about them, and to understand that b'day parties are about celebrating somebody ELSE'S special day.

Anybody else with me on this?!

I'm pleased with our school's rule. Either the whole class gets invited or the invites don't get handed out at school. I had a party for my son and didn't want to invite the whole class...and I didn't want hurt feelings so I only invited BOYS and made sure when I handed them out before the kids got out at school that all of the girls' moms knew it was nothing personal! I figured if I was up front about it then there wouldn't be hurt feelings.

I've been on the other end and I've seen the disappointment on the kids' faces and I don't EVER want any child to feel like that!

I voted other. You don't have to invite everyone but invitations should not go out at school.

Here is my two cents: If invites are passed out at school, all of the kids should be invited. Use the mail and invite whoever you want.

My twins are in 4th grade now and we quit having parties. Now, on their big day we usually take a trip somewhere fun for them instead of an expensive party. I used to invite all the girls in their class to their parties when they were little, but then I had a case where there was a really obnoxious little girl in their class who was rather mean to my kids. I couldn't just exclude her and invite the rest so I ended up inviting her too and she just made the party miserable for everyone. I had rented my kids a dance studio for the day and hired their teacher to come dressed up as a prima ballerina, really spent a bunch of $$$ for this party and my kids were miserable the whole time because of this one girl. So I quit the party thing. I'd rather spend the $$$ on something they will enjoy and don't have the "other kid" factor in there to mess it up.

at my daughter's preschool the rule is that if you pass out invitations at school the whole class must be invited. if you mail invites you can do what you please. seems like a fair approach to me.

Well, I don't believe that the school should be able to force anyone to host a larger party than they want/can afford.

That said, I wonder if a better method wouldn't be insisting on discretion? Like say - no invitations delivered on school grounds? The practialities of that are a bit staggering, but it seems that's the better alternative to institutionalizing birthday parties.

Hi! Being one of the mom's at your school, I know exactly how you feel. When my 1st little one was in TT, we also weren't invited a couple of times. (and the school was much smaller then) I also felt sad because "we" weren't invited. And it is still happening, and it is even harder with older kids because they KNOW that they weren't invited. Now having my 3rd one there, I know that it is not a personal thing at all. My daughter had her birthday recently, and I have only invited a couple of school kids, the rest was friends and family. With my first one, I also used to invite everyone. But really can't afford it any more. And it is terrible not to be able to invite everybody. I always worry that I would offend some of the mom's. But, sorry, really can't invite everybody. Would love to. Still two parties coming up real soon, with average 26 to 30 kids in a class. I will allow each of my boys to invite 10 friends each. Unfortunately this is quite a BIG learning experience. My eldest is in grade 1 now, and they chose mini rugby teams yesterday. Well, he wasn't chosen, but luckily he doesn't now that because he decided to go and play hockey the previous day. So will have to wait and see what will happen there. Life is tough!

I think it's OK to limit who is invited if you don't have the space or budget. But I don't think it's OK to hand out invitations in class if that is the case. If inviting a subset of children, it seems like common courtesy to phone, email or mail invitations instead. Taking it one step further, a friend's daughter's preschool does not permit discussing b'day parties, even if all are invited and my friend said it seemed to work well.

ITA with the 1st poster, if you want less than all that's perfectly fine, but then invitations should be mailed or hand delivered to the house.

I recently had my son's 3rd birthday party. It was a tough decision who to invite because he's very good friends with a set of triplets. I only wanted to invite about six kids, but I was terrified one triplet would get sick and none would show, which would cut his party in half. I did invite them, and they call came, which was great.

My point is that I imagine with twins people feel it's a package deal or nothing. So, if inviting Adam means inviting Kate too, they might be likely not to invite either since it might mean one more kid than intended or maybe one of the opposite sex when none others are invited.

I imagine it only get's harder, not easier!

I think inviting a whole class to a party is ridiculous. Kids do NOT need parties with 20-30 kids, with 20-30 gifts and not even knowing who was at their birthday party. Even with 10 kids, it gets to be too much. No, every kid will not get invited to every party but that is life. If the parents don't make a big deal about it, the kids will not even know to be hurt. My son (age 8) has experienced this a number of times and he knows that kids can't invite everyone just as he can't invite everyone. He is happy enough in his life and with his good friends that he is ok with this. I'd rather him have 2 great friends than 30 acquaintances. My kids have been to parties that the whole class has been invited to and really they aren't that much fun. My kids feel lost in the crowd and dont' even always know the birthday boy/girl very well. I do think that invitations should be handed out discreetly but, like someone said above, usually kids and parents sometimes find out. People have to get used to it. If parents feelings get hurt that is their own insecurities. Someone else also pointed out that each year brings a new class and new friends. What happens when you invite the whole class plus your child wants to invite "so and so" from last year and the neighbor and they preschool friend and this and that? Each year they acquire more friends and it just isn't practical or necessary to invite every single person they have ever been friends with. This is why birthday parties have gotten out of control with 30 kids and hundreds of dollars spent on activities and gifts. I am almost sure most kids would have much more fun with a few close friends who they will remember were at their party.
A good rule I use is they can invite the number of kids as their age (up to about age 10!)

I think it's fair to say that if the invites are going to be distributed at school, it must be all or none. However, if you don't want to invite everyone, you could (and should) mail the invites to the parents so that the kiddos don't have the experience of being the only ones not invited (or so it would feel).

It's unrealistic to expect every parent to host 20 kids. That is an absurd number. I think a sensible rule (one that friends of mine use) is that the kid can invite one friend for every year old he is turning - so 8 friends on the 8th birthday - and so on.

Amy @ prettybabies

I don't have kids so I don't know for sure but I CAN"T imagine having 20+ children running around in my home. It would make me crazy! It has nothing to do with money or fear of hurting other children's feelings for me, it's simply self-preservation. That being said, I live in Canada and in-door parties are the norm. Do you hold children's parties outside where you live?

I'm quite glad my kids aren't at this stage yet! We have no one over age two, and have only had family parties so far. I have always thought things would get easier as they got older, but it doesn't seem to work that way, does it!

Funny...I'm in the throes of planning my son's bday party right now. He's 4, about to turn 5, and has attended the same Montessori school for 3 yrs. (and therefore has a well-developed social circle).

Many of these kids have had parties over the past few years, and I don't think a single family has felt the sort of invitation pressure you describe, Tertia. The school would never dream of making rules on the kids'/families' private activities.

Some kids invite everyone. Others are more selective. Our son hasn't been invited to every party and doesn't seem to care a bit. I think parents have a tendency to project their own angst on children...little kids often don't even know that they're "supposed" to be upset about something until adults signal it.

For my son's party, we've invited only the "older" kids, our son's 7 closest buddies. Like all the other families, we've mailed the invitations. That way there's never any overt exclusion at school -- and the whole party thing doesn't turn into a big distraction.

Parties. *sigh* We just went through this. My son just turned 6, and, being old enough this year, was allowed to invite who *he* wanted to his party - NOT "all the kids" OR "Mom invites every kid we know" but "HE invites 6 friends HE wants to have there." (Had to limit it to 6 because the party was held somewhere that we were charged a certain price per child.)

This included only two school friends (which was NOT an issue at all), both boys of one friend of mine, the son of another friend, and the son - but NOT the daughter - of another friend, because my son wanted only boys - he's at that age. Here was the issue.

That friend brought her daughter anyway.

Yup. She wasn't invited, I was paying PER CHILD, and she brought the daughter anyway so that her daughter wouldn't feel left out.

Now, the daughter is NOT a good friend of my son. When we have had the odd playdate here or there her 5 year old son and my 5 year old son have played while her 3 year old daughter and my 3 year old daughter have played. However, apparently when my son sent an invitation to her son, she made a point of pointing out to her kids that the son was invited and the daughter was not, and her daughter burst into tears, screamed "But xxxx is MY friend TOO!!" and ran out of the room, so, in my friend's words "I kind of HAD to bring her."

No, you didn't. You could have calmly explained that she wasn't invited and not let her throwing a fit get her her way.

Anyway, invite all the kids? No. Like Tertia demonstrated (although it wasn't even close to being her point, it was a point that she made without meaning to) only the MOMS are gonna notice who is invited - UNLESS the Mom(s) point it out to their kids. And make it a big deal.

My kids' 'school' (daycare, really) doesn't have a rule for the younger kids, but in my daughter's class (older 3s) we got a note recently saying that if you want to distribute invitations in the cubbies at school, you have to invite everyone. If you're not inviting everyone, you need to figure out a different way to deliver the invitations. I find this a terribly reasonable compromise of sorts. It prohibits the really obvious-to-the-kids hurtful nature of "oh, look, everyone got an invite but me", but still allows for parents to make their own decision about the party.

Birthday parties, at least in this country, have gotten TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL anyway. It's not at all unusual for parents to drop $500 on a party for 3 or 4 year olds. Who, seriously, would probably be happier with a backyard full of balloons from the dollar store and homemade cupcakes. But that's a different subject.

What the kids don't know won't hurt them. Now, if it was a party for a regular playmate of Adam and Kate's, and everyone but them got invites, I too would feel slighted. But ultimately it's the child's and parents' decision who to invite to their party, and there's not much to be done about that. They'll have plenty of parties to go to in the coming years I'm sure. Let it roll off.

I think the rule should be that "if" you hand out the invitations at school, all should be invited. You're always free to send invites or give them other ways if all aren't invited. I just think that if you're doing it through the school then it should be everyone.

I am not sure whether you know about one dark and expensive secret to American Birthday Parties. The host, the birthday kid, has to give "party favors" to all the guests. In my area (North SEattle) these party favors are not inexpensive. I estimate about $7 is spent per kid at parties we have attended recently. Of course, it can be more or less...

This really adds up when you have 10 kids attending!

I didn't know about the party favor thing when I first moved here from South Africa. Perhaps things have changed since then (I also lived in Australia) but it was quite embarrassing. They even do this at adult parties sometimes!


I voted other: I really like our school's policy- if you send the invitations out at school all kids in the class must be invited. If you want to deliver/mail invitations to individual kids that's your choice.

i agree with amy.

it is a tough one with multiples at times.

Wow, when I was young my mom stayed home with us and we only had family at our parties until we were in kindergarten. Then some years we were allowed friends and others we weren't. Most of our parties consisted of playing outside then eating homemade cake & ice cream. We've made the same rule with our daughter. Until she starts kindergarten all parties are only for family and important other guests (godparents, etc.). DD is now 4 and she picks her theme each year and what kind of cake I make her, but we do not invite friends. With family only we still have over 30 people attend the parties.
As far as attending other parties, if we are available then we try to go. I've been to parties where DD is the only 'friend' that comes because the birthday girls were not the most popular in the class. I felt very sad for the parents and the girls, but glad that DD went. I don't think there is anything wrong with teaching her to be kind to everyone.
I will say that the worst birthday party faux pas I've seen is a child could not make the birthday party that not everyone was invited to and the parent sent the present to the school and it sat out where ALL the kids could see it all day long. Bad of the parent, bad of the teacher, just bad all around.
There isn't one right way to do parties or invitations, you just need to do what is right for your family.

Delurking to give you my two cents....not sure why this topic is comment worthy as opposed to the other posts I have been reading for years?!
Thankfully no "rule" at my children's school but I try to keep things fair. My daughter is allowed to invite as many friends as the year she is turning (expense decision) - for example, this January she turned 5 so she was allowed to invite 5 friends and since she choose a "Girl's Makeover Party" obviously she only invited girls. We did, however, have a lunch party in her classroom with pizza and cupcakes the Friday before for her entire class. So - that's how my rules work :)

It's so interesting this came up. We discussed this issue at length at a Foundation Phase( Gr R-3) meeting on Friday- some teachers felt that if invites were handed out at school then everyone needed to be invite- of course others felt differently! I've always said to my class, you can hand out the invites but if you need my help then either everyone must be invited or all the girls or all the boys. Eventually we decided as a staff that we would allow invites to be handed out and we would even assist BUT they must be given to us and in a white"offical" envelope (like we send from the office). Therefore the children won't open the invite and they won't know it's an invite until they get home. Then by the next day they will have forgotten to ask who's invited and who isn't! AND we don't have to deal with the drama!

Invite the whole class? Aiieeee. Never. But I agree with those who have said - if it ain't everyone, don't hand 'em out at school.

This year was the first year we did as many kids as how old he was - three. It was the best birthday yet. He had a couple of friends, two girls and one infant, LOL, and they were able to play together with the new stuff without him feeling overwhelmed.

And we weren't coping with a mountain of plastic, noisy gifts. Yes. I know this makes me sound elitist ass, but so be it. We do wood/organic toys for our son and for gifts when he attends parties. So we're practising what we're preaching.

i voted other also.

the rule at my kids' schools was always this:

if you hand out the invitations in class, everyone must get one. you could choose to not invite everyone, but then you must distribute invitations another way (mail).

a mom once reached ACROSS my child to hand an invitation to another. the mother bear in me reared her ugly head that day.

Our preschool has the "invite everyone" rule and I hate it. In fact, we've only held one birthday party out of a possible four because our house is too small to host that many kids. Plus I hate all the crappy plastic toys the kids get, they have enough crap. In preschool, the kids are pretty unaware, so to me, if you don't pass out the invitations at school, no one's the wiser. Personally I prefer the smaller event-type parties, where you take 3 friends to an amusement park or the movies or something instead of the big party with the bouncy bounce and the princess handing out dog shaped balloons etc. But because of the rule, I haven't been able to do that with my kids. (INstead we just invite the neighbors who go to a different school.)

But I'm cheap and not very social and I hate attending kids' birthdays in general so I'm probably not a good one to ask.

How timely this is. I have planned a birthday party for my son (he's turning 5) in a few weeks and I invited 3 of his "non" preschool friends and 3 of his preschool friends (his class has about 25 kids).

I never even thought about inviting the whole class until I read this post.

But after considering it, I don't agree with that as a rule. I personally could not host the whole class at my home and I could not afford to host the whole class at a 3rd party venue. In addition, there is a range of ages in my son's class and he has his 3 good friends that he plays with and there are quite a few kids that he doesn't play with very much at all (quite young).

Also, Lordy, I would not want my son to be invited to 25 birthday parties this year. That's just too much. Too much activity, too many gifts, etc.

I do agree with the "mail the invitation" thing and I hadn't even though of that. I put the 3 invitations in the parents' "pick up folder" for their child (where parents check for their kid's assignments, school announcements, or notes home from the teacher each day), since I didn't have anyone's address.

If I could go back, I would have mailed the 3 invites instead, but I would not have changed my decision to invite only his 3 closest friends.

And I would not feel offended if he did not receive an invite to another classmate's party. Everyone has their own time, budget, and space limitations. I don't care enough about that stuff to 'keep score' about who has invited who to their parties.

I fall in line with some of the other reader's comments. Basically, we - as parents - cannot run around trying to constantly ensure our children are always included in everything. It's unrealistic, and not a good life lesson at all. I don't view it in a "life is tough; deal with it!" way, but more so just helping children realize they don't always have to be included, and that doesn't have to permanently damage their self-esteem or self-worth.

That said, if I was not inviting all the kids in the class, I certainly would not make the invitations a public event. That's a bit rude!

I'm echoing many of the previous posters, but, here's my two cents. If invitations are handed out at school it should be the whole class. But, if you don't want to invite 20+ kids that's totally fine, but find another way to do the invitations (mail, phone calls, etc). Also, while we're talking party etiquette you should never take uninvited siblings to a party. I had someone bring a rambunctious 7-year old boy (with a soccer ball) to my daughter's low-key 5th birthday party. He drove me nuts. That same boy has shown up at a few other parties that his little sister was invited to including a girls only princess and hair styling party. At that party he actually took home one of the party favors (a small stuffed animal) that was at the place setting for a girl who got sick and couldn't come. Several children in my daughter's pre-K class have invited the entire class to offsite parties (bouncing places, gyms, etc) and each time I've asked her is she would like to go to so-and-so's b-day party. If she says yes we go, if she says no, we don't. She's old enough to decide who her friends are. Her 3-year-old brother cried the first time she left for a party he wasn't invited to, but we explained to him he wasn't invited, and he was fine (well, dad took him out for ice cream, I'm sure that helped). Kids can start learning about manners and etiquette at this age, but, it goes both ways...they aren't always going to be invited to the party, but, they can also learn that it's rude to distribute the invites at school if everyone isn't invited. Wow, that was way more than two cents. :)

-Whoops! I read the title of today's post as
"The Panty Dilemma" and thought - this oughta be a good one!
- not that it wasn't - just a different topic than I was thought it might be-
Good luck on the actual dilemma at hand.

I've always let my son choose who he wants to invite to his party. The only thing I've done it put a limit on the number of kids invited, purely for economical reasons (we can't afford to invite everyone). We deliver the invitations after school or on the weekend so that the uninvited kids don't feel bad, and I've had lots of talks with my son about not talking about his upcoming party at school so these kids won't feel bad. This all stemmed from an incident when he was in kindergarten where one little boy's mom went through the lineup going into the classroom in the morning and handed out invites to her son's party. Only some of the boys were invited (my son was invited), and the looks on the faces of the little four and five year olds who were left out just about broke my heart. I know that life isn't fair, but it's awful to see those little faces crumple when they know they aren't "wanted." I would love to invite them all - boys and girls - but we just can't do it, and I don't think it's necessary to shove it in their faces that they aren't invited.

Like many others, our preschool rule is: invite the class or take care of all your party business away from school. Invitations can only be passed out at school if there is one for everybody.

That being said, I've done it both ways - invited the whole class (and their sibs - what a zoo!) and invited a few. As my children get older, I vote for the fewer friends, cooler party. My 8 year old will have three friends over for his birthday this summer for a baseball game and a sleepover. And that's plenty.

Didn't read the other comments, but Ben's school has a rule that if you invite the whole class, you can pass them out (or teacher will put in their folders), but if you don't invite everyone, you have to mail the invitations. I like this idea. They aren't telling you that you HAVE to invite everyone.

Our schools give out "Friendship Lists" at the beginning of the year just for this reason. There isn't any excuse for putting the feelings of 25 kids at risk because of a birthday party. Invite everyone, or mail them. Period.

We didn't do b-day parties for any of the kids until 1st grade. IMO, they don't really know who a "good friend" is before that point so it's not fair to make them choose who to invite if you aren't going to invite the whole class (which I wasn't going to do). In our schools, parents are allowed into the classroom for parties at that age so we just did it a little "bigger" than just bringing cupcakes. We did party hats and favors right in the classroom! It gave them a chance to celebrate with their classmates without it costing me $600.

In first grade and beyond we set a limit of attendees depending on where the party was being held and who their true friends were. We didn't use any magic number.

The thought of even 8 or 10 new toys coming into my house gives me hives. The last two years I've printed on the invitations: "No gifts, please. Really!" It worked like a charm and I've seen other parents follow suit since then. (It took a lot of guts but then it started a trend! :)) My boys weren't too keen on this idea at first but they were given a choice; I either put that on the invitation or they don't have a party. They realized that all they REALLY wanted was to celebrate their birthdays with their friends and were fine with it. (Although, I'm sure it will come up in therapy some day!)

That being said, having 3 boys means lots of friends and lots of party invites. They aren't allowed to go to EVERY party that they're invited to. They each have to decline at least two/year. I almost wet myself the first time I did the math on how much I'd spend on b-day presents/year if they attended every party. Yikes!

Oh, and in the area of goodie bags... I despise the idea. All that little plastic Dollar Store crap ends up broken by the time my kids get home with them and someone ends up crying. Assuming that other parents feel similarly, I don't give that stuff to our guests. Each year I try to find a useful, gender neutral gift to give out. This year I found great quality refillable water bottles on clearance. When birthday time rolls around this summer, I'll fill them with some sort of consumable goodies. I really wish more people would do that.

Wow. That was a really long comment. I need to get my own damn blog. ;)

At my son's preschool the rule is that you must invite everyone if you plan on utilizing the school mailboxes to hand out the invitations. However, if you intend to send the invites to their home addresses you can invite whomever you please. I think that is a fair rule, that way the rejection is not shoved in your face unsuspectingly when you drop off your kid at school. I am fairly certain we have not been invited to a few of the "private" parties, but I no longer give a damn. Most of the kids parents are crappers anyway. :)

In our school the rule is that if everyone is invited, the invites can come to school. If only some kids are invited, you have to mail the invites. We invited all. It was easier and more fun that way.

Also have to add that I also despise when people bring siblings along when they are not invited. I have had this happen. Usually a younger brother who was "really upset that his brother got to go to a party" so the mom thougth it was ok to bring him as well so he wouldn't "miss out". I'm sorry, but they cannot always go to parties together. And yes, one might feel bad that they can't go this one time but next time it will be their turn. Ridiculous. So many parents cannot say no. I also do not think it is necessary to do a goodie (junk) bag. It usually just gets thrown away. I think a coupon for an ice cream cone or something useful (that doesn't take up space) is much more appreciated.

At both our preschool and elementary school (and to my knowledge, at all my friends' kids' schools) there is a strict policy regarding invitations. You don't have to invite all the classmates, but you are not allowed to distribute them at school unles the entire class is receiving an invitation. We have never invited the entire class -- my kids have friends from playgroups, preschools, church and elsewhere, and I refuse to exclude them from parties just so we can invite all 20 kids in the class. Especially since half of them won't rsvp so you can't plan, and they're not all good friends. Yes, I know I could have birthday parties with 30+ kids, but I think it gets a bit over the top if you're not careful.

I tend to tell the birthday child that s/he can invite about 4 from school, in addition to long-time friends.

But I definitely think it's rude to exclude some children if most of the others are invited, and I even go so far as to tell my kids that I don't want them to discuss their parties ad nauseum at school if most of their classmates weren't invited. My daughter is just about to turn 6, and I just love (not) that the way girls punish each other is to tell them that they're not invited to their birthday party -- months in advance.

I've lucked out, because her bday is the end of May (the last day of school this year) so we always have her party once school is out for summer. Saves me a lot of headache. Of course, having said all this, last year was the end of preschool for her, and she did have a huge bday party because I felt like I had to invite all her classmates who had invited her to theirs over the past 3 years. ;)

My daughters 6th birthday (her first year at school) she invited everyone in her class (about 22 kids).The girls seemed to all get along but most of the boys just went crazy,play fighting and ignoring the girls.Her 7th birthday she had the option but chose to have only the girls invited.This party was way more fun,smaller and more intimate so kids got to have more "turns" during party games etc.It is really hard when your own kid is not invited,probably more difficult for the mom then the kid ;)I asked my daughters teacher to quietly hand them out for me.

When you invite everyone, that also includes the bullies. Bugger that!
I think handing invites to selected mothers (so the kids are unaware) is the best way to go. It has nothing to do with the school.
The worst thing about parties when you have twins, is that sometimes only one twin will be invited. That happened with my boys and it was awful. Prepare for it, Tertia, because you have a twin of each sex and as they get older, kids usually only invite their own sex to their parties.

My daughter's elementary school has a "no invitations distributed at school rule" which I like a lot. You have a dilemma most of us don't have. There is no particular stigma attached to a boy just inviting the boys or a girl just inviting the girls. I've never been offended when my girls are not invited to their male classmates' parties. Since you've got one of each, you don't get this handy "out" for inviting only half the class! You may, however, have to deal with only one of them getting invited to a party. Yikes! I don't mind too much my kids getting left out because I do think it teaches them to deal with disappointment. It's why I voted "life's tough" -- not because I'm a heartless, bad-ass mom, but because I try to find teachable moments where I can.

other: my kids will decide who will be invited to their party. if they're too young to decide they're not getting a party, lol. yeah, i'll be a mean mommy, oh well. i think the party thing is over rated, and thought so as a kid too. and i'm only 22 so it wasn't that long ago for me to remember, haha. preschool parties though, and parties with entertainers, i mean...i just think it's kind of ridiculous to be super honest, but to each their own.

Got this off www.hearttouchers.com and thought of you!

Parent's Thought For The Day:

"The main purpose of holding children's parties
is to remind yourself that there are children more
awful than your own."

There are 30 kids in my daughter's second grade class, and that's too many kids in one place for me to handle (financially and otherwise). So for her birthday, my daughter invites 2-3 friends who do not attend her school for a pizza party sleepover. Then we take a nice trip somewhere in honor of her birthday. We live in Minnesota, USA, and last year, we went to San Diego, CA; this year we went to Austin, TX. I am trying to emphasize experiences rather than gifts, so we celebrate the day of her birth in our own unique way. She doesn't seem to miss the big blow-out party at all.

Treat bags are the "participation trophies" for birthday parties!

My kids are way older....oldest is 22 (next one 17, and last one is 11). All boys. I weathered the birthday parties, and only deal with parties for the youngest one now.

My girls aren't of an age where we have to worry about this, but I have a neice who's had family only/no friends parties for a couple of years because of that rule (her parents don't have the money/space to invite everyone), and I think it's stupid. Reeeeally stupid.

First of all, what is the school going to do, expel your six year old?

Second, do they also require your children to play with everyone? To be best friends with everyone? If your child says "Ooh, Samantha, your dress is pretty!" is s/he required to then tell every other classmate that their dress is pretty, too?

Third, what about parents who can't afford to invite everyone? Even if you assume that half of the invitees won't come, half the class is still a lot of kids when they're all hopped up on birthday cake.

Fourth, if everyone follows that rule, that means that every parent is going to have to shell out for thirty presents, plus paper, bows and card.

It's ridiculous. I agree with the idea of discretion when handing out invites, although the previous poster is right--kids talk, and they're naturally going to talk about parties, so you can't exactly drop a cone of silence around the party.

I think kids learn more about getting along and being polite by having no rule and learning to be polite about not inviting everyone and/or learning what it feels like not to be invited.

The rule at my elementary school was if invites were handed out at school, either all the boys in the class had to get one (for a boys party) or all the girls (for a girls party) or everyone if both boys and girls were to be invited. Otherwise invitations had to be handed out outside of school hours. I don't remember ever having hurt feelings over it.

No rules, but out of common courtesy if you're inviting a selection of school friends, hand out the invites elsewhere or post them. I know the feeling T, I was at nursery last term and everyone walked out with invites except my son. I know he'd only just started there, and he was the youngest by 9 months (it's a very small nursery), but still... it's just manners.

I *think* I am going to go with the 'as many friends as your age' rule for my kids' parties up until 10, then it goes down again. Cruel, yes. But sensible - hell, yes. Who wants to invite 30 kids (we have big classes in this country!) for a cheap and cr*ppy party? I want my kid to have a fun birthday, and economics dictates that the more kids, the more low key the party. I'd rather he invited his true friends and had a great time.

I live in a small town - it's hard not to offend people by not inviting them. I am having a similar issue with invites to my kids' christening. But birthday parties - let the kid decide who they want to come!

ps I should add - my son was born early August, so sneaky me, I don't have to deal with the whole 'is X having a party this year?' question in the car park as the school year is well and truly over. my daughter is at the end of the school year, but i will weather that one when it comes.... ;) hers is two days after mine so we can always have a joint party :D haha!

First time reader and commenter...not even sure now how I got here..lol!! Just thought I'd add my two cents. My son is 5 so his teacher will put invitations in the kids mailbags as they are leaving school so that the kids don't get them or open them in front of each other. They also have a rule at school and at the daycare my kids go to that they are not to talk about invitations or parties. It works ok for his age but my daughter is 8 and in Grade 3 and somewhere along the way tact and kindness have fallen by the wayside. Kids are handing out their invitations at school and because they're now at the age where they're closer everyone seems to know. This would be fine if we weren't talking about girls that are best friends one day and mortal enemies the next. It's awful!

I think it is up to the parents who are throwing the part, there can't be a rule about inviting everyone. What if you live in a small apartment and also think of how much a party would cost with 30 kids!

Also I teach 6 year olds and this issue often pops up throughout the year and the children do ask about it as they do get upset by it. I just say to them that children are often not allowed to invite all of their friends as it costs a lot of money and there are a lot of kids in our class.

This can be tricky. When my child was in preschool & kindergarten, we invited the whole class to those b-day parties. That was the school rule, & it seemed the nicest way to go. However, these are young children, & thus it wasn't surprising that not all were well-behaved (don't expect perfect angels, but a little distressing to have one or two totally trashing the house every time you look away (one even thought it funny to break the new birthday gift (intentionally!!). The birthday child ended up in tears!

Thus, this year our son asked if he could have a "smaller" party. He only wanted six or seven children at the most. A resonable request, all things considered.

My dilema was that I didn't want to hurt any of the children's feelings, but I wanted my child to have a birthday he would enjoy. The problem? Where-as other schools we had attended provided a list of phone #'s or addresses at the beginning of the year (parents chose whether or not they wanted their child's name on the list) so that you could call or send b-day party invites to the children's homes, this school will not do that.

In addition, ALL children are bused (majority) or driven by a parent. Even kids that live two houses from the school get on the bus - Yes I'm serious! So, with no way to know where his classmates live, no last names to look up in a phone book etc. and no parents standing on the playground to approach, the only way to get an invite to a child, is to send it with your child to school.

Honouring his wishes for a small party, I did the best I could and sent the invites in with a note to the teacher asking her to 'slip' them into those children's homework folders. Other children wouldn't have to see the invites that way. She gave them to the children, but instead of quietly slipping them into the folders - she handed them out .... sigh ...

So, although you try not to do it via the school route - sometimes there are no other options.

Last thought. I have four children and I am positively THRILLED that they don't receive invites to each and every party. They would want to go to EVERY party whether they were good friends or not, & with up to 30 kids some years in their classes, that is not an option. From about the age of three, I explained that not every child can go to every party, but that they will still get their fair share of invitations. They understood that right from the beginning and have never been hurt or bothered by not being invited to a classmates party.

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