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Birthday party etiquette

Heidi Hoff is publisher and editor of Preschool Planet, a website for parents and caregivers of preschool-aged children. Articles discuss topics that concern youngsters between the ages of 3-5 years such as health and safety, crafts and ...

Birthday party manners

Your child has been invited to yet another birthday party. Gone are the days when she required you to stick around for the entire party and now says you can leave the second you drop her off at the door. You secretly hope she remembers her manners and doesn't take over the gift-opening duties for the birthday child!

Birthday party manners

Some basic rules

The best way to prepare your child for a party is to go over a few basic rules, maybe engage in a bit of role play, and then let her go!

Here are some of the most important manners your child should know when attending a birthday party:

  1. Make sure your child says hello to the parents (or other party hosts) as soon as she's arrived. That way, they know she's there and may not have to wait for anyone else in order to get the party started.
  2. Have your child take off his or her shoes when entering the house.
  3. If there is no designated area to put the birthday gift, your child should ask where he should place it.
  4. Remind your child she is to be on her best behavior when she's a guest at another person's home. She should use her inside voice if indoors and not yell, scream or be obnoxious.
  5. If your child becomes ill at a birthday party, have the host call you and immediately go to pick up your child. Make sure you write down your phone number and put it in your child's pocket or on the counter near the telephone.
  6. Tell your child that just because some children may start jumping on the couch or bed it is not okay for him to do so unless he has permission from the parents. Sometimes children behave at other people's homes as they do at their own and may not realize their actions are inappropriate.
  7. Tell your son or daughter to remember their manners. "Yes please" and "No, thank you" should be the polite answer to "Would you like something to drink?" or "Would you like a piece of cake?" instead of a nod or a shake of the head.
  8. When it's time to open presents, under no circumstances is your child to lay a finger on the birthday child's gift, even if she is struggling to open it. Maybe your child could ask the parent for some scissors to help snip a tight ribbon instead. Nothing spoils the birthday child's special day more than having to fight other children for the right to open her own gift. Remind your child that she too will have, or already has had a birthday where she opened all her gifts without any help from her guests.
  9. Make sure your child knows that once the gifts are opened, they belong to the birthday child and it is up to them to decide when they will be removed from the packaging. Think of how the birthday child might feel if after the party, all of his gifts have been taken out of their boxes and are left strewn around the house. The gifts have suddenly lost their newness and appeal.
  10. When being served food that your child might not be familiar with, teach him to say "no thank you" instead of "yuck." Not only will he seem rude, he may hurt the parents' feelings. Much planning and preparation goes into organizing a birthday party, and parents usually rack their brains thinking of food that will appeal the majority of children attending the party.
  11. At the end of the birthday party, make sure your child thanks the parents and the birthday child for inviting her. Pick her up at the appointed time and make a quick exit. The parents will surely be exhausted. They may also have a family party planned for that evening.

The benefits of being a good birthday party guest

One of the ways you can ensure your child remains on everyone's guest list is to teach her how to be a good guest. You will know how your child has behaved by what the host tells you at the end of the party. If they sing your child's praises and are impressed by his behavior, then you have done your job. If not, then it's back to the drawing board!

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