Even though I have two kids and my oldest will soon be turning four, I realize I am still a rookie when it comes to lots of parenting stuff. Sometimes it’s big stuff, like talking to my preschooler about how another kid said “I hate you” and sometimes it’s smaller stuff like birthday party etiquette. As my almost four-year-old’s birthday approaches, I am torn about what to do for her for a party.

In the past we’ve done backyard parties that consisted mostly of our adult friends and their kids. Since her birthday is right in the middle of summer and she’s not in daycare during the summers, we’ve kept it mostly to family friends with a few daycare people mixed in. Now that she’s in preschool, she’s been attending a lot of classmate’s parties. I do like the all or nothing rule (I think this is a thing) when it comes to inviting all their classmates.

Best part of having a backyard birthday party? Dog party hats!

Best part of having a backyard birthday party? Dog party hats!

So I’ll plan to invite her classmates plus our family friends. Do I have another backyard party or do I go for a destination party? This year all the parties we’ve been to have been at a location away from home like a kid’s restaurant, a bounce place, a nature center or an art studio. I’ve loved them all. There’s a lot to be said for paying a little more money to not have to clean your house before and after a party. But we’ve been so successful with our backyard parties, and she’s not asking for a bounce house party, so I think we’ll see if we can get away with a backyard party for one more year. In the past, we’ve also provided adult beverages for the adults. Now that parents I don’t really know will be attending, should we nix the beer?

On the subject of birthday party etiquette . . . I assume that parents of four year olds will stay with their kids right? I don’t need to specify that they should please, do I ? I wonder when you start dropping your kid off versus staying. I really like watching the kids all interact. And did you know that sometimes there’s food only for the kids and not for the adults? I had NO idea. I’ve been that jerk eating the kids’ pizza for the last four years. I’m so glad someone finally filled me in.

Oh, and can I request that people DON’T bring presents? Girlfriend has enough toys and trinkets. Is she too young to try to con her into asking for canned goods for the needy instead? It feels a little cruel to deny her presents, but I’ll bet if I told people not to bring them and didn’t even tell her, she wouldn’t even notice. You know what I love about the parties we’ve been to? The kids don’t open the presents at the party! There’s no comparing what people each got and there’s no focus on the material aspect of a birthday. It’s just all about having fun with your friends on your special day.

Then there are siblings. When is it ok to bring a sibling and when is it not? I used to just bring the baby along, but now that she’s not a baby, I suppose I need to get a babysitter so that people don’t have to pay for an extra kid to eat or play. All the more reason I think the backyard party is the way to go for us – the more the merrier and pizza for everyone!

What other birthday party etiquette things have you run into along the way and how did you handle them? What’s your best idea for a four year old’s birthday party? I’ve planted the idea in my daughter’s head that she’d like a rainbow themed backyard birthday party. I think I can pull that off and she seems excited about it. Bring it on Pinterest.

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