42 answers

Birthday Party Etiquette - Hoffman Estates, IL

My 4-year-old daughter was invited to a 2-hour birthday pizza party at a local park district facility on a Friday night. The birthday girl is from my daughter's preschool. I know the girl but have never met the parents. My question is, do I attend the party with my daughter? I know all the kids from her preschool class because I volunteer there on occasion, so I could help out as a chaperone. I don't want to contribute to overloading the hosts with a bunch of kids, either. I told my husband that I thought it would be excessive if he came with me, but I don't feel comfortable just yet dropping her off at a public place by herself. I haven't RSVPed yet because I'm a little unsure how to proceed. This is our only child, so this birthday party etiquette is new to us, and I'm sure more will come as she starts to attend school soon. What's the deal -- do parents attend parties with their kids?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow! I am so glad I posted this! I got so many wonderful responses, with tips that I was able to use in my RSVP. I plan to attend and offered to help out. In my heart and gut I knew I needed to stay, but it was just a matter of how to phrase it without looking too overprotective. Which I know I already am! :)I'll refrain from the pizza and drinks unless invited to join in.

Next year for Mia's fifth birthday we plan to invite kids from her school (before she leaves it for kindergarten), and thanks to all the wonderful moms out there who gave me such good pointers, I know what to anticipate and what to include in my invitation. This really gets me thinking about all the logistics questions we moms have when faced with situations like this -- especially when the invitation doesn't address these issues for us! I'll let you all know how my RSVP is received and if other moms attend.

Thanks again!!!

Featured Answers

S.,

I've had similiar parties with my now seven year old. If I don't know the parent or at least a parent that is staying, then I stay. When I RSVP, I ask if it would be okay if I stayed and that I can help (esp. if it's preschool). If the parent is hesitant, then my daughter can't go. Most parties of young children have the parents stay. Don't feel odd about it at all. If I'm having a party and the parent doesn't know me and wants to stay, then I completely understand (even if they know me, the more the merrier). Welcome to the "I don't know what to do" club:)

My daughter is 4 years old, too. I've just decided that if I don't know the parents well, my husband or I will stay at the party. I don't ask if I can come, but ususally the parents are grateful for an extra pair of hands to help out. If the party is thrown by parents we know well and trust completely, we drop her off. Better be safe than sorry. Good luck!

Hi S.,
I just had this come up with my 4 year old daughter. The party was at the childs house. I called and talked to the mom and she said what ever I was comfortable with. My Daughter sees her 3 times a week and felt very comfortable so I just dropped her off. Good Luck

J.

More Answers

As a parent when I hosted children parties, I always left it to the parents. Most parents that knew us would just drop their children off. Others who didn't know us chose to stay. In this day and age, I think most people would expect that parents they do not know would hang around. If not they should.

We still stay at parties even though our kids are teenagers until we feel that the environment is safe and supervised well. Yes, even when our teen is making faces and motioning us to leave. Their safety comes first.

Yes u definately attend the party with her. she is to young to be left alone. As she gets older(7or8) it will be ok to drop her off.I think you will have a good time and find others that are in the same boat. I bet you will have a good time and two hours with a bunch of preschoolers will fly by so fast. Good luck and have fun.

Hi. I am a mom just like you who is always worried about my child's safety. It is a crazy world out there. I usually go with my child to the party and hang around a bit. At gymboree or my gym parties I will usually leave for a while because the party is contained in one room and there is really no where to go. At big places like Chuck E Cheese or the park district, I never leave. I will ask the mom if she needs some help. I open juice boxes or pass out cake but I definitely stay in the background. If you know the parents, both of you could attend but otherwise I would say only one parent should be there. I attend about half of the parties. It really depends on the venue and the parents of the child. Some parties there is lots of supervision and sometimes not. Do what you feel comfortable. If you will be a nervous wreck for the two hours, then stay.

S., If you would feel more comfortable staying at the party I think by all means that you should. I am sure that you are not going to be the only parent staying. I have hosted several parties for my kids and there is always a parent or two that sticks around. I can assure you that the parents will have no problem with you staying. Have fun !!!

My advice - attend. But when you call to RSVP make sure the parent(s) of the birthday girl know you plan on staying. I attended parties for the first 3-4 years, just hanging out in the background in case my children needed me.
If the parent(s) say they don't want you to stay - I wouldn't let my child go. But that's just me.

Go with her with a book in your purse, if it seems like the other parents are not staying then you can just hang out there while not in the way and read for the 2 hours. That way you can still keep an eye on her without intruding if no one else stays.

I'm not quite sure what would be considered "proper", but I always have stayed with my 5 year old at all parties and events.I have done the same with my other children until they were older. Over protective? Maybe, but you never know. Better safe than sorry.

Yep! You should stay. Don't worry, you won't be the only mom. Most parents don't just drop-off at parties until the kids are 5, 6, or even 7. The etiquette is whatever you feel comfortable with.

Enjoy your pizza!
M.

This is a tough one. Our 5 year old is just finishing her last year in pre-school (starts K this fall) & I ran into the same issue. I just started asking the parents of the birthday child. Do you need help? Would you prefer mom's stay or drop off. I do believe it would be to much if both you & your hubby goes. Usually the host mom has friends/family on hand to help too - it's never been just the mom (or mom & dad) when I've gone. Some moms said they had loads of help & other's said I could stay if I wanted too. If I knew a mom of another child that was staying - I'd drop off (and ask her to keep an eye on my daughter too). Otherwise I'd try to stay. Sometimes it's overwhelming with so many parents at the party too. Food, drink, etc... not to mention space depending on the venue.
I ran into an issue when I hosted our daughters 5 year old party at an art studio. I told several of the moms (who asked) to just drop off (because the art studio said they had to - due to space constraints in there) - but a few stayed (without asking). One of the mom's that dropped found out a few stayed & she was upset.... so it's a bit of a sticky situation. Good Luck!

I still attend birthday parties with my daughter, who is at the end of kindergarten. When we had her b-day party, some parents stayed and some left. If I knew the parent, I was more comfortable with them leaving, although those were the ones who mostly stayed. I'd say the same thing...if you know the parents and feel comfortable leaving them in charge of your daughter, feel free to take off; however, if you don't know the parents, I would stay. I've never felt awkward staying with my daughter, even when there were only a couple others who stayed. I generally don't eat while I'm there unless I'm invited to at the party, because sometimes parents only plan on food for the kids.

When you RSVP, ask if it's a drop off party. Is the bday girl turning 4 or 5? My daughter who turned 5 in March as been going to drop off parties all year. If you don't feel comfortable leaving her, ask the mom if you can stay. She probably wouldn't mind the help either.

Good morning S.

If it were me, I would go to the party with my child. I would go to help out, but if the host has more then enough help, I would still go only because I didn't know the adults. When you rsvp, just state that your daughter and you will be attending.

Hope this helps

God's Blessings
D.

S., she's 4 years young, you ABSOLUTELY DO GO!! When it comes to children around this age, you go EVERYWHERE with them. No drop offs. Take this opportunity to get to know the other parents,even developing some grown-up frienships with the people who have kids about the same age as yours - you'll always have things to talk about. Take your husband too. The only brithday etiquette is to bring a fun gift. Pris B. mom of five.

I would stay and after a while if you feel comfortable then step away for a short while but it is 100% OK to attend with your child.

S.

S.:

All the parties my son has been invited to, I was always there. So were the other Moms. I think 4 is still a little to young to be left alone. I had a party for my son when he was in kinder and a couple of Moms just dropped off their kids and it was a handfull. Not to mention being the host, it was kind of hard to keep an eye on them. All the parties I have been to from that point on, the Moms organized for the kids and also considered the parents being there. she is too small. Stick around.

I still stay with my son and he is 5. We have been to tons of birthday parties this year, and there is only 1 mom who never stays, the others all stay. I think you need to do what you are comfortable with. I am dreading the day he goes on his own, but I have a feeling that will be a while for me. I need to feel comfortable, or it isn't going to happen.

I would say it is very appropriate to stay. My daughter is 9 and those first bday parties when the kids are under, say 6 or 7, most parents do stay throughout the whole party, especially if it is held in a public place. My 5 yr old went to a party at a girl's house once, I knew the parents from daycare and after about 15 minutes my daughter was totally comfortable and having fun so I left that one, but did come back about 30 minutes early.

Also from being on the other side and being the one throwing the bday party in a public place, I was always fine with parents who stayed, it almost makes it a little less stressful as you know that you are not the only one there supervising and watching out for the kids.

I would be very surprised if anyone found it strange for the parent to stay when the kids are that young and not in school yet.

My son just turned 5 and every party we've held or been to it has been expected that the parents would be staying. I believe one or two of the 5-year-olds in his class have held drop-off parties, but they seem rare still. I'd clarify with the parents throwing the party. Is it drop-off? If it is, would they mind if you stayed? If they give you any resistance, then just explain that you don't feel your daughter is ready to attend without you just yet, and that perhaps next year... I would like to hope that most parents would understand.

Go with her, and be prepared to roll with it if it seems obvious that you aren't needed, that there are plenty of adults and people she knows and she will be happy. There isn't - or shouldn't be - hard and fast etiquette about kids' birthday parties, and don't let anyone bully you about them! They're supposed to be fun for the kids. Here in Chicago, I have attended many parties with my kids, sometimes only because it's a pain to drop them off, figure out what to do for 2-3 hours and then come back. No one has ever made me feel unwelcome and frequently I end up participating. I always bring something to do just in case.

You should RSVP and just tell the mom the same thing you wrote in your post..you feel kind of weird just leaving your child and would like to stay. pointing out that you have helped at the preschool and would not mind helping at the party if needed. most parents appreciate the extra adult! we went through this when our oldest (19) was younger and invited to a party at a public place! If the parent seems put off by your request, don't send your child to the party!

It is totally okay to ask the parents if you can stick around. I have done that and it has been a great way for me to get to know the other parents. You may be surprised and find you are not the only one. The parents I have asked have been totally accepting. they may appreciate you being there too for a little help.

Shona,

given her age, and because it sounds like it might be her first 'friend' party, I would RSVP and tell the mother 'If you dont mind, this is her first friend party and I would like to be around to make sure she does ok' I am sure the mother will have some drop offs, and some mom's may just mingle in the hallway and I think that is perfectly acceptable.

If she says no, I would be very surprised. I find it easier to imagine myself in that mother's position... I would probably love some help,.. get to know the mom's (she may want to mingle a little too) and absolutely understand if there is a 'first-timer' among the group :)

Good luck!

Hi S.,
I just had this come up with my 4 year old daughter. The party was at the childs house. I called and talked to the mom and she said what ever I was comfortable with. My Daughter sees her 3 times a week and felt very comfortable so I just dropped her off. Good Luck

J.

Stay with her. At 4, hosting parents usually go either way on this (kids too)...don't worry too much about etiquette, this is your daughter. Wishing you well

I would absolutely stay. Prior to the party date, ask the mom if she needed some help. If she accepts, great. If not, I'm assuming that since this is a park facility that the party won't be the only thing there, nor will it be in the only space. Maybe you and your husband can bring some cards or just have some quiet time in another part of the building. When my oldest daughter was in preschool she went to a party at the park district. They had rented a room. I brought a book and sat in the lobby where I could be available and I could also see the door to the room. She had a good time, I didn't impose and I had a little time to myself.

Hello Mom,
You do go to the party with your child, especially if you don't kow the parents! No one will watch out for your child better than you. Follow your maternal instincts at all times, they are there for good reason- to protect and support our offspring!!Good job asking questions Mom, your'e on the right track.
God bless you, J.

If I were in your shoes and didn't know the parents, I would attend. I have a preschooler right now and at his 5th birthday party, some parents stayed and some left. I am a teacher and know how out of control a group of children can get without the right personality of adult(s) around. I would chance it yet. Some may say I am overly protective, but I would just stay on the sidelines and let her enjoy the party if it were me.

I hope she has fun!
A.

S. ~

As a parent <for over 20 yrs.> I was SHOCKED when we moved into this area and our youngest <just turned 5> was asked over for parties and the parents LEFT. Are you kidding me??

Even my teenagers are used to us being ‘around’ even if it is just the ‘parent’ group sitting up stairs having coffee while they are having their party!! Never do I leave my child with any parent that is having the party; they have plenty to do without the responsibility of ALL the kids. Offer to help / offer to stay ~ until the day comes when YOU are comfortable leaving your child do so. Don’t let anyone tell you ~ you can’t stay!!! GOOD LUCK.

I can not say what the proper etiquette is, or if there is one, but I can tell you what I do. If it is at a public place I ALWAYS stay! Especially if I do not know the parents. If another one of my close friends were to attend the same party I would feel comfortable w/them staying w/o me there. I have let me girls go to a party at a house by themselves, but only b/c I knew who they were going to be around. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. You dont want to spend 2 hours wondering if your child is safe or not. Good luck!

At 4 yrs old, you probably won't be the only parent hanging around. I'm somewhat overprotective and I've learned not to care what other people think. My kids are much older now (10 and 12). Not once, has a parent or parents minded if I hung around. If I felt comfortable once there, then I could make the decision to leave. I probably wouldn't feel comfortable at a park district on a Friday night with children that young.

Hi S.,
By all means stay. Proper birthday party etiquette is to not drop off until they are 5. This is especially important for public place parties. The parents will expect you to stay.

at four years old, yes - one parent almost always stays.

Hi S.:

My first daughter is 6 1/2 and I STILL stay at the party with her!! When she was 6, I started to ask her if she wanted me to stay or go and she always says stay. Any time before 6, I was uncomfortable leaving her anyway. I think a 4 year old is too young to be left, but I guess it depends on how secure she is if something were to happen. Will she be comfortable asking another adult to take her to the potty? Can she eat a slice of pizza without help cutting it? These are the types of things I always thought about. When I'm at the party, I always offer my help to the adults. That way I'm there, but not just sitting around. Good luck!

I would say that most if not all the parents will stay. I go with my four year old to all parties and other parents are there with their kids also. I wouldn't plan on dinner and refreshments for yourself, but definately stay if you want. I would never leave my kids with adults I didn't know. If I do know the adults, I still attend at that age. Just be helpful. It's a good opportunity to get to know the parents of the kids your daughter is friends with.

Maybe I'm wrong but I would think you are expected to attend. I know I would wonder about a mommy that dropped off a 4 year old in a public place like that with people she's doesn't really know.

I would say you are supposed to go along to chaperone your child for the event. If you don't see a bunch of other parents there when you take your daughter, then just walk right up to the hostess and ask what you can do to help.

S.,

I've had similiar parties with my now seven year old. If I don't know the parent or at least a parent that is staying, then I stay. When I RSVP, I ask if it would be okay if I stayed and that I can help (esp. if it's preschool). If the parent is hesitant, then my daughter can't go. Most parties of young children have the parents stay. Don't feel odd about it at all. If I'm having a party and the parent doesn't know me and wants to stay, then I completely understand (even if they know me, the more the merrier). Welcome to the "I don't know what to do" club:)

My daughter is turning 4 soon, and we've been to a lot of birthday parties this year. Most have been at party places. A good portion of the parents tend to stay, while others will drop off. It all depends on your comfort level, how you think your child will handle the situation, and whether or not you know the parents or not. All the parties I've been to have refreshments for both kids and parents.

I had a birthday party for my 5 year old daughter at a movie theatre. For children this age, it is really difficult to keep an eye on all of them. I also ran into a problem. I invited all of the children and the parents rsvp'd that both parents and the child were going to attend. I expected a child and one parent, but not all of them. The party ended up costing us a fortune because we felt obligated to pay for everyone. We did not specify on the invitation that only one parent attend. Did the invitation say it is a drop off party? If so, you can drop off your child. If it doesn't say this, I think that you are expected to attend with your child.

You already received such good advice from everyone. I just wanted to say to go with your gut feeling. You need to feel that your child is safe and your child will find comfort in knowing you are there for her. There's nothing wrong with staying. It's a good opportunity to meet all the parents and it's a great mommy/daughter day together.

Typically, the parents giving the party will indicate somehow whether or not parents are invited to stay. If they didn't give an indication, I would just ask. You can simply ask, "Are parents staying at the party with their children, or is this a kids only party?" If it is a kids only party and you don't feel comfortable leaving your child there, then just rsvp no and say that you don't feel comfortable leaving her there without parental supervision.

Our daughter is now 12 but my husband and I would attend all birthday parties that she was invited too up untill she was about 8. I say attend this will also give you the chance to meet the other parents. Some other parents will also stay. You can all mingle while the childrend are having fun.

My daughter is 4 years old, too. I've just decided that if I don't know the parents well, my husband or I will stay at the party. I don't ask if I can come, but ususally the parents are grateful for an extra pair of hands to help out. If the party is thrown by parents we know well and trust completely, we drop her off. Better be safe than sorry. Good luck!

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