Do I Have to Invite the WHOLE CLASS?

Updated on March 31, 2012
E.M. asks from Chicago, IL
27 answers

My son is turning 5 in mid-May. He goes to pre-K in a class of about 20 boys & girls. The standard birthday party around here is invite every kid in the class, plus some other friends, and hold the party at a jumpy-house place or something similar. I hate it. It feels chaotic and impersonal to the parents sort of stand around bored out of their minds. Not to mention the price tag.

In a perfect world, I'd like to have the party at our house and invite only 3 or 4 boys from class, along with 3 from our weekly playgroup. We have a nice yard with a big playset and sandbox. I want to do a dinosaur theme and bury plastic dinosaurs in the sandbox for the kids to take turns digging-up the "fossils" for prizes. Maybe have a pinata and of course cake & ice cream. Just a classic, old-fashioned birthday party.

I have emails for the moms of the 3 or 4 classmates, so I could contact them for their addresses to send the invites.

Here's my concern: the kids will talk at school and some other kids might feel left out. I don't want to tell my son or the parents of the other invited kids not to say anything -- it makes it seem like we're doing something wrong. My son has been invited to numerous bday parties and every single one of them invited the entire class. I don't want 30 kids, plus their parents at my house, b/c the weather might not be nice enough to play outdoors.

So -- is it mean to have the party the way I described, with just a few friends? If so, does anyone have any other ideas that don't require inviting the whole darn class?

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answers from Austin on

I always did at home parties as the big fancy, all class Pizza House birthday parties become more of a field trip and no one really celebrates the birthday person.



answers from Chicago on

just send the invite via e-mail and ask the moms to put it on the calendar and refrain from discussing it with the kids until that day in order to spare the feelings of the children in the class who were not invited.

Small parties are more meaningful and less stressful. I have a few friends who use the rule of thumb to invite 1 guest per year of age of the birthday child.


answers from Hartford on

You only have to invite the whole class if you present the invitations while on school property. If you mail the invitations or send electronic invitations, then you invite whomever you choose and you don't "have" to invite the whole class nor should you. And you shouldn't feel guilty about it even if the kids talk about it later at school.

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answers from Minneapolis on

We followed the age rule (approximately) - a 5th birthday party means invite 5 friends. No way could we afford a party for 20 or 30! And I agree with you that a party that big would be chaotic and impersonal.

I think your party idea is great! Of course you can be discreet in how you deliver the invitations, but kids need to learn that they won't be invited to everything. They'll deal. It sounds like the parents are creating the problem here, not the kids.

We just had a 10th birthday party for my daughter. She invited just three friends to a waterpark sleepover. She has been to parties for many more in a backyard or park. Each family needs to do what works best for them.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

First of all, you do not "HAVE" to do anything you don't want to do.

You are the parent and you throw the birthday party you want to throw. Is your child asking to invite everyone? Yes, kids will talk and other parents will learn that their little Johnny was not invited.

If you are approached which no one has a right to do, just be honest and say you opted for a small party at your home instead of a big blowout this year. You owe no explanations either.. Your family, your party, your life.

Make sure you contact the moms of children in the class OUTSIDE of school via email of mailed invitation and keep invitations out of the school. Be discreet about it.

For the record... as a regular sub teacher in 1st grade, invitations are often brought to school and in that case, everyone is supposed to get an invitation but I have seen some moms, going from locker to locker putting invitations in certain children's backpacks and that does not keep the "secret". When the children pack up for the day, they see the invite and the ones who were not invited see that they were left out.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I could never afford to invite the whole class, so for my daughter, I just invited all the girls. That way she could just say "Its a girl thing".
I will do the same for my son. I think if you pick and choose there will be a lot of hurt feelings.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I'm not sure how 5 year olds work yet, but when my son (and his friends, including those at preschool) turned 4 last year none of the kids really mentioned any of the parties at school, just the parents talked about them among ourselves at drop-off/pick-up. Unless the party is held right before school, my kiddo seems to forget it immediately.

For example, we did a TON of really fun, special things over Spring Break two weeks ago, some with random classmates. When his teacher asked all the kids what they did over break, mine told her about baking a cake - that we did the night before school - and having a friend over during the weekend. Nothing about zoo, art museum, picnic, children's museum, swimming, grandparents, play dates, etc! And none of his other friends that he had seen mentioned doing these things or seeing each other either.

I think we overestimate what they talk about/care about. I know at 4 my son doesn't understand being slighted if he doesn't get an invitation to a party. Even if he does hear about another party, he doesn't ask why he didn't go. Yet. We parents get more hurt than they do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Medford on

I think your idea of a party sounds wonderful! You never have to invite everyone and you are free to invite no one! If you can ask the parents of the children he wants at his party for their address do so, and then mail the invites to them. Dont hand them out at school and I dont know about you, but I have no clue what anyones email address is. Just do what YOU want to do for the party and dont worry about all the others who just follow the crowd whether they want to or not. Start the new trend that is reasonable and managable and enjoy it!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I love your idea of the party!!!

I would NOT invite the whole class. The "rule" at our school is IF you hand the invites out at school - the whole class is invited. IF you do not - fine.

Just this weekend one of Nicky's classmates had a party and he wasn't invited! Guess what?! He didn't CARE!!! Now, yes, Nicky is almost 10 but still. He knows that he won't be invited to EVERY party...

I would DO IT YOUR WAY!!!! Kids need to learn that they will NOT be invited to EVERY party or every game. DO IT YOUR WAY!!! Make it personal.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If you only invite a few it is ok that others are left out. It's when almost all are invited and only a few are left out that feelings are hurt . What you are planning is just fine . Have a great party =0)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

it is totally ok to do this. is it going to happen during the school year or after school is out? pre k should be out about then. if you ahve the party right after school is out he won't see the other kids for months and by then they will have forgotten about it. so no biggie.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Do it your way, you are fine. Invites go to the moms directly, not via the class. You're good to go. Party idea sounds great and ps I totally agree!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Jonesboro on

I just want to say that it's absolutely ok to only invite a few. Years from now, the kids in your son's class wont remember having 'hurt feelings' because they didn't get invited to a birthday party, but your son WILL remember his great party with a few special friends. Thinking about it long term, it's much more important to both of you to do what YOU want, rather than what you believe is socially acceptable. If you're the one paying for it, and it's YOUR house (and resources...), do what you want. It may be the best idea to email the moms of the few kids and have them not tell their kids until the day before the party, so they have less time to tell the other kids in class, then after the party, they wont have as much to say... it's the anticipation of something, at at age. Once it happens, they wont talk about it as much or at all, so you don't have to worry about them saying anything to the other kids in class. And even if they do, like I said, they'll get over it. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with disappointment- we can't make every person's life perfect, why ben over backwards to try?!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Everyone has the right tho throw the kind of b-day party they want to for their child and do what's best for you and your child. My daughter has 30 kids (20 girls) in her class, plus cousins and outside of school friends. She has been invited to several parties from school where the whole class was invited, or at least all of the girls. We could NOT do that, and she understood that. So, she chose 7 friends from school (it was her 7th bday) plus her cousin and best friend and we had a fun party at home. She and her friends had a great time and I was not overwhelmed. I did ask my daughter to not talk about it at school, because we wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Your party idea sounds great to me, and I wouldn't worry about what everyone else does! I did do the whole class party once in pre-K, at a bouncy place, and it was chaotic and impersonal, and I don't want to do that any more. My daughter enjoyed her small party at home MUCH better.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dover on

As long as you don't send out the invites via the school you should be fine.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Madison on

There is nothing wrong with doing the party the way you would like to. It is okay to invite just a few kids from school. It would not be okay to invite 18 out of 20 kids(obviously not what you're planning). Kids may talk about the party, but that is part of life. Children need to learn that they will not be included in every party and it is okay.

I have two daughters and most of their parties have been girls only. It gets too big if you invite the whole class. I wouldn't want 25 kids running around my house!

Have fun and go with the party you would like. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

It's your son's party! If you only want to invite a few kids, then I think that is okay! Just contact the moms via email or mail invitations. Don't feel bad.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

No, it's not mean. I did that with my son's party this year. He's in kindergarten. We took him and three friends to a bowling alley. I just sent an e-vite to their parents. I did ask my son to not mention the party at school in order to avoid hurt feelings.

Not every can afford a huge, elaborate party. I think you can definitely do it your way. Just don't have him pass out the invites at school.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Wow, I could have written this....I was in the same boat a few weeks ago, but with 37 kids in class. Here's what I did:

I made a "no gift" camping party. I invited everyone, because I didn't want to start excluding kids at this age. I banked on most of the class having other obligations, and scheduled it for 5-7 on a Friday night. I printed easy-peasy invites on green paper and had the teacher pass them out.

I couldn't afford to have it at a bouncy house, so we set it up in our yard, and prayed for good weather. I made s'mores pops, pigs in blankets, and served water and apple juice. We played games, and the kids were welcome to bring a well-loved book they'd outgrown for my son to donate, but NO GIFTS. I snapped photos around the yard and did a quick snapfish collage to use as scavenger hunt cards.

We ended up with about 18 kids, but the weather held and we did it outside, and I think they had a blast.

Good luck, and I feel your pain. (about half the parents stayed and half dropped off, but they seemed to make small talk okay)



answers from Pittsburgh on

You can do whatever you like.
Our school rules are IF you're going to pass out invitations IN SCHOOL--you've gotta invite all the kids or all of the sex of your child (all the boys).

You can pretty easily find people's addresses online, so snail mail them and invite who you want.



answers from Chicago on

My son has only been invited to 3 all-class parties this year (out of 20 kids in the class, including him). The play in his particular classroom is very divided by gender, so I wouldn't be surprised if there are more all girls and all boys parties. In fact, that's what we're doing for his 5th bday and a couple of the other parents of boys that I've talked to. I also think this is a common age for the "princess party," and again divided by gender. I tell my kids not to talk about their parties at school - although I doubt they have the ability to filter at this age. I was/am a little worried about word getting around only because one of his boy buddies has a twin sister in the class, so she will be invited, but I'm not overly concerned about it.

Have the party you want and what you think will be most fun for your son's special day!



answers from Chicago on

My daughter, who is in full-day kindergarten, just turned 6 in February. The teacher sent a pre-printed note home with info on how they handle birthday celebrations in school (you can bring in treats as long as they are store bought, how many kids in the class, etc.). This note also said that if we were hosting a birthday party for her at home and planned to invite the whole class, she could bring the invitations to school in her backpack and hand them out. However, if we were inviting only certain children, we would have to mail the invitations out directly.

I thought this was a very good way to handle it. You are certainly entitled to have the kind of party you want within your own budget and should not feel obligated to invite the whole class, neighborhood, whatever. I have learned that I should do what's best for my children and right for me and that if any other parent were in the same boat, they wouldn't hesitate to do the same. In my opinion, these parties are often an exercise in "keeping up with the Jones's", parents feel like they have to out-do each other to prove they're the coolest parent in town. It's all a show. That's why they invite everybody, not so your child doesn't feel left out. I say have the party you want and invite the children respectfully, by mailing (or emailing) invites out only to the kids you want to include. Most parents will understand and respect this, even if they find out through the grapevine later that they weren't among those invited. And if they don't respect it, then who really cares about them anyway?



answers from Boston on

I think it is perfectly fine to have the party as you described. My daughter is in first grade and she has been invited to a few "invite the whole class" parties, but I aslo know there have been parties where only a few kids are invited. My own daughter's party is going to be with 3-4 of her friends in a few weeks.

What I have done when we invite just a few people (especially via e-mail) I tell the parents we are having a small party with just a few kids. That way they don't automatically think every kid in the class will be invited.

My experience is at 5 the kids don't talk nearly as much as we think they will when it comes to parties. So I don't think there will be that many hurt feelings.

I hope your son has a great birthday party!


answers from Milwaukee on

My rule of thumb is all the kids or all of one sex (in your case all the boys).

If you wanted a quaint party at home with just close friends I would do it discreetly. I would also have your DS not mention it at school. You are not doing anything wrong, there may just be hurt feelings of the kids who did not get invited.



answers from Oklahoma City on

I think that if you invite anyone from the class it is going to be a big issue. One thing you might consider doing is wait until school is out for Summer. The very first day they are out.

My friend has a son with a December 16 birthday. She never has his party in December, they have it the first week of January. They do have the family party of course but the school one is always when they come back from Christmas Break. She tried having it one time in 1st grade and no one came. Too busy and no money since they were all spending for Christmas.

Her other child has a June birthday so they have her school party the last week of school.

It isn't that big of a deal.


answers from San Francisco on

When my son was in pre-K I sent treats to school for his birthday. The class took 10-15 minutes to sing happy birthday and have a treat.



answers from Boston on

We did a few of the crowd parties at outside places and lately we do a few friends at our house. My kids did not like that the group really did not pay attention to the them all that much since everyone is running around and then after and hour or so everyone was gone. They prefer really playing with their friends, a few at a time. The only rule around here is that if you do not invite the class you cannot bring the invites to school, mom mails them (or I email the moms and arrange the date and time). The only downfall is that if on the actual party day one is or some are sick, you end up not with a party but a playdate, which can be disappointing for the birthday child.

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