Why Do Kids Seem to Not Have Fun at Their Birthday Party?

Updated on September 18, 2011
A.S. asks from Eugene, OR
22 answers

Have you noticed it too? With a 3 year old and 9 year old I see very different aged kids not having fun when my kids are the guests. All the guests are having a great time. It's my party and I will try if I want to seems to be happening too much. What is your insight as to why?

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answers from Portland on

There have always been a child or two who overload on stimulation or sugar at a party and break down. But more than ever, I see not only kids not always enjoying parties, but often the adults connected to those kids experience unhappiness around the whole affair, even as they struggle to maintain big smiles.

When I was little, way back in prehistory, bd parties were simple affairs. Candles, presents, cake and ice cream, a few predictable games and prizes. Simplicity is a thing of the past, and when things seem to go wrong, it's often some combination of the following:

Parents often appear to feel they have to keep up with other people's party and gift expectations, plan elaborate and impressive bashes, give gift bags to all attendees. Having fun is almost beside the point; they don't really plan for fun so much as making the right impressions. There's a great deal of expense and anxiety involved in all that, and I think kids feel not only their parents' strain, but may build up unrealistic expectations about what sort of gifts they should receive. Events are often too long, involve too much driving to some pricey (and often noisy) destination, and end up feeling frantic in multiple ways. And gift givers are also anxious; will their presents compare well to everyone else's? And how many more expensive gifts will the parents still have to fit into the budget before the next round of birthdays starts?

Modern birthday parties simply astonish me. They sometimes seem more an exercise in masochism than celebration.

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answers from New York on

I havent noticed this. what type of parties are you talking about? My kids always enjoyed their parties, it wasnt about the gifts it was about fun activities with friends

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answers from Miami on

My daughter always has a blast at her parties. Maybe the kids are given too much pressure on it so they cannot just relax and have fun with their friends?

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answers from Jacksonville on

I think being the "honoree" creates a lot of pressure. Add to that pressure that kids build up in their minds what they want/expect the day to be like (the best day ever!!) and there is no escaping disappointment. They have it built up so much the actual event could never live up to what they have in their minds ahead of time. SO, you get disappointment, pressure, and then mom asking "what's wrong?"..... Cry, cry, cry....


We don't do big birthday parties. Just a few... one every 4 or 5 years. Usually it's just family, otherwise. And I always tell them "we're not doing a big blast this year".... that keeps expectations LOW and then they are free to be excited and over-the-top- happy with anything above and beyond that low bar I have set. :)

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answers from Phoenix on

I think birthday parties can just get to be too much. Too many people, too much activity, wanting to be with your friends, but having family all over you, or simply not being able to socialize with all the friends at the party, etc., etc., etc. Your parents thinking they threw the best party ever, when in essence, they totally overdid it & missed the mark. I think simple is better.

I think DD was much happier when we took her to Disneyland this year for her 5th birthday. And so was I, because I didn't have to deal with running around like chicken with my head cut off trying to plan & organize a party. I'd honestly rather do something small or just do an outing or trip in lieu of the party.

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answers from Redding on

I'm not sure what you mean by your question.
But, I think that sometimes people build things up so much for the kids that they are on overload and don't know how to handle it.
Kids get overwhelmed with all the people and kids that come to their party.
Likewise, there are kids invited who get overstimulated.

It happens.

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answers from San Antonio on

The bigger the party, the more can go wrong, the more different personalities can clash and cause stress...etc......

One of my "funnest" bad grammar, I know.....bday parties when I was a kid was having 2 friends over to make cookies and have a sleep-over. Was a blast!!!

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answers from Kansas City on

Because they're overwhelmed. We've turned birthday parties into these huge events that small children are unable to handle. Some people plan them and make no plans for naps...so crazy. I read somewhere to invite one child for every year the bday kid is; so, if turning 4, invite 4 friends. This past year my daughter turned 4 and we didn't really do a "party". We invited grandparents to dinner at her favorite restaurant (we brought the cake and balloons with us and sang to her) and she LOVED it! She didn't have to share toys, she totally loved all the one on one with Papa and Yaya. Then, we let her invite two friends to go to the bouncy house place. It was such a great time and so much less stress for us. We may do it again next year. :o)

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answers from Portland on

Hmm...not sure. Last year my daughter was pretty bummed about her Bday party. She helped plan it and choose the favors, cupcakes, etc. This year she decided for her 10th Bday that she would only like to have one friend at her party -- why? Because last year she had 11 invites and it was too overwhelming. Her friends were super noisy and their behavior was a little bit much. Even I was glad when the party was over. All the presents we received haven't even been used -- just put away in a drawer -- I have been slowly re-gifting them and plan to donate the rest at Xmas time. Her party last year was just too much for her. She'd rather do something more intimate with one friend. She didn't have fun as the Bday girl. This year will be better.

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answers from Boston on

Sometimes I think kids get overwhelmed with birthday parties - either there is too much commotion, too many people, or too high of expectations. Sometimes simple is definitely better, but we forget that as parents because we want so many people to share the special day with our little ones.

I will say my kids tend to have a good time at their own parties, but they have a lot of input on how things are going to go. I offered up some party locations for my daughter's 6th b-day, and she said she just wanted to do it at home and paint nails/faces. I think all the kids had a great time.

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answers from Seattle on

Well, when I see kids not having fun it's usually because the adults have tried to make it some kind of "game" party. you know, pin the tail on the donkey, follow the leader, bob for apples...ect. I find that if you throw some balls out, put chalk out, jump ropes, and other things for kids to play with they will play! No need to "organize" a party! Who wants to stand in line, wait their turn, and be quiet to listen at a party? They want to have fun!

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answers from Los Angeles on

Kids get stressed just like adults and if there's too much going on it's not fun. Keep the parties simple, just immediate family and grandparents and have it at home.

Personally, I hated big parties when I was a child, hated being the center of attention, and was exhausted and relieved when everyone left. My favorite parties were when my mom asked what i would like to have for dinner, made it, and we had cake, ice cream, and I received my gifts after dinner.

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answers from Redding on

I think when it's your OWN party you have BIG expectations. Mom's get all giddy and crazy mulling over the details of the party and that's all the kid hears about for a week or two prior to the party, THEN when the party gets here they are already burnt out OR disappointed in the outcome (most kids have to listen to "If you don't behave I'm going to cancel your party... sort of like telling them Santa isnt coming if they arent good)... bad thing to do to kids. I find that most moms try to impress the other moms and not really the kids. Something to consider.

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answers from Dallas on

They are emotionally overwhelmed. I've noticed it too! We also make sure that our kids don't have to share their new toys at all. It gets WAY too overwhelming if they have to share. But, anyway, I think that is why...too overwhelming.

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answers from Minneapolis on

My daughter has had a great time at her parties. We keep them small (five or six kids, max). She chooses the location, whether a sleep-over at home or an outing to a fun place.

I'm not sure the circumstances that you've observed this, but maybe people just try to do too much, with too many people?

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answers from Pocatello on

Sometimes birthdays aren't fun. They may not have gotten what they wanted, or what they expected... I hated a few of my birthdays. I was not fond of having to have a bunch of relatives come and smother me... and then half the kids I invited would cancel or not show up, the gifts were usually a bunch of things that were too "little kid" for me, in a family that seemed to think I was perpetually 4 years old.... Oh, and to top it off... I always got a birthday cake and ice-cream, 2 things I really didn't like when I was a kid.

I wasn't trying to be snotty or selfish... But birthdays were a big family production and I just didn't like them very much. I had a summer party so planning it was awful... most kids were out of town and couldn't attend. I lived in a town where some parties were HUGE, and I just didn't understand what made THOSE kids so special when my parties were small in comparison.

I had one huge awesome birthday party in my life. I was 10 and had a tea-party, but a more "grown up" party... not cutesy. It was spectacular, but it took the planning of a small wedding to throw LOL! What made me like it? It was really truly about me... I didn't even ask for gifts, all I wanted was an awesome party, just as I wanted it, for me.

I wonder if these kids are getting a say in what goes on? OR is it "moms showing off"?


PS... I still hate my birthday, I never get what I want, and I just get reminded of the fact that I am getting older (but not much wiser LOL)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have noticed that some kids get overwhelmed or overstimulated and have melt-downs or take a "breather"....however, I don't expect kids to be happy 100% of the time - anywhere.

Your kids are also 6 years apart - in my opinion - they shouldn't be attending the same parties....different mind set and totally different kids.

Some kids are worried if their present will be liked, if it's as good as someone elses....lots of different things going on...

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answers from Detroit on

Hmmm, I dont know. My kids have a BLAST at their birthday parties.



answers from Cleveland on

I expected what you're saying to be the case but I've never seen it. I've rarely seen any kid at all get upset at a bday party. People we know tend to spend a fair of money and while I would think simpler is better, maybe having enough or more than enough forth kids to do is why everyone always seems happy...


answers from Providence on

For my son he gets overwhelmed, and over stimulated. To much noise, people, and he shuts down. Most times we have family parties at my house, and he usually is cornered off in his room. I think the build up is more exciting for him. He loves to decorate, and see his cake, and then once company comes, its off to my room!



answers from Honolulu on

I have never, noticed that.



answers from Atlanta on

My youngest has always gotten excited about having a party but at the age of 16 has realized she really likes to be with a few of her close friends to have fun. She's simply not a party kid. I can't remember her ever having a good time at her party even though her guests did. She planned an elaborate Sweet 16 party and we were good with it but before we spent any money it ended up being her sister and her boyfriend, her cousin, a girlfriend and a guyfriend from her church youth group all went skating together...She told me it was her best birthday. Guess it just depends on the kid.

M. :)

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