Free babysitting for parents or just more hospitality for the hostess?
When you have young children at pre-school you inevitably find yourself attending 3, 4 and 5-year-old birthday parties on the week-end. While at first this seems exciting, (let’s face we are a tad relieved to know our children are liked and invited to a party) but once you attend a few the novelty can wear off and there are always the questions “can I just drop off?” or “do I need to stay?”
I found myself attending a pre-schooler birthday party recently. It was the longest 2 hours of my life. It was a great party for little people but being a Saturday and with a list a mile long of things to do I found myself watching the clock and counting down every minute until the cake was cut and the lolly bags were handed out. You see I am not the most extraverted person, in fact I am quite introverted. I am very good at conversation and can converse with just about anyone but I am just not one of those people that bursts into a party of unknown people thinking “yeah, great, look at all of these new people to meet”. I am quite the opposite… anyway I digress, the point being at most pre-school parties, after pleasant exchanges such as “Hi I am Jo, what days do you drop off” the conversation dries up. For some reason, I find pre-school parent relationships somewhat different to primary school parent relationships…I put it down to different levels of involvement & attendance or maybe its just my natural introversion.
So what are the rules when it comes to parents at pre-school parties? Having three children and having attended & hosted a few parties below are my pre-school party etiquette tips.
1. Note your expectation on the invitation
For any pre-school party, make a note on the invitation if you are happy for the children to be dropped off and then picked up or if parents are welcome to stay. This sets the message that it’s okay for parents to have 2 hours of free baby sitting.
Some children are still uncomfortable leaving their parents as it is a new situation so expect parents to stay, especially for parties under the age of 5. Ask parents to let you know when they RSVP if they will be staying, so you know how many parents in addition to children will be in attendance. Parents can be a great help with party games & depending upon the number of kids you have the more parents the better.
2. Note a start and finish time on the invitation
Be sure to list a start and finish time on the invitation. 2 hours for small children is ample time for a home party, but of course it all depends on the type of party you are having. If I have a mix of family, friends and pre-school friends I tend to put a start and finish time on the pre-school friends but then leave it open on the family and friends invites. Overall, remember little people are not like adults mingling around drinking sophisticated beverages discussing Sydney’s house properties, they are kids that will be hyped up on the red cordial you give them and after 30 mins you will be regretting that 4-hour party time you stated. It also sets the expectation for parents.
3. To feed or not to feed the parents?
Food & drink. Lots of options for party food for kids but when it comes to parents should you feed them? I love to feed people and my husband always accuses me of having too much food but I don’t care, I dread the thought of people leaving my home or a hosted party not feeling nurtured with food. It’s the ultimate in connecting with people so I say “feed the parents”. Yes it can be more work and cost but depending upon what you are serving the children make up an extra platter for the adults. Keep it simple and include platters of simple sandwiches, slice, fruit or chips & dip which can be served, helps break any silence between parents. Alternatively set up a table specifically for adults and when they arrive advise them they are welcome to help themselves to the dedicated table of food and drinks. If you are holding the party over lunch time people will be hungry and there is always that awkwardness for the parents who are starving and trying hard to not get busted eating the little frankfurts from the kids table! Tea and coffee is always welcomed, you may even want to offer some wine and beer BUT do so with responsibility because you don’t want to be stuck with 30 pre-schoolers all night because Mum or Dad were too smashed to drive their kids home.
4. Cake time
Blowing out candles and cutting cake normally signifies the end is near for the party so do this in the last half hour of your party time. Parents love a piece of cake so be sure to bake (or buy) a cake which caters for all. No one likes to miss out on cake.
Before you know it, you will be hosting 18 year old birthday parties which comes with a whole host of other expectations (smashed preschool parents will be nothing in comparison to the 18 year old’s) so enjoy entertaining your little people, their friends and their parents because the “Princess” parties will be over and gone before you know it!