Your kindergartner is having a birthday, and she wants to invite just five special friends from school. You breathe a sigh of relief; experts say five is the perfect number of guests for a sixth birthday party. You’re all set! Or are you?
More schools are weighing in these days with birthday-party policies to avoid hurt feelings, respect dietary restrictions and maintain privacy. If you’re handing out invitations at school, some schools require that either all classmates be invited, or all the kids of your child’s gender. This rule exists to save hurt feelings when one kid notices that invitations are being handed out and she didn’t get one.
Some schools dodge this problem entirely by prohibiting any invitations from being handed out at school. Even if you’re inviting everyone, some schools just don’t want to be responsible for making sure invitations get home to the parents. Many times, papers sent home from school go missing, and this is not something a school wants to hear about from parents in regard to outside parties.
It’s best to either hand-deliver or send the invitations directly to the guests’ homes. Handling kids’ party invitations outside of the classroom allows you to invite the number of kids to your party that suits your budget and also helps you work around these school rules.
When the RSVP date rolls around and you are still waiting for 90 percent of your guests’ responses, it’s time to call or email parents to get those RSVPs. If you have invited children from school, you may think phone numbers and email addresses are easy to get: Simply ask the teacher. But if your school doesn’t publish a directory, don’t be surprised if the teacher refuses to provide this information due to confidentiality issues. You may need to be prepared to get the info another way — either in person at school pick-up, perhaps, or from mutual-friend parents.
Celebrations at school
Maybe this is the year that you aren’t planning on having a birthday party, and you want to celebrate the day by bringing a batch of cupcakes to school to share with everyone in the class. Don’t even think about doing this without the teacher’s approval! Many schools have rules regarding classroom parties; they may or may not be allowed, and if they are, there may be strict rules about what types of goodies may be brought in. Many fellow parents don’t want their kids eating sugary foods, or their kids have allergies that you need to be aware of. Make sure to double-check school policy on these types of celebrations — and that the date you’ve chosen for your celebration is OK with the teacher.
Shhhh! Keep it secret!
These days, some schools have rules against discussing weekend parties in the classroom. Again, the premise of this rule is to avoid hurting the feelings of the kids who didn’t get invited. Enforcing this rule seems tricky at best, but if you’re planning a smallish party, talk to your child about this issue. It’s a good lesson in empathy and it’s the polite thing to do, school policy or not.
Whatever your celebration plans are, double-check school policies and stick to them the best you can. You can rest easier knowing your fellow parents are doing the same, which could one day spare the feelings of a little child — even yours!
Lisa Kothari is the founder and president of Peppers and Pollywogs, a kids’ party planning company that provides parents with ideas, entertainers and interesting Web-based tools (customized rhymes and cards for your invitations!) to make kids’ party planning easy.