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First Birthday Invitation

Mommy’s First Toddler Birthday Party Invite

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

Forgive me if you have already covered this topic-I haven’t been able to read the entire archive of smackdowns (darn work!), but I have enjoyed the ones I have most recently read. I really enjoy your blog also and I’m sorry for all the rough times lately.

Advice Smackdown ArchivesMy conundrum is this: My sweet but rambunctious three year old daughter has been invited to a friend from daycare’s birthday party. Yay, right? But this is her first invite to something not family or Holiday oriented. I should explain-we live in the country, and have no close neighbors, much less neighbors with small kids. She has been in daycare since she was 3 months old, so she is acclimated to other children and has had play time with cousins (when in from out of town), etc, but no official ‘play dates’ yet. I am thinking I will need to attend the party with her for these reasons:

1. I’ve only met the parents briefly….nice people….but so are many pedophiles! You just don’t know. And I don’t know who else will be there.

2. I can’t trust my daughter to behave the whole time-I don’t expect the birthday girl’s mom to have to parent my child.

3. Daughter has milk allergy and ice cream is not a good idea. But who could say no to that cute face besides the mother who has had to deal with the reactions (not life-threatening, but still….)

So, can I assume parents are invited too? Should I just discuss this with the other mom when I call to RSVP? Should I offer to bring something since I am ‘crashing’? I know I am over-analyzing here, but I don’t want to be rude, and I want my daughter’s first experience outside of family to be a happy occasion and not just an opportunity for helicopter parenting!

Thank you thank you! Oh, did I mention it’s less than 2 weeks away?

Birthday Crasher

I read about six questions this morning while trying to select a topic today — a couple got filed away in the “hmm, I need to think about that one some more” pile, one in the “not touching that one with a 20-foot virtual pole” pile — and the rest fell into another category. The “When Did Everybody Get So Scared To Talk To Other Grown-Ups?” category.

For the record, you are not only INVITED to attend this party, you are actually, in all honesty, EXPECTED to attend this party and keep an eye on your daughter. Three-year-old birthday parties are not drop-off events. My son is five and we’ve attended every birthday party he’s ever been invited to so far. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a backyard barbecue or a party at Gymboree or Chuck E. Cheese. Parents (mom or dad or both) are welcome and expected to tag along at these early social gatherings and help control the mayhem. Dropping a three-year-old child off on her own at a birthday party would be BY FAR, the exception, not the rule. My five-year-old isn’t even ready for that yet.

I actually still compile our party guest lists with a parent AND sibling head count in mind, because at the toddler/preschooler stage, kids really have yet to form an insular social circle, and I recognize that it’s just easier sometimes for the whole family to show up. (And this is usually what happens anyway, at least judging by the dozen or so toddler/preschool parties we’ve attended. Mom, dad, younger siblings, the more the merrier.)

I’m not 100% sure when the dropping-the-kid-off-type party starts — kindergarten? Elementary school? Bueller? — but I’m guessing even that still depends on the kid, the party and the comfort level you personally have with your child’s behavior and whether you know the other parents/household well enough. At this age, though, think of this as a party with training wheels. One day, your daughter will be invited to a party without you, and thanks to these early outings, she’ll know the party routine and what’s generally expected of a polite, well-behaved guest. But have no fear — no one expects that of her yet, and your presence is needed for a few more years to teach her all that.

Now that I’ve hopefully put your mind at ease, allow me to gently and jokingly pinch your arm or something because YOU COULD TOTALLY HAVE JUST ASKED THE OTHER MOM. I really don’t think she would have minded or judged you super harshly over not being 100% sure about toddler party etiquette. “Hi! Thank you so much for the invite! This is our first birthday party, so I hope I’m not out of line to assume it’s okay for me to attend as well?” DONE! Conundrum over.

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Clare

    October 4, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Parents, in my experience, have stayed for 6th birthday parties.  When we hosted my son’s 6th birthday, parents and some siblings came.  I dropped my son off for a friend’s 6th birthday, and I was, I think, the only parent who left.  Oops. But, he was fine.  I think he was anxious for me to go, actually.

  • Alison

    October 4, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I miss the beauty posts! Lots of kid stuff lately.

  • Jenn

    October 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    In my circle of friends, the drop-off party started happening around age 4. Though it should be noted these were small, in home parties with no more than a total of 8 kids (including the birthday child). If it’s at a bounce place or a museum or something, parents definitely still attend.

  • S

    October 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    And to add to Amy’s advice, you don’t need to bring anything to eat or drink to the party. But if your daughter has allergies, you might want to bring as a back-up some kind of snack that she can eat, in case there are no treats there that are ok for her. Hope you both have fun!

  • FreeRange Pamela

    October 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Just went to first kindergarten birthday party in our new locale (in the country, pretty much), and all the parents stayed. Each child seemed to have one parent in attendance. We weren’t sure how this would go down (new locale and all!), so I called ahead to RSVP and also ask if it was OK to bring the younger sibling, or whether it was a drop-off thing. Anyway, the kids seemed to have fun, but the eldest was surprised there was no goody bag. Is a goody bag for guests a national custom or just in the area where we just left? 

  • Sharon

    October 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I would totally EXPECT the parents to stay…until the kids are about 7 or 8. My daughter just celebrated her 8th birthday and the parents stayed…but only because we are all friends. Great post…great question!

  • Rachael

    October 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    My own kiddo is still 6 months, so I am not speaking as a parent, but rather as a teacher… I would say that the drop-off things tends to begin in 2nd or 3rd grade or thereabouts. Of course your mileage may vary depending on kid, parent, and event.

    Good advice Amy! 🙂

  • Bonnie

    October 4, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I know from my own parties growing up and from my nieces parties that parents pretty much attended until the inevitable first sleepover. Once they were old enough to make the transition into sleepover territory (in my experience, generally around 2nd or 3rd grade) it was pretty much a sleepover every time after that, and obviously the parent is not sleeping over. I know that I, personally, would be annoyed as hell if any parent just assumed it was a drop off party before that because, well, I’m not going to parent 10 or 12 children on my own thank-you-very-much. I remember my last non-sleepover party was in the 2nd grade and I had a friend whose mom not only dropped her off (which would probably have been fine) but dropped off her 3 other children as well! 2 of which were younger, I might add. My mom was so annoyed. I didn’t get it at the time, but I totally do now.
    Pamela, goody bags are totally the norm here as well. But I think I remember those dropping off around the sleepover time, as well.

  • cagey

    October 5, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I am hosting a birthday party for our soon-to-be-minted 5 year old next week – and hell’s bells, parents had better attend. I can’t imagine herding 20 small kids at once. Not at this point.

    Earlier this year, my son was invited to a “drop-off” party – I was fine with dropping off, but then his younger sister got an invite and she was still too young to leave alone at that point. In August and when she had hit the 3 Year Mark, she was invited to a birthday party and I considered leaving her, but thought she might be too shy. I think 3 is just too young of an age to expect a kid to appropriately navigate it socially.

    So yes, 3 is too young to leave alone. It seems once kids hit 1st grade or so, it is okay to drop off.

  • Kelly

    October 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    We had a party for my son when he turned 4 a few years ago. I wrote a note on the invites saying parents were welcome to stay or drop off. Of the 8 kids that came, NONE of the parents stayed! I was pretty surprised, especially since we didn’t know some of the families (the kids went to daycare with my son) – and the parents just dropped the kid off at our door without barely saying hi.
    It was really tough to manage too, and there were a few “can you come wipe me” situations…
    Just something else to think about 🙂

  • Jamie

    October 6, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Always a tricky one, I am amazed at parents who just drop their children off especially if they don’t know the other parents. Myself I prefer to stay, unless I know the people very well and then in that case I would problably be there to help anyway.

  • France

    October 6, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Funny those cultural differences.
    In France, when kids turn 3 (when they enter our public school system, basically), it’s pretty much expected that kids are dropped off at birthday parties. Mind you, there is no rule that you have to invite the whole class, so there usually are only as many guests as birthday candles.
    I just had a birthday for my 5 year-old and my husband and I happily looked after the 9 kids (my 3 year-old daughter was also allowed 1 friend).

  • Jaymee

    October 7, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    @FreeRange Goody bags at parties are not a national custom, or a regional/local custom. It’s all personal preference. Some people spend the extra money and buy treat bags for all of the guest, and others don’t. I know at my son’s last birthday party we spent a lot of money on a bounce castle, food, and other activities for the kids. We didn’t feel like buying each kid a treat bag was necessary. We’ve had parties in the past though where we did buy treat bags. We’ve also attended parties where we got them, and parties where we didn’t. My son knows never to expect to get something when he attends a party though, since the party is not about him it’s about the birthday kid.

  • Bear

    October 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Around here, dropoff parties start at school age: 5, when they have presumably learned to manage themselves in a kids-severely-outnumber-adults situation, when they can all manage their own toileting, and when they can be expected to sit down or line up upon request. Seems reasonable to me. 

  • Mindy

    October 10, 2010 at 10:23 am

    I have a similar connundrum… my 4 year old daughter has just been invited to a preschool friend’s party. I’m not sure how many kids are invited, but it will be at least 5 I would imagine. The invitation implies it is a drop-off party – where the kids will be going to a swimming pool!!! At 4 years old!!! My first questions are – is there going to be more supervision than just one mom??? Do you have any car seats in the vehicle you’re driving or do you need mine or were you just thinking of driving all these kids un-seated and un-belted straight down the road to hell and letting them all run willy nilly into the pool of certain death???????
    Strangely I feel rude asking questions like this, but this mom is kind of a bit of an irresponsible person to begin with and I should try to keep in mind that my kid’s safety overrules any rudeness that might occur. 
    Still… is this not weird?
    I’ve only hosted one birthday party where kids other than family were invited and I expressed on the invitation that parents were more than welcome to attend (also warned that there would be a clown for those with the fears).