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The Informed Parent

From Over The Top To Moderation

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Jun. 07, 2010

Have you ever felt that what you provide for your toddler might just be too much? We’re not talking about love and nurturance. Every child deserves as much of that as a parent can give. The “too much” has to do with celebrations, gifts, and activities.

This month we’re going to look at how to make birthday parties fun for toddlers and reasonable for parents. Often parents feel overwhelmed by what they believe they should do for their little ones to celebrate that special day. They feel that they are spending more money than they comfortably have, more time than they can lovingly give, and that the children don’t have as much fun as had been anticipated.

Although it’s hard to move past having an elaborate party if that’s what most parents in your child’s friendship circle do, take the lead. You’d be surprised how much others will appreciate you.

Numbers Count

A good rule of thumb is to invite one guest for each candle on the cake. A three-year-old might have three friends and their parents. Inviting the parents relieves any anxiety children feel about being in a new environment. The extra adults lend a hand to the parents who are giving the party. Little ones are not aware of how many friends come to their party. They love being the center of attention. Too many guests are over-stimulating. Fatigue sets in, and instead of fun and laughter, there are tears.

Time Counts

Toddlers do best with a morning or mid-day party lasting about an hour and a half. Afternoon parties run into naptime, and tired children don’t have fun. Parties that are too long exhaust young children and crankiness replaces laughter.

Snacks Count

Toddlers eat very little. Cake and juice make a nice treat. If you don’t want to serve cake, provide snacks like crackers and cheese with milk or juice. Sandwiches cut into decorative shapes are fun, too. Remember that children who are excited eat less than they might at another time. Unless you want leftovers, don’t overestimate on food. If you’re concerned, have the ingredients on hand to quickly make extra snacks if necessary.

Simplicity Counts

Toddlers are unaware of fancy decorations. They are more interested in running, jumping, and playing. A Happy Birthday banner that can be used in successive years and some balloons or streamers are plenty.

A Take-home Gift Counts

Instead of putting trinkets in goody bags, giving each guest a ball or other toy from the Dollar Store is a better use of monetary resources. Small trinkets can cause a choking hazard, and they break or get lost easily.

What children like is taking something home. What that gift is, is not important. A take-home gift from a recent birthday party my granddaughter attended was a plastic hard hat. The party had a construction theme, so the gift was perfect.

Opening The Gifts Counts

If you choose to give a small party, opening the gifts while the guests are present is fine. If you’ve opted for a large party, thank the guests for the gifts and wait until after the party to open them. You can acknowledge later with a phone call or note. Children get restless when someone is opening presents and they are not part of the action, and it is not until they get older that they are aware of the recipient’s reaction to the gift.

Your toddler’s birthday party should be enjoyable for you, your child, and the guests. Keep it small, simple and reasonably priced. You’re sure to feel satisfied with the results by the end of the day.

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