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Party Etiquette Pointers

Mind those P's and Q's for your child's next shebang, from the invite list to the thank you's

It takes a tremendous amount of work, planning and effort to host a kid's birthday party – from selecting the venue and invitations to balancing the guest list and goodies. Even then, extra "surprises" can hit: unexpected guests, fights over blowing out candles, kids forgetting their manners.

While you can't anticipate it all, there are nine principles you can follow to ensure everyone has as terrific – and stress-free – a time as possible.

1. Who's invited? Including everyone in the class or on the team is a popular option with young children. For parents, it eliminates the stress of deciding who to leave out and who to include. But consider: It can also be a headache when you're trying to account for how much cake and ice cream to order (let alone having so many people in one spot). Don't be afraid to be selective.

2. Stick to the list. Make sure the invitation is clear about whether parents are invited to stay – or if siblings are welcome, too. If a guest asks to bring along a brother or sister, don't be embarrassed to decline if you have limited space, already planned the food or have a budget. Politely explain that although it's tough to limit the number, you and your child carefully organized the guest list and, out of respect for everyone, you feel it's best to adhere to it.

3. How are you inviting guests? If your child's birthday is near a holiday or on a typically busy weekend, get invitations out early enough for people to plan. Include a note asking if kids are allergic to foods you're planning on serving, or animals in your home, to avoid dangerous allergic reactions.

4. Saving the date. If you know months in advance when you're planning on hosting a birthday, send early reminders. Listing the basic details with a cute photo or caption, and noting that invitations will be sent closer to the event, gives busy and out-of-town family and friends the chance to pre-plan. It also give everyone a better shot at participating in your child's event – and sidesteps rescheduling hassles.

5. Why RSVP? It avoids putting everyone in uncomfortable situations caused by late responses – or none at all. When hosting, have your invitations indicate whether you want an RSVP for regrets only, or if you'd like a response by a certain date. Consider listing mobile numbers or email addresses to accommodate fellow busy parents' schedules.

On the flip side, if you're receiving the invite, respond as soon as you're able to consult your schedule. Declining an invitation early may create the opportunity for hosts to invite another guest.

6. Punctuality is a plus. Everyone benefits. Your child appreciates knowing when he's going to be picked up, and your host will appreciate it after a busy party.

7. Bringing more than a gift. Remind your child before the party to let the birthday child open her own gifts and blow out her own candles. It helps enforce manners and values.

8. Hi and good-bye. It's important that the guest of honor take the time to properly greet guests as they arrive and thank them as they leave. The stimulation and excitement of a party can be overwhelming for kids, so reminding your child to include all party guests in conversations and games eliminates hurt feelings.

9. A note of thanks. Include a creative option for thank-you notes with the party favor or goody bag. This allows your child to personally deliver a handwritten "thank you" – for the gift‚ or for joining in the celebration – as guests are departing.

Or take a picture of your child in front of his birthday cake, holding a sign that reads "Thank You" – a quick way to personalize the note (just print the picture and glue it to cardstock). You can also photograph him or her in the middle of a mound of presents so everyone can see what he's received.

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