Birthday Party Guests: How Many Is Too Many?

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Like most children, my son, Ryan, was discussing his dream birthday party for months leading up to the actual event. He was certain that he wanted a Spiderman theme and ice cream sundaes in lieu of a birthday cake. He wished to fill our backyard with pools and waterslides and have all of his friends there. Everything seemed simple enough until we started the guest list.

Ryan began naming off pals faster than I could write them down. A quick head count gave me the news I was dreading; we were inviting 27 kids. We felt compelled to include everyone who invited us to their party, but between school, neighborhood and family friends, we ended up a little over our heads. A nervous feeling started sinking in as I set up almost 30 goody bags. Had we made a huge mistake?

On the day of the party, my husband took the day off work and we began setting up at 11 a.m. for the 4 p.m. birthday extravaganza. We began filling pools and waterslides with air. We set up toys and play areas. We filled over 100 water balloons. It took every minute of the five hours to set up. I scooped ice cream into 27 bowls. We barely managed a shower before the first little knock on the door.

When our short guests arrived, they went right to work enjoying themselves. The water balloons that took an hour to fill were gone in less than one giggling minute. They gobbled down ice cream sundaes and ran around having a blast. They squirted one another with water guns and dined on snack of all kinds. My son was in heaven to be celebrating with so many fun friends that he loved.

After the last child left, we went into the backyard to survey the damage. It looked as if we had hosted Mardi Gras for 5-year-olds. There were pieces of balloon as far as the eye could see. The sandbox had been looted and wet sand had been thrown all over the fence. Crepe paper and mulch littered the pools. Juices boxes doubled as lawn ornaments and ice cream and sprinkles were smeared all over the table and doors.

My husband and I stood there in shock. Slowly, we began to clean and empty water and air from pools and slip and slides. We were quiet in our work, the only sound coming from Ryan as he delighted in his new birthday gifts. We took a break to have dinner and put the kids to bed, but it took us until midnight to set our house right.

Ryan only remembers that his party was wonderful and all the kids had a grand time. That was what mattered, after all, but we learned a lot having hosted a party of this size. Here are some friendly tips from one Mom to another:

1. Invite one guest per year of age. Five guests for a five year old is a good number. Twenty-seven is exhausting!

2. Having a party at home is not easier or less expensive. Make sure to factor in the hours it will take you to set up and clean up when you are considering places to host your party.

3. All parents understand how daunting the task of inviting everyone to a soiree. Explain to the parents of close little friends that you are having a small affair and that you would love to have them over for a play date soon.

4. If you are planning a party during the week, have your husband take a vacation day from work. Having an extra pair of hands is the best gift you can get!

5. Take it from me; water balloons are evil. Kids love them, but you will never stop finding tiny pieces of latex and your fingers will be sore for days from filling so many.

Perhaps the most important lesson that I learned is that kids are going to have a blast wherever they are whether there are five kids or 50. If they can be silly and have fun, that is all that really matters to them. Next year, though, I think six kids will do. My husband and I are just too old to party like it is Mardi Gras.

Kelly Yale is a Charlotte Parent blogger, freelance writer and mother of two boys, Ryan and Josh.