16 things you'll learn on the preschool party circuit

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 Photo: Getty Images

I'm not professing to be an expert here. Truth be told, my twins only attended three birthday parties in their entire year of kindergarten (I'm blithely choosing to assume that's because only three parties were held all year, rather than they were only invited to three of many, because rose coloured glasses are so in fashion this season). 

These three parties, and the ones that I have hosted (endured) myself for the fruit of my loins over the last few years, have been enlightening to say the least.

Kids birthday parties sound fun in the abstract but the reality is they often end up an introvert's worst nightmare – forced social interaction in the name of good parenting.

I am terrible at small talk. Tehhhrrrrrrible. "I like ... stuff. Do you also like stuff?" kind of terrible.

As such, I end up machine-gunning compliments left, right and centre and throwing the word "amaaaaaazing" in every direction.

This spinach cob dip is amaaaaazing.

You've done such an amaaaaazing job with the party games.

That dress you are wearing is amaaaaazing.

The place looks amaaaaazing.

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The kids are having such an amaaaazing time.

Who. invited. the. idiot????

But if there's one thing I love to do most, it's sharing my wisdom about things I have next to no idea about. So here goes – here's what I know about parties for young kids.

1. We are all wondering whether it's a drop and run party. It's not just you. When you have children on the precipice of being school age there is no standard practise for this, but in my experience most parties at this stage are still "stay and play" parties, also known as "no fun for mum".

2. Check the party bags before you give them to your children. There may be whistles inside. Remove whistles before distributing party bags to your children. Thank me later.

3. Please know that if you put whistles in the party bags at your kids party and I am in attendance, I hate you now.

4. There are two types of children's birthday party: the one where your child ends up in a sugar coma, and the one where there are lots of carrot and healthy sandwiches and celery sticks served with hummus. Your child will go home from the latter suffering acute starvation, complaining that there was no food at the party. You, on the other hand, will eat the equivalent of three loaves of bread in tiny delicious carb-flavoured triangles, wondering if you've ever been happier.

5. The world of the children's birthday party is fraught with balloons. Here, let's celebrate your birth with a sack of your dad's breath. As such, parties often involve a lot of children running around hitting each other with balloons. If you're not into this kind of thing, make other plans.

6. The general rule of thumb among children-folk appears to be "it's not my party and I'll cry if I want to". Someone always cries for one of these reasons:

  • it's not their birthday
  • not their presents to open
  • not their candles to blow out
  • their balloon popped
  • bouncy castle injury. Yep. That old chestnut.
Above: Note the look on the toddler's face. Not happy.

7. Kids are loud and they want stuff.

8. Balloon animals often look like penises.

9. Temporary tattoos are not as temporary as one might think. Choose wisely.

10. There is no gift-buying rulebook. No standardised price guide. As such I have been the asshole that's given a $7 Barbie doll and the asshole that's spent $84.95 and made everyone else look bad. There is no right answer here. Best case scenario is gifts are opened post-party in the serenity and privacy of the hosts home where cards have had the chance to be mixed up and tags misplaced.

11. If someone has planned an outdoor party, be aware that there will either be a hurricane or a volcanic ash cloud that day. If it's at a play cafe, plan on not making dinner that night because your child will have gorged themselves on a half-eaten hot dog they found under the slippery dip, or they'll have some form of bubonic plague that manifests itself only in the deep recesses of a ball pit.

12. Dads are excellent at attending kids birthday parties. Mums are really good at staying home binge watching Offspring on Netflix and pretending to do housework.

13. Nobody likes the parent who joins in on the piñata and wins the whole thing with one deft, major league baseball standard show of strength and ability. Everyone likes that person less if they then proceed to scrabble around on the ground picking up as many Sherbies as they can stuff into their pockets. But, I mean, if that were to happen it's not totally unforgivable right? #askingforafriend.

14. Kids are loud and they want stuff. Did I mention that already?

15. RSVP whether you are going or not. Try to be prompt. The acronym is respondez s'il vous plait, not betteR s'il vous p-late than never.

16. Who has two thumbs and likes cake? This girl! If you've made an Australian Women's Weekly Best-Ever Kids Cakes pink toadstool masterpiece with marshmallow polka dots, musk stick window frames and a chocolate freckle garden path, I want to eat it too. In fact, if its edible and has candles that can be blown out on it, count me in.