How to help your kid be a good birthday party host


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I really like hosting parties. I love the invitations and food, the decorations, dress, and desserts. But, most of all, I enjoy providing a pleasant event for our family and friends and making people feel welcome at our home. This week I started passing that idea of being a welcoming host along to our children.

We recently hosted a triple birthday party. During the month of October our oldest son turns 5, our youngest son turns 1, and I will be 30! 😱 At the party, we watched the movie Coco outdoors and honored the Mexican tradition of Dia de Muertos throughout the evening (another blog post coming soon about the party!)

A few days before the party I sat down with my son, Bear, and had a conversation (albeit, a mostly one-sided conversation). I wanted to introduce the concept of being a good host to the guests we had invited. 

Granted, he’s only 5, but I still felt the party was a good opportunity to get him thinking about the guest-host relationship. 

Spoiler alert: it didn’t go the way I wanted. It was far from ideal circumstances (you can see in the video he was pretty preoccupied with his breakfast). I’d hardly even call it a productive conversation.

But I talked anyway.

And even if he only absorbed 20% of what I said, I’m calling it a win. 

A few basic things I wanted him to consider were welcoming his guests, being intentional when guests leave, and expressing gratitude for any gifts he might receive. 

Welcome your guests

Welcoming guests is one of the simplest tips to teach a young host. Most kids naturally say hello to people, especially friends and family they know. I tried to up the ante just a little by teaching him to also stand, make eye contact, smile, and verbalize something like “so glad you could come.”

You can try practicing this at home before the party to help your child be more comfortable with taking on the role of greeter.

In the video, I love the etiquette advice my mom suggested of offering drinks to your guests as soon as they arrive and giving them a compliment. But for my five-year-old, practicing “so glad you could come” was about his max.

The intentional goodbye 

When guests begin to leave, often times the host is still busy with the party or other guests and it’s easy to get caught up in the party atmosphere and just give a hurried goodbye to those guests as they leave. And it can be especially hard for little kids who have a hard time quickly transferring their attention to something else.

So, I keep my expectations realistic. I wouldn’t ask them to leave their friends on the playground to walk their grandparents all the way to the car. But I do coach them to pause a minute, look their guest in the eye, and tell them “thanks for coming.” 

Side note: I also teach my older students this “intentional goodbye” tactic in my etiquette classes. Especially when they’re on the guest side of party-going. A good guest intentionally seeks out the host, looks them in the eye, and tells them goodbye along with one specific compliment about the event.

Grateful for gifts, not expectant

This is one we’re still working on. And honestly, I feel like it will only get easier with age. But it’s still something I expect my son to make an effort toward.

People (especially grandparents) enjoy choosing, wrapping, and giving children gifts. I want my kids to be aware of this and give the gift-giver the time and attention they deserve. 

I encourage them to halt other activities in order to focus on the gift, identify the gift-giver before opening the package, make good eye contact, smile , and give a clear and sincere “thank you!” 

I also remind them this is the process we follow no matter what (whether they like the gift or not). But, like I said, this is still a struggle. I’m going to keep at it but I’m really looking forward to the day when it eventually will stick. 

Lastly, I try to remind my kids before a party that their friends’ presence is the best gift. I don’t want them to expect a present from each and every person, but rather, be pleasantly surprised and grateful if a gift should appear. 

Verbalize the behavior you hope will happen

My “other job” when I’m not teaching etiquette is managing the office records and HR for my family’s farm. I’m in charge of all the safety training for the farm employees and, in my research, I’ve heard that just mentioning the word “safety” or a phrase like “be safe” can help reduce accidents in the workplace. Even if no other actions were taken, just bringing up the topic verbally can have a positive effect on safer behavior.

I had a similar goal with this conversation. I wanted to casually discuss hospitality with my young son in hopes of it having a positive effect on his behavior. I didn’t give him super specific instructions or quiz him on the procedures, I just verbalized what it looks like for a person to be a good host. And perhaps, this time, only 20% of it stuck. But social skills develop over time and our breakfast conversation seemed like a good opportunity to lay down a good base layer.

I believe talking to your children about your expectations before a party (or any social event) helps them understand what to expect, reduces social anxiety, and helps develop those social skills that will serve them well as adults.

And even if they’re chowing down on turkey sausage and don’t seem to be listening at all, keep talking. ❤️

If you want to see more photos from the party, including our family Halloween costumes, check out this party blog post.



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