A birthday party may look like just a birthday party to you now, but they are a breeding ground for life lessons. Read on to check out a few teaching opportunities at your child’s next birthday party!


While desirable, it might not always be possible to just invite your child’s closest friends. Your child’s school may have a policy about birthday party invitations that’s all about including everyone, so hurt feelings are kept at a minimum. Maybe your child has cousins or neighbor friends of varying ages. Use this as an opportunity to teach your child that having a diverse group of friends is  an amazing thing! If you’re okay with “the more the merrier,” include friends and family, school friends and neighborhood friends at this shin-dig (and pop in your earplugs)!


Nobody wants to hear, “I already have this” or “I didn’t want this” when they give someone a gift. Likewise, kids shouldn’t be opening gifts at breakneck speed and tossing them aside. Your child should always say “thank you” sincerely and look the gift giver in the eye. Some parents have their kid sit next to the gift giver while they open the gift, so they can show their appreciation. Even if your child doesn’t open presents during the party, be sure everyone gets a thank you note that shows gratitude by mentioning the gift and one thing they love about it.

Graciousness and Disappointment

These two go hand-in-hand. When the birthday child is sad about not getting something they really wanted, it’s time to step in and talk about how being disappointed is OK but you have to maintain a good attitude. It’s kind of like being a sore loser versus being a happy loser; even though there is disappointment, you want your kid to know how to still say thank you and show appreciation to the gift giver.


Your child may get a pretty good stash at her birthday party, and other kids are likely going to want to play with the new goods. While it’s easy to avoid this by not opening gifts at the party, use it as a teachable moment. Before the party, explain to your child that she is going to be getting some cool new stuff and she can put some of her favorites away but she should share some things and play with them WITH her friends, not hoard and hide them!

Giving Back and Donating

Not every kid is showered with gifts. Not every kid gets to even have a birthday party. Some kids barely get enough food to eat each day or don’t have any school supplies when it’s time to start school each year. Why not have your altruistic kid ask for gifts for someone else one year? Collect non-perishables and canned goods for the Atlanta Community Food Bank or other local food pantry. If your child has a particular love for animals, how about hosting a birthday party for a local animal shelter and—instead of presents—ask for donations like pet food and other supplies?


Yes, it’s your kid’s party, but you should still think of others. Consider where everyone would have a good time when planning your party venue. If it’s at your house, think up some fun games the group might enjoy and build in plenty of time for just playing around. Have a friend with food allergies, such as gluten or dairy? Make sure to pick up something special for that friend; it’s easier than ever these days. Modeling this behavior of being aware of the needs of others and helping someone feel more comfortable is something your child will notice and copy.

-Kerrie McLoughlin

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