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Supacase's avatar

How to handle siblings of guests at child's party?

Asked by Supacase (14500 points ) October 13th, 2009

I am having my daughter’s birthday party at the bowling alley (yeah, yeah… it’s what she wants) and will be inviting her friends. The issue I am having is how to handle the siblings of her friends when they inevitably show up.

She will be 4 and most of her friends have brothers or sisters. Older siblings will be in school, but younger siblings certainly will be there with the parents. Some will be too young to participate, others are questionable. A 2½ year old can “bowl” with the bumpers and the ramp/stand.

I don’t mind making sure there is enough pizza & cake for them, but each bowler is $7.25. If all of the siblings show up and play then the cost of the party goes up quite a bit.

Should I bite the bullet and pay for them or is there a tactful way to let parents know that only the child specifically invited is paid for and they need to pay for any additional children they bring along?

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21 Answers

ubersiren's avatar

If they just kind of show up without notice, I would totally tell the parents to pitch in. Just tell the parent that you didn’t plan for the unexpected arrivals and that they have to pay if he/she plans on bowling. I’d totally do that. But, that’s me.

Or just say that you’ve already paid and any extra kids have to be taken care of by the parents.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Removed by me for being a wise-ass answer.

But an obvious GA by @ubersiren

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Parents of uninvited guests should pay for said uninvited guests.

markyy's avatar

I’m not really sure what is appropriate or inappropriate in this situation. I would however advice against surprising them with additional costs, whatever you do, make sure they know in advance. You want to have fun at the party, not be an accountant.

The bowling alley in my neighborhood wants to know upfront how many people will join the party (so they can figure out how much food they need). I guess it wouldn’t hurt if you put on the invitation that you only made reservations for 1 kid + 1 parent. That why they will contact you if they want to bring siblings or so’s and you can tell them to pay or not.

limeaide's avatar

I’d put in the invitation I will pay for 1 bowler per invite, if you’d like to join us or have a sibling join you will need to pay each additional bowler.

casheroo's avatar

Okay, I’m a parent and I think that’s ridiculous! Get a sitter for the younger kids, yeesh. I think it’s so rude to bring children to a party like that, who are old enough to know they’re being left out (obviously hand held infants are okay, since they stick by momma)

I would do what @ubersiren said. I mean, it’s not a free for all when you go to a bowlig alley, you have to pay to bowl and if you plan it for who rsvp’s then it’s on them for bringing extra children.
btw happy birthday to your little girl!

Supacase's avatar

Invitations have already been sent, but I can mention it when they RSVP. I am so bad at addressing awkward situations or topics. I would almost rather just pay the money. I really don’t mind the younger kids coming – I even made them goody bags last year so they didn’t feel left out and will probably do something for them this year as well.

The bowling alley doesn’t need an advance count; I just pay for however many bowlers show up. Maybe I could do one bowler name for all of the 2 year olds and they can take turns. They don’t know the rules enough to know they aren’t playing their own game and they can spend the rest of the time running around all of the arcade games pushing buttons.

MrItty's avatar

@markyy it’s the parents of the guests that are doing the “surprising with additional costs”, not the host.

markyy's avatar

This is the stuff they don’t tell you about when you consider getting kids :) I know what you mean, I would probably just pay for everyone and resent them for the rest of their lives, without them knowing what they did wrong. Tell them when they RVSP, and write it on the invitations next year.

@MrItty I agree. But there are always clueless or abusive people. When that happens we get into a bit of a stand of where both the invitee and host feel they are ‘in the right’. I’m just saying that is not the kind of atmosphere you want at your kid’s party.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I would also recommend mentioning it beforehand. It is not inappropriate to ask they pay for any additional children.

When I was a kid I remember being the “sibling” at events. It made me feel special and caused a lot less sibling rivalry. We didn’t do this all the time only once in awhile. I didn’t always need to participate sometimes I just felt better being there. Other times I did participate and had loads of fun. I feel sympathetic for the families who bring siblings because of my personal experience. At the same time I think that as long as you say something beforehand it is completely reasonable to expect them to pay for the extra children. Parents who cannot afford that will think of accommodations for their family (perhaps not bringing the sibling).

MissAusten's avatar

My 4 year old was invited to a birthday party at the bowling alley this summer. Since school was out, I had all three kids with me. I wasn’t really comfortable dropping my son off at the party, so I planned on bowling nearby with my older two kids while my son enjoyed the party with his friends. It worked out well. When I called to RSVP, I told the other mom I’d stay to bowl with my kids and made it clear that I didn’t expect them to be part of the party. I’ll send thoughtful brainwaves toward your guests’ parents so maybe they do the same thing. :)

If you haven’t sent out the invitation yet, consider adding something to give parents the idea that they will be responsible for siblings. Ask the bowling alley if they have any promotions going on, or coupons available on their website. Share that information in the invite. Such as, “If you want to stay and bowl with siblings, see the bowling alley’s website for a shoe rental coupon.” Most places offer things like that just to get bowlers in the door. If that’s not the case, ask someone at the bowling alley if parents and siblings can all get some kind of group rate. You’ll be helping people find a deal while making them aware that you can’t pay everyone’s way.

Edited to say that I need to start paying attention. I just saw that you already sent the invitations. smack me In that case, I’d stick with making parents aware when they RSVP.

Darwin's avatar

I hope your guests’ parents do indeed RSVP. When we held parties for my kids, very few folks RSVP’d so we never knew who was going to show up.

It would have been a good idea to mention something on the invitation about siblings, such as there will be a nearby lane where you and your other children may bowl if you wish to stay and bowl on your own. However, the invitations are sent so all you can do is contact the parents. Perhaps a call about “I was afraid I wasn’t clear on the invitation. You and the other kids are welcome to stay for the cake and pizza, but I can only afford for the invited child to bowl” would be a good idea, or perhaps you have wise guests who will understand.

Good luck with it.

janbb's avatar

I was thinking along the lines of Darwin’s suggestion. You can make it a positive suggestion; “I would be happy for younger siblings and parents to stay and enjoy the goodies, but I can only pay for the invited guest to bowl.” It’s hard to see how that would offend anyone.

galileogirl's avatar

First of all your 4 yo may be up for bowling but I wonder how appropriate it is for others. I mean a 35 lb child and an 8 lb ball? And what about shoes, I’ve never seen one that has a dozen tiny pair. Or is this some kind of bowling alley sized for pre-schoolers?

Either you want the parents in attendance or not. If you do, then expect the younger siblings. You can’t expect the mothers to hire babysitters so they can attend a 4 yo’s birthday party and help supervise. Most bowling alleys have a room for childcare. Hire someone to supervise that, but you still will have to feed everyone.

If you don’t want the mothers, let them know on the invitation that you have enough help but can’t entertain younger siblings. Also don’t count on the RSVP’s. If invitees won’t do them for formal weddings, they certainly won’t do them for a kid’s party. Consider this, why not take your daughter and her 3 closest friends out for bowling. You pick them up and supervise so no unexpected guests. After a game take them to an appropriate dining venue and then home before they get overtired or cranky.

Start planning and saving for her sweet 16 but 4 should be simple.

Supacase's avatar

@galileogirl Maybe you missed where I said I don’t mind the siblings being there. Of course I don’t expect the parents to hire a babysitter, which is why I said younger siblings will “inevitably” be there. I have no problem with that. I just wanted some input on how to handle the per person costs for extra kids and I have gotten some great advice from others so far.

My friends and I have been taking our kids bowling since they were two or slightly younger. We don’t just shove a ball in their hands and say “have at it” while we eat nachos and chug a beer. We help them, just like we help little kids do a lot of things, from swinging to cooking. There are ramps you put the ball on that are slid right up to the front of the lane. The mother puts it up there and the kids pushes it down. They feel like they’re doing it themselves and love to see even one pin fall over. Oh, and yes, they have shoes for little kids. When they don’t have sizes small enough, they don’t have a coronary if the kids wear their own shoes.

Also, my daughter is four and doesn’t have just three best friends. She is friends with practically everyone she knows – from the kids she goes to preschool with to the children of my friends. Her “best friends” range from a 2½ year old boy to a 10 year old girl, which is exactly why I planned a party that would interest a wide range of ages.

No way am I taking four 4 year olds out on my own. For starters, I don’t have room for four car seats in my car. Any reasons beyond that are irrelevant.

Also, I am not saving for her sweet 16. No birthday party for any age should require a savings account. A bowling party is not complicated; I had one question.

galileogirl's avatar

Did you also read that I suggested entertaining the younger kids in other on site activities. I still can’t wrap my mind around little kids lifting big balls and the amount of supervision needed for that. You seem to be saying 4 kids are too many for you to handle so you have to have the mothers in attendance. I still say in this kind of activity, smaller is better.

Supacase's avatar

Read again. The children do not lift the balls. They push the already lifted balls down a slope while their mothers stand beside them.

Four kids are not too many for me to handle, except that I can’t fit them in my car. Children under 4 years or 40 pounds are in a full car seat and children under 8 are in booster seats. Children under 12 cannot sit in the front seat. I can fit TWO seats in my car. That presents a fairly large problem with your idea, in my opinion. Also, I don’t know any mother, including myself, who would let their 4 y/o go on an outing like that. I don’t even let my mother in law drive my child around.

I am not asking parents for additional supervision. Parents of 4 year olds just do it. They do not drop their children off at a party. They stay there. They will naturally watch their child because that is what parents do. Everyone just pitches in and keeps the kids from going completely bonkers. The parents with younger kids tend to take over keeping an eye on the little ones and those without gravitate toward watching the older ones. I have been to enough parties to know this is normal. When my daughter is invited to a party I don’t shove her off onto the host and say, “Well, you invited her, you deal with her.” That just isn’t what you do with kids this age.

Entertaining the younger kids is a good idea. A nearby lane is probably a good solution and, based on the day and time, there should be plenty of room to run around without bothering other patrons. The arcade is also right there and children that age love to just push the buttons and watch the lights. Keeping them entertained is not the issue. Actually, neither is their ability to lift the ball or parental involvement. Paying for them if their parents want them to bowl along with their invited sibling is the issue I asked for advice on.

Besides, what makes you think this is some huge event? I’m talking 10-ish kids plus some younger siblings. This has been done quite successfully in our group many times, but never as a party – only as a get-together where everyone paid their own way. That is why I am asking about who pays for younger siblings and, honestly, not much else. I’ve got the rest down, thanks.

MissAusten's avatar

@galileogirl Normally I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but maybe you should stop by a bowling alley on a Saturday afternoon and see how they run birthday parties for little kids. Parties are big business for bowling alleys, so they have accommodations for all ages. Besides the ramps, they have lighter bowling balls that the kids can manage. They do have bowling shoes small enough for preschoolers. There’s also usually a party room where the kids first meet for pizza, then go back to after bowling for cake and presents. The bowling alley wants parents to have parties there so they make sure kids of all ages can participate. I’ve been to several bowling birthday parties for kids, and while it isn’t my favorite place to be, it sure is fun for the kids.

galileogirl's avatar

In that case I don’t see what @Supacase ‘s problem is. Either they have supervised activities for younger kids (probably for a fee) or the younger kids can be accomodated bowling @ $7.50 ea. Either she will have younger kids & their mothers participation or she can limit the party to 4 yo’s and expect the mothers with younger kids to not attend. Sounds like mountain amd molehill territory.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Supacase just for the record I think it was a good question and made completely sense

@galileogirl The question is more about how to address such a situation ethically and responsibly. I think you are coming from the angle of whether or not it is an issue to have the siblings present. The issue is more how to address the parents and let them know her desires (whether you agree with her desires or not).

Supacase's avatar

Mountain & molehill come to my mind as well.

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