My daughter's fifth birthday is coming up. She attends a small preschool and wants to invite her entire class to her party. I think it is too many children. What can I do? I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by excluding them.


Dear Overwhelmed,

You are right, the entire class is too many party goers. Stick to the one guest per each year of your daughter's age rule; which for her means 5 guests. Let your daughter have her whole class invitation wish by making a class party. Get together with the teacher and talk about ways that you can make that day really special for her. See the suggestions in my “parting thoughts” at the end of this column.

Help her to understand the necessity of having a small group come to the home party, so that she can spend time with each guest and enjoy her company. Let her have her feelings of wanting everyone there without fixing them or giving in. Help her to understand that since many of the children aren't coming to her home party it will be important to remain mindful of their feelings and not use that information to hurt or tease them. At five your daughter has plenty of logic to understand and implement this plan.

Set your home party up for success. Limit the time; I suggest 1 1/2 to 2 hours, preferably in the morning so everyone will be at their best, say 9:30 to 11:00 am. Decide together what the theme will be and choose one or two games. Will everyone wear costumes to fit the theme? Will a parent remain with each child or is it OK to drop off? Give folks several weeks notice and use an RSVP date: “ Call by February 1 if you'll be attending.” Include all this information on the invitations and mail them out rather then delivering them at school.

Practice “party behavior” before the actual event and play “What will we do if _____happens?” That way your daughter will be prepared for any number of incidents. I recommend that party goers also come prepared in the same manner. Practice the receiving of gifts in a way that honors the giftor and acknowledges the thought. BE SURE to write THANK YOU notes afterwards. Have your daughter dictate the notes and sign them until she is able to write them entirely on her own. Teach her to mention the gift and why it is special to her as well as thanking the person for giving it AND for attending her party. Now go and enjoy that party!