What to Do When Uninvited Siblings Attend Your Kid's Birthday Party

Dealing With This Etiquette Breach to Ensure Safety and Accommodation

kids birthday party

You've carefully planned for your youngster's upcoming birthday party. Everything is set until some invited guests are accompanied by uninvited siblings, relatives, or friends.

While you may be able to have a "the more the merrier" attitude if you are hosting a freeform party in your backyard, it poses a problem in many cases. You may have booked a venue that requires a specific headcount and fee per child.

You may have goodie bags, place settings, party hats, and other favors for each guest.

You have checked with the parents of the invited guests for food allergies, sensitivities, sensory and mobility accommodations needed, and other important medical and behavioral issues and planned the party accordingly. What do you do when extra young guests show up?

Why Extra Guests Tag Along to a Child's Party

It is a breach of etiquette for parents to bring extra guests, but it is a common occurrence. Bringing extra kids without asking first is inappropriate and rude, and it also doesn't allow the host to ensure the extra child can be appropriately accommodated. Remember that it isn't the uninvited child's fault and you need to avoid shaming them.

Misguided parents sometimes bring the invited guest's siblings along because of a younger child throwing a tantrum about wanting to go or in their belief that it keeps things fair and harmonious in the household.

Sometimes it's even with the guise of an older sibling "looking after" the younger guest to make sure behavior is as it should be. A few parents use it as an opportunity to be kid-free so that they can go off during party time and run errands or have lunch out with another adult.

Talking to the Parent Dropping off the Uninvited Guest

Simply put, you can't turn away the extra guests.

However, you do need to have a conversation with the parent or caregiver dropping them off to ensure their safety as well as discussing issues of the cost of extra guests. Politely and discreetly talk to the parent. If you cannot afford to absorb the cost, apologetically indicate the payment you need to accommodate an extra guest. That lets the parent decide whether to pay the expense. However, be aware that the parent could come back with "the child will just sit there and not participate." And what party host could allow that?

If the extra child is going to attend, ask about food allergies and whether the child needs any other accommodations for physical, sensory, or behavioral issues. This conversation helps ensure the child's safety while subtlely reinforcing that bringing uninvited guests is more than an etiquette issue.

Pre-Planning for Extra Guests

If there is leeway with your total count, plan on making a few extra goody bags (just in case) and find out ahead of time if extra kids can be added last minute. If the party is somewhere where there is absolutely no allowance for any count over what you've indicated, however, you need to call each family and confirm the details with the parents.

Tell them that an exact count is required, with no leeway, and you need to know if their child will be attending.

Use this conversation to check for food allergies and other medical, sensory, mobility, or behavioral conditions that should be accommodated. Say that you need to check any guest for these issues to ensure their safety and full participation.

Accommodating Extra Guests

Even with this planning, you may end up with extra guests, if only because you had the conversation with one parent and the other parent or a caregiver is the one bringing the children to the party. While it will often work out that one or more of the invited guests are no-shows, you might end up over the headcount.

You may have to adjust activities that are not age-appropriate for the extra guests, whether they are too young or too old. You'll need to do some quick thinking on how they can participate. Older children might serve as your helpers in organizing the activity, which gives them a special role so they don't feel left out. Younger children may need to be supervised in an alternate activity while the other guests play a game that they can't.

If you are short on favors, etc., think of ways of splitting or sharing that won't shame the extra child. You may even decide not to hand out items if you can't give them to every child.

Don't let extra kids cast a pall on your attitude, or worse, cause a guest to be upset or feel bad. Your objective is to have your child's birthday be fun and memorable for everyone attending. Be an upbeat and gracious host and make every child in attendance welcome.