Birthday Parties for Highly Sensitive Children

One of the things I fret and stress about annually is my eldest son’s birthday. Or more accurately, how far to go with celebrations – and who to celebrate with. It stems from a bad experience the day he turned two when some uninvited in-laws turned up to join the familiar faces who had been chosen to spend a few hours with my son. My husband and I were furious, which my son also felt of course. On top of that, he had no idea who these uninvited guests were, found it all far too busy and overwhelming and ended up playing in a corner on his own with his back to everyone. It isn’t a fond memory.

Since then we have skipped the big, group family celebrations and gone for more intimate gatherings, and, since he turned five, a party with his friends. Whilst the family side of his birthday is sorted out I have struggled for a few years to find the balance for the children’s parties we plan. There’s no skipping them – he wants to celebrate with this friends – but there are things we need to think about when we plan a party for him.

The Secret Agent Birthday Party Boss screened guests as they came in.

This year we were ready! The Secret Agent Birthday Party Boss screened guests as they came in.

This year I really wanted to skip a kids’ party after he melted down last year during and directly after the party. We had it in an external location where we had no control over activity timings and the children got bored and went wild. It was just too much noise, too busy, too unplanned. My son held his hands over his ears and asked us to make it all stop. And it wasn’t just my son that had his fill…..his HSP mama had a hard time with the afternoon too.

However, in the end at my son’s insistence we went ahead with a party for him but decided this year to have it at home, where we could plan and keep it under control. We chose a secret agent theme and from the moment the children arrived until they left we had a filled schedule with things for them to do, including back up activities. I learnt the hard way last year that children who are not entertained make their own fun – and that is when my HSC implodes with the noise, chaos and activity around him.

I was also careful to keep the numbers limited, and keep an eye on who he was inviting. And I planned. I planned the party to within an inch of its life.

The children came in and were fingerprinted and their hand was scanned. They then received ID badges (which they had to put a face and their code name on).

In short, the children had no time to start running around as soon as they came in the house like they did last year – they were instantly put to work.

Presents were opened and then they ate. As soon as the food was gone they started their secret agent training – which meant playing lots of games, some quiet and some more active.

Once the secret agent ‘training’ was over they had to go on their first mission which meant going out into our garden covered in police tape and an obstacle course, which they had to duck and dive under, over and through.

They had to run around and find clues to gather the code to unlock a suitcase they would eventually find with the clues they solved. This included solving a morse code message and putting a puzzle together – it gave my HSC quiet time as things got exciting. They unlocked the case to find their party bags and some certificates.

We had ten minutes left before parents picked up their children – and that was filled with some playing (in the rain) in the garden whilst others coloured spy themes colouring pages or doing a secret agent word search.

Once the guests left there was no melt down, no tears – just happy exhaustion. And my HSC was also fine…….. 🙂 I may just have it in the bag – at the fourth attempt.

So here are a few lessons I have learnt when planning a birthday party for my HSC:

  • Keep it small scale – this year, my son and his brothers included, there were ten children. It was big enough.
  • Keep it familiar – in terms of location and people.
  • Keep it planned – there is a lot less chaos when children are entertained.
  • Make sure there is a quiet space for your HSC to escape to if it all gets too much.
  • Noise levels – build in a break in the noise level at some point; switch off music whilst eating for example, or alternate noisy, active games with some quiet games. Straight after eating we did an observation game (essential secret agent trait of course) with the children so they had to remember what was on a tray they were shown. Whilst they were thinking and writing down items you could have heard a pin drop.
  • My HSC doesn’t like to be put in the spotlight so we avoid party games that require individual or solo action whilst everyone watches.
  • Similarly, having to ‘perform’ is not desired – like dancing, or answering quiz questions so we adapt games where necessary.
  • Games where there are winners (and so ultimately also losers) are something we also avoid – tears on your birthday are just not fun. He feels like a failure if he is quickly eliminated from a game and hence is embarrassed.
  • Keep the length of the party manageable for your HSC – if you know two hours is all the excitement he or she can handle in one go then plan accordingly.
  • Think about the guest list – lots of extreme extrovert or boisterous children may not make for a happy party for a HSC.

Over to You: What would you add to the tip list? Do you have birthday parties for your HSC? Or do you avoid them like the plague?


About Amanda van Mulligen

Mother, writer, author, blogger. Born British, Living Dutch. I have three Dutch sons and a Dutch husband and I blog about Turning Dutch and raising highly sensitive children.
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13 Responses to Birthday Parties for Highly Sensitive Children

  1. Pingback: 21 Ways to Recognise a Highly Sensitive Child | Happy Sensitive Kids

  2. Pingback: Time to Stress v Preparation Time: When to Tell a Highly Sensitive Children | Happy Sensitive Kids

  3. Pingback: Birthdays, Sleepovers and Expectations | Happy Sensitive Kids

  4. I am scared of doing children’s party. My son is going to be 5 this June but I will still not do one. Its still too scary for me. #mysundayphoto


  5. darrencoleshill308390132 says:

    Lots of great tips, we always try for a smaller party. I hope it was a good day

    Thank you for linking up


  6. Coombe Mill says:

    Some great tips here, I can imagine life can’t always be easy trying to work through differences and it must be even harder having family members who don’t really understand. I hope he enjoyed his party.


  7. craftiemum says:

    For us a picnic at a park, surrounded by nature, with lots of space, works best, preferably no activities, just free play until the kids are tired. But my daughters birthday is in August, so it’s easy to do that. For any kind of party at home I also prefer to keep the guest list short and the kids with restricted but interesting activities. Nice post!


  8. ofamily2014 says:

    brilliant advice. We also find parties very hard at the moment we have just kept them very limited with the 2 closest friends but I think this year we might have to make it a bit bigger


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