One question always comes up when I’m helping plan a party for a client: “How many children should I invite?”

Well, there is this theory that’s been around for years that says you should invite one more child than the age of your child. Your child is 4, you should invite 5 guests. In many ways, I think this makes sense for a few good reasons...

1. If you are a new parent, it gives you the opportunity to gradually get used to the notion and technique of throwing a birthday party. By the time your child is 9, you can actually handle 10 hyped-up kids in your house.

2. As each year passes, kids can handle a great deal more on their own. Their dexterity, focus, and ability to follow directions grows exponentially, making it easier to control a larger mass in an easier manner (unless of course you’ve got a group of boys hopped up on sugar).

3. As kids age, they become more accustomed and acclimated to going to birthday parties and so they sort of “fall in” with the party line, so to speak.

I think you could stretch it to maybe one or two over the suggested number, but all in all I think it’s a good plan.

However, there is a growing trend to invite everyone your child has ever met. This is just plain nuts!  Unless you hire someone like myself, take the kids to a location where there is some sort of program or attraction (say a pool or a park), or enlist everyone you have ever met to help you -- you are going to go ca-ray-zee! 25 kids is a lot of kids! I would never throw a party for 20 kids by myself and neither should you!

More and more schools require if you are going to invite more than half the class you have to invite the entire class. There’s the whole, “hurt feelings” thing, which yes, it’s a bummer... but guess what... you’re not always going to get invited to the ball Cinderella. Better get used to that now.

I don’t mean to be snide. I know as a parent you’ve probably dealt with a disappointed child and that’s a heartbreaking experience. I’m not diminishing that. But I think these huge parties are too hard on kids. A lot of kids can’t handle the pressure of being in the spotlight as it is. So, when you multiply that with the pressure of a large group, mix in the anxiety of a parent who is panicking over the fact that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it, and “oh god, I don’t have enough goodie bags,” you get the recipe for a meltdown.

For me, as a professional, I find that 8 to 12 kids is the ideal number at a party. You can play almost any group game, that number fits around most dining or picnic sized tables, party goods usually come in packs of 8 or 12. It’s pretty manageable.

Really, the most important thing is that your child feels like they are the center of attention (if they want to be) and that it’s their special day.

The key to any successful party is making sure that the birthday kid has fun -- and that means tapping into what makes the your kid happy. If it’s 1 good friend over for a playdate making ice cream sundaes, then so be it. If it’s 25 kids running around your back yard... call me.