I know I'm going to take a lot of grief from folks when I say this, but there is an ages that is just too darn young for a birthday party! I don't mean a birthday where friends and family gather and the kids just run around in the backyard wreaking havoc with the family pet, spilling bubble solution all over the lawn furniture. I'm talking about a full-out, entertainment-driven, decorated to the hilt, over the top, birthday party for a mass of two-year-old guests.

I totally understand the first birthday phenomenon. In many cultures, the first birthday is a massive event with lots of family, kids of all ages, and a birthday child who usually spends the day either strapped in a sling or being passed around from relative to relative, and then falling asleep right as the cake is presented. (I've actually seen a couple of one-year-old faceplants -- you can always see it coming, it's in the lead-laden eyelids...) This, I get. It's not really about the birthday itself, it's about absorbing the child into the family circle, gathering everyone together at one time to delight in the addition of another branch on the family tree. It's about family, it's about tradition, it's about inclusion in a group of people that all share a common thread, sort of like a family reunion.

But a party for a two-year-old is just a recipe for disaster...

First, it's too much pressure on one so small. To be the center of all that attention at such a heightened pitch is just too, too much.

Secondly, get that many two-year-olds together and you end up with a forest of mommies standing around trying to chat while clinging children attempt to burrow their way between the mommies knees like a spelunker, or hang onto them like King Kong, trying to scale the Empire State Building. I've seen many a mother about to topple over like a bowling pin, just waiting for that last little nudge.

Thirdly, two-year-olds do not want to follow directions or join in group games or activities. They thrive on side-by-side play at best. This does not make for a cohesive party atmosphere.

Fourthly (hmmm, is that a word?), they probably don't have all that many friends yet. Sure, maybe you have a parenting group or play time circle, but is your child honestly pining to see Freddie from music time? I doubt it. You personally may be hoping to spend time with Freddie's parental unit, but I doubt your child is aware of another child's presence in their lives, unless that child is right there in front of them.

And lastly, your child is never going to remember their second birthday party, not unless they have that superior photographic memory that they highlighted recently on 60 Minutes. And if that's the case, then God help you!

I am always telling my clients, Wait until your child is 5 or 6 before you begin the birthday routine. Up until then, it's just a waste of money. In my opinion you should focus on a family
party before then. You can still have a theme, and decorations if you like -- just don't invite a ton of people. Maybe one close friend, the grandparents, a cousin... Keep it simple, keep it light, keep it fun and focused on the child.

Remember, you've got a lot of time for birthday parties. Why burn yourself out before the kid even starts pre-school?