You can't play with children's feelings and make them play second fiddle. When you throw a party for your little ones it has to be for them and about them. It's their big day and they want to be spoiled.
But the growing trend is that people throw parties for a few hours before the real bash begins. No sooner do you see a jumping castle being blown up than it is off again and the little ones are sent off clutching little party packs. Most people don't even bother buying presents.
"Children see these things and it becomes obvious to them that most parties are just an excuse for the elders to gather and have their bigger do without them," says Catherine Mgaga, a teacher at Kiddies Heaven in Lombardy, Joburg.
"We often ask our toddlers what they got up to over the weekend and lo and behold, tears almost roll down their cheeks as they relate their parties and how things developed."
She says we could use the little things to engage our little ones in preparations. These include colour schemes, the right friends to invite and the kind of music they want played on the day.
"These requests don't cost money but make a child feel involved, important and respected," says Mgaga.
Then comes that unsavoury element of guests who the kid does not even know but come with hungry stomachs and dry throats without a present.
"It's totally acceptable when it's the little guy's friends who come empty handed, at least the company counts for something. At least when kids are with their friends they can entertain themselves and kids have that silent worship for the guest of honour," says party organiser Charmaine Makhene. "Things get sour when parents allow drunks to come and take over the radio, the kitchen, even the playground.
"There is always a guest complaining about having a bad day, a headache, a bad life and a bad case of nervous condition and these are the people who will complain about children making noise and so forth."
Not all adult guests are a pain though. What we are being warned against is allowing grouches to come and spoil the day and drink themselves silly, shout and even fight in the presence of kids. The first thing to do is to eliminate such people from the invitation list and only allow adults who will be of assistance during the party proceedings and the guest of honour's relatives.
"The rest must just be his/her friends and kids need to know they have a choice on who comes and who does not because this tells them that their feelings are respected."
There is also that boring monotonous theme of just party packs, the cake, the braai and the jumping castle. There is more to life than such a replay of a party that kids have seen many times before. Parents are encouraged to theme parties.
"It's not expensive at all. We theme parties for kids the way we do with adult functions," says Makhene.
Theme parties sound expensive when you picture them but the secret is planning ahead. Don't be afraid to send out invitations months in advance.
This helps to give other parents time to work on the outfits and the presents. It also gives you an obligation to stick to the theme and make a difference. Start off small - collect accessories bit by bit.
Colour: It's very important, no Barney Theme can be without the colours Purple and Green.
Space: Have your own space and give them theirs, otherwise you might find yourself clenching fists with their every turn. Be mindful of the seasons and plan accordingly because a Ferry theme would never work in the middle of winter
Ask for advice: The best consultant is the little guest of honour. You would be surprised at how much they know and how affordable most of their fantasies are. Let the adults know they are to drop off kids and only a few should stay to help as it's not their boozing venue but a fun place for kids.