5 min Read
How to throw a birthday party for an introverted kid
May 4, 2023
5 min Read
May 4, 2023
Does socializing drain your child? Here’s how to celebrate birthday milestones with a party without overwhelming your little introvert.
About five minutes into my kid’s fifth birthday party, I realized I had made a terrible mistake. I looked over the bouncy castle rental teeming with kids, our backyard swings full of dangling kids, and the chalkboard drawing station crawling with even more kids. And there, in her second-story bedroom window, was one angry-looking birthday girl glaring at everyone. Alone. I had made a huge mistake putting together a big, conventional birthday party without considering the needs of my little introvert kid. And I should have known better—I’m in the introvert club, too.
Clinically speaking, an introvert prefers the inner world of the mind over the outer world of other people. But I like this more simplified definition: Introverts are drained by social interactions, whereas extroverts are energized by the same social interactions. To regain their energy, an introvert needs space and quiet.
That’s not to say that introverts are antisocial hermits. We like people, just not too many all at once, and preferably in a calm environment.
Here are just some characteristics of an introverted child:
Experts say most people fall somewhere on a spectrum of introversion and extroversion. It’s likely that your kid has a little of both, but if some or all of the points above resonate, your child may have stronger introverted traits.
Learning from my birthday party fail, I now fall back on the simplified definition outlined above: Would the celebration idea energize my kid, or drain them? To help come up with more concrete ideas, I asked Jaclyn Desforges, award-winning author of the picture book Why Are You So Quiet?
Desforges agrees that birthday parties can be overwhelming for introverted kids, especially in traditional birthday venues such as trampoline parks or indoor playgrounds.
If they’re old enough, talk to them about what would actually be fun. “Maybe a quieter birthday activity would be more their speed,” she says, and recommends activities such as painting time at a pottery place, or wildlife experiences at a local nature centre.
Note that my almost five-year-old, however, lit up at the idea of a bouncy castle full of her friends, but the reality was too overwhelming for her (classic introvert!). If you find yourself in my shoes—in full swing with an overstimulated child—read on for Desforges’ next strategies:
Your kid may insist on Go-Karts, Xtreme Bowling or some other experience that is the opposite of calm or quiet. “Even the most introverted kid may want to host their party at the same place where their friends’ parties are held,” says Desforges. “There’s a lot you can do as a parent to make the experience less overwhelming, even in a crowded venue.” Here’s her top advice:
Designate the rest of the day for recovery, says Desforges. “Post-party is the perfect time to snuggle, watch TV, and play quietly with new toys.” She also recommends saving further socializing for another day. While it might be tempting to invite grandparents or neighbours over for a slice of cake, it’s better to give your child the space they need to recharge instead of pushing them over the edge with a second gathering.
Take it from me—when your introverted kid refuses to open Grandma’s present and runs away, it makes for awkward cake and tea time.
Lastly, Desforges recommends avoiding errands post-party—things like grocery shopping or a trip to the mall. It’s not socializing per se, but these are still busy, overstimulating environments for introverted types.
All kids deserve birthday celebrations that leave them happy, fulfilled, and feeling loved. By honouring your introverted child’s needs and natural tendencies, everyone will come away with a positive and memorable experience.
To celebrate my daughter the following year we went to the zoo, just the immediate family. We went early, saw giraffes, ate ice cream, and everyone had a wonderful time.