At what age is it appropriate to make a party for a child and invite other kids with their parents to celebrate his birthday?
We did this for my son on his 3rd birthday and most recently for his 4th birthday and he definitely had a blast. My son goes to childcare 4 days a week and he had a great time playing with his friends.
On his second birthday we only had close friends and family and he was definitely too small to have close social bonds with his friends to have a large party.
Something that might also be useful, they are still too small to play party games at this age. We tried this Christmas just gone to play pin the tail on the donkey and pass the parcel, but they just weren't interested.
For both his 3rd and 4th birthday we had a BBQ at a local playground and the kids played together for hours and some didn't even want to go home. The play equipment meant there was no pressure for them to focus on a particular activity they could just enjoy playing.
I'd say when he's able to answer questions like "Who are your friends?", "Who do you like to play with?", "Who would you like to invite to your birthday party?".
Somewhere we read this guideline for small kids' parties, and we've found it a pretty good rule of thumb:
Limit the party to one friend per year of age.
A child turning one can have fun with one friend and a few parents/relatives, but they aren't social enough to appreciate or enjoy a larger group, and things can get overwhelming. As kids get older it's more feasible to include more friends, and the friends' parents won't always stay. Having 7-8 friends for a 7-8 year old party is a lot more fun than having 7-8 two year olds!
Different approaches may apply in different cultures. But is there any reason not to have a small party and a fuss starting with the 1st birthday? Family will definitely want to be involved and most infants will enjoy the attention and they will enjoy observing the excitement in the faces of the adults around them. Not so many adults that the child is made anxious by the crowd, of course. And one or two small children (these will be the babies and children of family and close friends).
If you happen to have no family or friends with small children, then having no other children is fine for 1st birthday (and maybe 2nd birthday). By 3rd birthday you will want to reach out to a few other families who do have children the same age as yours and invite them, even if they aren't close frinds of yours.
We just had my son's third birthday party at a Little-Gym-type place, with his friends from school and family. He had a great time, but certainly wouldn't have noticed the difference if we baked him a cake and sang "Happy Birthday" in the house. Four or five is probably a better age to throw a party that will make an impact. Any younger, it's really more about the parents.
For the first three years we did family parties, with a large extended family there are fewer chances of boredom as there is usually someone to play with. After we got to pre-school and started having playdates the birthday parties started and these were often kid only affairs, separate from a family party. Now we do the kid's party and then the family one...although with a summer birthday we'll probably start moving out to playgrounds and parks soon so the kids can have way more running around room. If you feel the kids are ready for it, then its the right time, but I guess with most things is it depends. With kid parties you need to provide entertainment, or a place kids can entertain themselves, probably why in the US the party places are popular so you just need to supervise and the party people handle everything.
Birthday parties are not just for kids to make friends, they're a great way for parents to make new friends also.
We've always invited everybody that we can think of to our children's parties and offered them all good eats. Get your kid enrolled in tball and soccer and meet up with other parents, be sure to see if their interested in attending and invite them to your kids parties.
Your child will learn some valuable social skills by being surrounded with new people all the time.