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Birthday Hazards: Chaperones and Supervision

Every parent knows the importance of proper supervision when children play. Parents watch their toddlers closely, and keep an eye on older children when dangers threaten.

However, many parents overlook the importance of adequate supervision at children’s parties, and even more forget that supervision remains important when the party involves pre-teens and teenage guests.

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Parents think that children’s parties don’t need too much special adult care: rent a bounce house, serve a cake, and watch the birthday boy or girl as he or she opens presents. The host parents, plus a friend or two, can run the show.

Not so.

Insufficient supervision can result in serious injuries, or deaths. Don’t let a happy time become a tragedy. Plan for proper supervision and help keep guests safe and happy.

The primary supervision problems at children’s parties fall into three important categories, all of which require special adult attention:

1. Insufficient Adult Presence. Too many children and too few adults add up to a dangerous situation. Always have at least two adults for each planned activity, plus at least two extras to handle “one-child issues.” For example, if your party will have a bounce house, an art station, and an obstacle course, you should have two adults to supervise each activity, and two others to act as “floaters” in case a child needs first aid, bathroom assistance, or extra help with food and drinks.

2. Unobservant Chaperones. Adults who attend children’s parties often chat among themselves or stand in the kitchen together while the children play outside. This creates the danger of accidents and unsupervised injuries among the party guests. Plan out in advance which adults will take responsibility for specific activities, and make sure each adult knows his or her responsibilities before the party starts. During the party, the host should keep an eye on party guests and adult chaperones, to ensure that all activities and children are where they should be.

3. Wandering Children. Children often wander off to examine attractive objects and investigate unseen places. This can result in injuries, or even deaths, if a child wanders into a dangerous area unobserved. Ask your party chaperones to “count heads” and pay attention when a child strays from scheduled activities. If someone wanders off, a “floating” chaperone can return the child to the party without the assigned adult having to leave the other children unattended. At least one (and preferably two or more) adult(s) should know where every child is at all times during a party or other event. 


Assign at least one adult to act as “kitchen guard” or “barbecue guard” to prevent child guests from wandering into kitchens or too close to barbecues and other dangerous objects. Many cuts and burns can be avoided with proper supervision.

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Adults often think that older children, especially teens, can handle themselves without supervision. Teens are often allowed to host, and attend, parties without adequate adult supervision. Parents, beware. Even if the host teen doesn’t use alcohol or drugs, party guests may bring these substances with them, and distribute them to others if the party lacks an appropriate adult presence.

Even trustworthy teens require supervision. Don’t let your teenagers host–or attend–a party unless you know an adequate number of responsible adults will be present and attentive to the party and its guests.


Accidents happen, even when people mean well and intended to host a safe and happy gathering. Don’t let a moment’s inattention cause long-lasting suffering or regret. Always plan for adequate supervision at children’s parties–and those thrown by teens–and help keep parties safe and happy, as they should be.

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