Fun Food for Birthday Parties
Food for children's birthdays should be fun, inexpensive, easy to handle and even a little bit good for them.
Minimise the mess by deciding beforehand where you want the children to be when they are eating. If you have a small group, you can sit them around the table. A larger group, you could spread picnic rugs in various places – inside or outdoors – where they can sit in small groups to eat. Depending on their age, they can either come and get the food (or pre-loaded plates) and take them to their seating place, or you can get them to sit and deliver the food to them.
Forget utensils, think finger foods, nibbles and sandwiches. Cold food is easier than hot food and avoids the danger of children burning themselves on hot food or cooking implements. Try to avoid food that makes lots of crumbs or stains.
- Sandwiches should be small, with not too much filling so that it doesn't spill or squeeze out. Make life easy for yourself with square sliced bread, try a few different fillings and cut the sandwiches into 4 triangles – because triangles always taste better. You can cut off the crusts if you wish – or cut off some and watch to see which children prefer. Instead of triangles, check out the fun Lunch Punches (pictured right) from Coolthings. You can choose ones to match the party theme and then use them to jazz up packed lunches.
- Carrot sticks, celery trees, cucumber slices etc – children do like fresh foods and will eat these provided you don't have a big pile of junk food sitting beside them. Think cocktail party and how these foods are presented attractively – but forget dips.
- Egg Boats – hard boil some eggs, cool and cut in half. Remove the yolk and mix with some mayonnaise to make a creamy paste (add a little milk if it is too dry) Spoon the mixture back into the whites. Add cucumber slices or carrot slivers to make sails for your boats.
- Snacks on sticks. Remember the old style cube of cheese, tinned pineapple pieces on sticks, cherry tomato, pickled onion etc on toothpicks. Easy for you to prepare and easy for them to handle.
- Chips/crisps. If you want these, try to stick to the plain flavours so they don't overwhelm everything else.
- Water is easy and no fuss – fizzy drink spills make sticky messes. If you must have fizzy drinks, make them sit quietly to drink or go outside. Set a good example by drinking water yourself.
- Straws can make a normal drink more exciting.
Sweets & Cake
- These should stay out of sight until the savoury food is finished. it works well for another adult to organise a game to keep children occupied while you clear the savoury away and bring the sweet foods out.
- Don't have too much. Jelly is cheap and cheerful. Just cake is sufficient. I make cupcakes as well as a large cake from the same mixture – a single cupcake each is often easier for children to handle and they find them more attractive. The big cake is still needed for the candle(s)… and for the adults to eat.
- Other sweets and lollies can be used as prizes for games and in “loot bags” so a few go a long way. Wrapped sweets are good as children can save them for later without getting a sticky mess in their pockets – or your handbag!
- Left over cake freezes well.
It's common for children to have a “loot” bag to take home. Simple brown paper bags are fine for this – you can even let the children decorate their own bag. Add a few sweets to these.