Birthday parties are all about having fun, and let’s face it: Whether you are an adult or a child, a large part of that fun is the food. Birthday party foods for kids, however, should be different from adult party fare. Zucchini and goat cheese appetizers are probably not going to be appreciated by children at a birthday party. Instead, offer up something a bit more kid-friendly that will be sure to make your child’s birthday party the event of the year.
It seems like children are allergic to almost everything these days: dairy, nuts, strawberries, gluten, even chocolate. It’s important to find out ahead of time whether any of the guests coming to the party have allergies before you plan the menu. Although older children may be able to monitor their own eating habits, younger children most likely cannot. Even if the party is for older kids, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s only polite to offer items that every child can enjoy without worry. Nothing ruins a party quite like a sick child, and some allergies can be serious enough to be life-threatening.
Think convenience and simplicity when planning the menu for the birthday party. Finger foods are best for most kids’ birthday parties. Instead of serving a large birthday cake to children who might end up wandering around with a paper plate balanced precariously in one hand, try serving small cupcakes instead. Place a fun party favor on each cupcake for a younger child’s party. Older children may appreciate something more subtle. Try placing a single letter of the alphabet on each cupcake and then arranging them to spell out a happy birthday message. Other finger foods might include bite-sized sandwiches, fruit and veggie trays, and sliders. If you want to cut down on spills, try serving personalized bottles of water or juice–simply attach a name sticker to each bottle and hope the lid stays on when not in use.
Choose foods that match the time of day of your birthday party. Consider whether you want to serve a full lunch, for example. If not, you might want to plan your party for later in the afternoon and offer just a few snacks. Or, plan an after-dinner party (for older kids who can stay up that late) and offer an array of dessert choices. You can also tailor the menu to match the theme of your party. A cowboy or Old West theme may include sliders, cornbread, beans and watermelon.
It’s always important to offer healthy food choices, but birthday parties are a special occasion. Aim for a balance of healthy and sugary. Fresh-fruit smoothies, for example, are a healthy treat and an excellent alternative to ice cream. On the other hand, a carrot cake, no matter how tasty, in place of a chocolate birthday cake may be met with dismay. Offer potato chips, but choose baked instead of fried, and use turkey instead of ground beef for those hamburgers.
Most kids’ birthday parties include another group of people–the parents. And while the focus of the food will rightly be on the children, the adults are going to be hungry, too. Consider offering more adult fare for the grown-ups at your party. Fruit juice laden with sherbet ice cream might not quench the thirst of adults longing for a cool bottle of water, for example. Grilled vegetables and chicken bites on a stick are good alternatives for adults who don’t want a hot dog.
- birthday cake 3 image by Julia Britvich from Fotolia.com