Good food is an American birthright, and we are the land of plenty! But party food can mean different things to different people.
There are three basic aspects to planning food for kids’ birthday parties:
- The Cake
- Snacks or Meal
I’m not a huge fan of cooking. My darling husband is the chef and baker in our house. He’s been known to make some fun cakes (a treasure chest, a fire engine, a dinosaur, a spider, and a giant baby block, to name a few). But because I’m not the big cook, I typically schedule all of our parties between 1:00 and 5:00 pm. That way, guests have lunch before they come and dinner when they leave. We choose to provide snacks, drinks, cake and coffee and tea.
The cake serves a few purposes. It’s a great way to emphasize the theme, adds to the decorations and feeds the people. If you’re industrious and like to bake (like the dad in our house), you can find all kinds of ideas online. Choose something that will highlight your theme and then start searching. Check out Pinterest, Family Fun, Martha Stewart and iVillage.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the cake pan. For our daughter’s American Girl party, we served beautiful petit fours in honor of Samantha. Cup cakes baked in wafer ice cream cones are another big hit. Cake pops are also really popular right now, and they can help keep minimize portions of the high fat and sugary fare.
Snacks and Meals
When planning other foods, you can either keep it simple, or tie it into the theme. One year we had a Community Super Hero party. For snacks, we made each child a fire truck. The cab of the truck was a juice box wrapped in red paper. The back of the truck was made from a small cereal box (the individual serving kind) with the top cut off. It was also wrapped in red paper, and we cut sandwiches into quarters and lined up the pieces in the cut cereal box. We draw on wheels and ladders, and voila! We had little fire engines.
During our Cooking Party one year, the activities WERE the food! The kids made individual pizzas and chicken cordon bleu, decorated their own cupcakes and had a donut eating contest.
But as I said earlier, we don’t typically get too elaborate. Usually, I like to make a fruit platter and crudite (veggie platter) with dip. If you go that route, I have few tips. Grapes work well, but grab your kitchen scissors and cut off small bunches. Quartered oranges, pineapple, and strawberries also work well. Stay away from apples and pears because they tend to brown quickly, and blueberries are another no no. Inevitably some will fall and be squished, staining whatever they touch.
For veggies, we’ve found that broccoli and cauliflower are not a big hit with everyone. When we did include them, they were always the last to go. Sliced bell peppers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber (cut in lengths) are popular choices.
If cooking is your thing, then you might opt to serve a meal. Buffet style food is always great at a kid’s party, since the last thing kids usually want to do is sit down for a formal meal. Make-your-own sandwiches with a cold cut platter, rolls and condiments are often a big hit. Taco bars are another popular choice, and similar to that (but a little more unique) is a mashed potato bar. Offer plastic parfait cups with delicious mashed potatoes and a choice of toppings such as salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, chives, nacho cheese and bacon bits.
Speaking of cheese, you can do a psuedo-fondue by keeping a warm ninja crockpot with melted cheese and put out toothpicks and a wide range of dippable foods such as mini hot dogs, meatballs and cut veggies.
At the beverage table, leave a permanent marker next to the cups with a little sign asking people to label their drinks. It will save on wasted cups. We like to offer water and ice tea and avoid sugary drinks.
During cake, we put out coffee and a carafe of hot water with a basket of tea bags, along with a gallon of milk for kids to wash down their sweets.
What are some of your kid party food favorites?