Every year, the pressure is on to give your child a great birthday party with their friends. In our busy lives this always presents a challenge to find the time to organize the party.
A lot of things can go right … and a lot can go wrong. One of the main things that everyone will remember, either good or bad, is the food you served.
We’re here to help! Here are 9 ideas to ensure the party food is a positive memory at your child’s party.
1. The party theme is important, but doesn’t need to be reflected in the food. It is important to have a theme for the party and this can be achieved easily by buying one of the all-inclusive party sets now available. These make it so easy for parents to create a great atmosphere, as well as simplifying clean up. When we were deciding which products to design and make with the Five Enchanted Mermaids theme, a “birthday in a box” for busy parents was the first we developed, based on our own experiences over the years hosting our kids’ birthday parties while being working parents.
While you can prepare mermaid-themed food, we do not believe that this is necessary and some foods may end up not embracing some of the criteria for “good” party food set out below.
2. Food should be served towards the end of the party. Our parties would typically run about two hours, with the food being served after activities - about an hour and a half in. You do not want to have high energy activities going on at the same time as eating. This timing allows about half an hour for eating and then time to play a little more before being homeward bound.
3. Most of the food should be finger food that can be picked up and eaten. Finger food is easier to serve on plates and lets the kids pick what they want. However, for foods may require knife and folk, it is most convenient to have a table and chairs for the children to sit at and eat. This is a good idea anyway (see below) but may not always be practical, depending on the number of children invited and the space available. We found that the ideal number of guests is 12, if feasible.
4. Food should be cold rather than hot. Cold food is easier to put out on a serving table and is less time critical if activities run long. It also removes any possibility of burnt mouths.
On a side note, be sure to factor in best practices for food safety, especially if the party is out of doors on a hot day.
5. Seating considerations. At a two hour party with a number of physical activities, the children will get tired and need somewhere to sit. We bought a couple of metal trestle tables and some benches. We then had the legs cut down to match the size of our three-year olds. Some years later, we had the legs welded back on when the children were older and taller.
The seating also helps with socializing and allows a sit-down meal when the food is served. The birthday girl sits at the head of the table and feels special.
6. Variety of Food and Sequence. There is a lot of pressure on parents today to feed their children with nutritional foods. We agree with this but also believe that at a party, the food should be fun as well – offer a variety of options. Frankly, kids are unlikely to have a great time if there are only raw carrot sticks to eat.
7. Save the sugar until the end. Separate the food and drinks into sugar and non-sugar categories. While the children are enjoying their activities after they arrive, they need drinks and non-sugar varieties are better at this time – water is best but milk also works. Later they can be served fruit juices as they head into their food. We never served sodas but if you do, it is best to leave these until late in the party to prevent a sugar rush and the craziness that this might bring.
Also, buy small bottles of water or fruit juice or chocolate milk boxes. We would write the child’s name on the container to avoid mix-ups.
Save the deserts, cake and other sugar-based foods until the end.
8. For themed party foods that you can make yourself, Pinterest is a great place to find ideas. If you decide to carry the party theme over into the food, check out Pinterest for inspiration. We have a few Pinterest boards with lots of interesting ideas for birthday party food. Check out Mermaid Party Recipes, Mermaid Cupcakes, and Mermaid Cookies for lots of ideas.
9. Have appropriate refreshments available for the grown-ups. The younger the children, the more parents will want to stay for the duration of the party. As the children get older, many parents will drop off their children and then return to pick them up at the end of the party. But you will probably have a few parents who will stay for the whole time and help out. Make sure that you have suitable adult food and drinks for them!
Good luck with your party and we hope it will be a huge success!