Another area that I know is stressful for parents planning parties is food. How much? Is that enough? How many sweet treats? Help themselves or in party boxes? Sound familiar? Having entertained at over 100 parties every year I have seen what works and what doesn’t and here are some of my top food tips.
Sandwiches – there are always loads left over! My advice would be to allow half a sandwich (1 slice of bread) per child. Keep fillings simple – cheese, ham, cream cheese, jam or marmite all seem to go down well. I saw a lovely plate of beautifully decorated salami sandwiches at a party once that weren’t even touched. Another way to get children to eat sandwiches is to cut them out with cookie cutters into interesting shapes, thus eliminating crusts. At my own son’s birthday parties I have in the past done teddy bears, trains, dinosaurs but I have also seen rockets and stars and other parties – anything goes and the children generally tend to eat more of them. Here are some ideas I have seen on the internet – first, ideal for a princess party from creativepartyblog.com
Beautiful Tiara sandwiches from creativepartyblog.com
Some car sandwiches from jackandizzy.blogspot.com
Car sandwiches - jackandizzy.blogspot.com
And finally if you are feeling adventurous how about these from hostessblog.com
Creative sandwiches from hostessblog.com
Naughty or Nice? – Firstly I think we need to give our kids a bit more credit. They are so savvy today about healthy eating that at all the parties I have attended the children always seem to choose a good balance. Of course they love the crisps and biscuits and cakes but they also choose fruit and vegetables too. Making fruit and vegetables look interesting is always a good idea – kebabs work really well and making something out of fruit and veg can be appealing too. These fruit veg and savoury kebabs look great from superhealthykids.com
Fab Kebabs from superhealthykids.com
And these fruit pops look delicious from innocentcatering.com.au
Fruit Pops from innocentcatering.com.au
For my son’s Cars party we made little cars out of apple quarters and grapes, held together by a cocktail stick which I saw on catchmyparty.com.
Inspiration for my sons Cars Party, image from catchmyparty.com
At a lovely Fairy party I entertained at recently they had Enchanted Toadstools (half a cherry tomato on top of a cube of cheese), Pixie Sticks (Various Crudites), Fairy Wands (Grapes on a skewer) and Forest Berries (Raisins and Dried Cranberries). The kids loved them.
Some lovely real life Fairy party food - Enchanted Toadstools, Fairy Wands and Pixie Sticks
Another party I once entertained at brought the crisps out 5 minutes after the tea had begun. I commended the mum on this idea as the children had tucked into the sandwiches and more healthy items quite happily. She admitted that she had just forgotten to bring them out!
Food boxes vs Plates – This is very much personal choice. In my opinion it is easier to guage accurate portions when you put individual items into food boxes. Below is a pirate one from boywondergifts.co.uk who are a great source for boys partyware and gifts. Food boxes are also easier to transport and to tidy up afterwards as they seem to create less mess. I have tended to put the savoury stuff in the food boxes and then bring out the sweet things on platters afterwards.
Pirate Boxes from boywondergifts.co.uk
Hot food – It is far easier to have all cold stuff particularly if the party is not at home as hall ovens can be unreliable and take far longer to cook . It also makes timing when to break trickier to organise. However I did a party at a clients home once where they served up a big pot of Bolognese with garlic bread and it went down a storm and didn’t take long to organise as they just reheated it at food time.
How long and when? – Many people ask me how long they should allow for food. In my experience children rarely take longer than 20 mins to eat and sometimes can be done in 10! Do be wary of party venues that give you an hours play and then an hour to eat! I know of many people who have been stuck in a small party room for 40 minutes with no activities planned and children literally climbing the walls. Once they have eaten they are full of energy again so do have an activity planned for afterwards, something energetic but that doesn’t require too much concentration. Dancing games are always good as are familiar games like Duck Duck Goose.
People also ask when best to have food. I feel that about half way in is always good as they will have worked up an appetite and you won’t have as much time to fill afterwards when concentration is likely to be low but energy levels high.
I hope these tips are helpful for those of you planning your next childrens party. Please do share any tips you have for children’s party food below and I would welcome any questions too.