“How much food should I serve? Do I have to feed parents as well? It’ll never look as good as on Pinterest. HELP!”
Here are my practical tips to help simplify matters.
Kids party food – how much, what kind?
Children eat surprisingly little at parties – there’s too much excitement to sit and indulge! Similarly, they won’t appreciate your painstaking cooking and decorating efforts. So make things easy on yourself – small portions, easy-to-prepare, simple foods. Choose menu items that can be prepared in advance, and only have a few (or no) dishes that require heating up.
If you’ve got something savoury, something sweet, possibly some fruit, and a birthday cake, then you’re all sorted.
A menu of 5-8 items should offer plenty of variety, with 2-3 serves of each savoury and 1-2 serves of each sweet per child.
Creating food can be part of the party fun – consider a cookie decoration competition, a make-your-own sundae station, or pizza making if you have a big oven. It’s a great way to knock off entertaining and cooking in one!
Many parents aren’t keen on fizzy drinks, so steer towards cordial, juice or water. Individual pop-top drinks are fantastic, as they are non-spill, can be refilled with water. You can also write the kids’ names on the labels.
Consider possible food allergies, and keep your party table nut-free. Most parents of kids with allergies will let you know, and may even provide special food if their diet needs to be closely monitored. If you’re unsure, ask the parents.
And finally…consider your preparation timetable. It’s a good idea to include foods that can be prepared in advance (or at least partially prepared), so it’s not a mad rush on party day. Also think about your ability to refrigerate or heat up food on party day. This free downloadable party planner includes a menu planning worksheet, which will help you plan these things.
Themed party food
The easiest way to theme your food is to creatively label your standard party fare. For example, for a Harry Potter party, sausage rolls become ‘sausage scrolls’, and cupcakes can be ‘cauldron cakes’.
If you have the time, you can also prepare one or two special themed dishes to give your food table that extra visual flare. Pinterest is a great source of themed food ideas. As a starting point, take a look through my collection of themed party boards.
Sit down or buffet?
Decide whether you want a sit-down party table, a snacking buffet, or individual food boxes. Sit-down tables work well for children aged over 4, while younger children will want to graze on food in between running around playing.
If you’re having sit-down party tables, you can place the food directly on the table if it’s large enough. If there’s not the space, either lay out a buffet on another table, or simply have an adult serve food directly from kitchen onto the kids’ plates. I actually find that to be the best way to serve, as it stops the kids grabbing across the table in a wild frenzy!
Food boxes are handy if you don’t want to set up tables – such as when having a picnic in a park. There is a potential pit-fall to be careful of – I once entertained at a party where the mother had lovingly created 25 individual food boxes…only to have almost as many siblings come along! She spent the whole party in the kitchen in a panic, trying to make her party loaves and fishes multiply! So note: while this is an extreme (and extremely rude) example, it’s wise to keep some extra boxes aside in case additional siblings or non-respondents turn up.
Do I have to feed the parents as well?
For children under school-age, you can expect most parents to stay. Once they’ve hit school age, consider whether you want to encourage parents to stay or go. A nicely worded guide in the invitation will help, such as “Due to space constraints, we are unable to host all parents. We appreciate you dropping off your children and returning at the end of the party.”
Parents who stay should understand the focus is on the children, not them, but will likely appreciate a drink and perhaps a small snack. Having a separate adults platter of dips, cheese and biscuits is a no-fuss way to cater, and you can assign someone to help make teas and coffees.
Further Party Food Ideas
Head over to my ‘Easy Kids Party Food’ board on Pinterest for loads of super-easy party food ideas (and don’t forget to follow me for future ideas).
The Essential Kid’s Party Planning Guide
Want to know more about running your party? EVERYTHING you need to know to create your own GORGEOUS and EXCITING party in one downloadable guide. Take a look.