Stress free Kids Party Food planning
Where to start?
For kids party food, I tend to think that less is more! I've always found that younger kids (under 5) are impressed by the overall look of the party table, but then proceed to pick at the food and leave most of it! Older kids like to have a great party table, and do tend to eat more of the food- particularly the sweet treats!
Top Ten Tips for planning great kids food
Food that kids like
How much food should you make?
The cost of the party food
Food safety tips
My top tips for great kids party food, with minimal waste, are:
1.Find out if any of the kids are on special diets, or should avoid any particular foods. If you can accommodate this, great, if not ask the parent if it's possible to send some of their special kids party foods to the party so they can eat with the rest of the kids. Don't leave this question until the last minute- it'll only cause you stress if you're trying to sort this out just before the party starts
2. Make the table look great with colourful tabletops, plates, napkins and cups
3. Use disposable tableware. This saves on the washing up and you don't have to worry about breakages. I try to use paperware as it can be recycled
4. For the under 5's make up a plate of savoury party food per child. That way they aren't confused by too much choice, and they are more likely to eat something
5. Serve the savoury kids party food on platters for the over 5's and allow them to help themselves
6. When the kids have had enough of the savouries, clear this away
7. Serve the sweet treats on platters once you have cleared away the savoury foods. You will reduce the likelihood of kids maxing out on sugar
8. Offer only water, milk, or very dilute fruit flavour drinks. Again, reduce the sugar overload. I avoid offering soda unless the kids are over 10
9. Bring in the birthday cake after the kids have finished eating and the table is cleared
10. After the cake I arrange a quiet party game or activity so that everyone calms down until their food has settled.
What type of party food do kids like?
1. I have found that kids prefer fuss free, finger food
2. Don't bother with anything needing knives or forks because the kids won't eat it
3. You might get away without needing spoons if you don't serve jello or pudding!
4. For the under 5's avoid anything with 'bits' or seeds. Fussiness does seem to (thankfully) reduce with age, but don't set yourself up for disappointment by making food that's too fancy for this age group
5. In the over 5's silliness seems to increase with age! I tend to avoid anything that will mark my furniture if it's thrown (yes I speak from painful experience, having held a party that resulted an impromptu food fight, complete with strawberry jello on my lovely cream walls. That party group did experience a usually mellow mom temporarily transforming into a Cruella Deville clone- luckily I had lots of willing hands to help clean up the mess and restore some level of order, and the fun continued!)
How much kids party food should you make?
When you are deciding how much food to make think about how much food your own child eats, and if their friends are likely to eat more, or less.
Based on my experience, I will make different amounts of food depending upon the age of the kids coming to the party.
For kids under 5, I'll put a couple a triangle sandwiches, a couple of pizza fingers and two or three mini corn dogs, or cocktail sausages, onto each plate. A handful of chips (crisps) or other snack-type food, and three or four carrot sticks finish the savoury plate. I'll go around the table and offer ketchup and cream cheese dips.
I'll make two sweet treats (for example cup cakes and crispy cakes) per child and serve these on platters.
I will always have a few extras on hand for extra hungry kids, but I have never yet held a kids party where I didn't have enough food.
How much will the food cost?
Unless money is no object (lucky you!) I would always make a budget for the food element. This does not include the cost of the birthday cake, or of the tableware. This budget is just the food and drink itself.
When deciding on my kids party food, I work it out per child and I personally increase my food budget as the ages of the kids increase. I haven't put a budget here for kids parties for ages 2 and under, as I have found that any food prepared will really be for the adults. For under twos, take a look at the party food for adults page for ideas. This budget is based on the amount of food I allow per child (see Where to Start), and the fact that I make most of it myself from simple ingredients. If you require more food per child, or if you buy pre-made foods, then you may need to increase the budget per child. The costs below are in $US and £UK- they don't directly correlate as I have found food to be more expensive in the UK than in the USA.
Ages 2 - 4 $4 (£2) per child
Ages 5 - 8 $5 (£3) per child
Age 9 - 11 $6.50 (£3.50) per child
Age 11+ - $7.50 (£4.50) per child
Because food prices are rising at the moment, you may need to adjust these figures upward. However, look out for special offers, and tailor your party food accordingly. If you plan early, you can look out for offers on non-perishables, ready frozen, or foods that can be frozen, and this really helps your budget stretch further.
When you invite guests to your party they expect to have a fun time and eat great kids party food. When you are planning your menu consider the ages of the kids coming to the party- kids party food that's appropriate for a 10 year old, may not be safe for a 4 year old to eat. So remember the basic food rules and keep yourself and your guests happy and safe when deciding on your kids party food ideas.
My top food safety tips for kids parties are:
1. Keep uncooked meats away from cooked foods, and always wash your hands after handling raw foods.
2. Keep cold food in the refrigerator until just before serving.
3. Cook hot food thoroughly. For younger kids make sure that any 'hot food' served is allowed to cool down enough not to burn fingers or mouths. Hot cheese on pizza can be particular problem.
4. Cover sandwiches with cling film to stop them from drying out.
5. Food on sticks may not be ideal for very young children.
6. Always supervise young children while their eating.
7. Make sure that the kids stay seated when eating.
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