toddler eating birthday tea
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How (not) to do food for toddler parties

N’s not had a birthday party yet.  Well a proper one.  He just had his cousin round for tea and a play.  My intention is to hold his 3rd birthday party once the weather’s improved and I can turf all the kids outside to play in the garden, and they can have a picnic.

But we’ve been to quite a few parties.  It seems that food is the hard one to gauge.

Obviously if you have a party at home, you just provide loads of food and everyone piles in, anything leftover gets scoffed by the adults.  In our experience, buffet in this way worked pretty well.  N’s a bit of a piggy in terms of the amount he eats, but buffets mean you can cover everyone’s tastes.  N is a bit strange as he’s not a pizza fan, so buffets also tend to have lots more choice for fussy (or just plain odd) kids.  The home catered parties we’ve been to have managed to cater correctly for the number of children – I know I’d struggle to do that myself, but no one went hungry, but there also wasn’t loads of waste.  And that even allowed for N’s 4 platefuls of food…he was obviously hungry that day (embarrassing!)

toddler eating birthday tea

But it’s been the out of home parties where the venues haven’t really done the job with the food.

I would have thought that soft play places and similar venues that are used to holding parties, are used to providing catering for children.  Ok, so there’s a variety of ages to cater for, and numbers, but you’d think they’d be a bit more flexible.

One party did hot food.  I’ve not seen that before, so was impressed.  But it made me laugh when the girl in charge of the party room said ‘adults, dig in to whatever’s left’.  I really hope she was joking because the food was demolished by the 3 and 1 year olds with no danger of anything being left.  Although it was just 1 set portion size, and if you had a hungry child that was the lot.  No flexibility for children who might prefer something different.  I don’t know how they’d have catered for vegetarians because it was 1 fishfinger and 1 sausage, chips and beans.

Then another soft play place, where they actually do really good food, and have the usual kids pick and mix lunch boxes, really fell down.  The mum said that there was no choice.  Cold buffet (sandwiches), or one of pizza, chicken or fishfingers.  Kind of what you expect, but no mix and match options.  As there were going to be vegetarians, it was pizza, but because that had cheese and N was lactose free (although we’re pretty relaxed when it comes to cooked things), the mum had kindly requested some small plates of sandwiches.  Luckily they agreed, because quite a few of the kids wanted sandwiches and not pizza.

But then you get the whole jam and dairylea sandwiches that softplay places seem to think children love.  Bleurgh.  I know places just offer the cheapest things for them to make, but grim.

Luckily we’re friends with the mum and she knew N shouldn’t have ice cream, so she’d bought him his own dairy free lolly which was really kind.  He demolished that while the other were eating their mini milks.  I think the party food ordering options of one dairy dessert or another dairy dessert should probably be reassessed – that’s a lot of dairy and not every child can eat it.  There were no savoury items left (apart from the crudités), but lots of fruit salad.  So take away cartons were provided which was good as the items had been paid for and wouldn’t go to waste.

I suppose I’m quite surprised in this day and age, that party venues aren’t a bit more open to supplying more interesting options and also having a bit more flexibility in portions and menu options without causing them too much hassle.

We’re quite lucky as although N suffers toilet wise if he eats ice cream, cream cheese, milk, yoghurt, hard cheeses and anything that’s limited but cooked seems ok.  It’s not bad enough to occur to me that we should probably let people know if he’s going to a party that he can’t eat those items.   But there are a lot of people who suffer serious allergies, but don’t seem to be catered for at even a basic level.

I suppose it means that I’ll have to have a good plan for what picnic to have for N’s party in the summer.  Maybe I’ll do picnic boxes – so the child can go along and fill their boxes with what they want from a range of items.  I’m hoping that we will have a decent slug of good weather come May time, otherwise we might have to put up the marquee and have an ‘indoors-outdoors’ party.

What’s been the most successful children’s party food wise that your children have been to?  Any tips for what goes down well?

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    1. I think kids love being able to pick and choose what they want. Hot meals are a nice idea, but unless you can cater for all, you can come unstuck. With buffets there’s always something that each will eat.

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