When you think of children’s party food, the image of a wobbly plate of jelly and ice-cream may be what immediately springs to mind.
And while there’s nothing wrong with a bit of jelly and ice-cream, there’s so much more scope to be inventive.
There is an almost endless stream of suggestions for fun and funky kids party food if you search online, and there are some truly spectacular bakes you could try. However, you can still provide great food which will be a huge hit even if you don’t want to spend days in the kitchen preparing it.
Here’s a few ideas which won’t take too long but will be a smash on the day.
Encouraging children to eat lots of fruit can be a thankless task and when compared to sugary cakes, chunks of pineapple and kiwi fruit might seem a bit unappealing.
However, by making fruit kebabs on a stick and providing a marshmallow dipping sauce (marshmallow fluff, cream cheese, vanilla extract and milk) you’ll have them queuing up to get one of their five-a-day. If you’re worried about having one big bowl of dip, you could have individual servings of the marshmallow fluff in muffin cake cases.
Dipping strawberries in some melted white chocolate and letting them set is another fruity treat which you can put on a stick and is guaranteed to get snapped up.
Most children love pizza but the typical slices are bit on the large side for small hands to easily manage.
Pepperoni sizzle sticks are a far handier way to serve up a favourite eat, offering the perfect finger food. All you need is some refrigerated bread sticks, pizza sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella. Smear a bit of the sauce onto the breadstick, cover in a few slices of pepperoni and cheese and pop in the oven for a few minutes. Total time taken to prepare this kids’ classic will be less than 15 minutes.
As an alternative to breadsticks, you could serve up the same combination of toppings on mini pitas. Small, round tasty morsels they are ideally sized for children’s hands and mouths.
Crisp or a sandwich?
It can be difficult to make sandwiches look exciting but it’s a good idea to try and persuade youngsters to have some much-needed carbohydrates to keep their blood sugar levels stable.
Rice cakes make a great alternative to crisps, offering buckets of flavour and a much healthier composition. But rather than serving them up plain, it only takes a little work to create a mind-blowing rice cake/sandwich combination.
Take two small rice crackers – the snack-sized ones, not the larger versions – and spread some sandwich filler between them. Put them together, and voila! you have a yummy sandwich with a bit of a twist. Don’t prepare too far in advance otherwise the rice crackers will lose their crunch but up to around three hours is fine.
Keep it simple
Although the children might be far more excited about nibbles and treats, you should provide some sandwiches too.
Don’t feel as if you need to be extravagant or exotic; children won’t appreciate the effort involved in using fancy ingredients and it may even turn them off. Use staples such as chicken, ham and cheese instead.
However, this doesn’t mean that sandwiches have to be boring; children go a little bit crazy over sarnies which are cut into shapes. Use cookie cutters and create hearts, cars, trains or other interesting designs. Just this one little detail will create a whole world of fascination over a plat elf food which would otherwise be pretty much ignored.
Children love the idea of magic and it’s easy to make some food which looks fit for a fairy.
Sparklers are plain breadsticks which have one end dunked in melted chocolate and then covered in hundreds and thousands or sprinkles. The bread tones down the sweetness but this will vanish from the table as quickly as you put them out!
Fairy bread is another magical option; simply cut the crusts off some bread and butter then add sprinkles on top of the butter (or margarine) leaving it unfolded. This is a colourful and bright treat with a touch of sweetness that will be gobbled up double quick.
The must-have: jelly
No matter what else you decide to serve up, jelly is almost obligatory for a children’s party. Cheap and easy to make, you can even opt for sugar-free mixes to keep health-conscious parents happy.
But don’t simply plonk your jelly in a big bowl and dole out bowls and spoons on the big day. With a little planning in advance you can be far more creative.
Bowls and wibbly-wobbly jelly is a disaster waiting to happen and there’s a good chance one or more servings will end up on the floor. Avoid this – and all of the washing up! – by using transparent plastic cups to set the jelly in. For younger children, you can get smaller ‘shot’ plastic glasses which may be a more appropriate size.
This is much nicer to look at, easier for children to eat and as a plus, you simply bin the plastic cups once they’re finished with.
To make these look even more special, wait until the jellies are nearly set and then create a smiley face by pressing mini marshmallows or sweets into the surface. As the jelly finishes setting, the extras will become embedded and hey presto, you have a wobbly jelly face!
Another option is to cut oranges in half and hollow out the contents. Use the empty shells to pour jelly into, creating a natural ‘bowl’. Once fully set, you can then slice the halves into quarters, giving the children a jelly that they can eat without a spoon.
A meal in a box
Picking the food can be a bit of a nightmare; lots of children jostling around the table, all heading straight for the favourites. A good way to avoid this scenario is to pack a lunch box for each of them.
Young children especially relish the idea of having something which is ‘theirs’ and it will make the logistics far less hassle for you. You can buy paper boxes very cheaply online; add a name to each box and then make up an entire lunch. That way there can be no squabbling about anyone missing out; everyone has the chance to try a bit of everything. This is also a great option if you are on a budget as you will waste far less food than by putting out a spread to pick from.
If you are particularly organised you could contact parents in advance and ask them to pick from 2 or 3 different sandwich fillings for their child’s food.
Don’t forget the drinks!
If you’ve done the food you may be breathing a huge sigh of relief but don’t forget you need to provide drinks too.
This can be a bit of a minefield as some parents can be very strict about what their children are allowed to drink.
There’s also the propensity to knock jugs and cups over; many accidents tend to occur around the drinks counter. It’s therefore worth some careful consideration.
As a general rule, fizzy drinks are frowned upon because they cause a real divide amongst parents. The same goes for sugar-and-additive-laden squashes.
Offering children the option to drink plain water is a good place to start, and sugar-free squash is another good choice. However by far the best decision is to splash out on natural fruit flavoured drinks cartons. They may be slightly more expensive but you won’t end up with unhappy parents, a room full of additive-powered, hyperactive children or buckets of juice all over your floor.