How to get kids’ party food right

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Here are some simple things you can do to make sure you get kids’ party food right next time you’re planning to host a kids’ party. These tips will help you plan a party menu that stays on budget, keeps party food preparation to a minimum and hosting stress levels down low.

Getting kids’ party food right

There is nothing worse than clearing up a mountain of party food leftovers after your child’s party. Not only is it wasteful, both eco-wise and money-wise, it’s also a little soul-destroying to have planned, prepared and served food, only for it to go uneaten.

So, it’s well worth spending some time focusing on putting together a party food menu when you’re planning a kids’ party.

I’ve put together a checklist of all the things it is worth thinking about when you’re planning the party food. Have a read and save it for the next time you’re hosting a kids’ party.

Kids’ party food checklist

1. Special dietary requirements

In a world where food allergies and intolerances are an increasing concern. Plus a world where our personal food choices are far and wide, it is well worth asking each parent or guardian if there are any special dietary requirements.

This doesn’t mean you have to create separate menus for vegetarian, pescetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo… it just means you can get an idea of the majority and make sure there is at least something for everyone.

As far as allergies go, do take it very seriously if there is a nut allergy or dairy allergy or other serious food allergy. The consequences can range from giving a child an upset tummy to far worse, so forewarned is forearmed.


There are two main ways to go with kids party timing when it comes to food.

Either you make the food a main feature of the party, so you time the party to be around lunchtime or early evening.

Or… and this is the way I usually go, you plan the party between meals, that way you just need to serve party snacks and cake. I’m so wedded to the benefits of doing this, that I’ve got a whole post on super easy kids party snacks.

3. make the food age-appropriate

There is no point in serving canapés to toddlers.

Ok, I know there’s a slim chance of anyone actually doing this, but I’m just trying to make the point.

Avoiding food that could cause a child to choke is the big thing to watch out for when serving party food for very small children.

Spending ages planning Instagram worthy food is also a little pointless for young children – though clearly there is an element of wanting to impress the parents more than the kids!

Five to eight-year-olds are the best audience for fancy looking food. It’s all so exciting for them at this stage.

In my experience, tweens find it hard to take time out from enjoying themselves to eat. So don’t waste your time on creating fancy food, just go for food that can sustain them and not cause too much distraction.

4. go cutlery free

Finger food makes life so much easier when you’re hosting a party.

There’s no need for cutlery, which means there’s less to set out at the start of the party, less to clear away and there’s no chance you’ll be chasing lovely little Johnny or Joannie down to wrestle a knife out of their hand.

Keep food sizes small by using cookie cutters to create mini sandwiches, cut bagels or bread into small chunks, go for ready-sliced pizza for older kids.

5. serve individual party food boxes

Serving party food in individual party boxes comes with many benefits.

  • It stops kids getting competitive over who gets the biggest handful of crisps or the most breadsticks
  • You can pack the boxes quietly ahead of the party
  • They make clearing up super easy

6. Keep the sugar levels set at low

A nice even glycaemic index goes a long way to keeping kids from descending into tantrums and bad behaviour.

Whilst it’s easy to get kids’ eyes to light up with a brightly coloured feast of confectionery, there are other ways to create eye-catching food to make kids’ mouths water.

Cookie-cutter sandwiches are always a winner… you can even choose a cookie-cutter shape that works with the party theme.

Brightly coloured fruit kebabs also add a splash of colour to a party food table without overloading kids with sugar.

7. Make the birthday cake dessert

Whether the birthday cake is a big show-stopper that you’ve created or bought, or whether it’s a little more lowly, you can make the most of the fact it’s there, by using it as dessert.

So many times the cake doesn’t get cut until the very end of a party and then the eating of it is either an after-thought or it gets mangled in a paper serviette.

Of course, the other way to go with birthday cake is to not have a birthday cake at all.

I’ve been at kids’ parties recently where doughnut towers and cupcake towers have been the order of the day. Just make sure there’s one for each child.

Oh and make sure there’s someone with strength of character on dishing out duty, to ‘gently say no’ to the kid who has a list of demands about the particular slice of cake, doughnut or cupcake they want. There is ALWAYS one child like this at every party. It’s the law of kids’ parties, apparently.

I really hope you’ve found these tips useful. I’ve got a growing list of kids’ party planning posts that might also be of use. My post on alternative ideas for kids’ party favours is one of the most popular on Mums Make Lists.

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