Back in the day, it feels like party menu planning was easier. You bought or made a fluffy, gluten-filled, dairy-filled, sugary cake and mixed up a big ole jug of Kool-aid and called it all good.
While the cause is highly debatable, it’s undeniable that times have changed. If your child isn’t sensitive to, or outright allergic to, eggs, wheat, nuts, lactose, or gluten, chances are you know more than a few kids who are.
You should plan your party around these sensitivities to the extent that you can.
Start by discovering all food allergies and sensitivities. Unless you really have an intimate group that you know well, it’s best to ask for this information along with the party RSVP.
Just adding a sentence to the invitation that says, “We want to make sure everyone goes home from Johnny’s party full and happy, so please let me know if your child is allergic or sensitive to any foods in your RSVP” will do the trick.
The biggest issue you’ll run into here is with kids who can’t have gluten. Oftentimes, parents of these children will be used to bringing their own cake or treat for their child.
It’s a nice touch for both the parent and child if you have a gluten-free option on hand. The number of people who are gluten-free these days makes it easy to pick up a small cake or cupcakes at many of the larger grocers or bakeries. (Whole Foods has a big selection, for instance.)
This way, you can minimize the hassle for the parent and just serve the gluten-free children right alongside all the others. This can be important for certain ages or types of children who don’t like to feel “different” from their peers.
Again, it’s going to be pretty easy to get something for everyone here. Gluten-free snacks almost always say so on the packaging. (If in doubt you can call the manufacturer.)
And, on the back of the package where the nutrition information is located you can find whether the item was made in a facility that process nuts, wheat, eggs, fish and just about anything else a child might be allergic to.
Snacks that are allergy friendly should be set out in containers that are marked, for example, “dairy-free” so that parents and older children know what they can eat.
Your biggest issue with snacks will be what you’re prepared to deal with at clean up. Popcorn is a popular and easy snack, but it will end up everywhere, including tiny pieces embedded into your carpet when it gets stepped on.
To minimize the mess, stay simple. Avoid dips and anything that has to be eaten with a spoon. When deciding whether to serve a particular item, consider what happens when it gets stepped on (it will!), whether it stains, and whether it will stay on the kids’ hands long after they’ve eaten it (like greasy potato chips).
Also consider the sugar content. You’re likely already having cake and ice cream, and sugar overload can have very undesirable effects on some children.
Pretzels, peanut butter filled pretzels, cheese and crackers, packages of fruit snacks, and fruit kebobs are a few examples of not so messy snacks you may want to consider.
Beyond the Snacks
Before you commit to doing something closer to a lunch at your party, consider whether you have a good space for everyone to eat. Do you have enough seating for everyone or will the kids need to sit on the floor and eat? If so, consider putting down a big sheet or blanket that can just be rolled up and put in the wash with the crumbs and spills on it.
If you are doing lunch, as always, simple is better. Pizza and fruit is a popular lunch among kids, and gluten-free pizza is readily available.
If the children are a bit older, you can do a pizza bar. Hand each child an individual pizza shell with sauce on it and allow them to choose their toppings, then pop it in the over for them. Kids enjoy this and it can become one of the party activities in addition to lunch.
Being conscious about the cake and other food will put a nervous mom of a child with allergies at ease, will make all the kids feel comfortable, and will avoid interruptions and disappointments about what certain children can’t eat. It will also take most of the hassle out of your clean up duties.
While you’re working out these details, KidsPartyCharacters.com has the activities and entertainment covered for you. With over 200 of the most popular characters, and options for face painting and balloon twisting, we have packages for a wide variety of ages and budgets.
Start planning your next party today at KidsPartyCharacters.com. Stay connected with us on Facebook for fun party stories that will help inspire your child’s next magical celebration.