What to Serve at a Child’s Birthday Party

Being a parent is all about striking a balance. Sometimes, that balance seems impossible. Take nutrition, for instance. You know your child needs certain nutrients, but you also know that it’s not realistic to expect them to eat nothing but fruits and vegetables. You want them to grow up without dreading mealtimes, and you definitely don’t want to pass on any of your own food issues to your kids. You can work with your doctor to develop a plan that makes sense, but it’s also OK to let loose sometimes. One of those times is during your child’s birthday. Here’s how to serve celebratory food without going too far overboard.

Talk to Other Parents

Ideally, you should perform this step while you’re still putting together the guest list. Peanut-free schools are controversial, but they still exist. If your child attends such a school, it’s possible you’ll run into parents who also believe that every single party they attend should also be free of peanuts and other common allergens. It’s up to you to decide if that makes sense for your particular party. You should be as accommodating as possible to other parents within reason. If a parent tells you that their child is allergic to 27 different things and asks you not to serve any of them, you’re under no obligation to do so. It’s highly unlikely that a child who is allergic to eggs will die if they’re in the same room as mayonnaise.


On the other hand, it is nice to serve a menu that’s as inclusive as possible. Don’t go over your budget just to buy food for Fiona the Vegetarian, but serving a few vegetarian options is a kindness if you can manage it. You should feel no guilt if you want to rent a hotdog cart, since most kids love hot dogs. And there’s no reason you can’t also include a few meat-free side dishes. If you feel like grilling up a meat substitute, that’s up to you. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s other parents’ job to see to their own child’s particular dietary needs.

Make the Food Match the Theme

Don’t feel guilty about serving cupcakes, hot dogs, and other delicious goodies. But you should look for ways to incorporate the larger party theme into the food that’s served. Let’s go back to the hot dog cart. A hot dog cart works great for a baseball-themed party, as hot dogs are the quintessential baseball food. You can serve the hot dogs on baseball-themed dinnerware. If you really feel like going all out, you can even wear a baseball uniform as you hand out the food.

Make sure to develop any theme in consultation with your child. That doesn’t mean they have free reign to throw any type of birthday party they want. If that were the case, then there would no doubt be a lot more birthday parties centered around gross things like Eating Candy Off the Ground. There’s no need to go that far. But if your child has a healthy hobby like sports or movies, feel free to add a few extra touches via both food and decor.

If they like Star Wars, for instance, you can decorate the house with Star Wars banners and photos. You can hand out toy lightsabers. When you order the cake, you can make sure it has “May the Force Be With You” written on it in icing. But there’s a fine line between spoiling your child a little and spoiling your child a lot. They shouldn’t eat so much cake that they barf or get a stomachache, for instance. A little indulgence is good for the soul, but too much of it makes everybody miserable.