Tess turned 10 last month. That means I’ve been hosting and attending kids’ birthday parties for a decade. What a wild ride that’s been. Cakes so electrifyingly bright they could make your hair curl. Drinks worthy of a WTF. Goodie bags that instead should be called sugar bags or gimme bags or keep-Oriental-Trading-in-business bags. And of course pizza, pizza, pizza!
But I’ve also seen parties with fresh fruit and veggies to balance the chips, wholesome and fantastically delicious cakes or cupcakes, and not a drop of soda or juice in sight. At a friend’s recent birthday sleepover, the girls made homemade gingerbread houses and ate homemade whole-wheat waffles for breakfast. To drink: water or milk. Sanity exists!
Sure, your kid’s party is only once a year. But so is my kid’s party, and my friends’ kids’ parties, and the party of every kid in class. And that’s on top of every other reason kids have to “celebrate” these days (i.e., all the time). As I say a lot around here, it’s never “just one” anything anymore.
More than that, though, I don’t buy the idea that special occasions or special treats = junk or substandard “kid food.” Even treats can (and should) have high-quality ingredients. Our parties have run the gamut — from small home celebrations to a “Little House”-themed bash in a log cabin— and so has the food. We’ve done veggie chili and grilled-cheese sandwiches at home, wraps and sandwiches at a play gym, popcorn and clementines for the cabin party, and homemade gingerbread cookies and hot cocoa when we rented a local ice rink. At last year’s sleepover, the girls made homemade whole-wheat pizzas.
This year, Tess had friends over for a sewing party. Her sewing teacher came to do a project (journals), and I was able to make a respectable (naturally dyed!) version of the horseback-rider cake Tess designed and requested:
But before all that, the girls ate lunch. Here’s what they had: raw veggies, grapes, lentil balls, mac-and-cheese muffins (a whole-grain and more seasoned version of this recipe), and PB&J roll-ups on whole-wheat wraps. (I also made gluten-free versions of the mac-and-cheese and PB&J roll-ups, using brown-rice pasta and wraps.)
I didn’t worry that something like lentil balls might get the stink-eye. I didn’t worry that my versions of old favorites were unconventional (i.e., whole grains, natural peanut butter), or that there wasn’t a pizza delivery or chips. And here’s the thing: It wasn’t hard or all that time-consuming. The cake took two days, but the lunch food my husband and I prepped in bits in-between.
A (well-meaning) adult visitor, viewing the spread, said, “Wow, this is so nice for a kids’ party!” The kids didn’t say a word. They just ate it up. Literally.