You are here: Home » Planning » Party Food

Kids Party Food Ideas

Kids party food doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive. In fact, the foods they already know and like are your best choices when planning the menu. The children need food to fuel up after active party games, and to avoid tantrums that can come with an empty tummy. But honestly, the children’s top priority is playing with their friends, so don’t stress about the food choices.

The big exception to this is teens, and especially teen boys, who have big appetites and will eat anything you put in front of them. You’ll need lots of food for a teen party.

The kids will be having so much fun that they will probably devour whatever you serve, but it’s always fun to try and tie a few food items to the party theme. This can be as simple as making a new name for the food such as calling pretzel rods Dino Bones at a Dinosaur party.

Tips for Kids Party Food

1. Decide how much time and energy you have for this party. Then plan which items you want to prepare yourself and which can be purchased ready-made.
2. Have all the party food ready before the guests arrive. Once the party gets started, it’s really easy to forget to turn on the oven (I’ve done this!) and you’ll end up with hungry kids.
3. Keep the menu simple and stick with foods that are familiar to the children.
4. Presentation can be the difference between boring and fabulous! Serve food in colorful containers that match the party theme. Decorate the food table with matching party supplies and a balloon tied to each chair. Tie a cluster of five balloons to the birthday child’s chair.

Kids Party Food Suggestions:

Let’s start with the foods kids seem to like best. Be sure to include some of the foods on this list in your party menu.

• Small sandwiches cut into fun shapes (use cookie cutters)
• Mini pigs in a blanket
• Hot dogs
• Small hamburgers
• Mini egg rolls
• Chicken nuggets/chicken fingers
• Pizza (cheese pizza, mini bagel pizzas, pizza rolls)
• Pretzels
• Cheese (cubes or string cheese sticks)
• Baby carrots, celery sticks and slices of cucumber with ranch dressing
• Fruit like grapes, melon balls, strawberries.
• Apple slices with caramel dip
• Cheese flavored crackers (Cheese-Its, Goldfish)
• Popcorn
• Chips (potato chips, nacho chips)
• Chex Mix or your own snack mix recipe

If the party includes a normal mealtime, you will need to plan a more substantial menu. We all know what happens to over-excited kids on an empty stomach…whining, arguments, tears and tantrums. Not what you want at your child’s party. Good meal choices include sandwiches, pizza, chicken nuggets, hot dogs or tacos. Add a veggie tray or fruit platter. Even if your own child doesn’t like them, you may be surprised at how many other kids will eat the fruit and veggies!

Sweet Treats (besides the cake):

• Rice crispie treats
• Strawberries dipped in chocolate (much cheaper to do yourself)
• Cupcakes (Frost them but let the kids add decorations as a party activity…things like M&Ms, Skittles, gummy bears, sprinkles.)
• Cookies – use a cookie cutter to match your party theme if possible. Star shaped for a space party or princess party, flower shaped for a fairy party, train shaped for a Thomas the Tank Engine party…
• Popsicles
• Lollipops – fill a medium sized vase with florist foam and stick the lollipops in to look like a bouquet of flowers. Simple, but the kids will love it! Pour some dry beans over the top to hide the florist foam.
• Marshmallow and Gummy Kabobs – make mini kabobs with two marshmallows and two gummy fruit shapes (gummy bears, gummy fish ,or any shape that fits your theme). Add two grapes if you’d like to include something a bit healthy.

The Exciting Birthday Cake!

Children get pretty excited about their birthday cake, so think about a design that ties in with the party theme or maybe just something your child likes. One year I made a ladybug cake for my daughter as a surprise and she was delighted!

Should you make it yourself or buy from a bakery? I’ve done both over the years, and my advice is to do what works best for you. Some years you will have more time and energy to tackle a cake yourself, and other years the local bakery is the best solution. I will add that kids love a homemade cake even if it is far from perfect. Kids just don’t notice all the imperfections. So if you feel like making the cake – do it!! Your child will be thrilled.  I’ve found some of my kids favorite birthday cake ideas at Family Fun.com.

Cupcakes are a great alternative to a large sheet cake. They are certainly easier to decorate and often you can find a candy or toy to put on top that ties in the party theme. For example, a gold foil chocolate coin for a Pirate party, a small plastic animal for a Jungle party, etc.

Ice Cream

If you decide to serve ice cream along with the cake, look for the individual cups of ice cream at the grocery store. They are much faster and easier to serve, plus I find they are just the right size for kids and there’s not as much waste.

Another idea is to make nice round scoops of ice cream yourself the day before the party. Place each scoop in a paper cupcake liner and freeze them until needed. You won’t be racing to scoop ice cream for everyone during the party.

Party Drinks

You’ll want to have two drinks per child plus a few extra. And if the party games are really active, the kids will need even more drinks. Stick with the smaller drink bottle sizes for two reasons. They are a better serving size for children and also because kids tend to set down their drink and forget which is theirs. This leads to lots of half empty bottles that you end up throwing away.

• Mini water bottles
• Juice boxes or pouches
• Pink lemonade
• Milk shakes (for a small party with only a few guests)
• Sport drinks for older kids if the party involves lots of active games or sports. Again, choose the smaller sized bottles to minimize the waste.
• Avoid soda until the children are about eight years old, and then choose the half-cans available. They are a better serving size for kids and you’ll have less wasted cans of open soda at the end of the party.

The Food Table

Simple food will look special if you decorate the table with a colorful tablecloth and add a cluster of balloons anchored at one end. Set the table with matching supplies like plates and a centerpiece that tie in with the party theme.

You can also stack some books on the table, cover them with a cloth and set the cake on top for a centerpiece. Other table decorations can be toys your child already owns that match the party theme. For example, use a clean dump truck as the centerpiece for a Construction party, or a Red Barn and farm animals for a Barnyard party, or a collection of dinosaurs for a Dinosaur party. These simple items will transform kid-friendly food into a special feast!

Fun Food Serving Ideas

Sometimes you can make individual snacks for each guest using containers that tie in with your theme.

• Make mini picnic baskets for each guest using small  baskets. Line each with a napkin and fill with the food items. This will work for a Farm party, Cowboy party, Bug party and many more.
• Use a brown paper lunch bag for a Construction theme party. Pile all the bags in a kid’s wagon and add a sign saying “Lunch Wagon”.
• Put two paper plates together with the tops facing and punch a few holes around the edges of both. Add the food items, close the top and pull twine or ribbon through the holes to tie it shut. You can even print each guest’s name on top. Decorate the top with stickers to match your theme. These look a bit like flying saucers and work great for a Space party.
• Use colored paper bags (from the craft store) that match your other party supplies. Fill each with the food items and fold down the top. Add a sticker that matches your theme to hold the flap closed.