So your little one has been invited to a party? That can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. Social inclusion is very important for children, so you should try to make every effort to ensure your child can go, in a safe manner. No one wants to be left out, or be made to feel different. Most kids just want their life to be as normal as possible and that includes going to parties. You just need to check a few things and make a little more effort than normal.
Here’s our 7 tips for managing food at children’s parties.
- Make early contact with the party organiser. This can be in the playground or via mail when you RSVP. They are probably busy people so aim for a time when you think they can chat, or send an email. *A sample RSVP email is shown at the end of this article, however all parties and relationships are different, so the email should be customised to individual needs.
Explain your child’s dietary needs and offer to help. This may be by bringing all your own food, or just helping serve food. You could offer to bring along gluten free alternatives of whatever is on the party menu. Remember they may not have organised comparable that is gluten free.
If the party is at an activity centre, offer to ring the centre to discuss the food. These days most venues are helpful and able to discuss freely what will be served and prepared. If hot chips are on the menu, don’t forget to check if they are fried separately from other foods. Many centres will allow you to bring your own food if they can’t cater safely for the coeliac.
If the organiser professes to understand your requirements, you’ll need to judge their capabilities. Some people are amazing and can cater so well; others may not quite understand the required precautions. Always thank the organiser for any effort, even if on the day you decide the food isn’t safe.
- Follow up. If you spoke in person, follow up in writing (our sample rsvp email can be adapted.) People absorb more when they read instructions, as opposed to a chat in the playground. You can also talk again a week before the party just as a friendly reminder. There are lots of things for the party organiser to remember.
Follow up with the activity centre too. Check the requirements are noted by the booking and your requirements haven’t been forgotten.
- Talk to your child, but don’t make a big deal out the situation. Be open and honest about the party and what they can expect. Kids are more likely to accept things when there are no surprises. Explain why they have their own party food or particular arrangements and why that’s important. Focus on the other fun activities and less on the food.
- Make sure your child doesn’t go on an empty stomach. They are less likely to be tempted by delicious party food if they aren’t hungry.
- Take your own lunchbox of party food if required, or secret emergency supplies, cake and lolly bag. Send a ‘special’, decorated cupcake and favourite lollies, or thoroughly vet any lollies handed out by others. There is a lot going on at kids parties so things get mixed up, no matter how well intentioned people are.
- Stay if you need to. With young children, it’s often normal for parents to stay. As your child grows more educated and more independent, you will know when you can trust them to stick by the rules and you no longer need to be there. That day may be scary but it will come faster than you think.
- And repeat over and over until you can do it all in your sleep! Don’t expect people to remember. You will need to remind parents at each party and for each new year.
The most important thing to remember is that your child is there to have fun and to be with friends. So make sure they relax and enjoy themselves. Life isn’t all about food. Receiving party invites mean that your child is included and making friends!
For lots of extra special lollies and treats for your child’s party bag see our snacks page and don’t forget GF Pantry has some great tasty and easy to use cupcake mixes. We even have little bags of Malteaser lookalikes or KitKat style bars.
* Sample RSVP email. This email should be customised to suit each party.
Thanks for inviting Sarah to Ben’s party. She would of course love to come. I’m not sure if you know or not, she can only eat completely gluten free foods as she has coeliac disease. She can’t eat foods containing gluten, wheat, barley, rye or oats; or foods that say "May contain" any of these ingredients. Catering for her is actually simple when you know what is ok, but I know it can be stressful for those who are not used to it. Please yell if you would like me to supply all her own food or just want to talk about food that won’t make her sick.
I don’t expect all food to be gluten free, but just FYI some birthday party ideas for gluten free food are:
Most prepackaged deli meats.....frankfurts, kabana, twiggy sticks. (Check for gf).
Most cold chips. (Check for gf).
Most popcorn (Check for gf).
Most rice crackers (Check for gf).
Most cheese and dips (Check for gf).
All raw fruit and vegetables.
Most jelly (Check for gf).
Most ice cream (Check for gf).
The absence of cross contamination is also important as food that has touched gluten is poisonous for her. For example: if you accidentally put all the frankfurts in rolls, please don’t just pull one out of a roll to give it to her. That frankfurt may make her sick. Other common problems are chips cooked in a gluten contaminated fryer and foods sharing the same platters and touching.
I will supply her lolly bag if that’s ok with you, as well as some gluten free cake to have whilst the others are eating your special birthday cake.
Thanks for your understanding and please know that I am happy to bring all her food for her if you would prefer. I’ll give you a ring a few days before the party to have a chat about what you are serving, and how I can help make things as easy as possible for everyone whilst keeping Sarah safe.
I hope Ben has a great party. Sarah is very excited.