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The dreaded birthday party – part 2

The dreaded birthday party – part 2

CathBy Catherine Clark

I’ve had some really interesting feedback after my last article on ‘The dreaded birthday party’. A lot of people believe that at South African birthday parties sweets certainly abound and that is considered the ‘norm’. My friend who now lives in Europe made this comment however:

‘My son who is 4 years old has just started going to his all buddy’s birthday parties and I’ve actually been rather surprised at how little sweets there are. When we were little birthday parties meant tables overflowing with goodies… And I remember once eating so many sweets that I came home and puked! (Yikes!) Maybe it’s a European thing, but here people tend to serve the kids some kind of lunch (often hotdogs) and then later birthday cake. Towards the end of the party they get to “fish” their individual little bag of sweeties, which they can nosh while at the party or take home. That’s it. No puking kids!   Are SA birthday parties still a super feast of every sweetie under the sun?’

Well maybe not every sweetie under the sun but still a fair number. But that’s not what we’re going to talk about this month! This month we’re going to talk about starting a new trend in birthday parties! About being brave, someone willing to carve out a new path.

My challenge to you is this – let’s change the way birthday parties are done, let’s not just follow the trend like sheep, let’s create a new trend! Being healthy doesn’t have to be boring, in fact it can be quite refreshing. I have to admit that the parties I have hosted for my kiddies so far have been pretty mid-road. We’ve had some sweets and chips, but not too many, and we’ve also had a selection of fruits and ‘healthier’ items. I’ve provided the sweets purely out of the fear that my children will be ostracised if no sweets are to be found at their parties. And yet each time I find that the big juicy grapes, fresh or dried mango strips and freshly popped popcorn are big hits. So this year I have decided to step it up a notch. So here are my tips for a top healthy party:

  1. I don’t think that food should be the main focus at a young children’s party. Think of a theme and co-ordinate activities around it that will keep the kids busy. The busier they are the less chance there is of them camping out at the food table.


  1. I like to place the snacks for the kids on our dining room table and not on a low table that makes grabbing large handfuls of sweets easy. We normally place the food for the adults and kids together so that both parties have the choice of the full spread and it works really well. One year we provided each child with a party pack on arrival which included a box juice some sweets and then we provided fruit etc on a party table. That worked well because the sweets were portioned out prior to the party. Where this fell down though was that I hadn’t packed extras for siblings that arrived!


  1. I ask my child to name their favourite 2 or 3 sweets or chips and then provide those as the sweets on the day. Most kids don’t really care what sweets are on offer and so will generally be happy with the 2 or 3 items that your child has chosen. This automatically limits the quantity of sweet provided.


  1. I don’t buy massive quantities of the chosen sweets. I buy enough for each child attending to have a few sweets. If I run out that is perfectly okay. It is best in fact if you run out rather than being left with a large supply after the party!


  1. I choose to either have sweets on the party table or to put sweets into a party pack. It is absolutely not essential to have both! In fact we don’t give out party packs at all as they cost a lot of money to do them properly and I’ve never seen the point in sending more sugar laden treats home with the party attenders. When my son turned 3 we had no sweets on the party table but filled a piñata (which he was desperate to have) with sweets and each child took a little bag of these sweets home with them after the party. That worked very well.


  1. When it comes to the party cake – well, I think that my children would definitely be ostracised if there was no cake at their parties! So I order a small cake as there is always so much left over! Or you could use cupcakes instead of a cake. If you can use gluten free or stone ground flower for the cake that is first prize!


  1. And finally, think of a fun way to incorporate one healthy item into the day that the kids will love – like make little trains out of fruit, or some beautiful decorative Zoku pops made out of fruit juice and fresh fruit. We are wanting to try a chocolate fountain at my son’s 6th birthday party using raw cacao, coconut oil and honey! Mmmm, yummy! I’m sure it will be very messy but lots of fun.

To sumarise, let go of your preconceived ideas of what a party should be like and come up with your own ideas! Don’t be a slave to the norm of the moment. Be brave, experiment and have fun. If you’re confident then your child will be too!

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