Party Bags

I do not provide party bags as I think they are a personal choice. I know some people enjoy putting them together and some people would rather not do them at all. I believe it is a good way to mark the end of the party and also a way to say 'thank you for coming to my party'. 

I have found a ways to keep costs down. Simply fill cellophane bags with lots of sweets, marshmallows, cupcake etc and tie with ribbon. They look really nice and it avoids spending a small fortune on bits and pieces that are soon forgotton! Or cuts squares of florist's cellophane and fill and tie up with ribbon.

There are numerous companies that can supply various prefilled party bags at very reasonable prices. Don't forget to check out e-bay.

Books are another favourite idea of mine and very popular with parents. Boxed sets of books can be bought and divided up usually costing around a £1 each. 'The Works'  (stores in Guildford, Staines, Walton, Feltham & Windsor) also has sticker books for a £1. Redhouse, The Book People and Amazon will be worth a look too. 

I would recommend wrapping the books and perhaps giving a pack of funsize sweets or chocs.

Or how about filling a see through plastic pencil case with a few pens, pencils, bubbles etc and a couple of sweets? 'The Works' sell these for £1 each, if you use the cellophane bags this would work out considerably cheaper though. Buy multipack items and divide up between bags. They also sell lots of craft items which could work well too. Wilkinsons and 'pound' shops will also be rich hunting grounds for cheap party bag contents!   

And perhaps the easiest of all,  stand by the door with a big box of funzise treats and a trayof cupcakes/birthday cake and invite the children to choose a couple. 


Party Food

The most import rule of party food, in my opinion, is to serve the savouries first and give the children at least ten minutes to eat these before bringing out any cakes or biscuits. 

Keep food simple. A lot of small children are not adventurous when it comes to food.

Sandwiches (ham, cheese, jam), sausages, cheese, pizza and crisps are party food staples.  Alternatively, just butter some french bread instead of making sandwiches. Most children will eat a few carrot sticks and cucumber but will usually need some encouragement! Grapes and strawberries go down well with most children.

You can spend hours making beautifully iced home made cakes and the children will just bite the icing off and discard the cake! The mini Smartie and Jelly Tot cakes are very popular. As are iced party rings and chocolate fingers. The little packets of biscuits, choc gems etc, designed for lunch boxes work well and seem to cut down on waste. 

Very few people bother with jelly and ice cream as the children are usually full up when it gets to this point. Also, if you are having an entertainer for the full two hour party, you probably won't want the party tea/lunch to go on for too long. For that reason it's probably worth avoiding giving out ice lollies, unless they are the very small ones.  

Be realistic as to how much small children eat. They do have small tummies and big eyes! To avoid waste don't put out too much food to start with, you can always go around with more if plates empty quickly.

Most children struggle with helping themselves, some take far too much and some take hardly anything. Make sure you have a few helpers at tea time to keep an eye out for this. Rather than put out large bowls of crisps, give the children their own small pack. If possible, don't put out large plates of cakes and biscuits on the table. Instead serve the children and try to limit them to just a couple.   

It is a birthday party and a time for treats. No one wants the party food to ressemble an 'Austerity Lunch' but neither does anyone want small children over indulging and being ill.......

If the party is in a hall and there are chairs and tables available, get them set up first. It's very difficult to do this once the guests start arriving. If the children are picnicing on the floor I aim to get them seated in a circle. If the children are sitting on the floor to eat, NEVER give them plastic cups to drink from as multiple spillages are inevitable. Go for juice cartons or similar.  

Party food for the grown ups 

Parents who stay will welcome a cup of tea or coffee and perhaps a biscuit. At a children's party you really do not need to provide wine, beer and a three course lunch for the grown ups! If you do intend to cater for the parents it's advisable to do this in a seperate room or hold off serving the parents until the children have their food. If the children get wind of the fact that mummy is tucking into something yummy they'll be off to join her in a flash! Most parents welcome the chance to share the children's party food. 


Party Food Boxes

For all parties, large and small, these make catering for children's birthday parties very simple and stress free. Each child has their own prefilled box with sandwiches, sausages, crisps etc. Still a good idea not to put the sweet stuff in the boxes, let the children tuck into the savoury food first. These work particularly well for parties at home, where the children will be sitting on the floor to eat.  And don't forget those juice cartons, no mess and quick and easy to distribute.

I found lots of companies on the internet selling these from as little as £0.33 per box. Lots of colours and designs to choose from. If you take a marker pen you can write the children's names on them at the end of lunch/tea and they could take them home if they want.

I have also seen brown paper bags with handles that have been decorated, very cheap and effective.