How to Host a Real Food Birthday Party

My daughter turned five this past week and ever since she turned FOUR, she’s been asking for a FRIEND birthday party. Last year, several of her preschool classmates invited her to their birthday parties, so we knew that when she turned 5, we would have a ‘friend’ party for her. Well, in the last few months, talk of her birthday party kicked into major overdrive and I often found myself telling her that we could NOT talk about it until AFTER Christmas! One holiday at a time, kid… It’s all mommy can keep up with!!  🙂

Even though she asked more than a few times to have her party at one of the many kid ‘fun spots’ (like Chuck E. Cheese or a local kid-friendly bowling alley) like her friends had done, I always planned to have her party at our house. While those places have some advantages, we have plenty of space in our basement and we didn’t want to spend the extra money. We are fairly ‘thrifty’ people, so if we don’t need to spend extra money for something, we don’t. Having the party at home definitely saved us money…and I could control the food and drink options, as well as the games! Plus, I’ve always liked hosting parties. It’s fun to get out my special platters and come up with a nice presentation of food! So, here is my “How to host a Real Food Birthday Party” blog post!

Host Birthday Party

So, not only was this our first time hosting a ‘kid party’ at our house, but it was also our first time hosting a ‘real food’ party. I wanted my daughter and her friends to all have fun, but I also wanted to keep the food as ‘real’ as possible and hold true to our new ideals.

I had quite a few people ask me before the party what my ‘theme’ was going to be. I didn’t have one. I’ve never liked committing to themes because then it becomes more stressful for me when I have to go from store to store trying to find enough of everything to coordinate. Plus, those ‘character’ plates/napkins/etc. are pricey! I decided to go with a ‘color’ theme and my daughter was just as happy with that. (I love that at 5 years old I can still easily persuade her. I’m guessing that won’t last much longer!) She helped pick out lime-green plates, lemon-yellow napkins, and a pink tablecloth. I also found some cute little ‘snack cups’ that were colorful and would go along with this color theme. And I knew I could easily come up with colorful food choices!

We held the party this past Saturday from 2-4 in the afternoon. I choose this time purposely so I wouldn’t need to serve a meal, but could still serve up a fun snack for everyone. We invited all 15 of my daughter’s classmates! (I didn’t want to leave anyone out.) Nine of those RSVP’d that they could come, but one had to cancel the night before because their car got stuck in a snow drift. I’m telling you, this weather is just ridiculous this year! Luckily, even though the roads weren’t ideal, everyone else was able to make it safely to the party and we had a great time. (And the kids were even well-behaved the entire time…bonus!)

I broke down the party into 4 categories: games, food, cake, and goody bags. Here is how I kept this party fun, while also sticking to my thriftiness AND real food ideals!

Games:

Since the party was at our house, I wanted to keep all of the kids entertained, while also maintaining some type of structure. Nine 4-5 year olds, PLUS my almost 3 year old twin boys??? I knew things could get out of hand quickly if I didn’t have a game plan going into the party. After everyone arrived, the first game we played was musical chairs. It was fun to watch them start out because everyone kept trying to walk in different directions, but they eventually all got the hang of it and seemed to have fun! Thankfully, there were no tears when anyone got out (which was something I worried about beforehand). All we had to do was pull chairs from around the house and use music that was already in the CD player…easy and free!

Next, I took the kids down to our basement where I had an obstacle course setup! This was what my daughter was most excited about. There were stations set up throughout the entire basement using toys and games that we already owned.

Obstacle Course

There were adults to help the kids at almost every station and this was the order of our obstacle course.

  1. Shoot three baskets into the basketball hoop (they didn’t actually have to make the shots before moving on).
  2. Crawl through two long tunnels that I had attached together.
  3. Jump on the trampoline while counting to 20. (My mom helped with this station and said the kids did really good about getting off as soon as they were done counting.)
  4. Crawl through another shorter tunnel.
  5. Roll the bowling balls and try to knock over all the pins.
  6. Hopscotch/jump in the blue squares, while following the path I made (I used blue painter’s tape to mark the path).
  7. Throw three bean bags into the hole.
  8. Run back to the basketball station and start again!

The kids all did really well and got the hang of it quickly. It was cute to watch them all take the stations/tasks very seriously. They were the perfect age for an obstacle course like this one! I think they ran through the course maybe 3-4 times before we decided it was time to eat.

My daughter throwing bean bags during our obstacle course!
My daughter throwing bean bags during our obstacle course!

Food:

I kept the food very simple. I was most excited about the rainbow fruit platter and so was my daughter. She thought it was SO NEAT and kept saying over and over how much she loved it as she watched me assemble each color before the party. She even told me, “I will tell everyone it’s okay to eat this rainbow since it’s made of fruit.” (You know, incase anyone was confused!) 🙂 My kids love fruit and it seemed to go over well with all the other kids, too. In fact, there was NOTHING left of this platter when the party was over. The few pieces that remained were quickly eaten by myself and my kids!

Rainbow Fruit Platter

I bought a block of cheese and cut it into little cubes for a basic cheese tray. (Some prepackaged bags of cheese cubes contain cellulose and potato starch to prevent caking.) When I was at Whole Foods last week, I bought some ‘non-GMO verified’ pretzels. Pretzels are more of a ‘treat’ in our house because it’s hard to find them with only ‘real’ ingredients. The Whole Foods brand is the closest I’ve found, with only five ingredients.  I put the pretzels in fun little cups for each kid.

I also made a strawberry-banana smoothie and poured it into several little Dixie cups. These actually seemed to go over the least well! I think part of it was because they were a little too thick for drinking without a straw. It was a fun idea in theory, but I don’t think anyone really liked them! Oh well, at least they still looked cute. 🙂 If you go the smoothie route for your party, I highly recommend getting some straws for easier sipping! (My boys drank the leftovers for breakfast the next morning…so, thankfully, nothing went to waste! They sucked them down–with straws!–soon after they woke up. My boys sure love their smoothies!)

Party Food Snacks

And as far as drinks? I served water. I know this might be ‘boring’ to some people, but water is really all we drink around our house. My kids drink a small amount of fruit juice for breakfast (mixed 50/50 with water) and they occasionally will drink milk, but other than that, it’s water for us! Serving water was an easy way to save money, as well as not send every kid home hyped up on sugar. Artificial lemonade, pop, and other popular kid drinks are a pet-peeve of mine (I just don’t see any reason why kids should ever drink them), so I kept things simple and easy and just served water. Not one kid complained. 🙂

Cake:

I purposely chose not to bake a regular cake for her birthday party. I knew cutting a cake would be time consuming (and messy) and I think cupcakes are more fun anyway. 🙂 As I was thinking about what type of cupcakes to make, I realized that ‘mini cupcakes’ would be even better! I know that my kids hardly ever eat sweets and whenever they’re served cake, they typically just lick off the frosting and then leave the actually cake portion on their plate. So, I decided that it would be less wasteful to make mini cupcakes. If the kids liked them and wanted another one (or two!), that would be okay with me. Some kids ate just one and others had several! ha! I made my cupcakes following my basic ‘a little bit healthier’ chocolate cake recipe. It’s made with white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. I also used organic cane sugar in place of regular sugar. The frosting was made using all real ingredients as well (organic butter, organic whole milk, organic powdered sugar, organic vanilla extract, and cocoa powder). It’s still ‘cake,’ but, unlike the store-bought versions, these cupcakes didn’t contain any artificial ingredients or preservatives!! To give each mini cupcake a pop of color (to go along with our theme), I topped each one with a Simple Truth Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Drop. They are made from natural ingredients and contain no artificial food coloring. And, besides, what kid doesn’t like an extra piece of candy??? 🙂 One of the kids came up to me after eating probably his third mini cupcake and told me, “You’re a good cook!”  I thought that was so sweet of him. And when I told his mom he said that, she replied, “Wow! That is quite a compliment. He is very picky.” So, I will take it! Made my day right there!

Mini Cupcakes

My daughter thought the mini cupcakes were a great idea because they were “so cute!” And I was even able to get 5 candles in one to sing ‘happy birthday.’

Candles

Notice the crumbs on her plate… By the time I went to get the candles, she had already devoured one whole cupcake! At least I knew they were good. 🙂

Thank you “Goody Bags”:

As far as the goody bags went, I knew I wanted to have them, but the biggest thing I didn’t want to do was fill them with artificially-filled candy/snacks and those cheap little toys that kids love (for one day), but most parents secretly hate. They quickly get scattered all across the house and drive parents like me crazy. (I have a hard time with random little toys and things that are impractical, in general.) So, instead of cheap toys, I put one container of bubbles in each bag. It’s a little out of season for these, but we had gotten them practically for free recently and had enough for each kid, so that worked out well. Hopefully, the weather will warm up soon so everyone can go outside again and use them!

I had planned to buy individual bags of Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies, but when I went to the grocery store to buy them, I saw that the individual bags of Barbara’s Bakery Snackimals Animal Cookies were on sale for just 49 cents each. They are made with organic grains and without any artificial ingredients or additives. Again, these are a treat that I don’t buy for my kids very often, but for a special occasion like a birthday party, it’s something fun and different that I knew my kids would be excited about. I also found some Stretch Island Fruit Co. all-natural fruit strips while in the grocery store. My daughter wasn’t so sure about these when I first showed them to her (simply because she had never seen them before), but I let her try one and she quickly gave it the ‘thumbs-up’ and said it tasted just like cherries! (Which was good, considering I bought the ‘orchard cherry’ variety.)

I wrote a little ‘thank you’ message on the outside of each bag and then my daughter decorated them with some stickers. My boys decorated some bags as well…but those didn’t make the cut.  😉

Goody Bags

So, there you have it. Our “Real Food” (and low cost) birthday party. It was fun, kid-friendly, but also free of any artificial ingredients, food colorings, and excessive amounts of processed sugar. You wouldn’t know it from all the pictures, though…check out all these awesome colors and cute kid snacks…

The Food

So, now that we made it through the FRIEND party, this upcoming weekend is the FAMILY party!! We celebrate all three kids’ birthdays with our families on ONE day because my twin boys will turn three in just 11 days! And here we go with the party planning again… Stay tuned!  🙂

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LeAnn Nome

Hi there! Here's a little info about me: I've been married to my husband for over 10 years and I'm a stay-at-home mom to our three young kids (a six year old daughter and four year old twin boys). As you might imagine, they keep me quite busy! In early 2013, we decided that we wanted to be a healthier family. To do this, we cut out all processed foods from our home and we now eat only REAL, whole foods. (When we're on vacation or at someone's house, we're not quite as strict.) We also try to exercise every day. Our goal is to raise healthy, happy kids...while maintaining our own health and happiness along the way! I hope you will follow along with us in our journey.

16 thoughts on “How to Host a Real Food Birthday Party

  1. Thanks for sharing how you hosted a real food birthday party! That’s such a great idea. Sometimes, simple is good. =)
    And wow. The cupcakes look so cute. I’d make a huge dent in the batch.

    1. Thanks so much, Helen! My husband and I have been popping these cupcakes like crazy! (I’m glad they’re almost gone just so I stop eating them…ha!) And, yes, simple is good–especially when it’s a party for 4 & 5 year olds! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Courtney! I loved the fruit tray, too–it turned out better than I expected…and was soo good. And yes, keeping things simple is always a good thing (especially when it comes to young kids)! 🙂

  2. What a great birthday party! I LOVE when I see children having great parties that are realistic and loving. Your daughter seemed thrilled with it and that is the piece that matters. I’m stealing the rainbow fruit 🙂 Nice post!

    1. Thanks, Melissa! Please do steal the rainbow fruit tray idea!! It was such a hit. And, yes, I agree–my daughter’s excitement about all the aspects of the party were more important to me than anything else. I’m so happy that SHE loved it. 🙂 Totally made me happy!!

  3. great job!! love your ideas. I am a big fan of the home birthday parties…. I am counting in my head… I think I have thrown about 14 so far for my 4 kids! they certainly have NOT been real food parties. but they have been homemade parties (with themes), and all very memorable.

    1. Thanks, Valerie! Wow-14 parties!! I’m sure we’ll be there someday too! To me, homemade parties are so much fun and I think the kids like doing something special at their own house. (I always had my parties at home growing up and they were lots of fun! My birthday is in April, though, so we could actually go outside…) 🙂

  4. My son’s 5th birthday party is coming up and I will definitely be using some of your ideas! Birthday parties have always been very stressful for me but we are reserving the covered area down by the lake for only $15, I will probably make cupcakes and a little bit of different snacky-type foods, and would love to put together some games. There is also a park they can play at and the lake but there usually isn’t any swimming allowed this time of year because of algae. 🙁 For the cupcakes, do you think the same recipe would work for regular size cupcakes? I don’t have a mini-cupcake pan and need to keep this as budget-friendly as possible. Thanks! Love the post!!! 🙂

    1. Hey Tara! Yes, this recipe would work just as well with regular cupcakes! On the cake recipe post, I shared the times it would take for each option (regular cupcakes, mini, round, etc). Regular should take about 20 minutes. Good luck with the party–sounds fun!

  5. Love this… My little one is turning two and we are doing the same thing with no junk.. fruit, pretzels and veggies for snacking, homemade lemonade and water for drinks and a homemade pasta salad and pulled pork to eat (homemade bbq sauce). For his goody bags I found a pack of wood race cars (to go with our theme), organic fruit strips, a thing of bubbles and some stickers… The one thing I am cheating on is rice crispy treats in their bags with colored m&ms down the middle to look like a stop light but that’s the only junk. Cake is homemade. I went to a birthday party recently that was nothing but candy, cake and soda…. =( I got devil stares for putting water in my kids “party cup” instead of soda… He’s not even 2.. He’s not drinking soda..sorry (not sorry).

    1. Hi McKenzie! I love the wooden race cars idea! How cute. Your party sounds great! And I like your rice crispy treat idea too, even if it is a little processed. 😉 And I’m totally with you on the soda/pop…I have not let my kids even take a sip of it yet and they are 6 and 4!! I see NO reason why kids need pop. (I suppose I should add I feel the same about adults…) Caffeine, caramel color, high fructose corn syrup/sugar….there is nothing good about it at all. Same goes for Hawaiian punch and all those other ‘party’ drinks. Ugh. I would be giving my kids water, as well. (Though, in full disclosure, my kids *have* had those drinks on occasion because I didn’t feel like I could say no…or I wasn’t around…but pop? Just NO!) Keep up the good work! 🙂

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