5 tips for planning the ultimate kids birthday party buffet

If you're planning a birthday party for your little one, you'll want to make sure your food spread impresses kids and parents alike. Here, Mike Hardman, from catering and kitchen equipment supplier Alliance Online, gives his top tips to help you plan an unforgettable buffet party for your kid's birthday.

Your child's birthday is always special. Seeing them surrounded by their friends and family as they grow up is always a cause for celebration, and that's why you want to make their birthday party the best it can possibly be. But with so much to consider, how do you throw a party they'll never forget?

I would always recommend going down the buffet route when it comes to a kids' birthday party. The beauty of this is that it's relatively low fuss, as you can lay everything out and then leave your guests to their own devices, which can be especially helpful when you're trying to feed a group of 10–20 children who all have their own routines and preferences. Plus, it means you can leave parents to decide what their kids can and can't eat.

To help you plan the ultimate children's party buffet, I'll be giving you my top tips, so you can relax and spend time with your little one on their big day.

Pick a fun theme

The first step when it comes to preparing for any party is choosing a theme, as this can set the tone for the rest of your party preparations. Ask your child what they'd like their theme to be, whether it's princesses and unicorns, dinosaurs or pirates. Coming up with a theme can really help to make your kid's birthday party unique, and it'll help you narrow down your decoration options.

Why not add an extra touch of fun and excitement by asking the children to dress up? Just make sure you inform parents in advance, so they have enough time to pull together the perfect costume. You could even hire a professional face painter to come along and paint the children's faces.

Choose the menu

Obviously, the most important part of a buffet is the food, so it's wise to plan your menu at least a week in advance to avoid a rush in the lead up to the day. Make sure you check with parents about any dietary requirements or allergies beforehand to ensure you don't run into any avoidable problems. It can also help to ask them to RSVP to your event, so you know just how many people you're catering for. I'd always prepare a little bit extra, just in case any latecomers turn up.

When it comes to buffet food for kids, I'd always recommend keeping portions small and sticking to finger food that can fit in small hands. Not only will it mean that you don't have to provide cutlery, but it will also prevent parents from having to chase their little ones around the party while juggling plates, knives, and forks. Plus, at parties, people tend to prefer to pick at food rather than eat one big meal, and it'll make sure that children don't get too full up — which could be a nightmare if they're going to be doing a lot of running around and playing all day!

When it comes to catering for kids, it's likely that you're going to get a few picky eaters, so try to keep things simple to make sure there's something for everyone. Finger sandwiches, vegetable sticks, cupcakes, mini pizzas, sausage rolls, and cocktail sausages are all great ideas for a children's buffet. You could also leave out bowls of crisps and popcorn for people to snack on. Then, if anyone feels like having something a little extra, leave out a few different sauces for them to add to their foods.

You could even plan your menu around your theme. For example, you could lay out some cupcakes decorated with rice paper or icing sugar characters and glitter, or use cookie cutters to cut your sandwiches into fun shapes. If you're stuck for inspiration, you can always get some ideas from Pinterest. Simply type the theme of your son or daughter's party into the search bar and you'll have plenty of ideas in no time.

Dress up the table

Research conducted by WaterWipes and party photographer Dave Benett, as reported in iNews, found that almost half of British parents worry about capturing the perfect, Instagram-worthy picture at their kids' birthday party. While you shouldn't let the whole day be about the photos you take, dressing up your table can really make your child's buffet a party to remember — and it can help you take that Insta-worthy photo first time.

The buffet table is where you can really have fun with your theme. You can use table covers, balloons and banners to decorate the table and complete the look with themed paper plates, cups and napkins. Cupcake trees and platters laid in interesting shapes can make any buffet photo ready.

Then, you could look for confetti in fun shapes matching your theme. For example, for a unicorn or princess theme, look for rainbow glitter and sparkly stars to sprinkle across the top of your tablecloth, and use jars filled with fairy lights to add a touch of magic. You could also use miniature figures and toys dotted around in between plates, which can work well for a dinosaur or animal theme.

Don't forget to label your foods with their ingredients, so any children or parents with allergies or dietary requirements know what they can and can't eat. You can even incorporate these labels into your theme using coloured card and gel pens. You could ask your child to add a couple of pictures to the cards to add their own personal touch to their birthday buffet.

Get the kids involved

Why not enlist a few little helpers to create the birthday party buffet? Children love to help around in the kitchen, and it can make less work for you and keep them entertained. Although you don't want to have a large group of children standing around a hot stove, you could set up a cupcake station. Just lay out plain fairy cakes and some icing and decorations and let children design their own. It might even be a bit of fun for the adults, too!

Don't forget the party favours

What party would be complete without party favours? Giving out a little gift to each child as they leave to go home can really help to end the party on a high. So, give out pre-filled party bags that match your theme, or create your own using a variety of party bag fillers. Try to include a wide range of party favours, like colouring books, puzzles, cuddly toys and sweets, so there's something every child will love.

If you've got any cake or food left over, you can give guests the option to take it home with them. That way, you're not having to clear away all the leftovers and your food is less likely to go to waste.

Every birthday is one to remember, so you'll want to throw your little one the best birthday party ever. By following the tips in this guide, you can create the ultimate kids party buffet that will impress every guest. And don't forget to have fun!