Children’s parties are usually planned to celebrate a birthday or a holiday. This calls for appropriate decorations for the table, favors and place cards. Novelty of this sort is of far greater interest to the young fry than is variety in food. In fact, children are generally conservative in their tastes and enjoy best the foods to which they are accustomed.
A “party,” to the very young child, is a pretty standard affair: ice cream and candy, birthday cake with candles, and a beverage. However, a “sit-down” supper of two courses has found favor even for the two- to six- or eight-year group. Many mothers have found that the mid-afternoon refreshments interfere with naps as well as meal schedules, and so they plan a light supper which follows rather than precedes the party games and activities.
The main course is often limited to sandwiches, as the children have usually had their main meal at noon. Favorite sandwich fillings are chicken, chopped egg, peanut butter, cream cheese and jelly. The traditional second course, the “real party,” follows. It is well to remember that very young children, while they love to see the birthday cake ablaze with candles, seldom do more than nibble at it. Cut the portions very small, and if possible cut an inner circle first using a sharp pointed knife held vertically.
Another practical and acceptable idea is to reserve the cake for the grownups (after the candles have been blown out) and serve small colorfully-iced cup cakes to the small fry. For older children (eight to twelve) it is a good plan when serving supper to start the meal as soon as the children have assembled, especially if both boys and girls are invited, and set the hour of the party with this in mind. Food that is easy for the children to handle and which does not have to be cut is the practical choice. A typical menu will consist of creamed chicken or turkey in a ring of rice or mashed potatoes, or accompanied by stuffed baked potatoes, and peas, which seem to be the one vegetable which every child likes. The plates should be filled in the kitchen.
Rolls or bread and butter sandwiches, and a glass (or even better a mug) of milk at each place will complete the course. The second course will almost invariably be ice cream, which remains the party choice, with vanilla the favorite flavor. Novelty may be supplied by serving fancy individual molds or by decorating balls or blocks of ice cream according to the event that is being celebrated. A tiny flag for Fourth of July, a Christmas tree for that holiday, a witch’s cap in the form of an ice cream cone, are examples of simple decorations. For a birthday party, the ice cream may be sprinkled with chocolate shot or colored sugar.
With the dessert there will be cookies of fancy shapes or small decorated sponge cakes. For the birthday party, there will be the large cake, frosted and simply but gaily garnished with the child’s name plus “Happy Birthday.” This sometimes serves as the central decoration of the table where it may be admired until dessert time. While young guests will be much more impressed by a brightly-colored paper tablecloth than by one of the finest linen, mothers often prefer to use a heavier cloth that will remain more firmly in place. Cloth napkins, rather than paper, offer better protection to party dresses. Place cards and favors can be relied upon to furnish the color which the children love.