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Toddler birthday party - healthy menu ideas

My daughter will be 2 next week. I promised snacks, drinks, and cake. I'd love your healthy, creative ideas that I can serve to the kids and parents.

Lots of fresh, cut fruit is definitely on the menu (it's around 100f here). I really want to avoid the standard soda/chips/hot dog.

Possibly watermelon lemonade?

I did a search but didn't come up with anything - so please help if you can.

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  1. How about hummus? Many toddlers like that and parents do too. With pita triangles (whole wheat if you like) or crackers. Carrot sticks and grape tomatoes. Popcorn?

    For cake I would just make a slightly less sweet version of whatever your favorite is -- like carrot cake or banana bread or zucchini bread. I routinely use at least 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour in my tea breads and that works fine.

    And for drinks I would think some juice-based punch would be good. I like the watermelon lemonade idea, too.

    Most important: happy birthday to your toddler -- and have fun!

    1. are you having mostly adults, or mostly kids? is it outside? what time of day?

      1 Reply
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        People are still RSVPing, but I'd say the kids are between 30 and 50% of the gang. It's going to be from 3:30-5:30 and had it planned for an outdoor shelter with splash pad. I'm thinking of moving to the house, though, because the temperatures are supposed to be around 100F. That way the kids can go out to play in the water sprinklers, but come in to get out of the sun once in a while.

      2. with toddlers...you pretty much can serve anything... they dont know all what they like and dont like yet...if they dont like it they will let you know...ours always does...
        we usually have melon,fresh strawberries,watermelon,bananas,grapes,apples....
        kids yogurt snacks...
        as far as juices or drinks..motts and very fine have toddler versions of juice...
        and as u could make any kind of fresh juice or smoothie with any kind of fruits...but make sure to have more than a few options,they may not all like just one ....... are u having more than a few toddlers at the party?

        ours will try something at least once....so far shes been pretty good at eating..

        3 Replies
        1. re: srsone

          I freeze chopped strawberrys and mangoes (available in Trader Joe' freezer case, if there's one near you) then I buy fresh OJ and make the best smoothies. Throw them in a blender, no added sugar to worry about and very refreshing for a hot afternoon beverage.

          1. re: CynAmyn

            as far as i know the nearest trader joe is in Georgia.....more than 12 hour drive from here
            we usually use publix...
            sams or costco

            but yes a make your own smoothie bar would be a good idea...

            1. re: srsone

              Yes, and I just got a Vitamix - I'm in the honeymoon phase and like to use it every chance I get :)

        2. home made popsicles with fruit and yogurt.....
          carrots with hummus (my kids live on this right now)
          cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese
          guacamole... some kids will like it

          7 Replies
          1. re: cheesehead in recovery

            "guacamole--some kids will like it"

            HECK YES!!! and LOL...one of my co-workers has a little 3 year old who has LOVED it since about 1 year old...we have a photo on our bulletin board of her being fed some by her godfather...mouth wide open as if to say "hurry up hurry up, put that guac in my mouth!" Cutest little thing!

            1. re: Val

              Mmm my daughter loves guacamole. Yum.

              1. re: GlobalTable

                My kid also loves guacamole.

                I also like the hummus with all sorts of veggies for dipping/spreading.

                My son has always liked "sparkly" water of any type. What about a nice lemonade with club soda?

                2 is still young enough to force your own cake desires upon them. Take advantage of this while you can.

                1. re: cleobeach

                  Oh sparkly orange juice would be cute too :)

                2. re: Val

                  Guac was one of my daughter's earliest foods. I kind of broke the single food rule when introducing her to stuff because she was so interested in what we were eating.

                3. re: cheesehead in recovery

                  Popcorn is a choking hazard for children under 5.

                  But all your other suggestions are great.

                4. Ditto on pita or crudites and hummus. Also ditto on 2 year olds being good eaters. Three is when they start expecting pizza juice and cake/cupcake at every party (shudder). I did a potato onion frittata and even a Chard onion frittata at the two year party and homemade chocolate cake. Hummus and pita chips, fresh strawberries and tangerines. All was a hit with both kids and adults. 3 year party: grilled vegetable and caprese sandwiches on focaccia from local Italian chain, their chopped salad, vanilla yogurt + berries, veggie quiche, chips and hummus and bakery cake with guava filling. Kids only had yogurt and berries, sandwiches were ignored, some had chips and hummus and they were downright disappointed with the weird cake and couldn't believe there was no juice!
                  I would suggest not to try and have too many drink options if you're making them yourself. Lemonade and water should be plenty. Happy birthday to your two year old!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: sweetTooth

                    speaking of a frittata, mini egg muffins/frittata bites would be fun for the kids.

                  2. Be sure to serve only those things that are easily cleaned from their clothes, faces, hair and from your floors, furniture and walls. Then everybody will have a god time.

                    1. definitely agree with the hummus & veggie idea, and toddlers tend to enjoy white bean dip & carrot dip as well.

                      you could make some PB (or almond butter or sunbutter) and jelly sandwiches on whole grain bread (or whole grain waffles) and cut them into fun shapes.

                      yogurt-dipped frozen banana bites - slice banana into chunks; roll in vanilla or fruit-flavored yogurt to coat; set on wax or parchment paper-lined tray, and sprinkle with crushed cereal or nuts. freeze until yogurt hardens.

                      1. I love this - a bottle of mineral water and a bottle of organic juice (we like pomegranate/blueberry) in a punch bowl (or pitcher) with ice cubes (we have stars, flowers, hearts, etc) - they have never tasted a better or more nourishing soda! They drained the thing.

                        Might be lazy, but smoothie bar for a 2 year old party sounds like me spending a LOT of time explaining and blending.

                        The sandwich idea is a winner - I might do two or three platters based on age/tastes of guest. PBJ/Ham and cheese/cream cheese cucumber. Come to think of it, the first two might be great rolled up into puff pastry and sliced into rounds then baked into "fancy" little yummy bites.

                        My mom did an amazing rice casserole that was cooled and cut into little squares - it was rice, spinach, cheese....they disappeared first. Sounds like these might be like fritatta bites, which sound like my idea of munchie heaven.

                        I did carrot cake for the first three birthdays - then I needed to let him run with what HE thought was a true TREAT....hello chocolate, hello bright colors. Sigh....

                        A friend did a bunch of brownie bites iced into a big cake-like display - then everyone could grab one or two, or three - depending on their appetite.

                        And yes - happy birthday to you all!

                        Don't forget the fun and deliciousness of a big ol' watermelon, cut up so everyone can slurp and maybe have pit-spitting contests!

                        Deviled eggs?

                        1. This gorgeous creation, sea glass jello, http://www.recipegirl.com/2007/08/03/... was linked to on the jello salad thread. If you scroll down that long thread, you will see thumbnail pics of other eye-catching gelatin concoctions that will appeal to calorie-counters and anyone else who'd prefer a light alternative for hot weather. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7666...

                          Maybe have a purchased ice cream cake as the birthday cake. Not exactly healthy, but they do have less frosting than standard birthday cakes. If you made your own sponge cake in a jelly roll pan, you could fill the roll with jam and a layer of sherbet/sorbet, and control the amount of sugar in the frosting.

                          1. Yes, yes, yes: lots of kinds of fresh fruit cut up in bite-sized bits, and hummus and/or guacamole with bite-sized veggies and crackers or pita. I think a juice based punch OR lemonade would be fantastic. A smoothie bar sounds like a ton of work. If you really want to incorporate more fruit, the frozen berries can be added instead of ice cubes (or fresh berries frozen inside of ice cubes).

                            Popsicles would be fun, but also a huge mess unless you kept them entirely outside.

                            Deviled eggs, mini meatballs, tiny peanut butter sandwiches, mini-muffins or a cheese platter are all classic protien options that would be accepted by parents and tots. Basically I advocate what you'd expect of any moderately healthy birthday party spread for any person, but then I'm of the opinion that small people should eat the same good, nutricious foods that big people eat. Although, I'll admit, I tend to be in the minority. ;-)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: PBandT

                              i wasnt meaning a 50 item smoothie bar....

                              the OP also mentioned having adults there as well and needing something for all...
                              a few different fruits and some different juice/drinks..shouldnt be a lot of work....
                              and if they are outside wet from the pool...u can use the hose for cleanup...

                              1. re: PBandT

                                I love the idea of Popsicles (outside!) ... think I'll do Indian Kulfi pops - I'm cooking India this week for my blog, so I might as well combine the two efforts... I'll use long, tapered shot glasses to get a neat, manageable shape for the kiddos to handle.

                              2. A few people mentioned peanut butter. Unless you know for sure that no kid is allergic, I would suggest staying away from it.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: valerie

                                  peanuts get a lot of press, but allergies to wheat, egg and dairy - all of which have been suggested - can be just as severe. i'm sure the OP is aware of the risks, and any parents with allergic children should check before allowing their child to eat the food at the party.

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    Yes, you are right about other allergies being severe. We have very close friends who have 2 kids with severe (i.e. death) allergies to wheat, eggs, nuts, sesame, the whole gamut except dairy. Nuts is actually the easiest one to manage. Any parent with a kid with severe allergy will bring (or should bring) their own food, depending on how well they know the hosts.

                                    That being said, I go to a lot of kids parties, and I host a lot them, and I would still never serve peanut butter to 2 year olds. Just my opinion.

                                    1. re: valerie

                                      before we get off on the whole allergy tangent...
                                      the OP didnt mention any....one way or the other....

                                      i would think that would have already been addressed by any of the parents ....(one would hope)

                                2. do toddlers manage dips all that well? i can't imagine the table not turning into a huge mess in just a few minutes.

                                  i'd make bite-size or hand-held versions of stuff. whether it's ants on a log, cocktail bread sandwiches or small slices of flatbread pizza. make a big pan of crustless quiche and cut that into small squares for grab and go. veggie or chicken spring rolls are easy do-ahead and hold well.

                                  cookies and brownies alongside the fruit.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                    I find that with toddlers, the best thing to do is to put out plates for the parents to fill up. Not just because of the mess -- although that's certainly a factor -- but because that way parents can pick and choose what they want their kids to have access to. Example: my kid lives on pineapple, but my nephew can't go anywhere near it without breaking out into a rash. But if you put the pineapple where he can reach it, good luck keeping it out of his mouth.

                                      1. re: darklyglimmer

                                        Very good point. I was the table monitor at such a party, some parents prepared the plates while other little ones would try it on their own. They had pizza, those huge cheese puff snacks that look like Caterpillar they'd dip in ranch dressing. Chips and salsa, ( that made me nervous) cut up fruit and mini sandwiches of p&j. I did not plan this menu, just watched and helped the kiddies. This is a tough group!

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          Tough group, indeed! Finding something that one toddler will happily eat is challenging enough. In a party situation . . . just be happy if nobody's screaming.

                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                            Also . . cheese puffs in ranch dressing - LOL! Ah, toddlers.

                                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                                          I have a picture of my youngest when he was about two--he gave himself a tzatziki and hummus facial while feeding himself veggies and dip. Yes it can be messy but there are ways to minimize it. Like darklyglimmer said - have parents make up their kids plates, and we keep a supply of the small square bar towels in a basket in the kitchen so parents can wet one and clean the munchkins. As for table mess: several layers of plastic party tablecloths from the dollar store for a quick clean up between lunch and cake and a swiffer for the floor. Later if they aren't a total writeoff I reuse the tablecloths for craft time and then they get tossed.

                                        3. Whatever you do, have separate bowls or platters for the little ones, even if you serve the same foods you are serving to the adults. Some parents don't mind little licked and picked fingers going into the dip and fruit platter, but many do, so place some bowls way up high. When my kids were little, there were a few parties at which I ate nothing because of the hygiene factor. I know many of the other parents felt the same way. So be sensitive not only to your guests' tastes, but to their sensibilities.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Isolda

                                            Great point, Lsolda. I plan on having all the food on tables for parents to dish out to their kids.

                                          2. If you need a protein snack and don't mind some semi-greasy paws (sounds like an outdoor party) little chicken drummies are a fine choice for at least the first pass at the table. Also, kids love and adore anything stuffed into anything else, or rolled into something else, so small portions of the Aram sandwich are a bright idea and will hold up well.

                                            1. If possible maybe also a white grape punch and of course, water, some parents may want to have the pale coloured or clear drinks for their kids and they may also look for "neater" foods to avoid a big cleanup (of their kids) after the party.Some people in my family look for foods and drinks like that at our big family get together. One of my uncles has four kids all under 10! At the same time, interactive options are also really fun meaning different dips will be fun.

                                              1. My kids love cream cheese & jelly (or sliced strawberry) sandwiches. Nutella & banana (or strawberry) sandwiches are great for special treats, given no nut allergies. Cheese ravioli, tossed with olive oil and grated Parmesan, then chilled, has gone over well with my kids as a more substantial, warm weather snack. Mixed berries go very fast, and in my experience even adults tend to consider that a special treat. You could also do a "toddler trail mix" with cheerios, whole wheat goldfish crackers, dried fruit bits and candy-coated sunflower seeds (or bowls of any of those individually). String cheese (or just cut any cheese into string cheese shape) would probably go over well. The muffins and pita triangles with dip suggested above sound great! FWIW, my two-year-old eats popcorn under supervision and has had no problems. We make sure the kernels we offer him are fully popped.

                                                Cake pops are festive, two-bite desserts that are very easy to make. Kids love them, and usually parents do, too. Not healthy in any way, but they come in small portions and you can use homemade frosting and cake baked from scratch if you're worried about additives and/or allergies. Just top with sprinkles and tie a ribbon around the stick! My two-year-old eats them fine, although I always supervise since there's a lolipop stick. I've seen them made with popsicle sticks or ice cream paddles for little kids.

                                                For drinks, I usually have a pitcher of water with mint and lemon slices, and Capri Sun Roaring Waters. I know Capri Sun isn't all that healthy, but it comes with a straw (huge winner in my kids' eyes) and the Roaring Waters is at least better than the original stuff. I think there is an organic version put out by another company?? I love the idea of watermelon lemonade or a sparkling fruit drink. My 2yo still requires a sippy cup and fizzy drinks don't work well in those - but that would be a treat for anyone old enough to drink from a cup!

                                                For parents, a salad would be nice. I just tried a recipe for grilled chicken salad with raspberry viniagrette, grilled peaches and brie toasts and that went over very well to the people we served it to. It's light and substantial at the same time, if that makes sense. Caprese salad always goes over well with adults, and sometimes I mix it with orzo to stretch it. The caprese (or something similar) alsongside breadsticks, salami and cheese would be a simple, beautiful spread for adults - and I bet the kids would be willing to try a lot of it. Black olives would go with that and are a perpetual kid favorite (you could add other varieties for the adults if you desire).

                                                I'd love to hear what you end up deciding on since we'll likely be hosting kids' events this summer, too!

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: SAHCook

                                                  Yep, caprese is a hit with my toddler, too. Although the basil tends to end up on the ground. With our daughter's second birthday party, I tried to do as many deconstructed versions of things as I could: so I made toothpicks full of cubed mozzarella and grape tomatoes w/fresh basil, pepper and olive oil, but also put out bowls of the tomatoes and mozzarella separately.

                                                  1. re: SAHCook

                                                    how about pretzel sticks (big ones
                                                    ) dipped in chocolate and then sprinkels?

                                                    1. re: betsydiver

                                                      Great idea!
                                                      Sorry, off topic, but could you have been my DM in the late'80's???

                                                  2. So many great suggestions, but I'd like I offer a variation on the popular watermelon lemonade. My kids' favourite is STRAWBERRY watermelon lemonade. Yummy.

                                                    1. Global........

                                                      so what did u end up with???

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: srsone

                                                        Great list of ideas.

                                                        What are "ants on a log" ?

                                                        1. re: vicki_vale

                                                          Ants on a log are stalks of celery trimmed and cut in half and filled with either peanut butter or cream cheese. The "ants" are raisins places on top of the filling. Pictures: http://www.google.ca/search?q=ants+on...

                                                      2. expounding on mamachef's point about small kids liking rolled foods my main suggestion is Japanese norimaki - rolled sushi rice. One thing I can assure you is that there are many kids that age who LOVE nori seaweed. So as well as norimaki (which, if you make yourself, you can roll extra thin - they make the ideal healthy non-allergenic finger food for a party), in your shoes I would also be providing little pieces of dry nori seaweed as an alternative to potato chips. My own daughter has been going wild for nori pieces since she was 8 months old and she's not alone.
                                                        You could bake vegetable chips - parsnips, beetroot, sweet potato, carrot, to eat alone or with the dips.
                                                        I'd definitely be providing spanish omelet at a party - similar to the fritata already suggested. It's made with egg and potatoes - but I'd probably slip in some grated zuchini - as much for the adults as for the kids.
                                                        Savoury bread sticks - my daughter devoured some olive epi on Saturday
                                                        Another food I'd provide is green beans with a sesame paste dressing (there's sesame in hummus also, so mind this if there are allergen concerns)- either on the beans or on the side like a dip.
                                                        My family is Anglo-Japanese-Spanish so it's natural for me to draw from all these sources.