There is nothing like having your nearest and dearest over for dinner. However, planning a dinner party can be a stressful experience, especially when catering for the littles ones. Here are a few tips I have picked up over the years on how to plan a (stress free) dinner party that will not only be a great experience but will have the little ones eating out of your hands literally! The tips in this blog were tried and tested on children aged between 5 and 10.
1) Dietary requirements including allergies
It is always best to find out about any dietary requirements your younger guests may have (goes for the big ones too!). The last thing you want is for them to have an allergic reaction to the food. Common allergies include nuts, gluten, and dairy, however as mentioned before always check with the parents/guardians as they may have an allergy that is only be unique to them i.e. this can be an allergy that one no one has ever come across before.
Other dietary requirements may include halal, vegetarian or vegan food. I have been told by my Muslim friends that Sainsbury's do a great halal meat range if your local butcher does not sell halal meat.
Regarding vegan or vegetarian options, I always find Indian food is a winner as most of the ingredients will not contain any dairy products. Daal (lentils) is a great example of a vegetarian/vegan meal and is easy to make.
2) What is on the menu? Food to serve.
Kids come in all shapes and sizes as we know it, and this includes their diets too. Some like to try all foods, while others prefer to stick to what they know. If you are making a curry-based dish i.e. with lots of sauce and flavours, this can be overwhelming for your young guests’ palates. To accommodate for the little ones, I usually make a dry curry (one with no sauce or I have it as a side option). Yogurt is also a great to serve with anything flavourful you have made, as it will neutralise the flavours of the dish.
I also make sure the sauce is completely smooth too, so no bits! I have been told lumpy, heavy sauces can put kids off from eating it. It also goes without saying, the most obvious tip with any curry-based sauce or recipe - no chillies!
3) Where is my seat? Place cards
Have place cards for everyone at the table. It is a fun way of introducing the kids to the meal ahead and makes them feel that extra special. Having something with their name on it, will also be a familiar concept to them as they have their names on coats, coat hooks or desks at school as well.
4) Make it a visual delight: Presenting the food on the plate
Food on the plate needs to be ‘visible’ and divided into sections. I have found that kids are quite visual beings and seeing the food separated (i.e. not mixed up or on top of other foods) is going to make them want to eat it. This is a great method to use if it is their first time trying something new or if they are generally fussy eaters. The ‘visible’ method can work with most food groups and serving the food in a ‘fun’ shape has always been a winner when serving kids. Food served in a smiley face shape has always been a winner in my house.
5) What’s for dinner? Introducing the menu to your guests
Introduce the dish to the kids whilst serving it to them. You don’t want to bog them down with science by explaining ingredients that they may not have heard or know of. I have found it's best to compare your dish to something they may have already had before, so that they have an idea of what it will taste like.
6) No politics, no religion, no vulgarity: Dinner party conversations to have
During the meal it is nice to involve the kids in conversations (where appropriate) to make them feel part of the party and it is also a great way to introduce them to some dinner party etiquette. Tailor conversations towards something they may have done recently, i.e. holidays they have been on, relatives they have visited or recent school-related activities. It is always helpful to find out from the parents/guardians beforehand if they have done anything exciting or something they are proud of which will get you extra brownie points in the conversation-starter department. This works well especially if they have come to your house for the first time and it is their first time meeting you. Definitely a good ice-breaker which will leave them feeling special.
7) Thank you for having us: The end of the dinner party
In my house I have a tradition where I give a little gift to children who have come over to my house for the first time. It shows you care, and it will make them feel comfortable coming back to your place. It does not have to cost a lot of money, but I always make sure it is meaningful. Depending on the age of the child, I have always found little toys to be a winner.
8) Have fun!
I have found that some of the most fun people I know are actually kids. The key to handling kids is to be excited about things around them, this normally rubs off on them too. If you are positive about the food and them being there, you will find that they will naturally follow suit.
About Roopa Bains
Fashion lover turned novice writer. Looking to inspire you with tips, tricks and musings from my writing journey so far. I love to feed my soul with essentials that include travel, food, and music. Always here to make you laugh and smile along the way too!