Kids' party tables don't have to be laden with bright orange crisps or tons of sugary treats. Keep the fare healthy but enticing.
All the sweet, juicy splendour that toddlers want with none of the cavity causing consequences, watermelon is a perfect party snack. It's affordable (just one feeds scores of tiny guests), easy to prepare (no baking required) and easy to clean (a few wet wipes are all you need).
Simply chop the watermelon up into hand-sized wedges- remember to cut the bitter rind off- and arrange on a platter. You could also chop watermelon and melon into chunks and thread the blocks onto ice cream sticks for a fresh fruit lolly.
Put a stick in it
You really want to avoid messy dishes that have to be served up individually, so finger foods are the way to go.
Lightly steam some veggie crudités- carrots, baby marrows, broccoli stems and peppers- and thread them onto blunted sosatie sticks for a colourful kebab. Serve with a yummy dip such as hummus. To make hummus, blend a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas with one tablespoon of olive oil and lemon juice to taste in the food processor until smooth.
The Big Cheese
Skip the crisps completely and turn to cheese to satisfy savoury hankerings. We've yet to meet a toddler that doesn't love this dairy product in some form, so you can really go wild with it.
The simplest solution is to serve blocks of cheese as a finger food among other savoury treats like mini sweetcorn and cold meats. You can also make cheesy mini pizzas with vegetable toppings (buy the dough at the supermarket and roll it out) or go the extra mile to make cheesy bread sticks or cheese scones.
Tiny fingers and mouths need tiny snacks. Make mini sandwiches using crackers and tasty fillings. All you need is a packet of savoury crackers, sliced ham and cottage cheese. Cut the hame into the same size as the crackers- a cookie cutter could work well here.
Simply spread the crackers with a layer of cheese and add a slice of ham. Top with another cracker and voilá- you have a mini sandwich that any toddler will love.
Use other nutritious fillings to make a variety of tiny sandwiches for your party table, think of cheese, cucumber, avocado, tomato, tuna and more.
An Apple a Day
No party is complete without a few crunchy treats, and apples make the tastiest sweet crisps around. The great thing is that you can make them a couple of days before the party to save time and stress as they stay crisp for up to two days.
Simply core a few apples (any type of apple: one apple makes about a cup of apple crisps) and slice them thinly. Sprinkle them with a cinnamon and, if you really want to, a bit of sugar. Then lay the apple pieces on wax paper on a baking tray and bake in the pven at 95ºC for two hours. Allow to cool completely before storing them in airtight bags.
Take party sandwiches to the next level by combining two great loves of toddlers- peanut butter and strawberries- with a wholewheat warp. Does it sound like we're trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Fear not. Sweet wraps are all the rage at the moment, and this one is guaranteed to be a hit.
All you need are a few wholewheat wraps, available at supermarkets or delicatessens, spread with a generous layer of peanut butter. Go for the sugarless kind (available at health stores) for a super health kick. Cut a punnet of strawberreies into slices and arrange these in a layer on the peanut butter wrap and roll into a hand-sized tube. Cut this into smaller sized tubes so the children's small hands can handle them.
Milkshakes are the stuff of kids' dreams, but they're packed full of sugary flavourants and colourants that aren't all that friendly. Steer clear of this by serving fruit smoothies instead.
Use fresh seasonal fruits such as berries, bananas or mango, milk or plain yoghurt with some honey (only for over-ones) or peanut butter to make delicious creamy smoothies that beat any milkshake.
Experiment a little to come up with interesting combinations. You may even choose to stick to ingredients that complement the theme; strawberry yoghurt smoothies for a princess party, for instance.
The fresh fruit will provide the toddlers with fibre and, combined with the other ingredients, will pack an energetic punch to keep young partygoers on their feet.
Time to POP
Popcorn is a great party addition, and all toddlers love it. And because you can make it in big batches, it works out to be quite affordable. You can prepare it well in advance at home on your stove, so it really isn't a time consuming mission. Better yet. if you air-pop it, it is a super healthy snack packed with fibre.
If you don't have a popcorn machine to pop your own corn, ask around if you can hire one for novelty value. But if not, you can pop corn on the stove using a bit of vegetable oil. Avoid microwave popcorn- it's not the healthiest option and it's going to cost you much more. Go easy on the salt and other flavourings though especially if any of your guests have allergies.
Use sheets of brightly coloured paper rolled into wedges and secured with some sticky tape to make popcorn horns so that each child gets his own little serving.