1. Create a cake centrepiece
The birthday cake is central to the big day, and a thick layer of brightly coloured butter icing with a generous sprinkling of sweets is all you need to give your child a cake to remember (the icing is all they’re interested in, anyway). Or, to dazzle your guests, try Annie Rigg’s surprisingly simple recipe for a classic sponge
2. Dressing the table
Cover the table with a pretty tablecloth and add plates and cups with floral patterns or in pretty pastel shades. A cake stand piled high with fairy cakes will make a sweet focal point. If you want to take the theme further, cut out clouds of butterflies from pink, white and purple tissue paper and stick them to the windows, curtains and walls with a dab of glue or a burst of spray mount. You can even stick them onto balloons (where static alone will hold them in place). A children’s party without sweets wouldn’t feel right, but first offer plates of heart-shaped sandwiches with a selection of healthy fillings – egg mayonnaise and cress; tuna and carrot; chicken and avocado; or cheese, bacon and tomato – before letting your hungry little guests loose on the marshmallows and iced gems!
3. Theme your treats
Bright seaside buckets filled with crisps and popcorn make fun alternatives to bowls, as do plastic sea moulds, which can be used to hold jellies or filled with sweets and biscuits Juice served in tiny tea cups is perfect for small hands, as long as you’re relaxed about the inevitable spills. You may decide that the tea set is best used in a ‘let’s pretend’ game with all the guest’s teddies before the real tea is served. You can also theme your food. For a bears’ picnic, look out for teddy-shaped biscuits or use animal-shaped cutters to make your own
4. Party nibbles for all
Before you go overboard working out what to cook for the grown-ups at the party, remember that most adults are secretly fond of retro party food, crisps and child-sized sandwiches and other popular nibbles. You could save yourself a lot of time and effort by simply treating the adults the same as the children and catering accordingly. Fairy cakes and biscuits always go down well with all ages, and so much the better if they’re home-made
5. Nibbles and snacks
Keep food simple: sandwiches shaped with cookie cutters, veggie sticks and cherry tomatoes are ideal. Sausages on sticks and pineapple chunks with cheese are also fun and easy to make.