Everyone loves parties, especially kids, but the red flag pops up if your party involves children with diabetes. How can they have fun if they're diet-restricted?
It's not as hard as you may think. In fact, these parties can be more fun than the typical "junk food marathons." The key is making the entire party fun, and not using the food as the sole form of entertainment.
Kids with diabetes are just that -- kids. They can do what all kids should do: Eat a little less sugar, a little less saturated fat, and play more. It's basically pretty simple. But parties can make you feel overwhelmed, especially if you're used to simply supplying bagged chips, store-bought cakes, and sugary soft drinks.
Here's some "food for thought" to help you plan your next party, whether it's a birthday bash or a simple sleepover:
Involvement: Get the children involved in making the party foods instead of having it handed to them. Just a minimal amount of preparation is needed, and then watch the fun unfold. Getting the kids to interact is not only entertaining for everyone, but it provides a sense of belonging and a sense of togetherness. In the beginning, you might want to start out with a few munchies you've made ahead, but when it's time for the "heart" of the party, make that part of the entertainment. Have the kids do the pizzas, for example.
If children are spending the night, they can make frozen pop treats. Start with choosing any two gummy worms or sour night crawlers that they want. Simply tag them by putting a sticker with the child's initials on the dry surface of the frozen-pop holder and they can identify their own at the time of serving.
If you're concerned about messes while the kids are making their edible creations, have them spread newspapers -- preferably the Sunday funnies -- all over the floor, over the table, and under the chairs. Just cover all surfaces with newspapers, then they, and you, don't have to worry. And the cleanup will unbelievably easy.
Serving Suggestions: Think color, texture, and eye appeal with the serving pieces and the foods, too. Have a variety, be creative, and think fun. For example, serve the Peanutty Banana Dip in hollowed-out red and green apple halves. Use different brightly colored napkins of paper or cloth or even those Sunday funnies to line baskets or serve as a fun tablecloth.
When decorating for a child's party, use inexpensive toys purchased from a dollar-style store to serve the goodies, such as a toy dump truck filled with various toppings for hot dogs or sandwiches. For the beach, use plastic buckets and small shovels for serving pieces and beach towels for table runners. Or how about a baby wading pool filled with ice to hold the drinks, such as a variety of juice boxes?
Other Entertainment: Provide a colorful Mexican papier-mâché piñata, but fill it with inexpensive trinkets such as uninflated balloons, miniature stuffed animals, erasers, stickers, rings, ping-pong balls, and plastic cars instead of candy.
Don't forget those old-fashioned scavenger hunts. Or have a "year-round" plastic-egg hunt, the eggs filled with small trinkets instead of candy. You can take the party out to a community swimming pool, or to a neighborhood park with swingsets and slides, or provide something as simple as a basketball and goal or a game of hide-and-seek in the backyard.
It's up to you and your child to make the plans. Making plans together not only brings the two of you closer; it also lets your child participate in that aspect of the party as well. The point is to take a detour from the electronic "game of the week" and simply play together. At first kids may need a little direction, but soon you'll sit back and enjoy the smiles that quickly break into laughter.
If you can keep just one thought in mind when planning special times involving children with diabetes, remember this: Don't preach or draw unnecessary attention to the "dos and don'ts" of foods. Instead of telling a child, "Eat this because it is good for you," it feels a lot better to hear yourself say, "This is so good, and so much fun!"
Following these simple party planning tips will ensure that your party goes off without a hitch and you'll be able to enjoy the festivities, too.