IT would be so great if parents came up with creative ideas on birthday cakes for their children. We have been getting the same frosted layered sponge cakes for every birthday in our school,” quipped one of the Montessori teachers I was having tea with.
Birthdays are special occasions for parents and their children. It is a great time to celebrate and every child looks forward to blowing out the candles and the icing on their birthday cake. On the other hand, children love hands-on activities, and they enjoy attention. Maybe it is worth the effort to make every birthday memorable with something else other than just a birthday cake. How about a special birthday plate with interesting snacks from all over the world?
For your child’s first birthday, try to keep it hassle-free. This birthday is really for the adults, especially for new parents. The birthday boy or girl will probably like the attention from the guests but not too much of it. Plan a flexible party for your child. All parents know that their children’s behaviour and moods can change without warning. Have a back-up plan. In case you need to look after your child, someone else can entertain for you.
Small cupcakes are great fun for the children. Finger foods made out of fruits and vegetables are more healthy than eating processed snacks like sausages and nuggets. You can add to the fun by offering dips (blended from fruits and yoghurt). Rice balls and soft bread sticks are also fun to eat.
Children like moving to fun music and crawling through tunnels. A home-made obstacle course will keep them busy. Be sure to keep the activities short and simple. The birthday child may feel tired when it is near his naptime. Set out a cosy corner with a few pillows and a soft mat laid out for anyone who needs a rest.
Let your child’s preference be your guide for decorations. What is his or her favourite animal, game, vehicle, fish or colour? Transform with simple things that you have in the house. Many parents go for balloons and streamers. Try using brightly coloured scarves and large stemmed leaves instead. You can even use your child’s toys as decorations for the party venue.
Two-year-olds like making things with real tools. They want to do what grown-ups do. It will be great to let them prepare their own birthday cake. Get a small round pound cake. Instead of butter cream for icing, try dusting it with icing powder and let your child decorate it with fruit slices, fresh and dried ones.
You may want to invite your two-yearold’s close friends. At this age, they may be a bit wary of new people and other children. Your two-year-old loves being with friends he is familiar with. Choose an activity that they can enjoy together and celebrate the birthday with minimal fuss but maximum fun.
Make a pancake stack as a birthday cake. Toddlers this age love building things. They can put marshmallow “bricks”and low sugar jam “cement” to build their birthday cake. Banana slices and gula Melaka syrup can add to a great tasting creation.
Three-year-olds are sociable. They like to play games with their friends. They also have many fears. Do not start with clowns or mascots in parties when your child is fearful of masks and painted faces.
Mummies and daddies can organise water play with water toy accessories or musical chairs. They also like storytelling with props and sound effects. It will add to the fun when the story engages the birthday child and his friends as characters in the plot.
My late grandmother was of nyonyadescent. I remember fondly how she organised the celebration by cooking and making her all-time nyonya favourites. The yellow glutinous rice and curry chicken were definitely must-haves. Nyonya “kueh” and red hard-boiled eggs were also in the menu. One favourite for the children was “porcupine” pineapples. She would put fruit cubes on short skewers and placed them all over a cut pineapple. This was one party food that was a rave with all children.