How to win the chil­dren’s party game

The Jewish Chronicle - - KOSHER - BY BIL­LIE JOSEPHS

HAV­ING RE­CENTLY spent a small for­tune on Chanu­cah gifts, our fam­ily is now en­gaged in what can only be de­scribed as the birth­day party sea­son. Since the end of De­cem­ber we have cel­e­brated my birth­day, my el­dest grand­son’s — and we are about to cel­e­brate those of my younger twin grand­chil­dren and my son. (Thank­fully I have time to save up for my daugh­ter’s birth­day, in July.)

I don’t mean to be a party pooper but as my grand­chil­dren at­tend a Jewish school and my son and his wife are ob­ser­vant, I am spend­ing a lot of time hunt­ing for kosher cakes, nib­bles and all sorts of cel­e­bra­tory foods to mark th­ese oc­ca­sions.

We are try­ing to keep things on a mod­est scale be­cause many of the birth­day par­ties we have at­tended seemed to us to be too fussy, too stress­ful and too ex­pen­sive.

What’s more, the birth­day child and his or her friends some­times ap­peared to be over­whelmed by the need to demon­strate that they were en­joy­ing them­selves.

Not that we be­lieve spoil­ing a child for one day of the year is the worst thing in the world. The good news is that the cus­tom of invit­ing the en­tire school class to our kids’ par­ties is some­thing we are very pleased to do.

So how to re­gale the lit­tle par­ty­go­ers as they gather for their cel­e­bra­tion? Keep things sim­ple. In sum­mer, have a birth­day party at the park. This makes clean­ing up easy and the park pro­vides nat­u­ral en­ter­tain­ment.

It is of­ten sur­pris­ing what your child comes up with as sug­gested party ac­tiv­i­ties. One of my neph­ews thought it would be the great­est fun to pull up weeds from the flower patch in the front gar­den. You might not see the ap­peal of their cho­sen fun and games. But if the re­quest is rea­son­able at all, just say yes.

If your child wants to have one best friend around for a sleep­over and tuck into vi­en­nas and chips for sup­per, go for it. Even if it is not your idea of a birth­day cel­e­bra­tion, it is likely to make the child hap­pier than the mu­seum trek you had en­vis­aged.

Per­haps the big­gest prob­lem is to en­sure there is plenty of kosher nosh on hand. Cream cheese or choco­late spread sand­wiches and Is­raeli snacks such as Bissli and Bamba are al­ways pop­u­lar, as are Walk­ers ready salted crisps. And — un­ex­pect­edly — many of our young guests who had spent time in Is­rael were happy to de­vour veg­etable sticks dipped in hum­mus. Our twins also en­joy hand­fuls of Is­raeli olives. With all the nosh, it is im­por­tant to en­sure there is plenty to drink. Fizzy drinks (oh go on, it’s only one day) and Is­raeli fruit juice will go down a treat.

The birth­day cake is of­ten home­made. But if you want to buy some­thing, most kosher bak­ers can pro­vide a cen­tre­piece to the party. Cake de­sign­ers at Carmelli of Gold­ers Green, for in­stance, en­joy the chal­lenge of mak­ing a gateau to any spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

Th­ese can in­clude a favourite char­ac­ter, such as Cin­derella or Bar­bie, a foot­ball pitch or even an iPod. Our grand­chil­dren have re­quested Spi­der­man and Hello Kitty.

Cup­cakes also go down well and of­ten have a bib­li­cal twist. Chabad, for in­stance, rec­om­mends a cup­cake re­call­ing the end of the flood, when Noah and his fam­ily were able to exit the ark un­der a rain­bow.

The cup­cake, in all the colours of the spec­trum, fea­tures white frost­ing and a sprin­kling of mini marsh­mal­lows around the side.

Goody bags tra­di­tion­ally con­tain a va­ri­ety of small sweet things to mol­lify guests as they wave good­bye. Is­raeli choco­lates, dried fruit, ap­ple crisps and even candy floss, as well as a wide range of other kosher nib­bles are avail­able from su­per­mar­kets such as Gold­ers Green’s Kosher King­dom and B Kosher.

Also very pop­u­lar is the Freddo frog from Cad­bury, a small kosher­ap­proved choco­late bar that is per­fect for eat­ing by the (suit­ably fenced) gar­den pond. It’s in its own lit­tle wrap­per, so it’s less messy than a sticky lump of birth­day cake pre­car­i­ously rolled in a pa­per servi­ette.

A sim­ple pic­nic in the park can be the most fun

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