Taking Your Vegan Kid To A Birthday Party
You’ve been invited to the dreaded birthday party, where your vegan kid will simultaneously starve to death and also be forced to wear a dunce cap while everyone points and laughs at them. How do you take your vegan kid to a birthday party?
I started worrying about this when I went vegan in high school, when having a child was still more than a decade off. I feel silly now, because it turned out to be a complete non-issue. Taking your vegan kid to a birthday party is so easy; it just takes a little planning.
- Bring your own cupcake.
Yes, do it. Bake something and bring it. Bring one for yourself too. Bring as many as you want. Make sure they’re cute. Until age 3, your kid probably won’t even notice what others are eating (as long as your kid’s eating too), but after that, your cupcake should be cute (swirls or sprinkles!) so that it doesn’t feel like a hardship to miss out on the undoubtedly cute (though non-vegan) cake.
My kid LOVES cupcakes, so when I take my vegan kid to a birthday party, I don’t try to ignore the existence of birthday cake; I hype the cupcakes we’re bringing. “Today’s a birthday party. What do you get to eat?” And she shakes with excitement, saying,
“I GET TO EAT A CUUUUUUPCAKE!!!”
When cake-time comes, she doesn’t feel left out or have any negative feelings, because she is just so excited to have her cupcake.
I have containers that fit four cupcakes. When I bake, I bring one container to the party and put another one (or two) in the freezer for the next party. Just put them out to thaw the night before!
You can also look for vegan cupcakes someone else made, like the brand Olivia Superfree, or you might have a natural grocery or bakery near you that makes vegan cupcakes. The last birthday party we went to, the host let us know in advance that she was picking up a vegan cupcake from the co-op grocery for my daughter!
Whether you want to go for something healthier or you’re fine with sugar bombs (just no animal products), bringing your own means having exactly what you want.
- Offer to bring the cupcakes for everyone.
If you’re close friends with the birthday family or you know they’re short for time, you can offer to bring the cake/cupcakes for everyone. Only do this if you’re confident in your skills; you are representing not just yourself but vegan baking in general (and also you want the birthday kid to have good cake). A lot of families want an organic cake and don’t know how to buy/make that, so you can offer to make an organic cake that everyone can eat!
You might also ask the hosts if any other families have dietary needs (allergies, etc) and offer to bring an option that works for everyone (either as the main cake or alongside the cake the birthday family is providing). I recently brought vegan, gluten-free, tree nut-free cupcakes to a party; the kids (and grown-ups) with allergies were as excited as we were to eat them.
When you bring to share, others will remember you kindly (and maybe provide options for your family next time, since you so kindly provided for them) and will also have a good example of how yummy vegan food can be.
- Ask the host about the food sitch.
Let them know that you just want to make sure you’re prepared any time you’re taking your vegan kid to a birthday party, so you’re wondering what you should bring to make sure your kid doesn’t feel left out. The host might say, “Oh, we’ve got you covered!” (do a happy dance, but always have emergency snacks, just in case) or they might just let you know what’s up, and then you just bring your own. Like, if everyone’s having hot dogs, you can bring veggie dogs.
- Listen to your kid’s feelings.
If your kid does feel left out, don’t assume you know what it’s about. Ask, listen, let them know you hear them, and talk with them about how to make it better next time. Would it help if you knew in advance the cake flavor, so you could match it for them? Are they feeling sad because they’re strong in their veganism and it’s hard to be around so many people eating things from animals? Did another kid ask why they were eating something different, and they’re not sure how to answer? Are they wondering if the other foods taste really different? (I’m able to tell my kiddo, because of my own non-vegan childhood, that a well-made vegan cupcake tastes the same as a non-vegan one, and we celebrate how great it is that we can make so many yummy foods from plants!)
If there’s food at the party you need to say no to (like, suddenly everyone’s eating marshmallows), you can acknowledge that they’re feeling frustrated but that you can get a vegan version soon. I usually add, “You had a cupcake today anyway, so we’re pretty full up on sometimes foods for today, huh? But, soon, do you want to have a vegan marshmallow?” And then I follow up and make sure we do. (Clearly, sub this with a healthier treat – homemade popsicle? – if your life doesn’t include marshmallows.)
Also, remember, your kid might be feeling something that has nothing to do with food/veganism. You might be thinking way more about food than they are.
- Make vegan friends.
Imagine taking your vegan kid to a birthday party where everything’s vegan. You can just relax. Don’t ditch your omnivore friends (duh), but seek out the other vegan kiddos! The benefits extend past just the vegan birthday party experience; it feels good to be understood.
- Make your own kid’s birthday party totally awesome!
When your kid has a birthday, ask them what they want to eat, and make those birthday dreams come true! For her 3rd birthday, my kid wanted vanilla cupcakes, watermelon, and sushi like she saw in a picture in Veganomicon. We made all that, plus Field Roast burgers cut in half, macaroni salad, corn on the cob, and on and on. Your one friend who’s planning to complain about it will be peer-pressured by all the other omnivores clearly enjoying the food.
And, remember, if you know a guest has a food intolerance, make sure you have options for them. Vegan food is for everyone!