What can parents do? From our work counseling parents and families on nutrition we compiled the following list of tips:
While it's easy to outsource birthday logistics to restaurants and amusement centers, these environments will not likely result in a health-oriented birthday. The food choices they offer, especially those produced in bulk for large birthday groups, are typically fat-laden, sugar-packed, calorie-dense foods such as hamburgers, cake, ice cream, etc., and are made available in industrial, all-you-can-eat quantities. Better to choose an environment where you can control food choices and quantities, like a parent's home, or, if weather permits, an outdoor area such as a park where more active games are possible (and no video games or televisions are present). For older children, venues such as roller skating or ice skating rinks can be good choices.
Get Kids Active
Kids will typically be at the party for a couple of hours, and you'll need to entertain them during that time. Of course some time will elapse during the ritual opening of presents and the consumption of food, but the rest of the time can be spent getting some exercise. If you can, get the kids outside and playing active games—soccer, basketball, tag, or competitions of your own devising. For younger children, fun activities include hula hoop contests, scavenger hunts, obstacles courses, red light green light, and spoon-egg carrying contests. Summer birthdays are perfect occasions to run in the sprinkler or have water balloon fun.
Conspire With Other Parents
One of the frustrating aspects of birthday parties for parents is their lack of control over what goes on at the birthday parties of kids other than their own. You probably know most of your child's friends' parents, so contact them, form a "birthday cabal," and conspire together on how you can collectively make all of the birthday parties healthier. This is a particularly good topic for discussion at your child's first preschool or elementary school class meeting.