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7 Tips for the perfect play date lunch

Kelly Dixon is the blogger at SmartSchoolHouse.com and author of Crafts for Kids- Year Round Activities for Holidays, Parties, & More. Smart School House is a place for DIY crafts, activities for kids and families, easy recipe ideas, tra...

Play dates are a wonderful opportunity to help younger children play, socialize, learn and discover. Since play dates are often planned, it's best to think ahead about what activities you will do and what food to have on hand if the play date happens to be at your house.

But, don't stress. Don't make it a bigger deal than it needs to be. Even if preparing lunch for more than one child doesn't necessarily come naturally to you, just play it cool and trust your instincts. Here are my top seven tips for the perfect play date lunch.

1. Use what you have

There's no need to go all gourmet when you plan to feed young children lunch. Look in your pantry, check out your fridge, and simply use what you already have. Chances are you have a ton of kid-friendly food just waiting to be used at your child's play date.

Crackers: check

Hidden Valley Ranch: check

Celery sticks: check

See? Everything you need is probably in your kitchen already.

2. Make it fun

Use exciting trays or dishes to serve the food on. It generates conversation between the kids and it encourages kids to try new things. I like to serve lunches in simple ice cube trays because they have perfectly divided sections for a variety of different foods.

3. Allow for lots of finger dipping fun

Little kids absolutely love to dip their food into fun sauces. Baby carrots and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing are my essential go-to play date lunch sides. Ranch is a flavor that everyone can agree on and love.

4. Be sensitive to allergies

It's a good idea to know whether or not anybody attending the play date has food sensitivities or allergies. Call the parent or caregiver a day or two beforehand and kindly ask upfront. They won't mind. In fact, they'll appreciate your extra effort.

5. Create balance

While you don't have to create perfection, just keep in mind that you should always serve some sort of protein, some fruit and/or veggie, some dairy, and some carbohydrates. Kids usually love bananas, crackers, cheese and even yogurt (and chances are, you already have that on hand).

6. Don't make it a competition

I think this is something that we tend to accidentally do with our children. Happiness comes from the simple things, like time spent together with friends and family. Don't focus too much on talking about how your child only eats "this or that" because those types of conversations oftentimes cause people to feel excluded. Keep the conversations lighthearted and accepting of everybody's lifestyles. Our kids will eventually learn from experience that the wonderful things that make us unique is also what makes the world turn.

7. Include a treat

Playing is a part of socializing, and socializing should be fun. What do you enjoy doing when you are spending time with your friends? Oftentimes it includes a small treat. That's just part of life. Allow your child and their friends to enjoy a simple after-lunch treat, like a small cookie.

Our kids will only be this small for such a limited time, so let's enjoy it as much as we can with them. Keep lunches easy and don't over-think the fun. Put a delicious twist on the food your kids already love and, most of all, create memorable and meaningful moments.

For more easy recipes and quick mealtime fixes, visit www.HiddenValley.com

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of SheKnows and Hidden Valley Ranch. All opinions are my own.

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