This year we will be having a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free birthday party. This is the same thing we did last year, but this time its official. I refuse to serve anything my child cannot eat at his birthday party. I also refuse to serve anything that might cause one of his friends to go to the ER.

You might be surprised at how easy it is.

These are my tips for a safe, fun party

1) Pick a theme that is about an activity. It can be swimming or skating or movies or jumping in a bounce house. It can be mad libs. The idea is that the party is about the people and the activity. It is not about the food.

2) Don’t try to serve lunch. We are doing the party in the afternoon. Its the school age equivalent of a cocktail party. We will have fruit, veggies, chips, dips, lemonade, and vegan sushi. All are easy to find in a big 8 free version. I buy the chips well in advance and the fruit the day before. Kids do eat fruit. Last year I realized that we were walking out with none of our strawberries and virtually all of our chips.

3) Don’t feel like you need to serve pizza or sandwiches. Maybe years ago pizza at a party was a big deal, but nowadays pizza is everywhere. It is so classic and so often served as dinner that the kids are kind of ho-hum about it. They really won’t miss it.

4) Don’t put food in the goodie bags. I generally either buy one awesome party favor or a few good ones (i.e. real water guns that actually work) and just skip the candy entirely.

5) Forget the sheet cake. I hate sheet cake. It’s too colorful. It requires that I cut it. Someone always watches how the frosting blobs get meted out and complains about the size of their piece. I just make cupcakes. Everybody gets the exact same amount. No fighting, no cutting and no plastic forks that can become light sabers after everyone has eaten their cake.

6) Bake the cupcakes well in advance and freeze them unfrosted. Gluten-free food freezes well. Just defrost the night before and apply frosting in the morning. The kids are happy, Mommy is happy and there are no last minute disasters.

7) Enlist help. Get as many adults to attend as possible. They will help with set up and then herd the children and go off looking for the one that wanders off. A birthday party for 20 screaming kids is not meant to be handled by two adults with no early childhood training.

8) Make sure you have cell phone numbers and /or epipens. Hopefully you will never use either one, but it sure is nice to know you have them.

And enjoy the day. I love having a party where all the friends can just eat. They don’t need to worry if it is safe. Its the little gift I give myself.