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Fun Finger Foods for Kids' Birthday Parties

Looking for quick, creative starters and main courses that'll delight your little guests – and create less stress for you, mom and dad? Try these six recipe ideas.

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Pasta Bar

What you'll need: penne pasta, rotisserie chicken (pull meat off and cut into small pieces), ham cubes, olives, cheese cubes, cooked broccoli, ranch dressing and barbeque sauce (optional)

Kids love pasta almost as much as pizza. Let them create their own pasta masterpieces as part of the party. Make a buffet beginning with a large bowl of pasta and smaller bowls with ingredients they can add according to their own tastes. My kids like to add chicken, cheese and broccoli to their pasta, but you can get inventive and add other kid favorites to your buffet.

I also offer a sauce mixed with half ranch, half barbecue. Younger children like to keep their pasta sauceless, but older children might enjoy the change. While any pasta shape will do, my kids' favorite is penne – it fits perfectly on their fingers. Sure, we usually try to eat with forks, but when it's party time with kids, if they want to eat with their hands – and even off their fingers – that's part of the fun!

Pita Pizzas

What you'll need: flat pitas (instead of the smaller, thicker variety), spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, olives, pepperoni, ham, other pizza toppings

If your kids insist on pizza, try making it a little more original than store-bought. And again, try to involve your party guests with making the meal. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Give each child his or her own pita on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil that has her name on it. Let the kids place tomato sauce on their pitas, or do that part for them.

Offer a variety of "pizza" ingredients, like pepperoni, ham, olives, green peppers and others. Top with mozzarella cheese and carefully transfer the pizzas onto cookie sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese melts and the pita becomes crispy. Let the pitas cool and slice with a pizza cutter. Each party guest will have his or her own pizza. Serve on paper plates. If anyone has extra you can send it home with him.

A few tips on staging

Get your kids, and your party guests, involved in making the food and you'll not only have more fun, but you'll have fewer leftovers. Remember, though, finger foods can be messy (kids are prone to roam around while they're nibbling on them since they don't need to use a plate and fork).

And while you don't want to reign kids in too much, since finger foods' portability is part of the fun, you may want to restrict them to a specific area to contain the mess. Make it a room with a hard floor, and use a big, colorful plastic table cover as a rug to make clean-up a breeze.

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