Vegan birthday parties: be honest

December 15, 2009

Possibly not the best approach for talking to your child about why he or she can't have milk-based ice cream

Possibly not the best approach for talking to your child about why he or she can't have milk-based ice cream

Pippi sent in some of her stories about her six year old’s adventures with vegan birthday parties, as part of our ongoing series – there are so many great emails coming in from our Council of Vegan Parents, thanks so much!

Here’s what Pippi had to say:

“The short answer is that I have always been honest about what ingredients are in ‘those’ foods (e.g. cakes, goldfish, candies, etc etc) & ultimately, it’s up to her as to whether or not she wants it or not. But with enough notice, I will make sure she has similar items to bring with her to gatherings with peers. Ans she is more than happy with that arrangement. There have been a couple occasions with no notice & although she was disappointed that she didn’t have an alternative to partake in at the same time as every one else, she still did not want the non-vegan version. (I was so proud!)

“Yes, I do talk to parents ahead of time just to let them know that we are vegan and will be bringing our own items. I will find out what they are having and try to match as close as possible. On occasion we offer to bring the cupcakes or cake & many parents have taken me up on this offer. Some of the parents have started asking me to make the cakes or cupcakes as well as ask me for recipes so that they have veg items available. It’s much easier to be around people who know us.

“I can’t say that we have had any disasters, and I feel very lucky about this. As long as I bring along enough snack foods & complimentary celebratory items, she is just happiest to be around friends.

“Hope this helps. I think that just being honest (as you can with a small child without scarring them & giving them nightmares -I’m not suggesting anyone to make their child watch Earthlings! The “yuck” factor goes a long way with youngin’s) and offering exciting alternatives and being consistent is key.”

Thanks Pippi! There are lots of gems in here, but let’s see if we can highlight a few:

Be honest. As your child gets older, he or she is going to get exposed to a lot more influences and either through increased autonomy or simple distance, is going to have opportunities to make choices about foods without your direct involvement. By explaining as best you can what’s in some foods and why you don’t eat them, that’s as good a way as I can think of for preparing your child.

As Pippi said, you need to pick the tone of your message carefully – an Earthlings or Meet Your Meat experience might be a bit over the top, but “ewww, gross” makes a lot more sense.

Talk to parents ahead of time. Yes, we’ve covered this already in other posts, like Julie or Amy’s stories, but this might be your first visit, so it’s worth repeating. By communicating with the hosts ahead of time, offering to bring alternatives (or the whole cake!) and trying to make the “special” food match what everyone else is having as much as possible, you and your child will have a much better experience.

Have you tried to explain to a young child why you don’t eat, say, cheese? How’d that go? Let us know in the comments!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

misovegan December 22, 2009 at 9:28 am

I realized when my son was 9 that I needed to update the reasons we're vegan. “Animals are our friends, and we don't eat friends” would not be good enough as he got older. So I decided to start just with chickens. I kept it somewhat “clean” and left out emotional words, but he was horrified (of course, because it's horrifying).
My point? That yes, we need to pick the tone carefully and provide age-appropriate information, and also, don't forget to update as they get older and can handle more information.

deva December 22, 2009 at 7:55 pm

we are vegetarians who don't eat eggs but not vegan. however, my husband and i would never eat at a non-vegetarian restaurant. we have two kids, 6 and 4, and have just started the whole birthday circuit thing. my son doesn't want to eat anything at these parties except for chips and fruit and always eats what i pack along. my daughter, on the other hand, will eat practically anything put in front of her. she has made the decision to eat the pizza from meat restaurants at these parties, despite the rest of us being grossed out.

we have given both our kids the same education and choices. it is really interesting to see how their personalities show through during these small moments. i do sometimes worry about my daughter turning to the meat side…she accidentally ate some meat pizza at a party (she spit it out when we told her) but she seemed more sad about upsetting us than about eating dead animals.

but she does have such a strong personality that i cannot imagine her not using her brain to see that eating animals is cruel. okay, i can see her using her brain to rationalize a completely opposite paradigm, but i am praying she becomes a hardcore vegan instead.

deva December 23, 2009 at 3:55 am

we are vegetarians who don't eat eggs but not vegan. however, my husband and i would never eat at a non-vegetarian restaurant. we have two kids, 6 and 4, and have just started the whole birthday circuit thing. my son doesn't want to eat anything at these parties except for chips and fruit and always eats what i pack along. my daughter, on the other hand, will eat practically anything put in front of her. she has made the decision to eat the pizza from meat restaurants at these parties, despite the rest of us being grossed out.

we have given both our kids the same education and choices. it is really interesting to see how their personalities show through during these small moments. i do sometimes worry about my daughter turning to the meat side…she accidentally ate some meat pizza at a party (she spit it out when we told her) but she seemed more sad about upsetting us than about eating dead animals.

but she does have such a strong personality that i cannot imagine her not using her brain to see that eating animals is cruel. okay, i can see her using her brain to rationalize a completely opposite paradigm, but i am praying she becomes a hardcore vegan instead.

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