Birthday Lunch Menu

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Although the birthday cake is the star of the show, every birthday meal should be just a little more special than usual and prepared with extra thoughtfulness. If your child's birthday falls on a school day, pack a day-brightening treat. For lunch at home, whether with friends or family, let your creativity run free.

Colorful Sandwiches

Add a playful touch to an ordinary sandwich. Select two colors of bread -- for instance, one slice of white bread and one slice of dark pumpernickel. Using a cookie cutter that features your child's favorite shape, cut a shape out of the centers of both slices of bread. Then switch the shapes so that each bread slice shows a contrasting color. Finish off the sandwich with a tasty filling, such as turkey slices, Swiss cheese and creamy ranch dressing.

Bento Boxes

Bento boxes are Japanese lunch boxes with compartments to hold different sorts of food. A creative take on a bento box adds fun to a birthday lunch at school. Use a rectangular container as a bento box and design a healthy lunch that looks like birthday treats. Arrange mashed potatoes in cupcake wrappers, with corn kernels and peas as confetti toppings. Make a triple-layer peanut butter and jelly sandwich with bread, peanut butter, bread, jelly and a final bread slice on top. Cut the sandwich into triangles that look like cake slices, with strawberry halves as "cake toppers."

Party Picnic

For a sunny birthday, ask guests to bring blankets or lawn chairs and head to the backyard. If the weather isn't cooperating, push furniture to the edges of the room and set up blankets for an indoor picnic. Serve playful and not-too-messy foods, such as pigs in a blanket made with nutritious whole wheat bread and veggie hot dogs. Pink lemonade is summery even in cold weather, and potato salad is a kid-friendly side dish.

Cooking Together

Whether with family members or party guests, cooking lunch together personalizes a cozy menu for a summer or weekend birthday. Recipes should be simple but satisfying. Turn everyday cheese and crackers into a culinary feat. Spread crackers of your choice with a little tomato sauce, mozzarella and finely chopped veggies, then pop them into the oven for around three or four minutes. Make sweet and salty wraps by rolling peanut butter, banana slices, fruit and granola in whole wheat tortillas.