Recently my son turned one, and we threw him a party based on the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The highlight of the party was an epic candy buffet, featuring a dozen different candies from OhNuts.com. In this post I’ll share tips for how you can make your own birthday party candy buffet, as well as provide specific details on how we created our Very Hungry Caterpillar candy buffet.
Choose a theme for your candy buffet
My theme came from a children’s book, but your theme could be anything–a color, a pattern, a season, even a specific type of candy. Having a theme unifies the candy and makes the table look cohesive.
Since my theme was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I wanted to accomplish two things: have bright, colorful candies that reflected the spirit and illustrations of the book, and have candies that referenced the food in the book. So not only were the candies I chose a rainbow of colors, but almost all of them were based on a fruit mentioned in the book.
Think about the location and set-up for your candy buffet
My party was fairy casual–it was picnic-style at a nearby park, and the candy buffet was available to guests throughout the whole party. Since the setting was so low-key, I didn’t want the buffet to be too precious or styled. Plus, since children would be serving themselves, the set-up had to be fairly child-friendly. Candy buffets with towering glass goblets and tiered trays can be gorgeous, but they’re not the most practical choice when small children are involved!
Additionally, think about how guests will approach the buffet. Will they know what to do? Will they know it’s appropriate for them to serve themselves? Consider making a sign to welcome them to the buffet and give any special instructions you might have. This way everyone will know that it’s available and feel comfortable digging in. Plus, signs add a nice touch and are a good chance to emphasize the theme! I made this sign using photo editing software and printed it as a 5×7 picture at a local photo shop:
Gather supplies for your candy buffet
First, of course, you’ll need candy. The amount you need depends on how many guests you have, how much candy you think they’ll eat, and also on the containers you use. A good rule of thumb is to estimate one-third to one-half of a pound per person (so one pound will be good for two-three people). If you know that your guests will be enthusiastic candy eaters, or if you’ve purchased really large containers, you may want to buy more so that the buffet looks generous and full.
We had 45 guests at our party, including a large number of children. We set out about 22 pounds of candy, and had plenty for our guests and some leftovers too! This is what over 20 pounds of candy looks like:
Aside from candy, the other major purchase will be containers to hold the candy. Glass or other transparent containers are the best for showing it off and making and a dazzling display. Giant jars and goblets look stunning, but consider that you will need to fill those extra-large containers with candy (easily 10 pounds or more) and plan accordingly. Try to assemble a wide variety of different shapes and types of containers for the best visual appeal. Thrift stores and discount stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx can be excellent sources for inexpensive bowls, jars, and vases. I used a mix of pieces I owned, items from friends, and then purchased a few containers from thrift stores to round out my collection:
To keep things sanitary, you’ll want to provide candy scoops or other serving implements. I found clear plastic ones at the 99-cent store, and decorated the handles with paper to match our table decorations. I also found some slightly nicer metal ones at Bed Bath & Beyond, and many websites also sell scoops.
Choose your candies wisely
Think about the environment of your candy buffet. Will the day be humid? Consider buying individually-wrapped candies and chocolates that won’t stick together. Will it be hot? Opt for hard candies that won’t melt, instead of soft gummies or chocolates.
Provide bags for your candy buffet
You probably don’t want your guests to have to stuff the candy in their pockets, so you’ll want to provide cute bags or containers for taking home the loot.
I used small plain white bags, known as “2 pound” size. I bought mine at Smart & Final, but you can also find them online. Another good option is to use “merchandise bags,” which are flat paper bags. You can actually run those through your printer, so you can easily and cheaply customize them at home. Keep in mind that the bigger the bag, the more candy guests are likely to take, and size accordingly.
I customized my bags with labels that I designed and printed out on full-page label sheets. All I had to do was cut them apart and they were ready to stick on!
Label the candies in your candy buffet
Labels are a must! Not only do they look cute, but they help your guests navigate the buffet and choose candies they like–and avoid ones they don’t. In this age of food allergies, it’s also a good precaution to make sure your guests know exactly what they’re eating. Not only did I label the type and flavor of the candy, but I also made sure to label candies that tasted sour, since I wasn’t sure if everyone would enjoy sour flavors.
Candies used for a Very Hungry Caterpillar candy buffet
Here’s a breakdown of the specific candies I used for our candy buffet, plus links to where you can buy them on the OhNuts.com website. The candies you choose might be different, but I hope this inspires you and gives you an idea of the variety and fun you can have with your candy choices!
Orange Milk Chocolate Balls | Twin Cherry Gummies
Wild Strawberry Gummies | Swiss Petite Assorted Fruit Candies
Swiss Petite Pear Candy | Fruit Sour Candy Balls – Green Apple (these were my favorite to eat!)
Swirl Round Lollipops | Huckleberry Jelly Beans (I cheated and called them “plum” since it’s hard to find plum candy!)
As a side note, I thought these 2″ swirl lollipops were absolutely perfect. The looked cute, and they were the exact right size to fit with a 2″ round label. I stuck a thank-you label on some of the pops and put them in the goody bags for the children.
Watermelon Slices Gummy Candy
Finally, I chose an assortment of colorful rainbow candy, like large gumballs, mini gumballs, plain m&ms, and peanut m&ms and give it more variety and color.
Have fun putting together your own birthday candy buffet! If you’re throwing a Very Hungry Caterpillar party, you might find the following resources helpful:
Very Hungry Caterpillar party ideas
Very Hungry Caterpillar cake recipe
All text and images (c) Elizabeth LaBau