If your kids are involved in any kind of team or club, chances are good that there will be a team party at some point. Once they get to high school, a lot of teams have weekly dinners the night before game day so all of the parents have an opportunity to feed the masses. How lucky.

Over the years and through 3 kids I have hosted A LOT of team dinners and it doesn’t stress me out like it used to because I’ve figured some ways to make it manageable for me and great for the kids.

Team colors set the tone

As a designer, there’s just no way I can NOT get plates and napkins in team colors. Duh. It makes the dinner more festive, and it looks like I put in way more effort than I actually did. And I ALWAYS use the Solo cups with a mini-chalkboard surface for kids to scratch their names onto. This prevents wasting cups when they can’t figure out which one is theirs, and they enjoy putting names or inappropriate expressions (high schoolers really can’t help themselves) like “Weiner” on them. I buy the cups whenever they are on sale at Target (along with the plates/napkins/forks in team colors) so I always have a stash available in the pantry.

I learned the hard way that if I leave anything edible out on the counter or table (say, garlic bread) that the kids will assume it is available for consumption and it might be gone before dinner is served. I set the food up buffet style (once everything is ready) but my hubby and I serve the kids, cafeteria style. This way we can manage the portions to make sure that everyone gets a plate before the first kid comes back for a second round.

As far as the menu goes, the team seems to appreciate the food regardless of whether I opened a jar of sauce and dumped it on noodles or simmered organic beef with homegrown sauteed tomato sauce all day. So the menu usually reflects how the rest of the week is going. I hosted the dinner before the championship game last week so I decided to go nuts and make bacon cheddar mashed potatoes and sliced chicken breasts marinated in chipotle bbq sauce. I made most of the food the day before so I just needed to toss a salad and heat everything up.

Homemade (obviously) but you could order from a bakery

I also like to bake a cake for the occasion, I’m no Betty Crocker so I’m fine with a cake out of a box. Any dinner feels like a party if you have a cake or cupcakes for dessert, particularly if it’s decorated with team colors and has the kids’ names or jersey numbers on it.

Lots of food, lots of fun

I think the secret to a successful team dinner is not to stress too much and make sure the kids know that they are welcome in your home and you’re really glad to have them there.