Thank you, Chris for this fantastic post!
First, I want to thank Michelle for this fun opportunity to write for a blog other than my own! I am a huge fan of Scholastic and all they do. So, I am honored to be a guest on this site, especially as she is a finalist for the Scholastic Parent & Child Parent Blogger Awards in the Green category!
As far as children go, I don’t have any, nor are children in my life plan. So, why write about cooking with kids? Because I can, of course. *grin*. Seriously though, a former educator/administrator, liking kids (and having patience) has sort of been a prerequisite. And then, there are the roles I must fulfill as the surrogate auntie with my friends children, as well as babysitter for the post-Pull Up age children. (I don’t do diapers…really. Never changed-a-one.)
So, what does a single, non girly girl do with my other people’s children when asked to plan a fun get-together? We partake in an afternoon of baking fun can bring smiles and joy. I find cookies enjoyable, especially if decorating is involved. But, cupcakes and brownies work too! Whatever it is you choose to do in the kitchen, here are a couple of things I have learned after facilitating a few afternoons of flour flights, confection conveyance, and sprinkle splash, along with some of the specifics I did that worked.
Have a plan. To help with that plan, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where will the cooking/baking take place?
- What is your time frame?
- How many will be participating?
- What do you want to make? What is the recipe and its requirements?
- Do you have all the necessary ingredients/tools/pans?
- Decorating? Will the item be prepared &/or baked prior to the activity?
Furthermore, set up is critical. Set up includes guidelines and a little reminder session of do’s and don’ts. For instance, a quick run through of health and safety tips is never a bad idea. Does everyone have their aprons/smocks? Hair tied back? Does everyone have a towel or two, one damp, one dry? To lessen the “I am hoping my kitchen doesn’t look like a tornado hit it” tone, the reminder session is a great time to incorporate a swag bag. Swag bag? Yup! A bag of inexpensive, but fun goodies that make everyone feel part of the group. Hair baubles, aprons (plastic are great), food service plastic gloves, little towels, etc. are fun finds for the participants.
Some other thoughts? There is nothing wrong, with kids of all ages, having “stations”, or place settings in which to work. Then, in the middle of the table, or placed throughout the work area, Lazy Susans are great tool to house the decorative items, like pre-bagged icings, small bowls of sprinkles/sugars, a box of toothpicks, and cookie cutters.
Cookie cutters are important if the party begins at the dough. If so, I would strongly suggest (while I understand kids love to crack the eggs), that the dough be mixed prior to rolling out for shaping. A perfect dough for that is Lydia’s Sugar Cookie Dough, which she includes with her Drop in and Decorate information. The best sugar cookie dough I have come across, it is pliable, very forgiving, not too sweet, and enjoyed by all who taste.
As far as the icing in the decorating bags, I find, with the exception of a star, tips aren’t really necessary. But, what I do find helpful is having some random pictures/clip cart of different items for the kids to reference. While they are not necessary, I feel the pictured give the less creativity inclined an idea or two. A jumping off point is always promising. For the kids who are more inspired, they can just dig in and ice away.
How does that sound? Have you hosted parties before? What have you found helpful?
If you cook with your kids, we’d love for you to do a guest post for us, too! Thanks, in advance, for helping to inspire a nation of families to cook with their children.