Sugar cookies and icing aren't just for holiday parties like Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter or Hanukkah. A cookie decorating party can be a fun activity for a kids' birthday party or just about any other celebration. Children can put their creativity to work making fun sugar cookie shapes and unique and colorful icing designs.
You can either make the cookie decorating one of several activities during your child's party, or make it the central focus of an event. All you need are some sugar cookies, icing and food coloring—and the unmatchable power of kids' imaginations—and you'll have platefuls of delicious kid creations and some very proud cookie-decorating artists eager to show off, as well as eat, their handiwork.
- Disposable pastry bags, couplers, and tips, or try squeeze bottles
- Wire ties to tie off ends of pastry bags after they are filled with icing
- Sugar cookies, preferably in shapes to match the holiday, such as hearts for Valentine’s Day
- Plain white icing
- Food coloring
- Optional: sprinkles and small candies such as mini-M&Ms
- Colored sugar (available in shakers in the baking aisle)
- Bowls to hold pastry bags while in use
- Paper plates labeled with each child’s name to put their cookies on to dry
The number of pastry bags, cookies and icing you’ll need will depend on how many kids will attend the party. Assume each child will want to decorate at least 7 to 10 cookies, and that you’ll need at least one icing bag for each child. Take into consideration how many bags of each color you’ll need.
You’ll also want to take into consideration how much time the kids will be spending working on cookies. If cookie decorating will be only one phase of the party, then you probably won’t need more than seven cookies per child. If this is primarily what they’ll be doing, you may need more, perhaps 10 or even 15 for each child. Factor in at least five cookies for each adult; chances are, they’ll want to join the fun!
- Get a variety of cookie cutters for lots of shape options; consider buying some in the shape of beloved children's TV or movie characters for extra fun
- Make your cookie dough ahead of time—it'll keep in the refrigerator for a day or even two—or bake the cookies themselves a day ahead. For a super-quick option, just purchase packages of ready-made sugar cookies.
- Try a couple of different flavors of cookie dough, such as vanilla, lemon, cinnamon, etc.
- You can purchase decorating gels in many colors at the grocery store. These come in small tubes and can be used to write words or create detailed images on cookies.
- Mix icing with food colors. Depending on the holiday and cookie shapes you have, try to get an assortment of festive colors. Pink, white and red work well for Valentine’s Day, while an assortment of muted pastels like yellow, pink, pale purple and blue are lovely on Easter cookie shapes like chicks, eggs, and bunnies. You can mix colors as needed: red and blue for purple, yellow and red for orange, etc.
- Fill each bag halfway with icing, and then carefully twist close the open end of the bag and securely tie it off with a wire tie. Be sure to seal this tightly—when little hands squeeze these bags to decorate, you want to avoid icing squeezing through the opening instead of going through the tip. If you're short on bags, use a heavy-duty zip-closed plastic bag and cut a small hole in one of the bottom corners.
- Line the bottom of each bowl with damp paper towels. Place each pastry bag into a bowl with the tips pointed down. This prevents the icing in the tips from hardening. If the tips do become clogged, simply take a wooden skewer and push the hardened icing out of the tip. Place no more than 4 to 5 bags into each bowl, and set up one bowl at the table for every 4 to 5 children. If you're using colored sugar and sprinkles, place small bowls and spoons of each next to each bucket.
- Give the kids cookies and let them get to work!
Benefits for Kids
No matter what the holiday or special occasion, this activity is a big hit. Both parents and children get so much out of the experience including:
Kids love showing off their creations. Even younger siblings, who may not be able to do more than place big mounds of icing on their cookies, absolutely love it when we "ooh" and "aah" over their cookie decorating prowess.
Practice Creativity and Imagination
When adults decorate cookies, we have a tendency to reign-in our creative expression. Take a cue from your kids and join them in creating wild and gorgeous patterns. Something about the blank canvas of a cookie and colorful bags of icing unleashes the inner artist in us all.
Cooperation and Admiration
As much as kids love showing off their own work, they get a lot out of supporting one another during these parties. You’ll be amazed at the way kids can boost the spirit of a kid who’s unhappy with a cookie he made by telling him they admire his work.
Working side by side on something they love doing will create a happy crowd. Your biggest challenge will be convincing them not to devour all their creations and save some to take home.