Want a great idea for a kids' party? Try hosting a cookie decorating party!
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, of course—and voila! 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.
What You Will Need
- Disposable pastry bags, couplers, and tips, preferably #2 (available at many kitchen and houseware stores or baking supply retailers such as King Arthur Flour or even Amazon). 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
- Food coloring
- Colorful sanding sugar—you know, sprinkles! (optional)
- Small measuring cup sized buckets or large sturdy cups 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. Also take into consideration how many bags of each color you’ll need—for instance, if you’re having a group of children at a Valentine’s Day cookie decorating party, you’ll want at least two bags of red icing for every five kids.
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. But 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!
Additional Preparation Quick Tips
- Get a variety of cookie cutters for lots of shape options.
- 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.
- Try a couple different flavors of cookie dough, such as vanilla, lemon, cinnamon, etc.
How to Get the Cookie Party Started
- Mix icing with food colors (your child can have fun helping with this part). 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.
- 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.
- Line the bottom of each small bucket or big cup with damp paper towels. Place each pastry bag into a cup or bucket 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 bucket, and set up one bucket at the table for every 4 to 5 children. If you're using sanding sugar and sprinkles, place small bowls and spoons of each next to each bucket.
- Give the kids cookies and let them get to work!
What Kids Will Get (Besides Cookies!)
Over the years, I’ve hosted numerous cookie decorating parties, and I’ve come to realize that no matter what the holiday or special occasion, this activity is a big hit. Here’s what I think both kids and parents get out of these parties:
- A sense of pride. 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.
- A chance to let their imaginations and creativity run free. I’ve noticed that when adults decorate cookies, we have a tendency to rein-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 each other they like the other’s work.
- Fun! 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.