Entertaining your children's friends is never an easy task, and coming up with an idea for a birthday party is often harder. When Fresh Baby creator Cheryl Tallman's son Spencer turned 5, the event was celebrated with a cooking-school extravaganza. For two and a half hours, Cheryl and her husband transformed their home into "The Cooking School for Brilliant Kids." Here, she shares just how she did it!
Cheryl Tallman: We started out doing a little research on the Internet and ordered disposable chef hats and aprons, and picked up a few kid-sized cooking utensils to use in the take-home gift bags. We also planned the menu and developed a schedule for the party.
Before the children arrived, we covered a ping-pong table with white paper, did some prep on the foods and decorated the dining-room table for the birthday luncheon with balloons and the "Star Wars" tablecloth and plates that Spencer had picked out.
As the kids arrived, they were fitted with their chef hats and aprons, and we took a digital photo. We printed out their names (i.e., "Chef Spencer") on plain paper, cut them out and used clear packaging tape to stick their names on their aprons and hats. While we were waiting for all the guests to arrive, the children were given stickers so they could decorate their chef hats. This gave them something to do and also gave them some time to get comfortable.
The party menu included French bread pizza, pigs in blankets, carrots sticks and green beans, and for dessert, ice cream and cupcakes. Our school started with a "group" experience of making ice cream. Each child took a turn pouring, measuring or whisking while the others watched attentively. We poured our ice cream into the machine and moved on to making lunch.
We spread the kids out around the table and started with the French bread pizza. Each child took a piece of bread and "painted" it with pizza sauce, then sprinkled it with cheese, added pepperoni and placed their creation on a cookie sheet. The pigs in blankets were next. Each child took a piece of crescent-roll dough that had already been separated and put onto a piece of wax paper. They picked up a hot dog with tongs, rolled the dough around the hot dog and placed their creation on another sheet pan.
After the main course was prepared, we took a class photo, and then it was time for a break while the master chef (me!) put everything in the oven. The kids all went into the living room for a game of "Pin the Mustache on the Chef," followed by a magic show put on by my husband, Roger, who had picked up some magic books at the library the week before. By the time the entertainment was done, the kids' masterpieces were ready to be served. In the dining room, each child's plate held a piece of pizza, a pig in a blanket, some carrot sticks and green beans. The kids were so excited about their accomplishments. They all happily and proudly ate their lunch.
After lunch, it was back to cooking school for cupcake decorating. We had colored icing bags (tied at the top) and an assortment of sprinkles. This was the BEST event of all -- the kids had a great time. The creativity of a 5-year-old is absolutely precious. After about 20 minutes, it was back to the dining room, where we sang "Happy Birthday" and gobbled up our cupcakes and homemade ice cream. After that, we opened gifts and gave out the take-home gift bags. Two and a half hours seemed to fly by.
Spencer's thank-you notes were sent with a certificate (printed on our home computer) from "The Cooking School for Brilliant Kids," and included the child's picture and the class photo.
We learned that a cooking party is a great theme to entertain kids, keep them engaged and teach them some new skills. This party was quite affordable, too -- about $100 total. It just required some up-front planning, a little research and some creativity to make it fun!
If you're thinking of having your own cooking extravaganza, here are few tips that you might find useful:
- Keep the recipes simple and have the steps written down.
- Do food prep in advance, so kids aren't waiting and you can avoid the use of knives, graters and other dangerous utensils.
- Make the experience hands-on. A combination of group recipes and individual ones worked well to keep the kids focused.
- Have an adult work the oven or stove, and keep the kids away from them.
- Use a big table for your workspace (the ping-pong table was perfect) and line it with paper (or a plastic tablecloth) for easy cleanup.
- At $2 per kid, the chef hats and aprons were totally worth it -- not one kid took them off during the party. We heard that one girl wore her hat all day!
Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. With products that include the So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats, Fresh Baby offers parents convenient and practical support in raising healthy children. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy-eating habits! Fresh Baby products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains, including Target, Wild Oats and Whole Foods Markets.