Encourage Kids to Cook By Hosting a Cooking-Themed Birthday Party

There has been much discussion recently on the importance of teaching children to cook and instilling an interest in healthier food. In his acceptance speech, TED prize winner and renowned chef, Jamie Oliver had one wish: Teach every child about food. I agree with Jamie that children can help get families cooking again, and am excited to bring you today’s post in support of kids in the kitchen.

Does your child have a birthday approaching? This year, why not skip the Disney themes and host a cooking party instead? Children can learn how to bake from scratch, toss pizza dough and decorate cupcakes –all in a playful atmosphere of fun!

What better way to foster a love of the cooking? Extra bonus points for those who can squeeze in a garden tour as well…

This smashingly successful ‘Cooking School’ party template was created by my good friend and mother of three, Linda M. In it, children participate in four engaging’cooking classes’, decorate a hat and apron for a craft,  and play a food-related game. When it’s all said and done, every child leaves with homemade goodies, a keepsake apron and a taste of cooking that will hopefully leave them hungry for more.

This party is recommended for children ages six and up, and not geared toward any particular gender, although the ten-year-olds pictured above made it look tailor-made for them!

How to Host a Cooking Party: Suggested Timeline, Tips & Links

10:45-11:15 Arrival of guests. Craft: Decorate Chef’s Hats and/or Aprons

  • Hats: Purchase paper chef hats or make your own using this easy Chef Hat tutorial.
  • Aprons: Use the simple DIY Dish Towel Apron tutorial found HERE. (sewing required)
  • Decorations: Markers, glitter pens, scrapbooking materials.

11:15-11:45 Cooking Class 1: Cupcake Batter

Suggested activity: Begin with a Treasure Hunt for ‘Top Secret’ Cupcake Recipes. This gives mom a chance to clear the table from the hat/apron decorating and set out ingredients for making the cupcake batter. Once the mystery has been solved, wash hands, don aprons and hats and prepare cupcakes.

Divide into two groups of 2-4 children, each with an adult supervising. Prepare one or two of your favorite recipes and pop them into the oven, or pick from the suggestions below:

11:45-12:00 Game: The Smelling/Tasting Game

Allow children to explore their senses by having them smell and taste various food and drink items while blindfolded and try to correctly identify them. Have an older child or grown-up supervise the game while you clear cupcake dishes and set up for making pizza.

Ingredient suggestions for the game:

  • Taste: berries, lemon, powdered sugar, olive, celery, licorice, butter, pickle
  • Smell: coffee, vinegar, cinnamon, peanut butter, soy sauce

12:00-12:15 Cooking Class 2: Individual Pizza

Preheat oven to 450°F. Provide each child with a rolling pin and a small ball of dough (recipe below). Set out sauce and pre-prepared toppings and let each child make their own mini pizza.

Tip: Identify individual pizzas by penciling childrens’ names onto squares of parchment paper. To transfer to oven, simply slide parchment onto baking trays or pizza stone.

12:15-12:30 Cooking Class 3: Salad on a Stick

While the pizzas bake, have the children assemble fresh produce on wooden skewers for a creative and fun approach to salad. Provide a dip or dressing, if desired.

Ideas for ‘Salad on a Stick’:

  • cherry tomatoes
  • peppers
  • celery
  • mushrooms
  • olives
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers

Suggestion: If available and seasonal, take children on a quick backyard garden tour and let them pick their own salad vegetables.

12:30-1:10 Lunch and Opening of Gifts

Pizza time! Following lunch, adults tidy and set up for decorating the cupcakes while the gift are being opened.

1:10-1:30 Cooking Class 4: Decorate Cupcakes

Set out cooled cupcakes, several piping bags of colored frosting, and various toppings such as sprinkles for the cupcakes.

Wash hands and decorate cupcakes together. Immediately following, have children pick one cupcake to enjoy and package the rest for them to take home. Don’t forget to sing Happy Birthday!

Tip: Disposable piping bags are available at baking supply stores. A ziplock bag with one corner snipped off also works in a pinch.

Suggestion: Purchase small cardboard cake boxes from a baking supply store for children to bring cupcakes home in.

Frosting Recipes:

Mom’s Do Ahead

  • Send invitations. Tip: Write them up on recipe cards.
  • Make Aprons (they will also double as a take-home gift) and hats.
  • Purchase and Prepare ALL ingredients for Cupcakes & Frosting, Pizza, Salad and Beverages.
  • Prepare Pizza dough. (May be done a day in advance and refrigerated)
  • Have cupcake recipes printed out in large text.
  • Make and color frosting. (May be done a day in advance and refrigerated)

Have fun!

At the end of the day, you’ll still be left with the clean-up, but knowing that you have planted a seed in those children’s lives will make it all the more worthwhile.

Recipe: Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour

By Mixer:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand a few minutes, then add salt and olive oil. Mix well using the dough hook.
  2. Add whole wheat flour and beat well for one minute. Add white flour and mix until combined. Knead on lowest setting for 2-3 minutes, adding more flour if overly sticky.
  3. Remove dough hook, cover bowl with a towel and let rise 1 1/2 hours before using. Alternatively, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let proof overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and allow to double in bulk (rise) before using.

By Hand:

  1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand a few minutes then stir in salt and olive oil.
  2. Using a stiff wooden spoon, stir in whole wheat flour and beat well. Add white flour and mix until the dough becomes a rough, shaggy mass.
  3. Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead for about five minutes, adding more flour if overly sticky; dough should be smooth.
  4. Return dough to bowl and cover with a towel.  Let rise 1 1/2 hours before using. Alternatively, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let proof overnight in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and allow to double in bulk (rise) before using.

Makes enough for six individual pizzas.
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A warm ‘Thank You” to Linda, who let me steal most of her ideas for this post; and for Sarah (above) who let me crash her party. Happy Birthday Sarah!

How important do you think it is to encourage children in the kitchen? Do you think your child would enjoy a cooking birthday party?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. Fantastic idea. I have two boys who would love a cooking party – as long as the food being made was sports related :)
    It’s incredibly important to get kids in the kitchen for they are the cooks of the future. But kids are kids and not all of them will want to spend large amounts of time preparing meals or even baking treats. I used to get my boys in the kitchen all the time, but as they get older they have less free time and they don’t want to spend it cooking. So we now involve them in other ways….meal planning, setting the table, chopping a few veggies and making school lunches (they think this is really fun!).
    .-= Jan (Family Bites)’s last blog: Free-for-All Cookies =-.

  2. My kiddos love to cook. When ever I make dinner I don’t have to ask for help they are right there waiting to cut, stir, or sample. I love the idea of a cooking party. A friend of mine invited a bunch of the young girls over including my daughter they made homemade pizzas and for dessert ice cream sundaes. My daughter has been wanting to have a baking party. This sounds fun.
    .-= Rana’s last blog: Dinner at Dads =-.

  3. What a fun way to party! I teach a couple kids in my neighborhood cooking classes. It is fun to watch them get excited about food and being in the kitchen. This is a great way to spread the cooking love to friends:)
    .-= Maria’s last blog: 2peas3-0 =-.

  4. This is a fabulous idea! Hmmm, I wonder if a garden themed party would also go along those lines. Fresh picked salad, a grill or fire pit for roasting produce on kebabs or cooking flatbread pizzas; edible flowers, such as violets, to decorate cupcakes, and a take-home potted plant or seed and decorated canvas gloves for the craft. How about a bug watch using magnifying glasses for the treasure hunt?

    My eldest has set the stakes high for her younger siblings when it comes to cooking. At two, it was impossible to keep her from employing a knife for chopping food. I think children would rather be taught to use the tools they see us working with than be given toy versions and fake food to pretend with. Why not let them start with the real thing? Now at six she can cook oatmeal, scramble eggs, fix up a soup or salad, bake cookies and granola, flip pancakes and make hot cocoa from scratch.
    .-= Sara’s last blog: Happy Birthday Reuben! =-.

    • I love the idea of a garden party! I’m sure cooking over a fire-pit would be a hit with the young boys, too. You’ve got some fantastic ideas there, Sara!

      I let my boys use real tools too–in fact we’ve got a post in the works on knife skills for toddlers. I think if they are well supervised – why not?

  5. Jillian, my 8 year old, just read through this with me and gives it “two thumbs up” – especially for the pizza! :-)

    This looks like it would be really fun for kids and for parents! Thanks, Aimee!

    Here’s to celebrating and getting families cooking again!
    .-= Kara Fleck’s last blog: The Best of Both Worlds: Bringing Our Favorite Indoor Activities to the Outdoors =-.

  6. What a fun idea! I would have loved to have a cooking party as a kid. As for your question, I think it is very important to teach your kids to cook. I grew up around cooking and I’m still shocked when I meet people my age who can barely cook. And on top of that, I’ve been reading a lot of books about our lack of food culture in America, which is definitely reinforcing this belief in me.

  7. Thanks Aimee for this great article, we were quite proud to host this party and felt such pride and joy at the sucess of it… I think Sarah’s 10th party will be one she will remember for awhile… I had so much fun I hope to maybe host a summer pool party with more cooking… I am so glad that you came to peek in and encourage others … Cooking with kids rocks… :) Linda and the Murray clan

    • Oh, a summer cooking pool party? Sounds like fun–put me on that invite list! Hey, maybe I’ll even demonstrate a dish. :)

      It was my honour to be at Sarah’s party. Thanks again for everything.

  8. A couple of weeks ago we had a cooking party for my 6 year old daughter and 5 of her friends. Similar to your menu we had make-your-own pizzas, fruit kabobs and cupcakes. I made chocolate butterflies for them to top their cupcakes with. It all turned out great! Instead of party favors, they took home the aprons that I had made and their chef hats. Everyone had a fabulous time! Feedback from parents: the little girls wear their aprons everywhere-even to make their cereal in the morning! To see the butterfly cupcakes and aprons:

    http://noemptychairs.wordpress.com/2010/04/12/butterfly-wings-and-apron-strings/

    My twelve year old daughter also had a fondue birthday party last year with her friends, and it was a big hit as well. Thanks for all of the great ideas!
    .-= Kelly’s last blog: Crock Pot Italian Drip Beef =-.

  9. This is a great post, Aimee – your friend is spot on! Even though a do-it-yourself party like this is pretty simple, a lot of parents don’t have the time to put it all together. That’s most likely why cooking birthday parties are such a large component of my business. But this post gives parents everything they need to do it themselves! The best part is that it is totally customizable, based on the seasonality of ingredients and the taste preferences of the guest of honor. What a fantastic way to spend quality time together with family and friends – and they don’t even notice that they are getting better eating habits along the way!
    .-= Michelle (What’s Cooking)’s last blog: Eating Meat – Ethics, Budget and Real Cost =-.

  10. I’ve got to admit that the thought of hosting this in my own kitchen is a little frightening but I think I can wrap my head around the garden party and the fire pit. Now that sounds like great party fun!
    .-= Tina’s last blog: The Power Wheels Little People Tot Rod Provides 2 Stage Learning =-.

  11. There is actually a place here in town (if it is still open) that specializes in cooking classes for kids. And, of course, birthday parties are a big draw for them. I’ve never checked out though.
    .-= Cheryl Arkison’s last blog: Sunday Dinners =-.

  12. We did a cooking party for the 4th birthday celebrations. Our take-home was a layered jar of ginger cookie mix with cutters and a wooden spoon. All the kids made their own cookies when they got home – it felt like we did our little part to encourage other families to cook together.

    • Very cool, Jess, and for four-year-olds, too!! That’s wonderful. What kind of cooking did you do with the little ones? Did it hold their attention?

  13. LOVE THIS!

  14. I love this post! What great ideas!
    Since I am child-free, I “adopted” the kids next door and began teaching them bread and pasta making at age 3 or 4. Now, 10 years later, they love being in the kitchen and even know a few recipes by heart.
    I am looking for more kids to mentor- if you live in Mpls and are looking for fun in the kitchen, check out the Catalyst Cooks FB page- lots of class offerings for ‘kids’ of all ages!
    Cooking is such a joy!
    .-= Jen the Catalyst’s last blog: The Making of the Burgers =-.

  15. Angelica Perez says:

    I love, love, love this post! How creative and fun! With 4 kids, I run out of birthday ideas quickly. This cooking theme birthday party sounds great, as it touches upon so many areas/skills that are good for kids: cooking and social skills; preparation and planning; healthy eating and, of course, lots of fun with friends! I can totally see this idea going well for boys who like to bake, or even cook.
    Thanks!

    Angelica @ Modern Familia

  16. Wow, I love it! We have to make most of my daughter’s (20 months) foods from scratch because of her food allergies, so I often have the opportunity to let her help out. I think pizza and cupcakes could easily be turned into a pre-school party, probably with a smaller group though! By the time I entered middle school I was reguarly cooking dinner on my own and I’d love to see her be able to do the same. What an important life skill and this is a great way to share it with her friends too!

    I’m looking forward to the knives and toddlers post. Currently she knows, “danger, sharp; move your fingers!” but I wouldn’t mind introducing her to safe knife use.
    .-= Chris’s last blog: Hold on tight =-.

  17. I love this idea. As a kid I remember cooking with other kids fairly regularly, although not as a birthday party. I think we used to set up a street-side stall and try to sell our goodies to neighbours. That said, my friend Mike and I cooked our own birthday cake together when we were about 8. It’s still talked about as ‘that bastard cake’ since we tried to pile on as much icing as possible… in lovely puke green and yellow (!). It was so ugly! We had great fun though and it *was* tasty.
    .-= Amanda S. (Mindful Table)’s last blog: Finally, Oceanwise in Quebec =-.

  18. My son had a cooking party for his 6th birthday this year. It was held at a local place that does cooking classes for kids. He had 12 kids total and the boys had as much fun as the girls. My husband and I were free to shoot photos and video which we offered to the other kids’ parents as keepsakes. Instead of gifts we asked people to bring donations to the food bank. Later that week I took my son on a tour of the food bank and we dropped off the donations. The staff made a big deal over hima dn he felt really proud to be helping out others. My son is a very picky eater but loves to help in the garden and cook. Slowly over the years he has been open to at least trying new things because he has helped to grow or prepare them.

  19. Love it! Those dishtowel aprons turned out sooo cute. My daughter and I planned a cooking party for her birthday. I did a couple posts about here. She was only five (did doesn’t like pizza!) so we had to dial things down a bit, but it was still fun!

    Thanks for sharing all your ideas.

    http://twoshortpeople.blogspot.com/2010/05/cooking-party-for-five-year-old.html
    http://twoshortpeople.blogspot.com/2010/05/birthday-taste.html

  20. I LOVE this idea. My 4-year-old and I cook together, my boys have only had limited interest, but my little girl loves to cook and bake (she has some recipes posted on my parenting website with her showing step-by-step instructions.) I’m hoping to foster a love for cooking and eating food made from scratch, and I think a cooking party is an excellent idea!
    Lisa’s last post: Molten Chocolate Cobbler

  21. Hi,
    I was wondering if this recipe would freeze well. I have been looking for a whole wheat pizza dough i could freeze and take out when I am in a hurry. (Which seems to be always.) :) Thanks

  22. Great help this was for my daughter’s 7 th birthday…… have also thought of adding up some mock-tails for the girls to prepare and relish….will love to post my experience of the party

  23. I will try out all of your advises when my daughter will be a bit older. Thank you!

  24. What a stellar idea!

    One question – you don’t have listed the time/temp to bake the pizzas; is the standard 475F until golden brown recommended or is there a different time/temp combo for this dough?

    Thanks!

  25. This is perfect and we do offer cooking parties with our fantastic kids cookery club, Crafty Cooks. So, if you didn’t want to have to do it all yourself, we could come in with everything prepped and take away all the washing up too! We also do themed cooking parties which are fantastic fun too. Loved your article:)

  26. I am definitely going to use this idea. I love your website!

  27. love this website, delicious :D

  28. Delicious website :D
    Papas Cooking Games’s last post: Papas Wingeria

  29. Thank you so much for this post. I just finished hosting this party for my eight year old daughter, her five year old sister, and six of their friends (two year old daughter played with Dad and decorated a cupcake at the end) about an hour ago. The timeline really gave me the courage to give it a try. I had one adult helper, and we were able to do everything except unwrap gifts. The tasting/smelling game was a hit, but took a bit longer because people kept removing blindfolds and needing help to replace them. The kids took home the apron, four decorated cupcakes in a spiffy box, and a rose from the centerpiece. The helper really focused on clean up for most of it, and now my house looks pretty decent which is good news since I’m hosting a brunch tomorrow. It was a great day.

  30. We ordered these cookware to our Two year aged for
    Love Day to go along with the Melissa and Doug Kitchen he
    been given for Christmas time.I used to be won over a lot more while I discovered how much and
    how rapidly our child , took a liking to them.
    hapee tube.biz\u002ftv patrol’s last post: hapee tube.biz\u002ftv patrol

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