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:
- Yellow Butter Cupcakes (mixer required)
- Zucchini Cupcakes (by hand)
- Easiest Chocolate Cupcakes (all organic)
- Spice Cupcakes
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
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.
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)
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In a large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water; let stand a few minutes then stir in salt and olive oil.
- 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.
- Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead for about five minutes, adding more flour if overly sticky; dough should be smooth.
- 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.
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?