My girls and I have hosted a cookie decorating party for at least four years now. It’s a simple to pull together holiday event that all the girls’ friends seem to love. Our fifth is coming up this weekend, so I wanted to share some tips and tricks from years past in case you would love to host a cookie decorating party with your friends, your kids friends or both.
The concept is extremely simple, you provide cookies and all the delicious things needed to decorate and let the guests work their creative magic.
Calling all cute cookie lovers
The original invitation was created years ago and I have been modifying it slightly every year; I am all about being efficient – especially when you find something that works. In the past, I used a 4”x6” version simply because we had a stockpile of photo paper that size and it printed nicely. I have recently become a fan of invitations that can be printed 3 to a page because you don’t need special sized paper and they fit in a regular size business envelope. You can download an editable PDF BSB cookie party- editable invitation. Simply open in Acrobat and click on edit to add your own details. (Other similar size printables available here.
Cookie Decorating Party Preparation
This party will run smoothly if you take the time to prepare ahead of time:
Bake sugar cookies in various shapes
I use the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix for ultimate convenience, but any recipe that works well with shaped cookies will be fine. Over the years, I have pared down the variety of shapes to about five or six. I typically do trees, stars, stockings, snowmen and gingerbread men shapes. These have been the most popular and bake up the easiest without losing small parts and pieces. If you need Christmas Cookie Cutters, these are a great option.
I bake the cookies the day before to make sure that they have cooled and dried out a little. Plus it helps to have less mess the day of the party.
Of all the methods we have used, I have found that having icing in squirt bottles is the least messy (relatively speaking) and easiest to use. Simply combine powdered sugar and milk. You may have to work with the consistency a little, but typically four teaspoons of milk to one cup of powdered sugar is a good place to start. Keep in mind the adding liquid food coloring will also help dilute the icing. Its best to make this right before the guests arrive as it can start to harden if it sets too long.
Find all the toppings
This is the really fun part. You are only limited by your imagination. We have used:
Sprinkles – the holiday ones are super cute, but can get expensive, so feel free to add some regular, non-holiday specific ones in as well.
Colored Sugar – Red and green sugar is easy to find, but the other colors can be a little trickier, plus it can get costly. Make your own colored sugar by adding a small amount to a baggie and adding food coloring drop by drop and mixing until you get the desired color. Be careful not to add too much as it can make the sugar clumpy.
Candy – M&Ms, Sixlets, Gumdrops, Peppermint (whole and crushed), mini Starburst, Sweet Tarts, Smarties – just about anything you can think of.
I have found that displaying the decorating elements in small, clear plastic punch cups keeps it as organized as possible. Each cup should have plastic spoon to dish out the goodness. I have used cupcake holders and tiered trays in the past to help keep them corralled and accessible to everyone. You can set this up the day before as well, just cover each cup with plastic wrap to keep the contents fresh.
Set up Decorating Stations
Since my girls are four years apart, we typically have a decorating station for the big girls and one for the littles. This usually means one group around the island and one around the kitchen table.
I am not typically a fan of plastic tablecloths, but this is a perfect time to use them because you are going to have at least a small mess. A runner made out of wrapping paper gives it a little more interest.
In addition to the icing bottles and toppings display mentioned above, I have paper plates and plastic knives for each girl to decorate their cookies on. They can typically 2-3 cookies per plate and then will need to set it aside to let them dry to start on a new creative batch. Last year, I finally wised up and created sticky labels for each girl to attach to her plate so we would know whose was whose when we packed them up.
It may sound like a lot of preparation, but it really does not take that long when you have a good plan.
Party Run of Show
Having an idea of what is happening when – or in what order – removes any party stress. Because the cookies will need to dry, the decorating should be done first. The girls have never stayed engaged as long as I thought they would so I always have other activities – including snacks planned.
Our games and activities have changed over the years, but we typically have some combination of the following:
- Christmas Bingo – https://crazylittleprojects.com/christmas-bingo/
- Saran Wrap Snowball Game – We always make participants put on gloves at the beginning of their turn. (We even added a scarf one year but that got dangerous as the girls tried to yank it off their pervious player so they could start their turn.) http://awesomejelly.com/the-saran-wrap-ball-christmas-party-game-is-a-seriously-good-time/
- Toilet Paper Snowman Challenge – http://www.cometogetherkids.com/2013/01/toilet-paper-snowman-game.html?m=1
- Christmas Tree Cup Stacking Game – http://thecraftingchicks.com/stacking-cups-christmas-tree-game/
Don’t feel like you have to have every minute planned. My girls love to have free time with their friends and will usually end up playing or chatting own their own.
While you can bet that your guests will have had their share of candy while decorating, you will still want to offer them a snack. As you can see from these two photos from years past, we always keep it kid-friendly with very little prep. Some options include:
- Fruit – either plain or chocolate covered
- Cheese and Crackers
- Chips and Dip
- Chex Mix
- Pigs in a Blanket
- Simple Punch – either Hawaiian Punch or White Grape Juice with Ginger Ale added in.
Packing up the cookies usually happens while the girls or snacking or just hanging out after activities. I have found that something flat with a top works best – and have used tins, holiday plastic containers – really anything that can be found at Dollar Tree or Dollar General will work. Because this is something we do annually, I stock up on containers during after-Christmas sales.
I am off to get organized for our party this week. Please let me know if you host a cookie decorating party for your kids friends or your friends – or if you have any questions. Oh and fair warning – you will still be finding sprinkles in odd places in the new year!
Stay humble, work hard, be kind.