Want to enjoy a fun time with your kids? Consider throwing a cooking
themed party for them and their friends, the latest trend in kids' entertainment.
Kids like to get their hands dirty and feel like an adult in the kitchen,
plus cooking offers an opportunity to teach them about nutrition.
Making food the focus of your child's
party is quite fitting. After all, the meal usually is the centerpiece
of an occasion. "One of the very nicest things about life is the
way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our
attention to eating," wrote Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti in
"My Own Story" (Warner Books). Yes, and how convenient to
make your child's birthday party, which usually requires jumping through
all sorts of hoops from hiring face painters to finding princess-shaped
cakes revolve around eating, something you have to get around
to doing anyway.
You could pay to have a professional
give guests a cooking lesson at an established school that specializes
in childrens' parties, such as Batter Up Kids Cooking School in Austin,
Texas. Or you can throw your own more affordable and perhaps
even more fun soiree. The goal is to make the party memorable.
Here are five tips for serving up
one delicious, do-it-yourself kiddie fiesta celebration. Get creative.
Your imagination is the limit. If you decide to have guests help bake
and decorate the birthday cake, you can make the invitations in the
shape of you guessed it a birthday cake. If you are going
to have the kids make their own cookies, use a ribbon to attach the
invitation to a cookie cutter, which can be used at the party.
The birthday girl or boy can wear
a chef's hat instead of a traditional party hat. The kids can hang up
pictures of their favorite foods for decoration. If you have the kids
make their own tacos, you can hang up a pinata for whacking after the
meal. A travel fork and spoon set or a plate make a good favor.
Set a unique table. You can pick
up rolls of brown or white packing paper to use as tablecloths; put
crayons around the table and let the kids decorate the tablecloth and
then set the table (with paper and plastic dinnerware) while they wait
for their food creations to come out of the oven.
Keep it simple. Choose simple recipes
that are fun to eat and not too exotic. (After all, most kids will opt
for hot dogs over mahi mahi any day.) Chef and author Lidia Matticchio
Bastianich suggests making dough recipes like pizza, bread and gnocchi
with kids. On her PBS cooking program, Bastianich prepared the dough
herself first and then had her young grandchildren knead and shape it
for gnocchi. For simplicity's sake, especially if you are having more
than five guests, you can prepare the dough for personal pizzas, have
the kids work with it and then let them top it with sauce, cheese and
other toppings before you put them in the oven. They'll be more excited
to dig into their own creations.
Another way to get kids involved
is baking cupcakes or cookies in advance and letting the kids apply
the icing and decorations. You could also throw a tea party and have
the kids make finger sandwiches, while you boil the water.
Stay safe. Never leave the kids
unsupervised in the kitchen. Be aware of the potential for fire with
the stovetop and oven. Move the grill to the side of the lawn, that
big pot to the back of the stove and do the prep work yourself if possible.
Also, keep knives and other potentially dangerous utensils out of kids'
reach. In other words, be sure to use good judgment and common sense.
Be prepared. Have the ingredients measured out, the vegetables or meat
cut or chopped, and the necessary utensils on the counter before guests
About Francesca: Francesca Di Meglio is an associate producer at iVillage.com, a contributing
writer for the Italian Tribune and the writer of "Our Paesani"
on ItaliansRus.com. She is an Italian American whose family hails from
Ischia, an island in the Bay of Naples.