Want to throw a Valentine party for kids? What better way to celebrate the holiday for sweethearts than by baking something sweet with children?
Kids' baking parties are all the rage, and Valentine's Day is the perfect time of year to throw one.
The key is to organize yourself ahead of time and then let go of any expectations for perfection once the party begins. Yes, things will get messy, but a few flour clouds will be worth the pride and pleasure kids will get from baking something themselves.
What Should They Bake?
More thought should go into that question than any other detail of the baking party. If you choose something that's too challenging for young children, they'll become frustrated. Likewise, older kids will be bored if the recipe is too easy.
To fit a Valentine's Day theme, consider these recipes for young children:
- Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (consider replacing the chocolate chips with red and pink-colored M&Ms)
- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
- Monkey Bread
Older children might enjoy making:
If you're crafty, sew the hats and aprons yourself. The book Sew Liberated (compare prices), by Meg McElwee, includes adorable patterns for both. Since child sizes don't require a lot of fabric, you can make them on a dime-especially if you used the secondhand fabric or fabric from your old clothes.
There's no need to go over the top with decorations. In fact, the more you can de-clutter your kitchen before the kids arrive, the better.
You could add a whimsical touch by hanging vintage aprons along the walls or above doorways or bake heart-shaped gingerbread cookies ahead of time and hang them from the ceiling with string.
Before the party, clean your kitchen thoroughly, then set up stations where two or three children will work on a recipe together.
At each station, place enough bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons and other utensils the kids will need. You might need to borrow equipment from friends or neighbors to have enough for each group. The key to success is not having to dig through cupboards looking for cooking tools when the kids are elbow deep in a canister of flour.
You'll also want to prepare the ingredients-to an extent. With very young children (ages 2 or 3), you might want to pre-measure some of the ingredients, like placing two cups of flour into a small bowl if that's what the recipe requires. But older preschoolers and certainly school-age kids will want to do most of the measuring themselves.
Use common sense when it comes to ingredients that need to be chopped. Most kids can probably handle a knife at a younger age than we give them credit for, but when you have a room full of knife-wielding children, things can get hairy. And scary. Always err on the side of caution.
Write up the recipes in kid-friendly language. Use large lettering and basic drawings of each step. You might want to laminate the recipes or slip them into plastic sleeves if you plan to use them again.
Also write up several cleaning tasks on slips of paper. The tasks might include "throw away food scraps," "wipe tables with a wet rag," or "sweep floor." The jobs will depend on the age and abilities of the kids.
After everyone arrives and has a chance to chitchat, dress each child in a chef's hat and apron if they aren't already wearing them. If you don't have hats, put long hair into ponytails or hold it back with headbands.
Have everyone wash their hands and then find their place at one of the baking stations. Ask one parent to stay at each station.
Give a quick demonstration of some basic baking skills, such as how to measure a cup of flour or crack an egg. Explain what the kids will be making, showing them a picture of the finished product or a sample you've already made, if possible.
Hand one recipe to each group and let them begin mixing the ingredients, with the adult's help if necessary.
Preheat the oven and start baking the treats as each group finishes its recipe.
While the food is baking, have each child draw one of the clean-up tasks from a bowl. After cleaning, send them off to another room to play a game, socialize or do a craft. (The craft activity the kids make while the food is baking could be the decorating of "homemade by me" stickers that they can use to seal their pastry boxes at the end of the party.)
Young children might enjoy hearing a baking-related story during this time, such as Fannie in the Kitchen (compare prices), by Deborah Hopkins or The Bake Shop Ghost , by Jacqueline Ogburn.
Continue baking their treats. After everything is out of the oven and cool, bring the kids back to the kitchen so they can enjoy one of the cookies, cupcakes or other goodies they've made. This could also be the time when cookies or cupcakes are frosted or decorated with candies. Just remember that you'll need to do the hand washing and clean-up routine again.
Send everyone home with a box of the treats they've made.
You can probably buy the small number of pastry boxes you'll need from a local bakery, as well as some red-and-white striped baker's twine to tie up the boxes in a charming way-and ensure little hands don't reach inside on the drive home.