Last December we hosted a cookie decorating party for my son’s preschool friends. It was a big hit with all the kids (and the parents) and it was a relatively frugal party idea and a good reason for a play date. We had a Christmas-themed cookie decorating party but you can have a cookie decorating party for a birthday, for Valentine’s day or just because it’s fun (you can pick any theme!).
I made very simple invitations, using Word software of all things. I printed them out on white paper on my home printer, glued it to a piece of green card stock and then we colored the candy cane in with crayons. I wish I would have taken a photo of the invite, but here is a digital version of it. The invite text is just a silly rhyme that I came up with. These can be as elaborate or easy as you want. We handed out the invitations at school – and the kids loving finding them in their cubbies!
Things you’ll likely need. . .
The only costs of the party were the cookie ingredients and toppings, paper plates/napkins and some light snack foods with juice. We purposely planned the party after lunch time so we just served things like carrot sticks, pretzels, cheese slices and crackers. I had most of these items already on hand – so I didn’t spend a lot of extra out of pocket, but I listed prices to give you an idea. (And frankly it was the parents who ate most of the “real food” – so I think next time I’ll do something like a Baked Brie for the parents.)
Paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils for spreading frosting
Go to the Dollar Tree! Cost about $4
Sliced carrots ($2), pretzels ($2), cheese ($3), crackers ($2), juice ($2)
I kept prices low by slicing my carrots and cheese (instead of buying pre-sliced or baby carrots). I also served foods I already had in my stockpile and fridge – so the costs listed are not additional, but actually just part of our family grocery budget.
Ingredients for sugar cookies
We made two batches of basic sugar cookies and had more than enough to go around. We had all the ingredients we needed at home.
We made just a basic sugar frosting with powdered sugar and whipping cream, but you can get frosting very inexpensively (or FREE) with coupons if you catch the right sale. I used food coloring to make a couple different colors of frosting and put them into plastic cups for easy access for the kids.
This is the area I ended up spending the most because I wanted the kids to have options – and I went a little overboard. I spent about $20 on topping ingredients – but I had a lot left over that I can use for baking or another decorating party. Be creative! Chocolate chips ($2), gummy candies ($1), sprinkles ($1.98 x 4), tubed frosting ($1.98 x 3), mini marshmallows ($0.99). Check out the Dollar Store for big movie-size boxes of candies – you probably don’t need an entire bag of candy – the box is plenty and it’s only $1. Candies like Nerds are just like sprinkles – just a little bigger. 🙂 DOTS are a also lot of fun and seemed to be a big hit.
We separated all the toppings into plastic cups so that no matter where the kids sat at the table they had choices. We didn’t expect the kids to spend the entire time decorating cookies – so we cleaned up the toy area and planned to have a “play date” as part of the party. If you have too many kids to fit around your table at one time, do shifts with kids playing while others decorated – then switch. You can have your child make a placemat for each invited friend by coloring them a picture and writing their name on a piece of construction paper or butcher wrap paper (or use the back of wrapping paper and cut custom sizes).
My husband and I teamed up with our son and baked all the cookies ahead of time. We baked all kinds of shapes and sizes – and even did letter and number cookies – since the kids are preschool age we figured they would enjoyed decorating letters from their names – and they did! (Here’s a great set of letter and alphabet cookie cutters.) I found each kid decorated about 2-4 cookies – some more, some less – so we had a lot of extra cookies. I’ll bake fewer cookies next time or plan to decorate the extras and send them home with the parents or give them to the neighbors.
I did splurge and order Star Wars cookie cutters from Williams and Sonoma and they were the biggest hit! My son felt really special because they were such special cookies to show off and he adores all things Star Wars. And I have to say they are by far the nicest cookie cutters I have ever owned – I can see us getting LOTS of future use out of them
It was fun to see all the creations the kids came up with and to hear them giggling as they ate more candy then they put on their cookies. Side note: Before you get started decorating pass around a bottle of hand sanitizer and have each kid “wash up” before you begin. You can also have a hand-washing party in the bathroom. With all the kids putting their hands in the candies it will keep germs down – especially during flu season.
Overall the cost of the party was under $50 – and that includes the $9.99 slurge on the Star Wars cookies and like I mentioned above we had a ton of baking goodies left over for our holiday cookies and for future cookie adventures, plus most of the stuff I already had in my pantry. I could have done it for a lot less had I bought fewer decorations – I think the kids would have still had fun with fewer decorating selections.
My son’s face pretty much looked like this the whole time. He had such an amazing time and so did his friends. The whole process was fun for him – the inviting, the prepping and setting up, the baking of cookies and then to have his friends over – he talked about it for days. We sent all the kids home with their decorated cookies and extra candy for the road.
I hope this post inspires you to do host a cookie decorating party! Share any ideas you might have!
What a cute idea for a party! What did the kids use to spread the icing? Did they use bags, knives, etc? Thank you!
Thank you so much for posting this! I just moved and my kids are really missing having friends over, so I thought I would invite the kids in their Sunday School class, along with the parents and do something like this! Your tips are great! I plan to blog about it once it is over. 🙂 Thanks again!
I loved your pictures and explanation of what you did. I’m going to do this in December for my son’s little friends. Did you use store bought cookie dough? Although I can make nearly everything homemade, the simple task of cookie cutting frustrates me! Last time I tried it with homemade ginger bread dough and it was a nightmare.
Also, did you do this on a weekday with just moms? Or a weekend?
Oops! One more question. Did the kids spread icing using knives or squeeze from bags?
Thanks for posting this! I’m having a Halloween cookie decorating party on Wednesday. Can’t wait to see how it goes!
those are great cookie cutters. wow, they really looked good. I have done the make your own pizza with my kids and even did it with my co workers who enjoyed it just as much as my kids and their friends did. i make the pizza dough ahead of time and have them in bags ready to go for them to pick out with different flavors. herbs, plain, honey, garlic etc. then put lots of different toppings out for them to make their own topping pizza. my kids are 3 and 4 and we have been doing this for over a year at least once a month and it is always such a treat for them. And my coworkers now want potlucks like this monthly as well. LOL
Suzanne with Laughing Wallet says
Love this idea! And believe it or not, it doesn’t just have to be for a kids party. I went to a Christmas party last year that was an all-adult affair, and they had a cookie-decorating station in one room that was quite the hit! You could also do it with cupcakes if you wanted to kick it up a notch, though cookies are probably the more economical choice.
What fun! When my oldest son was 3 years old we had our first Gingerbread House decorating party… now he is 16 and his brother is 13. We continue the tradtion every year and even though he now drives a car (gulp) and is a foot taller than me he STILL looks forward to it!! I have 13 years worth of priceless pictures! 🙂
We’re celebrating my daughter’s 6th birthday this weekend (she turned 6 on the 13th and has been such a trooper waiting out the snow after we had to cancel her party last weekend).
We have an indoor pool at our apartment so we are going to spend an hour swimming and the come back for a tea party. This is a really great idea! I have a bunch of those Betty Crocker cookie mixes from a big sale on them in Dec. so I might add this to the party right before we have tea 🙂
Cute idea Heather! The look on your son’s face is priceless. We actually own EVERY set of those Star Wars cookie cutters and I paid full price for every single one of them. They were worth the splurge, they are a HUGE hit at our house.
I was really impressed with the quality of the cookie cutters! They even had a little button on the back that pushes the cookie out – so awesome for sugar cookies! 🙂 Wahoo for cookies, Star Wars and sweet memories.