Cook Up Birthday Fun!

By: Robin Lundgren


Looking for a unique, affordable idea for a child’s birthday party? Step into your kitchen and smell the possibilities!

With a little planning, a kid’s cooking party can be fun, educational and affordable! Kids love helping in the kitchen and enjoy learning practical skills like how to weigh and measure ingredients. Customize the party to your child’s age group, preparing anything from cupcakes to casseroles. Keys to success:  stick to baked recipes requiring primarily assembly and mixing, and keep your guest list manageable. Once you’ve planned a menu, round out the party with additional, age-appropriate activities (decorating placemats/aprons or painting mugs/plates).

Here’s a plan for a simple cooking party you can host for eight children of any age. Assemble everything in advance and enlist the help of a couple of adults. Your kids and their friends will eat it up!

Cooking Party Plan

1. Invitations: Raid your recipe box. Use blank recipe cards for invitations, filling in preprinted categories with party information. i.e. “Recipe for: Caitlin’s Birthday Cooking Party.”

2. Arrival activity: Snack Mix and Placemat

As guests arrive, invite them to make bags of snack mix and to decorate placemats.

Smore’s Snack Mix

Here’s what you need….

• 1 large bowl each – small animal-shaped graham crackers, mini marshmallows and milk chocolate chips

• 8 zip-top bags or plastic containers, labeled with each guest’s name

• Three 1-cup measuring cups

• A poster-sized recipe card listing ingredients and directions as follows:

• S’more’s Snack Mix

• 1 cup small graham cracker shapes

• 1 cup mini marshmallows

• 1 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions:  Measure ingredients into zip-top bag or plastic container. Mix thoroughly. Enjoy!


Provide each child with a piece of poster board or cardstock approximately 12”x18”. Have markers, stickers, crayons and other craft materials available for decorating. Finished placemats can be laminated or covered with clear contact paper by one of your adult helpers while the kids move on to…

The Cooking Part

Here’s what you need….

• 4 box dessert mixes: Brownies, cupcakes, cookies or muffins

• Additional ingredients as required to make each box mix

• 4 sets of baking supplies, including bowls, measuring utensils, spatulas, baking pans

• Icing

• Sprinkles and candies for decorating

• 8 plastic, disposable storage containers (large enough to hold 1/8 of each finished recipe) labeled with each child’s name

Divide children into four teams of two. Provide each team with a box dessert mix, any additional ingredients and a set of baking supplies. Have children read and follow the directions on their box (read directions to younger children). All ages may require measuring assistance. Encourage cooperative work and turn-taking among teams.

While preparations are taking place, preheat your oven. Bake cupcakes first, so they will be cooled and ready to decorate later. When the cupcakes are done, continue baking other desserts.

While desserts are baking, serve pizza and cake and open presents. By then, the cupcakes will be ready to decorate.

Divide the cupcakes evenly among the kids. Have children ice and decorate their cupcakes with sprinkles and candies. Divide the other baked goods into the plastic storage containers, adding each child’s decorated cupcakes to his/her box as they are finished.  

At the end of the party, your guests will leave with a box of desserts, snack mix, a placemat and the memory of a really fun time!

This Helps Develop….

Cognitive skills – the mental process of knowing by developing awareness, perception and reasoning.

Children practice following a recipe by reading it independently or with assistance. Recipes on boxed mixes are often accompanied by pictures that provide visual cues for directions, which help facilitate pre-reading skills in young children. Cooking activities are also great for practicing measuring skills. Kids physically feel the weight and visually see what the amount looks like.

 Fine motor skills – the use of small muscle movements in the hands that occur in coordination with the eyes.

When cooking, children work on many skills including cracking eggs, measuring ingredients, mixing and pouring. Younger children may need help executing these tasks. Children often need verbal cues to use both hands independently of one another (e.g. “Hold the mixing bowl steady with your left hand and stir with the mixing spoon in your right.”). When making placemats, drawing, writing and coloring skills are practiced.

Language – the expressive ability to communicate ideas and needs, and the receptive ability to understand what is said or written.  

A child’s party naturally lends itself to a language enriched environment. When you get eight happy children together in a room, it buzzes with excitement. Children talk about what they are doing, how much fun they are having and how wonderful their baked goods smell and taste.

Social emotional development – involves a child’s feelings of self worth and confidence.  

With proper planning, a party is a fun, safe environment to promote social interactions among children. Be sure party guests have the assistance necessary to successfully complete recipes. Young children might require adult help or benefit from being paired with older peers. Many children embrace the chance to pass on knowledge. Cooking provides opportunities for negotiating, turn taking and time management skills. For many kids, nothing beats the feeling of camaraderie experienced when honing skills in a cheerful and supportive environment.

This monthly family activity series, “Hands-on-Kids!” is brought to you by a partnership between the Children’s Science Center (CSC) and FAMILY Magazine. For more activities you can do with your children to spark their love of learning, visit the CSC web site, On their web site you will also find information about the Children’s Science Center and how you can become involved. CSC is committed to building a place where our children can freely explore and develop a lifelong love of learning. Robin Lundgren, a CSC volunteer, is a freelance writer and Vice President of Aquarian Entertainment. “This Helps Develop” is written by Stephanie Rice, a former Fairfax County Special Education teacher who holds a Master’s degree in Education and Human Development.

About WF Staff

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