cooking with brilliant kids

Entertaining your children’s friends is never an easy task and coming up with an idea for a birthday party is often harder. Last Sunday my little guy, Spencer turned five and the event was celebrated with a cooking school extravaganza. For 2 ½ hours my husband and I transformed our home into “The Cooking School for Brilliant Kids“. It might sound a bit crazy, but it was a fantastic, fun experience for everyone involved! It was such a huge hit with the kids that I wanted to share the experience and the idea with you.

We started out doing a little research on the Internet and found a neat web site called We ordered disposable chef hats and aprons, and picked up a few kid-sized cooking utensils to use in the take-home gift bags. We also planned the menu and developed a schedule for the party.

Before the children arrived, we covered a ping pong table with white paper, did some prep on the foods, and decorated the dining room table for the birthday luncheon with balloons and the Star Wars tablecloth and plates that Spencer picked out.

When each kid arrived, they were fitted with their chef hat and apron, and we took a digital photo. We printed out their names (i.e “Chef Spencer”) on plain paper, cut it out, and used clear packaging tape to stick their name on their apron and hat. While we were waiting for all the guests to arrive, the children were given stickers to decorate their chef hats. This gave them something to do – and also gave them some time to get comfortable.

The party menu included french bread pizza, pigs in a blanket, carrots sticks and green beans, and for dessert, ice cream and cupcakes. Our school started with a “group” experience of making ice cream. Each child took a turn pouring, measuring, or whisking, while the others watched attentively. We poured our ice cream in the machine and moved onto making lunch.

We spread the kids out around the table and started with the french bread pizza, each child took a piece of bread and “painted” it with pizza sauce, sprinkled cheese, added pepperoni, and placed their creation on a cookie sheet. The pigs in a blanket were next. Each child took a piece of crescent roll dough that were already separated onto a piece of wax paper. They picked up a hot dog with tongs and then rolled the dough around the hot dog, and they were placed on another sheet pan.

After the main course was prepared, we took a class photo, and it was time for a break while the master chef (Cheryl) put everything in the oven. The kids all went into the living room for a game of “Pin The Mustache On The Chef”, and a magic show put on by Cheryl’s husband Roger, who picked up some magic books at the library the week before. By the time entertainment was done, the kid’s masterpieces were ready to be served. In the dining room each child’s plate had a piece of pizza, a pig in the blanket, some carrot sticks and green beans. The kids were so excited about their accomplishment. They all happily and proudly ate their lunch.

After lunch, it was back to cooking school for cupcake decorating. We had colored icing bags (tied at the top) and an assortment of sprinkles. This was the BEST event of all, the kids had great time. The creativity of a five year old is absolutely precious. After about 20 mintues, it was back to the dining room, were we sang “Happy Birthday”, and gobbled up our cupcakes and homemade ice cream. After that, we opened gifts and gave out the take-home gift bags. Two and half hours seemed to fly by.

Spencer’s thank you notes were sent with a certificate (printed on our home computer) from “The Cooking School for Brilliant Kids”, and it included the child’s picture and the class photo.

We learned that a cooking party is a great theme to entertain kids, keep them engaged, and to teach then some new skills. This party was quite affordable too – about $100 total. It just required some upfront planning, a little research, and some creativity to make it fun!

If you are thinking of having your own cooking extravaganza, here are few tips that you might find useful:

  • Keep the recipes simple and have the steps written down to follow.
  • Do food prep in advance, so kids are not waiting, and you can avoid the use of knives, graters, and other dangerous utensils.
  • Make the experience hands-on, a combination of group recipes and individual ones worked well to keep kids focused.
  • Have an adult work the oven or stove and keep the kids away from them.
  • Use a big table for your workspace (the ping pong table was perfect) and line it with paper (or plastic table cloth) for easy clean up.
  • At $2/kid the chef hats and aprons were totally worth it – not one kid took them during the party. We heard one girl wore her hat all day!

I hope sharing this experience with you gives you inspiration for your next birthday party, brownie or cub scout meeting, or other special event. Happy Parenting! ~ Cheryl Tallman