Last week, I visited my daughter’s school and led a fun food class (all veggies for this sweets-free school). Well, I went back with some cookies and icing in hand for a cookie decorating session with her class, twenty-plus four and five-year olds. There was no avoiding the sweets part with this one, no matter how healthy I tried to get with the recipes, but we all just (happily) accepted this exception. I also had to hobble around on crutches given I sprained my ankle the night before, so that was a bit of a spectacle.
How did I sprain my ankle you ask? I didn’t trip on a sidewalk.. No. I fought a motley crew of bandits. Yeah. Bandits.
(Once again, forgive the pictures, I cropped out the kids to protect their identites. This one above is my own kid.)
I love watching kids decorate cookies. Mostly, because they approach it with such fervor and joy. Every year, the store where I worked for many, many years, Bundles of Cookies, hosts a kid’s cookie decorating booth for a town event, Imagination Bethesda. And every year, we (now they) bake hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cookies for the kids, kids who snake down the block waiting in line for the chance to squeeze some icing. And you learn a thing or two over the years. Some generalizations: The youngest of the group, ages 2, 3, maybe 4, go for speed and volume. That means they are in and out in minutes, but still manage to pile several inches of icing on their cookie. The older kids, ages 10 to 14, usually (but not always) the girls, take their time. They concentrate, they look at the samples, they decorate with impressive precision.
While at the store, I also volunteered with The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health, a residence for very sick children receiving treatment and their families. I’d bring all the cookie decorating supplies one day in Spring so the children could decorate and photograph cookies for fundraising Christmas cards. This was a much different experience than a street festival. There, the kids were not rushed along to make way for more kids. There, I hung out with the kids. We chatted about why they were at the Inn. I worked with each child to guide them in cookie decorating so they could create their masterpieces. And masterpieces they were. I was pretty humbled by the cookie talent year after year.
Cookies and icing, what a fantastic creative medium for kids!
what to bring to a kids’ cookie decorating event
cookies of course, and some decorated samples
Lots of cookies. I cut out four shapes for each child, and there are 21 kids in the class. That’s 84 cookies, plus some extra. Choose simple shapes, circle, star, hearts… I included butterflies because they studied butterflies and elephants because they are “The Pre-K Elephants.” Find the cookie recipe HERE.
icing in bags
Prepare and color the icing ahead of time. Because these are younger children, I skipped the black and red, the worst stain offenders. I chose pink, orange, yellow, lime green, blue, purple and white. I made three of each, for 21 bags, so each child could have a bag at the same time. Ideally, I’d have had even more bags to avoid fighting over colors, but I’m only one person and it takes forever to make all those icing bags. Don’t mess with the tips and couplers since you’ll be tossing these at the end. Put a scoop of icing, not too full for little hands, in a disposable decorating bag, close tightly with a rubber band, and right before decorating, snip 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the end. Find the royal icing recipe HERE. For all my bags I needed almost two batches. I used Americolor Soft Gel Pastes to color the icing. Find the bags in the craft store.
A handy decorating tool, if you can deal with the mess. Avoid the tiny non-pareils, they are the worst since they roll all over the floor. If you can find a bunch of cheap, plastic shakers, all the better. I temporarily emptied out a bunch of my small sprinkle containers and divided these rainbow jimmies among them. Then put all the sprinkles back later with a funnel. Sigh.
marshmallows and food writers
The back-up plan. These are a good thing to have around for those with allergies or needing gluten-free. And kids love drawing on marshmallows. Food Writers can be found in the craft store, though a box can be somewhat pricey. I have so many that I didn’t need to purchase any, so this was a no-brainer for me. But just a warning if you want to bring in a lot of markers and don’t have any already. We ended up not needing these, since we filled the half hour with cookies, but kids can be speedy with cookie decorating, so it’s handy to have more for them to do.
you may also need…
scissors to snip the decorating bags
freezer paper for covering tables
paper plates might be nice to divide the cookies
marker to write the child’s name on the plate
paper towels and hand wipes