Serving cake at your child's next birthday party is a given, but what about turning that cake into a create-your-own cupcake project? Or transform the party itself into a make-your-own s'mores event?
Do-It-Yourself food creations work for all types of birthday parties, themed or not. Sweet or savory, kids will have fun building their own personal desserts or dinners. We have five suggestions to get your party started, starting with a classic that everyone screams for!
Ice Cream Sundaes
Prepping for a sundae bar is easy. Set up a buffet-style ingredient and assembly area where kids can browse toppings and create their ultimate ice cream sundae. Keep options yummy but small. Chocolate and vanilla are popular flavors and sure to be a hit with almost any kid.
Toppings are the star of the bar, of course -- include chocolate and strawberry sauces, chopped nuts, sprinkles, candies and whipped topping -- and don't forget to have plenty of napkins on hand.
Trying to keep things healthy? Swap ice cream for frozen yogurt and offer fresh fruits such as strawberries, blueberries and sliced bananas as well as healthy nuts like walnuts as toppings.
Spice things up at the next birthday bash you host with a make-your-own taco bar.
At the taco bar: tortillas (corn tacos and flour tortillas), taco filling (turkey, pork, chicken, or whatever meat the birthday guests prefer), black or refried beans, salsa, guacamole, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream and taco sauce. Whip up a pot of Spanish rice to eat alongside. Since many kids don't like spicy foods, be sure to keep the lid on the hot sauce.
Mix a pitcher of virgin sangria -- grape juice, club soda, fruit and ice -- to keep hot palates cool.
A s'more requires few ingredients: a marshmallow, a square of chocolate and 2 graham crackers to smoosh everything together.
Toasting the marshmallows is the main event (isn't that the most fun part, aside from the eating?). You can buy a s'mores kit (a mini hibachi fueled by Sterno) if the affair is going to be inside. Older kids and teens might like taking the party outdoors, toasting marshmallows over an outdoor fireplace in the backyard. Indoors or out, there should be plenty of adults on hand to help out.
Be sure to use long utensils such as bamboo skewers or fondue forks. Everyone prefers a different level of toasting but for best results hold the marshmallow a few inches from the flame and keep turning it until it's evenly browned. Try to avoid setting it on fire, as that's how accidents can happen.
Perfect Pizza Party
Throwing a pizza party is as easy as picking up a few ingredients and preheating your oven. Let's start with the crust. For a more bona fide pizza making experience, consider one of three choices: make your own dough, buy some from a local pizzeria or hit the refrigerated Italian foods aisle in the grocery store for a few bags of premade dough. Looking for a more out-of-the-box set up? Pick up pre-made crusts or slice French bread. Add a buffet of tomato sauce, cheeses, veggies and meats for topping options. Let kids build their creations and bake until the cheese is bubbly. Tip: English muffins make for perfect single-sized pizzas for little ones.
Want to take the party to the pizza? Many local pizza parlors are happy to host birthday parties and will supply all the ingredients needed to spice things up.
Cupcake decorating is a fun way for kids to get creative and have a sweet treat. To prepare for party day, bake a flavor or two for cupcake selections -- vanilla (or yellow) and chocolate are always first-rate offerings -- or ask your kids if there's a special cake they'd like.
Have a few frosting flavors on hand: homemade or store-bought frostings are equally yummy, so get what most kids, especially the birthday boy or girl, prefer. Depending on how little your guests will be, consider frosting the cupcakes before the party starts and simply letting them place the other toppings.
Make sure you have plenty of ingredients for inspired edible art, whatever the age group. Tubes of icing (for drawing), candy (such as M&Ms, jelly beans and gummy worms), sprinkles, pretzel sticks and anything else the cupcake artists desire -- also consider themed decorations to match the theme of the birthday party.
Don't forget wet wipes for cleaning hands and faces!