4 Holiday Party Ideas That Get Kids Involved
By Gail Belsky
What’s the point of throwing a holiday party that includes kids if the kids just disappear for the whole evening? You don’t have to put mozzarella sticks and chicken fingers on the buffet table to keep them in the mix, but your adult guests might be happy if you did, according to professional caterer and food stylist Denise Vivaldo, author of Do It for Less! Parties: Tricks of the Trade From a Professional Caterer’s Kitchen.
Many parents create a separation by feeding kids at a different time, avoiding decorations or activities that might seem too kid-like and limiting food choices. When Vivaldo throws a party, she makes sure to make enough hot dogs or grilled cheese squares for the adults to eat too: “If they see those hot dogs go by, they always want one too.”
According to Vivaldo, the trick to throwing a holiday party for families is to stop worrying about the adult guests and the kid guests separately and to plan a party that’s just plain fun. These four ideas will keep kids in the loop and let everyone celebrate together:
1. Create a fix-it-yourself menu.
Dishes that guests need to assemble themselves bring everyone to the same table and make the meal a group experience. Create a pizza bar or a stuff-your-own-potato spread with toppings that range from grated cheddar to sauteed mushrooms to candied walnuts. For a twist, make a giant bowl of mashed potatoes and use the toppings as mix-ins.
2. Make the appetizers fun.
You may think they’re not sophisticated enough, but everyone loves pigs in a blanket. Ditto for quesadilla triangles and nachos. But you can also make the appetizer course into an event. Set up a panini grill in the kitchen with a variety of cheeses and condiments and let guests make their own creations (with adults helping younger children). Bake a batch of frozen sweet potato fries, put them in a bowl and have people load their own paper cone.
3. Plan one activity for everyone.
Whether it’s structured or more informal, creating a group activity guarantees a shared experience. Buy inexpensive gingerbread house kits and set up a building site where everyone can get to it and add their own decorative touch. Set up a screening room for holiday movies where people can walk in and out. Roll back the rug and end the night with a dance party.
4. Involve kids in food prep.
Don’t just call them for dinner; make them part of the process. Have kids toss the giant salad, or spread the garlic butter and grated cheese on all the garlic breads. Better yet, invite the kids to make cookies in advance and then have them assemble a giant cookie platter for the dessert table.
Keeping kids involved, instead of sending them off to the playroom or TV room, shows them that entertaining is fun … and that celebrations are meant for sharing.