How to Host a Toddler Cookie Decorating Party

Hosting a cookie decorating party is simple.

No, it’s insanely simple. My wife devised the perfect plan. We asked our daughter who should be invited, then called up the parents and told them to bring a dozen cookies.

Yep, we baked nothing. We merely provided the toppings and the venue.

Photo of a gingerbread man covered haphazardly with coconut sprinkles, four gumdrops and a big marshmallow plunked on its head, wearing two raisins as eyeballs.

Martha Stewart has left the building. This is a real holiday cookie.

What toppings? Flaked coconut, spice gumdrops, raisins, marshmallows, chopped macadamia nuts and hazelnuts and Reese’s peanut butter cup baking pieces. Oh, and six types of cake topper sprinkles.

We also had homemade butter cream frosting in red, green and white, in cake decorating squeeze bags, as well as bowls for spreading with a butter knife. Oops, yeah, the frosting took a small amount of time to make, but everything else was store bought.

The toppings were placed in the middle of a table, and the kids were seated with cutting boards in front of them as a decorating surface. Large plates would also work.

Each parent assisted in the decorating, particularly with applying or spreading the icing. Two icing spreaders and extra-wide spreading knives were used.

Completed cookies were moved to a staging area on the kitchen counter that was lined with parchment paper, although aluminum foil or wax paper would also work.

The activity entertained the kids, 5 girls and 1 boy, ages 3 to 4, for 45 minutes, then they washed their hands and played around the house. Consider the attention span of the kids you invite. Most of my daughter’s male friends would never sit still for such an activity.

Sometime later my daughter returned to the table and when the other kids took notice, they also decorated cookies for another half-hour.

Some kids meticulously attended a total of three cookies whiles others were a mini production house, working their way through ten cookies.

A Note about Sweets

We only eat candy on special occasions, usually holidays and birthdays. Our 3-year-old daughter had her dental check-up last week and has perfect teeth. We aim to keep it that way. We classify our December cookie-making party as a holiday event.

What Didn’t Work:

  1. Full-size marshmallows. They were okay, but we’ll use mini-marshmallows next time. They made the cookies look… interesting. The kids completely didn’t care. Just plunk that sucker on there.
  2. Too few cake sprinkle containers. Our six types of sprinkles were in one six-tab dispenser. Next time we’ll buy individual shakers.
  3. Narrow metal cake frosting tips. Next time we’ll only use wide-mouth tips that are easier to squeeze icing through.
  4. Difficult icing bags. Squeezing an icing bag is like squeezing a toothpaste tube that is open at both ends. Adults twist the far end into a knot, but toddlers can’t hold that knot closed. Next time we’ll add twist-ties or rubber bands.

What Worked:

  1. Parents brought more than enough cookies. One child has a father with a gluten allergy, so he brought cookies made from gluten-free almond flour.
  2. Cookies were communally shared, so a kid who brought gingerbread men could also decorate moose cookies, and so forth.
  3. Spiced gumdrops were a favorite topping. One child put them on all of her cookies because they were colorful, then near the end tasted one and decided she didn’t like them. Oops!
  4. Everything else worked. Leftover cookies were placed in plastic bags and decorated cookies were put back into the containers parents brought with them. After the party ended, we decorated a few more cookies that some parents left us and walked them over to our neighbors.

Photo of a platter of undecorated gingerbread kids, moose and hearts.

Photo of a container full of undecorated gingerbread men.

Overview photo of the table before decorating began, complete with toppings in bowls and kids with their cutting boards.

Photo of a gingerbread bear with haphazard pink frosting, coconut flakes, Reese's peanut butter cup pieces and a giant marshmallow.

(Those eyeballs are left over from a gingerbread house kit, brought by one of the parents.)

Photo of four toddler-decorated cookies.

Photo of 5 toddler-decorated cookies.

Photo of 3 toddler-decorated cookies.

Photo of 3 toddler decorated cookies and a gluten-free snowman my wife decorated.

That last snowman is an example of my wife’s cookie decorating prowess.


11 Responses to “How to Host a Toddler Cookie Decorating Party”

  1. Airwick says:

    Last week my 2 yo daughter and I luckily stumbled upon cookie decorating day at our semi-local Whole Foods … their technique for handling the frosting bags was to use standard bags (w/o ties or fasteners). The adult twists the bag and provides most of the force. The kiddo grabs the bag near the tip with both hands, providing the final bit of oomph and the aiming.

    I was surprised how well this worked for my daughter and the other two-ish yo girl that was there at the same time. The kids were delighted!

    December 21st, 2007 at 4:48 am

  2. Meadow says:

    We also throw a cookie decorating party in December. We purchase all the cookies from a local grocery store (I did an extensive taste test and they had the most delicious cookies and were reasonably priced). We also make the frosting and provide candy. M&M’s work especially well, mini ones are even better. And we have TONS of sprinkles (they accumulate from year to year), you can also make your own colored sugar with food coloring and sugar. And this year we incorporated twist-ties into the piping bags, the stronger kids can still squeeze some frosting out the top, but it works pretty good.

    Love the site!

    December 21st, 2007 at 7:54 am

  3. Tiff @ Three Peas in a Pod says:

    That sounds like fun. I think I will try that next year. The boys are too young this year to do this.

    December 21st, 2007 at 9:41 am

  4. Amber says:

    What a great idea! I will have to remember this for when my daughter is old enough to have a cookie decorating party!

    December 21st, 2007 at 5:58 pm

  5. CallMeKelly says:

    Love, Love, Love the Pics!!!!

    December 22nd, 2007 at 4:07 am

  6. Tara says:

    You can use condiment bottles to squeeze icing and that way you don’t have to deal with holding one end closed.

    December 22nd, 2007 at 2:58 pm

  7. adrienne says:

    We’re trying this tonight with 4 two-year-olds. Wish us luck!

    My grandparents used to have these huge cookie decorating parties for their friends and family. Most of the attendees were more of the martini set than the playdough crowd (there were only 4 grandkids), but I have such great memories of these convivial gatherings.

    Happy Holidays!

    December 24th, 2007 at 5:52 am

  8. laurie says:

    The marshmallow cookie pictures made me laugh until my stomach hurt and tears were streaming down my face. Thank you SO MUCH for these…

    December 25th, 2007 at 3:46 am

  9. kelli says:

    I used to host a Gingerbread House party — I would bake gingerbread houses and cookies and provide graham crackers for building as well.

    The best device we found for squeezing icing are clear squeeze bottles found at Smart and Final or another restaurant supply house. They’re like the yellow and red bottles which hold mustard and kechup at a restaurant — you can fill them with your icing, store them upside down in a cup (so that the icing is near the tip), and cut off the tip to the extent that you like so they’re easy to use. Otherwise, you can purchase pre-made/colored icing in tubes in the baking aisle at the grocery.

    Red hots are great for decorating, as are cereal shapes (lucky charms marshmallows, cheerios, etc.).

    December 26th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

  10. slickjewel says:

    As a preschool teacher, I hosted cookie decorating parties frequently for the kids, and now continue the tradition at home. We use colored sprinkles out of the shaker with most of the holes covered by a piece of tape. (Makes the sugar come out slower and the sprinkles go farther!) Store-bought cookies and supplies including frosting, are a requirement at most schools these days, (ugh!) but they work pretty well. Purchasing toppings such as shaped sprinkles, etc. is much more affordable by getting them from a bulk food store or ordering on-line. Cupcake liners provide a great way to ration supplies for each participant.

    October 13th, 2008 at 12:27 pm

  11. kerry says:

    Brilliant! We are planning on our “Cookie decorating party” for Christmas Eve…. (lots of nieces & nephews coming over) and my dopey self…NEVER would have thought to BUY the cookies!!! I was trying to find cookie cutters, and recipes…etc. I love this site!!! haahah

    December 7th, 2009 at 9:24 am