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How to have a last-minute cookie decorating party

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Decorating without destruction

If you’ve always wanted to have a Christmas cookie decorating party, there’s no time like the present. Yes, just days before Christmas. A last-minute call to the neighbors to bring the kids over Thursday afternoon for a little cookie decorating would be a very welcome call indeed! Amid the business of decorating the house and gift buying, the simple act of decorating cookies sometimes gets pushed aside. With some impromptu planning, you can create a cookie celebration worthy of adulthood memory -- without going crazy yourself.

Little girl decorating cookies

Kid style partying

Just about every mom is in the same boat: so much to do and kids to keep occupied. You would be, hands down, the heroine of the neighborhood if you pulled together a quick decorating party. And it doesn't have to be onerous either. You can have a last-minute cookie decorating party without starting a riot. You might even have fun!

Forget perfection

Forget about having a perfectly planned, perfectly arranged, perfectly clean house. The kids do not care. They don't! And if the moms in the crowd are looking around and thinking anything about that, they should be ashamed of themselves as invited guests! Stuff will have to be cleaned up afterward, so what's the point? Just clear enough space to set up stations for various cookie decorating elements and any optional activities. Put on some holiday music, maybe a favorite holiday movie, and you're good to go.

Plastic is your friend

While not the most environmentally-friendly thing to do (but if you only do it once a year…), cover all the work surfaces with plastic. Open up tall kitchen garbage bags, for example, and place them over the table. If there's a sugar or icing mess, it all gets gathered up in the plastic and thrown away.

Stations

Set up the cookies and the decorating elements in small stations. Make sure each station has what is needed for that element. Kids can move from station to station to complete their cookies. Icing in one place, glitter and sugar in another, Red Hots in another, and so on.

Limited quantities

You don't need to have every possible kind of decoration available. If there's frosting of some kind, some sprinkles, some candy to stick on, you're good. You do not need to have 20 colors or royal icing. In fact, having too many choices can be overwhelming! Keep it simple and focused.

Make or buy extra

You may think that a Christmas cookie decorating party means lots of Christmas cookie baking. It can, and you should just make extra as you do your regular holiday baking -- or you can call a local bakery and order a quantity of sugar cookie blanks. They are sure to have them in various shapes and sizes, and are already set up to do this kind of mass baking. Use those resources.

Many large mega-marts now have a fair number of decorating supplies in the baking aisle. Pick up what you need (plus a little extra) and set it out as is. No need for worrying about presentation or display.

Let go

Now that everything is in place and the kids are in the house, let go. Don't try to control everything - just let the kids decorate cookies. Get silly yourself with purple snowmen and cinnamon candy encrusted bells. Let yourself laugh.

Whether planned weeks in advance or spur-of-the-moment, cookie decorating parties are a blast for kids -- and can be equally so for adults. With minimal planning and easy cleanup, it's a terrific last-minute holiday activity to keep the kids busy on the run up to the big night.

Need a few cookie decorating tips?

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