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Pizza and Gelato
Liz Krause : Make Food the Entertainment at your Child's Next Birthday Party!

Make Food the Entertainment at your Child's Next Birthday Party!

By Liz Krause

Whether a Martha Stewart at heart or more like the klutzy but loveable Lucy Ricardo, if you have kids you will no doubt someday be hosting a birthday party — and it's up to you to make sure everyone has fun. That includes you!

One of the most guaranteed ways to ensure a good party is to follow the same rule as with all parties, adult or children, and that is to have excellent food. However, with children you can add a fun twist to the food and entertainment by using the food as the entertainment by creating actual food activities.

Do I hear a scream for ice-cream?

GelatoForget the ice cream truck or the local ice creamery — let's talk homemade ice cream! Ice cream used to be an arduous task that took over 24 hours just to produce a single batch. Today however, there are new machines that can crank out the ice cream at a much faster speed. You can use ice cream machines or what is called a gelato maker or machine. Gelato is the Italian version of American ice cream and is smoother and creamier.

Look for a machine that has a self-containing refrigerating compressor because this is what allows these newer models to not only mix the ingredients but to freeze the ice cream as well. What this does is prevent you from having to use up space in your own freezer to freeze the ingredients. In addition, these machines can get so cold that it takes less than an hour (some models in 30 minutes) to create your first batch of ready to eat dessert!

Kids love to make their own food and when it comes to ice cream you can really have a blast by having either each child or all the children as a group come up with their own flavors — or to make it easier for larger parties... focus on the toppings. Once the ice cream is finished its magic, create a spread of their chosen toppings (even if it includes items as crazy as gummy bears or gummy worms) and each child can taste their own creation.

Just one tip — try to do this activity during summer months when everyone can eat their ice cream or ice cream cones outside thus preventing unwanted spills in the house.

Create your own Italian Pizzeria

PizzaIt's not an assumption kids love pizza... it's a proven fact! If you think creating homemade ice cream sounds fun, wait until the kids hear about making their very own pizza!

Making homemade pizza truly is not as hard as it sounds. There are two ways you, the host, can go about this activity. You can either create your own dough ahead of time or have the kids help you from the start.

If you are limited in kitchen space, I would recommend making the batches of dough ahead of time. There are a few advantages to this. For starters, making the dough is not the fun part for kids. In fact, it's rather boring — 8 minutes of kneading dough feels like a lifetime for young energetic and active kids. The truly fun part is the rolling out of the dough into squares or circles.

Secondly, sometimes batches do not mix right and who knows what happened when chatting away during the process, but you'll find yourself inevitably tossing a batch away and starting over. By preparing all the dough ahead of time you alleviate any unnecessary stress the day of the party.

You can prepare the dough ahead of time — either the previous day or even previous month. If preparing the dough more than 2 days in advance, place the dough in the freezer tightly wrapped with a few layers of plastic wrap. Take out and let thaw in the fridge the night before the party.

For this activity, it is important to allow each child to have their own pizza which they can roll out and flavor with their favorite toppings. This does not mean if you have a party of 10 kids you have to make 10 batches of pizza dough. Instead one regular batch can be divided into thirds or quarters where each portion will make a perfect kid sized pizza.

Create a big open space at a large table where there is a flat surface. Give each child their dough and a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle). Show them how to roll out the dough and use flour to keep the dough from sticking. Be sure to provide assistance as some kids may get frustrated if they can't seem to roll the dough out the way they want.

Similar to the ice cream/gelato activity, let each child choose their own toppings. The best way to do this is to create a big spread of popular toppings and place on a table buffet-style where each child can pick and choose their toppings.

Bake the pizzas (as many at one time as possible) and enjoy!

Using food as a way to entertain is one thing, but using it as the entertainment is completely different. The kids will have a blast and it's a great way to encourage involvement and interaction without being competitive. In addition, as long as no one's pizza gets burnt (very important) everyone comes out a winner! •

© 2012 Liz Krause. All rights reserved.

Liz Krause enjoys writing on the topic of food — especially having grown up in an Italian home where food is a huge part of the Italian culture. More »

1/13/12