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Season’s Eatings: The Capable Kid’s Guide to Hosting a Holiday Party

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Your step-by-step plan for the happiest holiday celebration
Steps to Plan a Holiday Party

If your calendar is already jam-packed with holiday parties and events, it’s easy to forget that this season is all about giving. So why not encourage your future party planner, or pint-size chef, to host your holiday gathering—for friends, neighbors, or the extended family.

Putting your kid in charge is a smart idea: He will learn to be organized, prepare and serve food, and follow through on a project. Best of all, he’ll experience a sense of accomplishment and pride, and the warm feelings that come from bringing joy to others.

Is being a co-party planner extra work for you, too? Of course! And do you need any more craziness thrown into this already frenetic time of year? Um, not really. But if you help your child own this event, you’ll be rewarded, too, with his can-do attitude and a party filled with holiday cheer. Below, a crash course for a kid-hosted party.

Three weeks before the event

1. Sit down with your child, develop a guest list, and then e-mail the invitations together.
E-vites are  more efficient than calling or sending paper invitations by mail.

2. Determine a date and theme for the party.
An early evening affair, with snacks and sweets, is perfect for this time of year. Discuss decor and music to get your child’s creative juices flowing.

Two weeks before the event

1. Finalize theme and decor, and assemble decorations.
Check online for templates for traditional paper and 3-D snowflakes for window or wall decor, or to string together to make banners and garlands. Hit the dollar store for paper goods, party favors, and other items. Hang white lights throughout the house to make rooms look magical and festive.

2. Nail down the menu.
A mix of hot and room-temperature foods is best so not everything needs to go into the oven. (Explain that too much last-minute cooking means less time to spend entertaining.) Consider this menu:

One week before the event

1. Pick up the supplies you need along with the nonperishable foods your child will be preparing.
(Let him join you.) Don’t forget seltzer (flavored and plain); fruit juices for the punch (try cranberry and apple); dessert ingredients; crackers if you’re serving cheese; and fixings for pizza muffins, the party mix, and nachos.

The day before the event

1. Together, decorate the house with items your child created.
2. Shop for perishables and last-minute items.
3. Help your child bake and frost the cupcakes and make the party mix (see recipes below).
4. Remind her to choose a playlist for background music.
5. Assemble pots, pans, and utensils.

Day of the party

1. Create a list of last-minute tasks and a timeline.
2. If you expect guests at 6 p.m., make the holiday party mix a few hours beforehand.
3. Help your child  prepare the pizza muffins an hour before the party.
Bake about 15 minutes before the party gets started.
4. Whip up the hot chocolate and punch—also an hour before the party.
Keep the punch refrigerated until 15 minutes before the festivities get started. Then pour into a pretty bowl and set it on the table. About 15 minutes before the party, heat the hot chocolate. Pour into a caraf or pitcher (one that’s safe for hot liquids). Encourage guests to help themselves. Keep vanilla-bean stirrers and whipped cream handy.
5. Make the nachos at T-minus 30 minutes and counting.
Add topping as the event gets underway.
6. Turn up the tunes, greet the guests, and enjoy!