The classroom calls: Spark some excitement with a Back to School party

July 25, 2012 9:48:16 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Wasn't it only yesterday children were giddy at the thought of getting out of school for summer break? And now, the calendar beckons them back. 


We can add an element of fun and excitement to the return to academia with a Back to School party. It's a positive way to help ease grade schoolers back into the classroom and ease anxieties some kids may have at the beginning of a new school year. It can also reunite friends who may not have seen each other much throughout the summer. 


Creative invitations made to look like library book cards, school buses or report cards aren't difficult to come up with. Design your own, or look online at sites like or 


Cakes decorated like an old-fashioned chalkboard, apple-shaped cupcakes and cookies in the form of alphabet letters or stars all add to the theme. 


Serve up some snacks, like popcorn, in brown paper lunch sacks sealed with stickers and decorated with the guests' names and school colors. Have an old globe that's seen better days? Crack it in two, clean it up and use it like a bowl to serve chips or pretzels. 


For older kids, you could serve sandwich wraps finished off with an outer roll of parchment paper or waxed paper, tied off with a ribbon, to resemble a diploma.  




Hands on 


A craft party can be a big hit with certain ages. An afternoon spent personalizing pencil boxes or decorating book covers with some paint pens, glitter pens and stickers will harness energy and produce cool supplies children will be proud to carry that first day. 


An idea for a small group of young bakers might be a cookie-making party. Children will enjoy piping alphabet letters on simple, round sugar cookies you can use for word games before letting them gobble up the "homework." You can find alphabet shapes and other school-theme cookie cutters online at sites including or, if you can't get them locally. 


Or, depending on the age of your child's guests, let them personalize cupcakes with their "faces," using a vanilla wafer for the head and different colors of frosting for hair. Use edible writers, such as Wilton Food Writers, for features. Or prepare the cupcakes yourself ahead of time and thrill the kids.  


If you've got some budding scientists on your hand, turn it into a Weird Science party with fun (and stealthily educational) quirky projects like making a lava lamp, "homemade" lightening, or explore the mysteries of how to put an egg in a bottle. Find instructions for entertaining experiments at sites like 




Make it count 


Start off the year by reinforcing the idea of community giving. Send a short list of basic school supplies with your invitation and ask guests to bring an item to be donated to children whose families may need a little help.  


Supplies collected could be given to CONTACT Helpline in Columbus, to be distributed at their Back to School Bash Aug. 3 at Trotter Convention Center. Or pass them on to your school's office to be used where most needed. 


If you prefer, ask guests to bring an item for a local food pantry, providing the gift of nourishment to children who may not be as fortunate as others. 


With a little effort, we can create an air of excitement and purpose around going back to school. And if we treat it as a time to look forward to, kids will, too. 








Cupcake mix 


Cupcake liners and muffin tin 


Marbles or tin foil 


Red colored frosting 


Pretzel sticks 


Green gumdrops 




  • For these apple-shaped cupcakes, use marbles or rolled 1/2-inch balls of tin foil to shape your "apple." Place next to cupcake liner in muffin tin to form an indention. 


  • Prepare cake batter per directions. 


  • Pour batter into cupcake liners. (You may have to hold down liners as you pour.) 


  • Bake cupcakes according to directions. 


  • Frost cupcakes with red frosting. (A 1/2-inch wide offset spatula is great for frosting.) 


  • At the top of the cupcake indention, add a stick pretzel for a stem. 


  • Using kitchen scissors, trim down green gumdrops into small leaf shape and place next to the pretzel, on the frosting to help it stick. 










    1/2 cup shortening (part butter or margarine) 


    1 cup sugar 


    1 egg 


    1 teaspoon vanilla 


    2 2/3 cup flour 


    1 teaspoon baking powder 


    1/2 teaspoon baking soda 


    1/2 teaspoon salt 


    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 


    1/2 cup sour cream 




    For royal icing: 


    1 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder 


    2 cups sifted icing sugar 


    3 tablespoons cold water 




  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla thoroughly. Blend dry ingredients. Add to sugar mixture alternately with sour cream.  


  • Divide dough; roll out on a well-floured board. Cut with cookie cutters (metal cookie cutters with open tops are easiest.) The thicker the dough, the chewier the cookie. 


  • Place cookies on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake six to seven minutes or until very lightly browned around the edges. Remove to cooling racks to cool completely before icing. 




    For the icing: 


    (Note: If you are planning on storing or packing the cookies, this royal icing recipe helps them keep their "freshly made" appearance, making them stackable without ruining the design.)  


  • Mix ingredients on low with a hand mixer for 10 minutes. 


  • Divide icing into three bowls. Tint one bowl of icing green, one bowl red and one bowl blue. Decorate cookies and give ample time to air dry. 




    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.