Want a fun, kid-friendly idea for your next kids' party? Try a make-your-own ice cream sundae bar. Sure, it might be a little messy, but it's worth it to see your little ones creating -- and, more importantly, enjoying -- their ice cream masterpieces. You'll need several different flavors of ice cream, a variety of tasty toppings that kids enjoy, plastic bowls and spoons, and lots of napkins. Let the sundae-making begin!
Set out a long, low table in the area where the kids will be making their ice cream creations. If the weather permits, set up the sundae bar outside to limit the mess in the house. If not, set up your ice cream table in a kitchen or playroom where the floor won't be damaged by the inevitable "oops" moments. Put plastic tablecloths on the ice cream table and other surfaces where the kids will be eating.
Set out the ice cream at one end of the table and ask an adult to help serve the kids so little ones aren't struggling with large containers and unwieldy ice cream scoops. If you have chocolate syrup or cans of whipped topping, you might want adults to help kids with those, too -- the temptation to squirt their buddy with whipped cream might be tough for little party-goers to resist. Put each topping in a small bowl with a plastic spoon and arrange these along the length of the table.
Tell the kids they can pick a variety of toppings once they have their ice cream. They can get a little or as many choices as they want, but remind them to leave plenty for their friends. For most kids, a big part of the fun of a sundae bar is getting to fix your own sundae, but post an adult nearby in case one of the youngsters starts to dump the entire dish of candy on his ice cream or another starts picking out all the red gummy bears for herself.
Take a picture of each child with his ice cream creation so he'll have a memento of his efforts. Let the kids sit at picnic tables or kid-size washable tables to enjoy their sundaes. If it's a birthday party and you're also serving birthday cake, you might want to do the singing and candles part before you let the kids start making sundaes, because it will be hard to get them to focus once they're in sundae-creation mode.
Go from table to table with a large plastic trash bag when the kids are done with their sundaes. It's a lot easier -- and a whole lot less messy -- if you take their melty, gooey bowls and spoons from them right at the table, rather than having them take their own used bowls to the trash can, dripping all the way. Remind them to stay in their seats until a grownup has come around with napkins or wipes to clean up sticky hands and faces.