When we moved to Memphis, I knew I wanted to make a conscious effort to get to know other mamas with kids the same age as my girls so we could have playdates and such. What I got was even better – mom friends with whom I have lots of things in common and enjoy having a conversation with while our kids play! Our first Christmas here, I decided to host a holiday cookie exchange for the mamas in our playgroup for a fun twist on a playdate and it was so fun that I’ve continued to do this every December. Here’s how I do it (hint: it’s so simple to coordinate!).
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Choose a date + send an invite.
The holidays get busy really quickly, so I like to make sure I plan at least a month in advance and get invitations sent out to everyone. I try to choose a date early in the month, since we all inevitably get busier as Christmas approaches and a lot of people travel for the holiday, too. I know this may not work for everyone, but for our group, choosing a weekday morning works best (I’m particularly fond of Fridays!). To make things easier, I send out invites via Paperless Post or Punchbowl – you can find some really cute designs specifically for a cookie exchange on both of those sites. When you log in, you can also easily keep track of your guest list and RSVPs so you can plan accordingly.
Divide and conquer.
I generally note that every guest should bring two dozen of their favorite holiday cookies to share. You can even add a message board to your online invitation, so guests can list what cookie they plan to bring to avoid duplicates. This usually isn’t a problem, though, since everyone has such unique ideas! I find it hard to narrow it down to just one type because I love baking, so sometimes I’ll prep several types to share. This year, we had three friends with food allergies, so I made simple dairy-free and gluten-free Rice Krispie Treats for the kids to enjoy!
Serve a few light bites.
The cookies may be the star of the show, but it’s nice to have something a little more filling and maybe not-so-sweet to mix it up. A lot of times, everyone will bring a dish to share – usually just a veggie or appetizer. I also like to prep a batch of White Chicken Chili in the slow cooker – it’s so simple and is perfect on a cold winter day. Another idea would be to serve a pretty cheese board with a few festive touches. Kids also tend to love cheese, so this works for everyone! This year, for the first time, we actually did brunch foods – egg casserole, pancakes, fruit, waffles – and it was so fun! Don’t forget beverages, too – coffee and tea are perfect for the moms and the kids might like juice or water bottles.
Pick up festive party supplies.
I’ve found that HomeGoods and Target have some of the cutest holiday plates and napkins that are perfect for small bites and sweet treats. Don’t forget to grab plastic or paper bowls if you choose to make soup. The best part about using disposable party supplies is that clean-up will be super simple!
Provide a label or card for each type of cookie.
Once you know what your guests are bringing (either beforehand or after they arrive), write down each variety on a folded notecard and place beside the corresponding plate or tray so everyone the types of cookies available.
Set up a cookie packaging station.
Your guests are bringing lots of sweet treats to share, so it’s important to have a way for them to take some home with them. I personally love these festive Ziploc containers and plastic bags around the holidays and find that they’re perfect for storing cookies and keeping them fresh. You could also grab a pack of cellophane or paper treat bags for guests to fill with all of the yummy holiday cookies.