Spread joy and kindness — it is key to how I’m wired, and something I very much want to instill in my boys as a natural, wonderful, automatic thing to do. We do kindness projects whenever we can, try to model kind/good behavior, and choose charities to donate to in order to spread joy in simple ways. Years ago, we started donating to Toys for Tots every holiday season, because I wanted my kids to understand that not all families have the same amount of money or things, and that we can make a difference and put a smile on others’ faces with a few simple acts. I take my kids to the store, have them each pick out a toy for another child, and have them come with me to drop it in the Toys for Tots donation box so they understand a little more that it is not for them and will bring joy to another family. Sure, it has led to a lot of questions like “Why does it matter if a family doesn’t have enough money for presents? Doesn’t Santa bring the presents?” but I weathered through those and showed my kids an easy way to spread joy.
Two years ago, we changed it up a bit. I created “Cupcakes and Kindness,” an event at my house where friends could come decorate cupcakes that they could take home and enjoy (yes, I baked a gazillion dozen cupcakes!), only if they brought a toy to donate. It was so much fun, and gave us a good excuse to get together, enjoy some treats, and do “good” for others in the process, and now it is a favorite annual tradition.
We’re gearing up for our third annual Cupcakes and Kindness event this year! Let the baking begin! Want to host a Cupcakes and Kindness event to spread joy of your own? Here’s how we did it, in 5 easy steps:
1. Invite: This should be easy, but in my case it’s not. I want to invite everyone I know! But I recommend you decide how many people you want in your house at once, how many cupcakes you want to make, whether you want this to be an activity for parents AND kids or just kids, and then right-size your list accordingly. Both years, I’ve whipped up a simple email invitation on evite, but if you want to be even simpler, go ahead and just text your friends!
2. Bake: Determine how many cupcakes you want each participant to decorate and take home, then get baking! Be sure to make some extra in case someone drops one or if an unexpected friends shows up at the last minute. It’s completely up to you whether you want to offer a variety of cupcake flavors or just one. I learned the hard way at my son’s birthday party a few years ago that if I make vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes, and some have chocolate frosting and some have vanilla frosting, the kids will ask for a very specific cupcake and whine if they don’t get it, putting me in an awkward supply/demand predicament. I streamlined and went super-simple for Cupcakes and Kindness — chocolate cupcakes only. And then I created some fun variety by having chocolate frosting, white frosting, and red and blue (white frosting dyed with food coloring). I rely on the Hershey’s Cocoa recipe that is right on the container of cocoa, and we usually stick with Pillsbury frosting since it tends to be nut-free and we have nut allergies here to manage around. (Note: if you want to make this even simpler for you, BUY the cupcakes! I got them from a local bakery for year two, and they gave me a discount because of the great kindness we were spreading.)
3. Manage the Mess: It’s time to lay out all the yummy things you’ve decided to decorate the cupcakes with. Rather than have grungy little nose-picking fingers grab all from the same serving bowl, I made each participant his own tray of frosted cupcakes (everyone got the same set so there were no requests for specific varieties — “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”), along with little cups filled with a variety of toppings. Each child had his own seat at the table with his tray of stuff, all atop a simple plastic tablecloth from the Dollar Store! Cleanup was so easy — the trays and cups were disposable, and so were the tablecloths. I purposely avoided having sprinkles as decoration, because I knew I’d find them all over my house for weeks to come. I used crushed candy canes, gummy bears, Teddy Grahams, Hershey’s Kisses, and chocolate chips. I also put colored food-writing gels on the table for kids to share if they wanted to add a little design.
4. Have Fun: Time to decorate! Let the kids take their time making their own cupcake creations. Do they want to eat as they go? Have at it! Or do they want to take all 5 of their cupcakes home to enjoy later or even give to friends or family? Great idea! Spread more joy!
Once the kids are done decorating, set aside their trays so it’s easy for them to take them home. Gather for a picture with the mountain of toys you’ve brought together to donate. It was so joyful to see everyone happy with their cupcake creations AND the smiles on their faces knowing they were making holiday-time brighter for others as well.
5. Donate: Sometime shortly after the event, bring the toys for donation. Confirm for the guests that you donated, and thank them for their contribution. Do you have heart for donating something other than toys? Cupcakes and Kindness has so much flexibility — make it whatever you want it to be! Other ideas include requesting monetary donations for a certain charity, or food to donate to a foodbank. Whatever you choose, it will spread joy within the participants and for those you are sharing kindness with.
A group shot of some of the participants, with the bin of toys they donated
Happy baking! Spread joy!