The answer is pizza. What's the question? Try: What would you like to serve at your party, kids?
The Ninja Turtles are proof that no matter where you live--even if it's an underground sewer system--you can get pizza delivered. But this deprives your kids and their friends of half the fun: making the pizzas themselves. With a bit of planning and preparation, a pizza party can be a lively way to both entertain and feed young guests.
My family's biggest pizza bash was a party for eight children between the ages of nine and 12. We supplied the dough and a variety of toppings for the artistic chefs to use as their mixed media. Some of the kids preferred abstract expressionism, while others were bent on more representational efforts--faces, clowns and one ambitious cityscape. There was constant, happy chatter among the children as each tried to guess what the other was creating. And later there was a chorus of enthusiasm after the masterpieces were gobbled up.
Unless you have a long afternoon and just a few guests, make the dough a day ahead and store the rolled-out rounds in the freezer (stack them between sheets of waxed paper). I prefer a simple yeast dough that goes through one 3-hour rising. It is then punched down, stretched and rolled out or, if you go in for showmanship, spun over your closed fists or your head. The recipe is a snap to make in a food processor and takes only slightly longer by hand. If you haven't left yourself enough time, I've included a recipe for a dough that needs only a single 15-minute rising. Once the kids have assembled a pizza, place it in a preheated 450-degree oven for 10 or 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
For our party, we also planned a fun dessert--fresh fruit dipped in chocolate. That way our guests would have something to prepare while the pizzas baked. As every parent has learned, the success of children's parties often depends upon keeping the kids busy and focused. Idle children are apt to discover that wooden spoons make excellent swords and that lamp shades do nicely as helmets.
Cleanup between courses is a simple matter. I use a plastic-coated, paper tablecloth on my dining room table and supply plenty of paper towels. There is no need for utensils: We use our fingers even for spreading the tomato sauce over the dough. My only requests are that the children bring their own aprons to the party, wash their hands before beginning, and go lightly on the cheese and tomato sauce, which otherwise might overflow in the oven and make a soggy crust.