When the temperature rises, is there anything more refreshing than ice cream? Ice cream socials are an ideal party theme for children of any age, as they don’t take much preparation and can accommodate any number of guests. They’re also great for occasions where teens and adults will be present such as church events, school fund raisers, family reunions and neighborhood block parties.
Whether you’re throwing an old-fashioned ice cream social or a simple build-your-own-sundae party, we have some suggestions to throw a stylish ice cream social guaranteed to be a success. After all, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!”
Ice Cream Social Invitations
There are many colorful and fun invitations to spread the word about your party. Choose a card in the shape of an ice cream cone for younger children, or with checkered, striped or ice cream designs in the borders for an ice cream social with a turn of the 20th century flair. We suggest Old West and circus typestyles for accented wording on your invitation, accompanied by a simple and easy to read font for the party details.
You can even send a personalized photo invitation with your child dressed as a Good Humor man (white shirt, black bow tie and paper hat) or a server at an old fashioned ice cream parlor (straw hat, red vest and white shirt, and if they’re a boy, a handlebar mustache!)
Ice Cream Social Preparation
Since ice cream socials tend to be messy affairs it’s a good idea to remind your guests not to wear their finest clothes to the party. You may also consider handing out throwaway disposable aprons or old shirts to wear as smocks. Or, provide cloth aprons and fabric paints or markers to all of the children to decorate with pictures of ice cream cones. They can take their aprons home afterwards as a party souvenir.
Plan for the clean-up ahead of time… You’ll be glad you did. Dine outdoors or in a room with furniture and floors that can be easily wiped down, as ice cream and fabric or carpet are not a good mix. You can’t have too many napkins and moist towelettes for spills and sticky hands, and use disposable plates, cups, bowls and cutlery as well as paper or easily cleaned tablecloths.
Ice Cream Social Decorations
Your ice cream party can be casual with minimal decoration, or you can go all the way with a classic old-time ice cream parlor look. For the latter, choose red, white and pink balloons. Hang red streamers down the walls to resemble stripes. Make old-fashioned looking signs and banners welcoming your guests and celebrating the occasion. You can find appropriate fonts on the internet, and to make larger signs print the letters at a time and trace or cut them out. Play some old fashioned calliope music in the background to set the mood at the beginning of the party, and switch to a mix of contemporary favorites later on. You may even consider renting a vintage-looking popcorn cart for the ambience… And the popcorn!
Decorate the tables with a red or white tablecloth, or a striped, checkered or gingham pattern. There are also many ice cream related designs to be found at craft and party stores. For the centerpiece, use large glass jars filled with assortments of old-fashioned candy sticks or gumballs in many colors. You can also weigh down helium balloons with party hands and garnish with ribbons and confetti.
Another clever decoration is to make an ice cream cone balloon arrangement by tying together brown balloons in the shape of a cone, and bunching white balloons speckled with an assortment of pastel colors to resemble a scoop of ice cream!
Ice Cream Social Activities
You will certainly want to plan plenty of activities to keep your guests busy until it’s ice cream time. If you’re celebrating outside or have access to a yard, why not play some old-fashioned backyard party games like croquet, horseshoes or lawn bowling? You can find plastic sets of each game for the littlest guests. Let them work up an appetite with tug of war, three-legged races and frisbee golf. If space and weather allow, purchase a few kites for the children to take turns flying.
If the party is indoors, try charades, “pin the cherry on the ice cream cone,” a bean bag toss or a game of “hot potato” with an ice cream related toy. You can also break out some classic board games.
There’s nothing like homemade ice cream, and while it would probably be too difficult to make enough for a party you may consider renting an old-fashioned crank machine so everyone can have a small bowl. Make an activity out of it (the kids will love taking turns cranking the machine) and serve before digging in to the sundae and toppings bar.
Another fun activity everyone will enjoy is to have an old-fashioned sing-along. If you’re a musician (or know one) find sheet music with lyrics of songs from the first half of the 20th century and sing along with the piano, banjo or guitar player. There are many websites where this music can be found, so that you can print out copies for your guests. If you don’t know a musician, download instrumental versions of the music and sing along karaoke-style!
After the ice cream is served you will want to set aside time to relax, as your guests will probably be too stuffed to do much else! Gather the children around the television and watch a movie. Good, theme-appropriate choices include old-fashioned musicals like “The Music Man,” or the always beloved “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”
Ice Cream Social Refreshments
Before the guests arrive, set out appetizing savory snacks such as vegetables or chips and dip, goldfish crackers, popcorn and pretzels. Provide plenty of cool drinks throughout the party like iced tea and punch. If there will be grown-ups at the party you’ll want to offer coffee as well. You can even have a coffee bar where adults can make their own delicious iced coffee blends with ice cream toppings like chocolate syrup and whipped cream.
Don’t feel the need to buy too many flavors of ice cream. Vanilla and chocolate should be enough, as your guests will load up their cones and bowls with lots and lots of toppings. However, you probably will want to have fat free yogurt or a sherbet as an alternative for calorie conscious adults. Keep the ice cream containers in steel tubs filled with ice to keep it cool. This is also a nice old-fashioned touch.
When it’s time for ice cream, set up several serving stations to minimize the lines and mess. Dish out the ice cream into bowls or cones at the first, pour hot fudge or syrup at the next and set bowls of toppings at the last. You may also want to let them make their own banana splits and offer large cookies so they can make ice cream sandwiches.
The toppings will be the star of the party and you should buy as many colorful and tasty favorites as you can. Chocolate, caramel and butterscotch syrup, hot fudge, crumbled Oreos, pecans and nuts, chocolate chips and candy sprinkles, gummy candies and maraschino cherries, coconut, cookie dough and fruit… The list goes on and on. Don’t forget the whipped cream to top it off!
If you’re celebrating a birthday, keep the cake simple as the slices will likely be drowned in ice cream. A simple angel’s food cake with chocolate frosting may do. You may even consider serving a delicious cookie or brownie cake instead.
After the Ice Cream Social
When the ice cream social is over you’ll want to send your guests home with goody bags. Fill red and white striped gift bags, or white lunch bags decorated with ice cream stickers with old fashioned candies like candy sticks, jelly beans, gumballs and BlackJack gum. Add entertaining souvenirs such as coloring books and crayons, stickers and sticker books and ice cream cone pencil toppers.
If you’re feeling a little creative, you could wrap ice cream cones filled with jelly beans or M&Ms in colorful cellophane. Tie it closed with a ribbon and add a note thanking them for being so sweet!