The music, the trees, the ornaments, seasonal traditions, the lights and my personal favorite the COOKIES!
And let me tell you as a young mom, I could not wait to share the excitement of decorating cookies with my (very) young children. Heck, I couldn’t wait to share the excitement of decorating cookies with all the children!
Poor, poor naïve Janie-jean. I mean you’ve been there right? The cookies have been baked in those iconic Christmas shapes. The smell of sugar and spices are in the air. You whip up a quick batch of royal icing and even make a special trip to the grocery store to pick out the perfect sprinkles to adorn your precious, delectable treats. You just can’t wait to create Christmas memories…and then this happens…
They lick the icing off of the spoon you gave them specifically for icing the cookies. Oh don’t worry, they know what it’s for but quality control mom, give me just a taste.
They throw handfuls of sprinkles on top because “my cookie has all the glitter!” Well son, looks like we need to learn the concept of less is more in 2017.
They eat the cookie(s) you set in front of them to decorate before you’ve handed them their decorations.
They cough, sneeze, basically any bodily function that is considered non-hygienic all over…I guess these are going to be your special cookies now.
…and the list goes on. Seriously, I learned my lesson last year…when decorating with young children just keep it simple.
If the thought of decorating with your preschooler stresses you out here are 5 tips I can give you to make it a more enjoyable experience.
I never considered myself OCD until I decorated Christmas cookies with my son for the first time, and I just couldn’t stop nit-picking every last detail. Your kid is young, not anywhere close to the Picasso of cookies. Understand that he/she is only in it for the chance to get elbow deep in sugar or to make a cookie up to his/her (young) artistic standard. My advice…do yoga, grab a glass of wine or whatever else you need to do to calm down…they’re just going to be eaten anyway. It’s all about the fun of it.
- ZIPLOC BAGS ARE YOUR FRIEND!
If you decide to be adventurous and want to ice your cookies, place small amounts of home made icing in Ziploc bags. Zip the top, snip one of the bottom corners of the bag and let them go to town. I find that this approach contains the mess a little bit better than just letting them scoop icing with a spoon. Watch them squeeze the icing out and create whatever design their little heart desires.
- DELEGATE THE WORK
I find that my kids enjoy the experience of Christmas cookies more when they’ve invested themselves in the final product. In today’s recipe, I filled a bag with candy canes, gave my 3 year old a mallet and let him work out his inner hulk by smashing the candy into teeny, tiny shards…he was so proud of himself which makes my heart smile.
- PLAY WITH THE DOUGH
Speaking of today’s recipe…make a dough similar to Playdoh. These sugary delights can easily become a sensory activity. Allow your kids to create, smush, stretch, roll and pretty much just play with the dough. The dough below is perfect for this approach to cookie baking with kids.
Yes, it’s the same as the first tip, but I know you’re still a bit stressed. Seriously, say a prayer, sip some wine, count to 10, take a deep breath and go create memories!
While the kids are napping, make the dough. All you’ll need is butter, powdered sugar, an egg, vanilla and almond extract, flour, salt, and red food coloring.
What I love about this dough is how similar it is to playdoh. Believe me, the kids won’t be able to tell the difference…unless they’re like mine and eat it. Definitely a distinct difference there.
Separate the dough in half and dye one of the cookie dough halves with red food coloring. Wrap both dough halves separately in plastic wrap and allow to chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Once the kids are ready to join in the fun, DELEGATE THE WORK and let them prep the candy cane sprinkles. Big Lew kept shouting “Hammer! Hammer! Hammer!” as he smashed those candy canes to smithereens.
Now it’s time to roll out the dough. I think this recipe is perfect for ages 3 and up because the steps to create the candy canes involve making “worms” with your dough. And if you’re like our family we love to make “worms” with our playdoh.
All you have to do is roll our two worms, one of each color and set them parallel to each other about 6 inches in length.
Place them next to each other and pinch the top and bottom to connect the two worms.
Gently twist the two “worms” together and ‘hook’ one end to make the traditional candy cane shape. Place on a prepared baking sheet, bake until lightly golden around the edges.
Sprinkle with the crushed candy canes immediately after exiting the oven. Allow to cool, fill up a plate of cookies and taste the fruits of everyone’s labor.
I guarantee they will be the most delicious cookies you’ve ever tasted because of the contributions made by all the hands that prepared them plus the memories made together.
My son hasn’t stopped talking about these cookies and it’s been well over 2 weeks since we made them. The experience was virtually painless. I just realized that I needed to get over this demand for perfection. That ultimately steals the joy out of the baking experience which is something I don’t want my kids to associate with let alone at Christmas time.
Do you have any tips for cookie decorating with small children? If so, I would love to hear them. Comment down below…let’s share with one another!
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon red food coloring
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.
- In the bowl of a stand mxer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Using a spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl, then add the egg, vanilla and almond extract. Mix till well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer on low, add the flour and salt, and mix till just combined. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides again to make sure all the flour has been incorporated into the dough.
- Divide the dough in half and set one piece of dough aside in a separate bowl. Add the red food coloring to one of the dough halves and work it into the dough using either your mixer or some good old fashioned elbow grease and a stiff spatula. Mix until it is completely red with no streaks of the original dough color. You can add additional food coloring to reach the color red you desire.
- Pat each dough half into 2 flattened disks. Wrap and place in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. This will make the cookie dough easier to work with for shaping into candy canes.
- When ready to bake, place oven racks in the bottom third and top third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon baking mats.
- Remove both pieces of dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Using a cookie scoop, scoop a one inch sized piece of dough from each color. Roll each ball into a thick rope about 6 inches long. Place both ropes parallel to each other so that both sides are touching. Pinch the top each end of the dough ropes together then gently twist them together. Transfer the twisted ropes to the prepped baking sheets and gently hook the top to create the iconic candy cane shape.
- Repeat with the remaining dough. Chill both sheets of prepared cookie dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes before baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the bottom edges and tips of the cookies are just barely turning golden brown. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of the cookies immediately after removing from the oven. Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
- Store the cookies between layers of wax or parchment paper in an airtight container. Cookies will stay fresh for about 2 weeks…if they last that long.