Including Your Kids in Holiday Baking

The following post is from Shaina of Food for My Family and Olmanson Photography:

source: Food for My Family

Every year I bake pan after pan of Christmas cookies to gift and to bring to family gatherings. It’s something my grandma used to do long before I had my own kids, and I still remember her kitchen covered in trays of freshly baked goods, dusted with powdered sugar, jams simmering on the stove to fill them and the assortment of Christmas tins we’d lovingly pack them into as they cooled.

Holiday baking can be overwhelming at times, but it can be an incredible memory-making experience with your children as well. Capturing those memories can turn something that may feel like work into a fun holiday activity for the whole family, and my kids are always so proud when we show up with cookies and they can say they helped roll and bake them.

Here are some guidelines for your making the most of holiday baking opportunities with your kids:

Before you get started:

1. Choose a recipe you know and love. Picking a recipe you’re familiar with will make it easy to incorporate adding steps for your children to do because you already have an idea of how the recipe goes, what comes next and how it should look at each stage. If you are picking new recipes, try to choose recipes that aren’t too involved or that have room for error. Drop or rolled sugar cookies or muffins are always good choices.

2. Suit up. My kids always feel more involved if they have their very own apron on. This can be as simple as a dish towel tied around their waist. Plus, it helps with the clean up later.

3. Provide a fun environment. Start with a bit of holiday music and maybe an activity on the table to do during downtime. One of the hardest parts of keeping kids involved in baking is getting their attention the entire time, even during the parts they aren’t able to do themselves. Providing alternate activities they can do or things like music you can sing together while you work can keep the mood happy and light and keep them interested and involved.

Below is a loose guideline of age-related activities to involve the kids in. Remember that all kids are different and mature at different stages. When choosing activities for your children, think about their personal interests, behavior characteristics and what you think they can personally handle.

Up to Age 4:

  • pour pre-measured ingredients like flour or milk into mixing bowls
  • sift and stir dry ingredients together in large bowls with spoons or whisks
  • place cookie cutters in rolled dough and press down with assistance
  • decorate cakes and cupcakes with sprinkles and nonpareils
  • crunch and smash crackers and cookies into crumbs for crusts with the bottom of non-breakable cups

Ages 5 to 7:

all of the above, plus…

  • cut soft fruits or peel oranges, clementines or potatoes
  • measure dry ingredients with cups and spoons and add to mixing bowls
  • wash fruits and vegetables and remove stems
  • cut out cookies from rolled dough, slice rolled cookies, scoop drop cookies
  • crack eggs into separate containers
  • load utensils and measuring cups into the dishwasher

Ages 7 to 9:

all of the above, plus…

  • measure all ingredients, both wet and dry
  • frost cookies, cupcakes and cakes
  • wipe down surfaces during the cooking process
  • roll cookie, pie and pastry dough into different sizes
  • load and unload the dishwasher
  • separate egg whites and yolks into small dishes

Age 10 and Over:

all of the above, plus…

  • use small kitchen appliances like mixers, a food processor or blender
  • chop fruits, vegetables and nuts
  • add/remove cookies sheets and pans from the oven
  • use the stovetop: stir, add ingredients, watch
  • everything!

What are your favorite things to bake for the holidays?

Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.