Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tips for Decorating Christmas Cookies with Young Kids

Nothing says holidays like decorating cookies, Christmas especially.  We decorate cookies for most holidays, usually with extended family, but this year it was just me and my older 2 kids and a friend and we had just as much fun.  That is one of the joys of cookie decorating, it is great for any size group.  Here are some tips I have learned over the years of decorating cookies with my students while I was teaching first grade and decorating cookies with my own family. 

1.  Know your limits!  Baking sugar cookies can be fairly difficult.  Don't try to start from scratch all in one day.  Make your cookies the day before you plan on decorating them.  If you are going to bake your own it is absolutely necessary that you chill the dough, it is best if it can chill overnight.  I am convinced this is the secret to getting the cookies to work and keeping yourself from tearing out your hair in frustration.  Realize, you can order unfrosted sugar cookies in almost any shape from nearly every grocery store bakery, all it takes is a simple phone call.  If you live in Utah, Macy's has them for super cheap.  That is all I have done for years.  This summer was the first time I was able to actually get a sugar cookie recipe to work.  My kids don't know the difference all they care about are the sprinkles.

2.  Make your life easy, buy the canned frosting.  I know the homemade usually tastes better, but honestly, by the time your toddler is done dumping sprinkles all over the thing and has licked his or her knife several times, taste is not really going to be a factor.  Simplify!  Buy several tubs of the Betty Crocker stuff and call it good.

3.  When you buy your frosting, always buy the "whipped" frosting for decorating with kids.  It is soooo... much easier to spread.  My personal favorite is the whipped cream cheese frosting.  Then when you get it home, divide it up into multiple bowls and use food coloring to dye it different colors. 

4.  When setting up an area to decorate, realize it will be messy, if you are worried put a dropcloth or old tablecloth under your table.  Sprinkles go everywhere and at least one kid will dump an entire bottle on their cookie.  

5.  Don't buy the peppermint sprinkles, they look cute but are nasty, same with the really cute mini candy pieces they make in holidays shapes.  Stick to tastier things, regular sprinkles and colored sugar, mini chocolate chips (my personal favorite), and m&m's.

6.  When you start, give each child a paper plate with a cookie on it.  Give them their own plastic knife, or if they are really little, use a popsicle stick and then put spoonfuls of frosting on their plate.  This helps prevent licked knives from going into the main bowl of frosting multiple times.

7.  Lower your expectations.  Most little kids will love decorating one, maybe two cookies, then they will either want to eat it or eat the m&m's and be done.  Be okay with that.  Get your camera out right when your child starts decorating and get a couple of good pictures and take a picture of the finished product.  Your child has had a great time and you have the pictures to prove it.  This is the reason I suggest taking the easy way when it comes to the cookies and frosting.  If you haven't spent hours and hours slaving over making the cookies and making the perfect frosting, then you are not going to be mad that only a few cookies got decorated.  If you like baking from scratch and have a recipe you like, then go for it, but realize kids are not really going to appreciate that part and be okay with that, recognize the from scratch part is for you, not for the kids.


Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. You can always save most of the homemade cookies to decorate yourself after the kids are through with theirs (and after they go to bed!)

brooke said...

Where were you the last 7 years as I've struggled to make the perfect cookies with my kids!!! This was great advice.