The holiday preparations can often seem overwhelming. But one way to make this time of year special for children – and more fun – is to include them in getting ready for the holiday. Baking cookies is a great way to get the season off to a sweet and tasty start. Besides filling the house with the aromas of the holiday, baking with children can also provide fun opportunities to practice skills.
Keep it simple
Most cookie dough recipes are pretty straight forward. The ingredients can be mixed in one bowl. Other than cracking the eggs, I generally allowed my children to do all the measuring and mixing. (I tried letting them have a go at the eggs, but it was frustrating and messy. You may have more luck, but in my experience, my children were happy to let me do that job.) So pick a recipe that is pretty easy to throw together.
Organize the workspace
The baking process seemed to go smoother when I took a little time to get things organized before I involved my kids. When I cleared the counter top of unnecessary clutter and brought out all the required baking ingredients and equipment before we got started, we all seemed to have a better time. On the few occasions when I tried to squeeze a baking session into an already busy day, my lack of organization and general state of frenzy rubbed off on my kids and the activity was just not as much fun.
Prep the kids as well as the kitchen
Before we started baking, I reviewed some of the key kitchen tools with my children. The baking process was always smoother when my young children were familiar with the equipment. We looked at the cup measure, half cup measure and quarter cup measure. Then we looked at the various sizes of measuring spoons. Sometimes it was easier for my little guys to use the smaller tools, so I even threw in a little “math lesson” by showing the kids the equivalents: two half cups = one whole cup, and so on.
Direct each step
I reinforced the importance of following the directions for the recipe. Creativity could come out in the decorating, but precision was needed while getting the dough mixed. To make baking educational, as well as fun, I stayed beside my children and called out the directions, step by step. As my children worked, I gave oral hints and tips to guide them. I directed them on how to measure and combine the ingredients. I also gave directions for (as I like to say) “cleaning up as we went along” to avoid a big mess at the end.
Following the directions for the recipe became a great chance for my children to hone their listening skills. I reminded them to listen closely to my instructions and wait for each step as I gave it.
Step back for the cookie decorating
My only directions during this part of the cookie making process was to remind my children to keep the sprinkles on the table! Otherwise, they were free to decorate any way they wished. And of course, eating cookies as you decorate is part of the fun.
Renee Abramovitz is a a former preschool and kindergarten teacher who retired in 2008 to become a “full-time grandma” to her four beautiful grandsons. She is passionate about the idea that all parents are their child‘s first and most important teacher and strives to give parents the tools and confidence they need to successfully work with their children at home.
Visit Renee at www.schoolsparks.com for information on helping your child develop important school-readiness skills. On her site you’ll find a free kindergarten readiness test plus hundreds of free kindergarten worksheets including Christmas math worksheets and Christmas worksheets!