I love decorating cookies with my children. In fact, our oldest son was probably just 2 years old when I decided we’d decorate cookies together every year. So, for more than 20 years we set aside a day in December to make cookies and decorate them. Now that my kids are older, not everyone participates on that day and that’s fine, those of us who can have fun hanging out and decorating cookies.
When I had 5 children under the age of 9 cookie decorating day would get a little out of control, but we managed, and I learned some tips for decorating cookies with children….and my children have really fond memories of it.
Be prepared for a mess
Let me just be completely honest so you don’t have any Pinterest perfect, unrealistic expectations. There will be a big mess when you’re done decorating cookies with children. If you add in small children or have more than one child, the mess will be even bigger. If you know that going in it won’t be such a big deal.
One of my parenting mantras is “Have high goals but low expectations.” This truly helps me keep my sanity. So I have a goal of there not being a huge mess, but my expectation is that there will be a big mess. Since I expect to have to clean up a mess, I don’t get so frustrated while decorating cookies.
Fortunately, it will clean up just fine with a damp washcloth. We work at the kitchen table and that helps contain the mess. Also, we don’t have carpet in our house but if we did, I’d make sure my kids wore socks and then took them off before leaving the kitchen for any reason.
Please don’t let this piece of raw honestly deter you from decorating cookies with your children. I promise you the benefits outweigh any mess that is made.
Limit the mess
The first thing I do after making icing is put it in small (sandwich size) ziploc bags. If the icing is dyed, I’ll make a couple of bags of each color. When it’s time to decorate I’ll snip one of the bottom corners off and we’ll squeeze the icing through the hole to pipe it onto the cookies. This also keeps the icing from drying out too soon.
If we’re using sprinkles, I’ll set just a couple out at a time and try to replace the lids when someone is done using a bottle. Everyone works on their own plate to decorate a cookie. This helps keep the sprinkles from flying everywhere and makes clean up a snap. When someone is done decorating a cookie, he puts the cookie on a platter and can then get another one for his plate to decorate.
With a little planning ahead you can make herbal sprinkles to put on them.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that young children believe in quantity and not necessarily quality. Which means if you only let them decorate one or two cookies they will pile that cookie super high with decorations. However, if they know they can decorate as many cookies as they want, they’re more receptive when you suggest that they probably don’t need a 4th kind of sprinkles on their cookie.
Older children will usually take longer and use less decorations. I’ve found that if I don’t put parameters on what is good for cookie decorations, my kids will come up with all kinds of creativity. Who says a Christmas cookie can’t have a Captain America® shield or a Star Wars® Jedi emblem on it?
Let the children stop when their interest wanes
Some of my children really love decorating cookies, some only want to decorate a couple. We never have a predetermined amount of cookies we need to decorate. If they don’t all get decorated then we eat them without icing. We can do this because my cookie recipe is wonderful and doesn’t really need icing.
Nothing will kill a kid’s creative spirit more than being “done” with a craft and then being force to continue. There are plenty of opportunities in life to teach your child tenacity….cookie decorating doesn’t need to be one of those things.
Usually by the time it’s all said and done, it’s just me and one other child…..sometimes it’s just me. When we’re all “done”, everyone comes in and helps clean up. Or when my children were young, they would go play outside while I finished up and then cleaned up in quietness.
Enjoy the time together
This is truly the most important part of decorating cookies with children….just being together. We’ll put on some music to listen to and hang out. I’ve learned so much about my children from working, crafting, and decorating cookies side by side. It’s interesting to me that when the hands are busy, and the eyes are focused on the project, how easily the heart opens up.
You can learn everything from favorite colors and super heroes to struggles with a college class or friend when you decorate cookies with children. But you can’t decorate cookies once and expect great things to happen, you have to practice what I call “parenting by hanging out” often, and decorating cookies is just one of those times.
I’m telling you, decorating cookies with children is really NOT about the cookies.
Do you have tips for decorating cookies with children? Feel free to leave them in the comments.