The holidays are a magical time of year and a perfect time to do some cooking with your kids.By slowing down and cooking those holiday meals and treats together, you’ll create lasting memories and also teach them recipes and traditions that they can someday use in their own kitchens.
Here’s ten ways to involve your kids in holiday cooking, no matter what their ages.
1. Bake cookies together. This one is a tradition for a reason. Not only is it so much fun for kids, but they can also cut your work in half as they help with mixing, rolling, cutting and decorating. I’ve featured lots of holiday cookie recipes here, including:
- The Original Girl Scout Cookie
- Snowball cookies
- Vegan cinnamon oatmeal cookies
- Scottish shortbread
- Vegan chocolate chip cookies
- Gingerbread men
- Rosenmunnar (Swedish thumbprint cookies)
- Dr. Abernethy and his biscuits
- Sugar cookies with stars
- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
2. Make sugarplums. Yes, those sugarplums! Not only are they a real thing, but they’re also really healthy (fruit, orange juice, sugar and optional nuts) and easy. It’s a win-win! Here’s our classic recipe.
3. Make gingerbread houses. These are just crazy fun. Here’s a great article by Tiffany Baker with lots of recipes and tips.
4. Make whimsical healthy party foods. Holiday foods don’t have to be limited to sugar and fat. There are so many really fun ways to play with your food this time of year. I featured 10 whimsical healthy holiday treats here.
5. Drag out the family recipes. This is the perfect time to pass on traditional recipes that have been handed down in your family, whether it’s cranberry sauce or egg noodles. Involve extended family, too, and ask them to cook some of their prized recipes with your kids to give them a really priceless gift.
6. Let them make supper. Holidays tend to be busy times, and you can probably use all the help you can get. Let the kids take ownership of making dinner one or two nights a week, even if that means serving cereal and fruit (for very young kids), heating up soup and making sandwiches (for slightly older kids) or putting them in charge of simple suppers like broiled fish or pasta with homemade sauce. They may still need lots of supervision, but it will free up lots of your time and reinforce those cooking skills for the future.
7. Set them loose with your cookbooks. Kids often love to comb through cookbooks to find that perfect recipe. Ask for their help in finding new dishes to try or cookies to bake. One cookbook we really like is “Cooking Fun” by Rae Grant, reviewed here.
8. Study history through Christmas foods. Here’s a fun way to combine cooking and history. The Food Timeline teaches kids all sorts of holiday tidbits like what was typical Christmas foods were in Shakespeare’s times and the real origins of Candy Canes. Find out about the Food Timeline here, or check out some free historical cookbooks here.
9. Teach them to sous chef. A sous chef is a cook’s helper, and is in charge of doing little duties to help the cook. Young kids can wash produce and spin washed lettuce in the salad spinner. Older kids can peel and chop. They can also mix, batter and otherwise serve as that second set of hands we often need in the kitchen.
10. Put them in charge of tablescapes. It can be wonderfully fun to design the table to make dinner seem more fanciful. Kids can learn fun napkin folds, create centerpieces, learn to set a proper table and find just the right accents to make dinner extra special. Kids can search for terms like tablescapes or napkin folds on Pinterest for fun inspiration. Encourage them to use items like pine boughs, ornaments, garland and other decorative accents to really make the tables special.
No matter how you incorporate your kids in your holiday cooking, just remember to slow down and enjoy the season with them. Happy Holidays!