Holiday Baking with Children

Filed under: Activities: Babies, Holidays, Amazing Kids, Cabin Fever

The children start their Christmas vacation earlier than usual this year, leading Cabin Fever to think: nothing like a little holiday baking to fill the hours with festive cheer. I have in mind an all-family project. Wouldn't it be merry to prepare homemade treats for hand-delivery to friends and neighbours-we'd-like-to-know-better?

Our pantry is stocked with sugar and flour and vanilla, our fridge with butter and eggs. The children have selected a variety of tints, sprinkles, and tiny edible silver balls, and we've unearthed the holiday cookie cutters. Gingerbread girl, meet Christmas tree. Santa, meet sleigh.

Ambition, meet reality.

My butter cookie recipe is simple, tried and true. It is easy to roll and cut, and bakes up with a pleasant crust of brown upon the bottom, and a creamy blank top that begs for decoration. We begin with a brisk hand-washing, and aprons for all. The ingredients are visible and available upon the counter top, bowls and spatulas aplenty.

The children, all four of them, clamber onto stools to help. Let the conflict begin!

"He got to sift the last time." "She always gets to use the electric beater." "Gross! There are eggshells in here." "Does 1/2 cup mean 1 cup plus 2 cups?" "Who measured the flour?" "Baking soda, baking powder, what's the difference?" I want a turn!" "No, me!" "I get to lick the spoon!" "No, me!"

And the toddler's eaten a half-stick of butter.By the time the first batch of cookies has been cut out and the tray tossed into the hot oven (by mama), the rolling pin is beginning to look like a weapon of mass destruction.

The toddler has departed for the kitchen floor to continue his ongoing Sisyphean pot-and-pan removal project. (He leaves them for half an hour and they disappear back into the drawer again! Why? Why?). The four-year-old is surreptitiously eating angel-shaped dough. Only the two eldest, seven and eight, are devotedly producing shapes to place upon trays.

For efficiency's sake, I cut out several dozen trees and a final tray of wreaths. The oven timer buzzes incessantly, and finished cookies sprawl on every surface, till cool enough to decorate, whereupon, I stir up and tint the icing, and permit a little free-range snacking. I'm going to need a cup of hot tea to survive what's next. This is going way out beyond messy.

Favourite cookie decorating styles include: The Pile-On, in which great globs of icing are adorned with further mountains of sprinkles; The Smudge, in which all of the icing and decorations are restricted to a small portion of the cookie; The Perfection, in which all trees must be green and all Santa hats red; The Half-Eaten, a well-known toddler design; and my own specialty: The Impatient, which requires no imagination whatsoever, only irritated endurance.

We've reached the belly-aching portion of the project.

Cue the favourite Christmas CD, by which I mean, the children's favourite; it came from a bargain bin at Giant Tiger and features a roguish, superfluous narrator and much jingling of bells. With the sweet elixir of sugar hitting their bloodstreams, even the last of my diligent bakers has retired to the living room to dance upon the furniture. I'm alone. There remain several thousand cookies still to ice.

I'm thinking: Next year, perhaps we'll try caroling instead.


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.