Baking with Kids: Tips & Tricks
Winter is a perfect time to spend some time in the kitchen baking some yummy treats. I always loved when my mom or grandma would make cookies with us when we were little. Helping to measure the ingredients, rolling out the dough, picking which cookie cutter to use and then the best part...DECORATING!
Baking with kids always seems like such a magical idea. What could be better than quality time with your kids making cookies for Santa? The icing, the sprinkles the joy on your kids faces!
The reality of it is that kids are MESSY! It's pretty much a guarantee that when you bake with small children your kitchen (or entire house!) will end up with flour, sprinkles and frosting everywhere. I'm not saying you shouldn't bake with your kids because you totally should. I'm just saying there are some tricks to doing it where everyone has fun and there isn't as much mess when you are done.
We love making sugar cookies and have been inviting friends over to help since our first year here in California. So after making cookies with little ones for the past three years at almost every holiday I've learned a few things about how to not loose your sanity while doing it.
First, you will need a great cookie recipe. I stumbled upon this one while mindlessly browsing on Pinterest and it is a hit! They are super easy to make and taste amazing! Click the picture below to get the recipe. They really are the best.
Usually I'm all about my kids helping in the kitchen. I'm not afraid of a mess. But around the holidays things can get kind of crazy and hectic so sometimes it's easier to just do it yourself. This year Emmett was napping so Emerson was able to help me out. Here are some tips if you are going to let your kiddos help with the making of the dough.
- Have all ingredients, measuring cups and spoons out and ready before you start. (The worst thing is to have to go grab something from the cabinet and leave your kid unattended with the flour!)
- If your child wants to measure out the dry ingredients have them measure it out into a separate bowl so if mistakes are made you can fix it before adding it to the mixing bowl. (My kids tend to either scoop too little or too much)
- For liquid ingredients have your child hold the measuring cup or spoon while you poor it. They are able to help, buy you have ultimate control over how much goes in.
- Be prepared for a bit of a mess. It's gonna happen and that's okay. I always tell them that accidents happen and it can always get cleaned up.
In the recipe above it says to chill the dough for a few hours before rolling and cutting. Normally that is what I do, but then I discovered an amazing trick that saved so much time.
Roll the dough out in small batches in between two sheets of wax or parchment paper right after you make it. Then lay on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. I made 3 rolled out pieces from one batch of dough and just stacked them on top of each other in the freezer. Take out one piece at a time and take off the top layer of wax paper. Then cut out your cookies! Re-roll the scraps and place back in the freezer.
This saved me so much time and I was able to make a batch of sugar cookies and a batch of gingerbread cookies in the amount of time it would have taken to just chill one batch of dough. I didn't have to struggle trying to roll out cold dough. It also made it so much easier for Emerson to help out with the rolling and the cutting out of the cookies. Rolling can be tricky for kids, but when the dough is soft it's so much easier. She helped roll a bit and then decided to let me finish it up.
When it was time to cut the cookies out it was so nice to have three pieces already rolled out so Emerson could just focus on cutting the shapes out that she wanted. The dough also held its shape so much better which made it easier for her to pick up the cookies and place them on the cookie sheet. I highly recommend this if you are making a lot of cookies or doing it with small children.
Once all your cookies are baked and cooled it's time to decorate!
When it comes to icing there are a lot of options so it really depends on your preferred taste. We use a simple recipe that I found on Pinterest. You can grab it here. It is a pretty thin icing made from powdered sugar. It's my favorite for decorating cut out cookies because you don't have to spread it on and you can make it as thick or thin as you want.
Here is my secret weapon when it comes to icing cookies with kids:
These things are the best! We use the Wilton brand. I had two larger bottles and this year I found smaller ones on clearance at Jo-ann's. Unfortunately when I went to use them I realized that they had really small openings. I ended up having to put the icing in a decorator bag and then squeezed it into the small bottles. You could also use a funnel, but I really recommend getting the larger bottles since their opening in much bigger and you can just spoon the icing in.
I make at least two batches of frosting so we can have a variety of colors. After mixing up the icing I divide it into bowls and then add food coloring. Then I put the icing into the squeeze bottles and get everything ready for the kids to decorate. Here are some tips for decorating with kids:
- Have icing prepared before inviting the kids to come decorate.
- Use squeeze bottles so you don't end up with icing everywhere. (This is also a great way to sneak in some fine motor work. Squeezing the bottle will help strengthen their hand muscles for writing or cutting with scissors.)
- Use paper plates under the cookies to help keep the table clean.
- Put finished cookies on a stack-able drying rack to save room and keep them out of the way.
- If using sprinkles make sure the holes are not too big otherwise you will end up with a mound of sprinkles on your cookies. If the dispenser has large holes tape over them so there is only one small area where sprinkles come out.
Here are our cookies from this year's decorating extravaganza. Usually the kids are interested enough to decorate about 3 cookies and then they go play and us moms relax and have fun doing the rest of the cookies.
Clean up is pretty easy and once the icing sets you can set the cookies on top of each other. They will sometimes stick so if you want you can place a piece of wax paper in between layers. I store mine in an air tight container and they stay good for about two weeks (if they aren't all eaten by then!)
I hope you found this post helpful. Do you bake with your kids? If you have any other tips or tricks for baking with kids leave me a comment below. Happy Baking!