Cooking with your Kids Lesson Three: Cookies

12974804_SAre you prepared for the challenge of lesson three in cooking for kids? Cookies provide a great way to get your children comfortable with measuring, mixing, and combining ingredients in the right order. However, you should probably prepare to deal with a very messy kitchen at the completion.

One approach that will help minimize the mess and confusion is a common chef approach – creating a Mise en place – which involves pre-measuring and preparing all of the ingredients. Using small bowls or cups, have your children measure every ingredient and line them up in order. In the case of cookies where the dry ingredients need to be mixed together then added to the mix of wet ingredients, you can sort the smaller containers into wet and dry sections so that it is easier to follow the directions to make the cookie dough.

For a first batch of homemade cookies, choose a simple drop cookie recipe and one that can take a beating such as oatmeal cookies. You may want to use parchment paper under the ingredients during the measuring and assembly process to limit the waste. Parchment paper also keeps cookies from sticking to a cookie sheet and makes clean-up afterwards much easier.

If you’re introducing more than one child to baking, you may want to have each child take turns with measuring and mixing. Think about making cookies that involve simple stirring rather than beating. You may want to assign the oldest to read the recipe so that everyone knows all of the steps.

You may end up finishing the baking once the first batch or two come out of the oven, but it’s worth the time and effort to watch your next generation of bakers in action.

Keep the Family Occupied Until Gift Giving Starts

15287057_SIn the hours before gift giving starts in your family, it can be difficult to keep little ones from going crazy with excitement. It’s smart to plan an activity or two to help tide them over until it’s time for presents. These suggestions may help.

Plan a pre-gift. The night before or the morning before opening presents, have one gift ready to open early. The best choice is a game, a puzzle or a couple of new movies, something that will keep everyone occupied for a few hours.

Schedule an event. A visit to a holiday light show, a family concert or even a drive to look at lights can bring the holiday into focus and take up time with restless family members. Look for holiday-themed events – there are plenty in every community at this time of year.

Bake cookies. Making a batch of sugar cookies with cookie cutters and colored frosting and decorations, followed by a cookie feast with milk can easily take up an afternoon. Also, you’re ready with cookies to leave for Santa. Have everyone choose their favorite cookie to give the jolly guy.

Stage a pajama party. With new PJs for everyone, a special DVD or two, and popcorn and favorite snacks all wrapped up in a big box to open and enjoy, you’re ready for an exciting evening that can keep everyone occupied till bedtime. Some of those cookies would be tasty here too.

Whatever you choose to do, planning the time before presents will make a much nicer holiday for everyone, particularly parents who may get tired of hearing, “Is it time yet?” every 20 minutes or so. And it gives you a chance to start some new holiday traditions with your family.