Our Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes for Festive Baking with Kids
It goes without saying, but children love sweet treats, and over the holidays they often receive plenty of cookies, candies, and chocolates.
While having a batch of homemade treats in your cookie jar is a surefire way to win over any kids who visit, baking for them isn't your only option. Why not set aside half a day for baking with them? After all, the best part of the holidays is spending time together, and there will be cookies to eat (and give!) when you're done. It's unlikely you'll forget a day spent watching those little hands sift, stir, and roll; you'll find you feel closer to each other by the time the cookies come out of the oven.
When baking with children, we must put aside some of our expectations. It can be quite an undertaking, and a messy kitchen is always part of the deal. Some kids have short attention spans, so it's fine if you make the dough and roll it yourself; then invite them to join you for the fun of cutting shapes and decorating. You could also give them a small job at each stage of the preparation, and don't expect maximum efficiency. Many kids will find it frustrating to pipe detailed designs with icing, so we've included easy drop cookies that are topped with hard candies, shown here, as well as dough that is decorated before it bakes, and Christmas trees with simple lines that can be piped or brushed.
Stocking up on basic baking supplies, as well as cookie cutters, food coloring (we recommend gel colors for their intensity), and sanding sugar is a good way to prepare your cabinets before you begin. Aside from the practical concerns, this is a batch of recipes that will spark joy: there are familiar shapes like gingerbread men, turned kid-like. Some of the cookies are more whimsical: A cookie that's a letter to Santa (go ahead and address it too), and a gingerbread house, done up in rustic-chic style will bring out the kid in anyone.
We hope you will find that the recipes here are fun and achievable to make, one of the most important gifts we can give to children is a feeling of accomplishment. If that comes with delicious cookies, too, all the better.
Dark Chocolate Cutout Cookies
Sweet fauns and other woodland animals look like they've wandered through a snowy forest. All it takes is a few dots of icing in just the right places, and a dusting of sanding sugar.
Cutout Cookie Dough
Here's a recipe with built-in decoration for kids whose fine motor skills aren't developed enough for cutting and painting; the dough has been divided into three brightly colored batches, and kids can roll small pieces of it in their hands before pressing it into a pattern.
Almond and Apricot Thumbprint Cookies
Kids will enjoy placing a thumb on each dough ball to make the indentation. If their thumbs are too small, use the back of a teaspoon measure for a more even look. You could swap the almond butter for peanut butter and use the jam or preserves of your choice.
Stained Glass Cookie Ornaments
These cookies are so right for children to make: let them smash the candy instead of chopping it (place it in a zipper-topped bag first). When heated the crushed candies turn into sheer beauty; be sure to turn on the oven light so the little bakers can peek while the centers are melting.
Gingerbread Trees with Lemon Icing
Making these cookies is a perfect project for less detail-oriented pastry chefs. Instead of using cookie cutters, the rolled dough is simply cut into triangles. A piping bag comes in handy to make the icing sugar garlands, or you can make your own: cut a small hole from the corner of a zipper-topped plastic bag, and then fill it partway with icing. Et voilà, Christmas trees.
Basic Gingerbread Cookies
For a whimsical take on the classic gingerbread men, turn to this gingerbread dough. Why not make it into a game, and let the kids decorate tiny versions of themselves and their friends?
Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs
You don't have to have special cookie cutters to make these treats; there is a set of templates to print and cut out. The cookies you and the kids decorate might not look like the ones in this photo, but don't let that stop you from having fun together and trying your hand with the piping bag.
Mini-Alpine in style and simple in construction, this is a fun-and doable winter project. Let the kids decide how to decorate their new creation. (The fake wood grain is entirely optional.) You'll need to help them hold the corners together while the icing dries (and may need to help out with a lot more, depending on the age and attention of your sous chefs).
Gingerbread Cookie Letters to Santa
Sometimes you have to think outside the box to come up with things to entertain the kids. Let them cut the simple rectangles of dough, you can guide the piping bag to make straight lines.
Citrus Ornament Cookies
A tart, deliciously lemony glaze is brushed onto these sugar cookies. An adult should make the candied citrus zest and the syrup. Kids can take the decorating from there!