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Practical Life Activities: Holiday Cookie Making with Toddlers

The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to include your child in food and gift preparation. Cookies are a wonderful combination of both!

Making cookies and presenting them to a loved one exposes your child to the ritual of gift-giving as well as the steps we take in the kitchen to make the cookies.

Repeating this activity several times over the coming months will help your child master the motor skills required to add and stir ingredients and begin to memorize many of the steps.

Here is a Montessori approach to cookie baking that you can adjust to meet the needs of your child. 

Baking for Valentine's Day

Toddler-friendly Cookie Baking

Prepare the environment.

Pre-measure the ingredients and put them in individual small bowls at a low table. Measuring is an added challenge for a young child and can distract from the parts of the process that they can do successfully.

They can help dump the ingredients one at a time into a bowl and then use a child-sized wooden spoon to stir it up. They may need your help at the end to make sure everything is mixed thoroughly.

Note: For the youngest helpers, you may want to limit their involvement to placing sprinkles on cookies or frosting baked cookies. 

In the video below, we prepared the dough and the tools before we invited Logan to participate in

  • cutting the dough with cookie cutters
  • adding sprinkles to the cookies
  • transferring the cookies to the baking sheet

It might help you to envision which steps you will enable your child to practice.

If you plan to include your child in rolling out the dough, divide the dough into 2 or 3 parts to make it more manageable for your little one.

  • Put the first portion on a cutting board with flour, and then show them how to use their rolling pin to roll out the dough. Once it is thin enough, put the rolling pin aside.
  • Show your little one how to push down a cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Child-friendly cookie cutters are great to avoid sharp edges!
  • Lift up the unused dough and show them how to slide a spatula under each cookie to transfer them to a baking sheet. Continue until the dough is used up (or your child loses interest).

If you have a large set of cookie cutters, you might select 2-3 shapes for your child to choose from for each cookie they cut out. Keep the rest put away to reduce frustration and clutter in the process.

 

Place a bowl of sprinkles next to the baking sheet, and show your child how to use the pincer grip to grasp sprinkles between your thumb and pointer finger, and place the sprinkles on the cookie. Let them have a turn. Chances are that your little one will heavily decorate some cookies more than others. Try to refrain from making a comment on how they choose to allocate the sprinkles. Their confidence and their enjoyment of the process matters more than the aesthetics of the finished product.

When the cookies are baked and cooled, your child can use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a serving platter, and you can admire how beautiful they are and how good they smell! A child-sized spatula will be the easiest for your little one to maneuver. It is tremendous for your little one’s confidence to know they have meaningfully contributed to the holiday meal.

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Children of all ages yearn to be a part of their world. They want to participate in adult activities, and they want to believe that their work matters. The holidays offer an abundance of opportunities for your little one to contribute to the special meals that take place at this time. The positive effects are even greater because they sense that these meals really matter. Creating ways for them to engage in meaningful activity around holiday food will make this time even more special for them!

Read next: 3 Thanksgiving Projects for Toddlers >

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