Tips for Holiday Cooking with Littles

Tips for Holiday Cooking with Littles

One of our favorite things about the holidays? The yummy food, of course! As we’re getting into the spirit of the holidays, we decided to chat with food blogger and chef, Ali Hooke, to get all her tips about holiday cooking with kids! So put on your favorite pair of holiday pajamas and head to the kitchen.

Here’s what she had to share:

Start with baking

As a chef who put herself through culinary school by nannying, an aunt, and a new mom - if there is one thing I have done a lot of, it’s baking with kids. Baking is my preferred way to bring kids into the kitchen as it has easy-to-understand rules and measurements. Crack an egg here, pour one cup of milk there - it’s easy to break down tasks your kids can handle and feel like they own in their entirety. Baked goods can also be quite resilient to small mistakes or spills. A brownie will likely remain a delicious gooey chocolatey thing even if your child spills too many toasted walnuts into the batter.

Making your holiday recipes kid-friendly

Most recipes can be kid friendly with a bit of planning and prep. I like to set up my workstation and prep my ingredients before I involve the kids. Having everything ready to go can make the experience more joyful. Depending on your child’s age and skill level, I would adjust the type of prep.

For instance, if you’re working with a young toddler, you could have ingredients already measured out and waiting to be mixed together. For example, if your recipe calls for a cup of milk whisked into flour in a bowl, I would already measure the cup of milk into an easy-to-pour container and have the flour ready and waiting in the bowl. That way, your toddler can pour and mix to their heart’s content.

Ali and her family in Reindeer Cheer pajamas

Ali and her family in Reindeer Cheer pajamas

If your child is a bit older and mostly capable of completing all steps solo, I would have all the ingredients pulled out on the counter and print off the recipe or guide them through it together.

Throw on some music! Holiday jams are a favorite mood booster in my household, but whatever songs excite your family is a sure way to elevate the kitchen experience.

What To Bake

I love Alison Roman’s recipes for their user-friendly nature and well-tested results. Something like this chocolate banana bread would be a perfect joint activity to enjoy the following day together, or even these chocolate chunk shortbread cookies to leave out on Christmas Eve. The joy of finding cookie crumbs left behind by Santa on Christmas morning is that much sweeter for them, knowing they had a hand in making them.

Decorating cookies is so much fun!

Some of my best holiday memories were decorating cookies and making gingerbread houses with my family. Decorating cookies has become a new passion for making elaborate cookies in the last couple of years. If you’re feeling extra ambitious and creative and looking for a fun holiday project that the kids can join in on, Arlo’s Cookies is my favorite source for cookie decorating how. Her courses are advanced but easy to follow and understand. The best part is you can set out little bags of icing and cookies for your kids to join in the fun however they want to decorate.

Of course, any shape cookie with any decoration your kids come up with will do! I like this Sugar Cookie recipe from Alton Brown and find it relatively easy and forgiving to have your kids jump in on the cookie baking too. The dough also can be made ahead and frozen, then thawed for later use, and is still delicious baked a day or two ahead of time. This is one of my best tricks for spreading out the labor of cookie decorating and making the day of decorating as fun as it can be.

And they make the perfect gift.

One of my favorite parts of decorating cookies with kids is that it is a heartwarming (and delicious!) gift for your child to give to loved ones during the holidays. It’s unique, and the effort is apparent. It’s something that money can’t buy that they can be proud of. Everyone loves a delicious homemade cookie. These kinds of holiday traditions with kids will stick for generations.


We love spending time in the kitchen during the holidays cooking up joy with our little ones, and we can’t wait to try some of Ali’s favorite recipes. If you have a favorite recipe, share it with us in the comments or tag us in your holiday baking memories on social media at @littlesleepies.


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