The holidays can be very busy, but without a tray of those pretty cookies to pick at it feels like the season is incomplete. We all learned during COVID that if the good cheer and goodies we’ve come to expect are going to happen, it’s going to be on us. But hey: that’s part of being our own little family now!
Traditional holiday cookie recipes do take time though. Russian tea cakes, gingersnaps, whatever those little green christmas trees mom always makes with that ancient cookie press she got from her grandmother—they don’t just fall out of thin air. Every dozen is another hour our toddler has to spend occupying themself while we cobble together the holiday season for the household.
This year, it’s time to rethink the holiday cookie hustle. Those holiday cookie recipes are not just a rigid tradition; they are a universe of colors, textures, and hands-on activities for you both to share.
Cookies Are About Family
Your buddy in the footie pajamas knows something it’s easy to forget around the holidays: it’s not about being perfect, it’s about being together. So the gingerbread men are all wearing the same onesie in red edible glitter instead of the stylish Banana Republic frosting ensemble you planned? Great! You and your toddler did that together, and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
It’s time to make holiday cookie recipes about exploring and creating, not meeting expectations, so cozy up to the countertop and spend your snow days getting messy and merry baking holiday cookies with your little partner.
Tricks For Baking With a Toddler
Baking can feel like a parent-only task because it’s precise and can get really messy really fast, but it’s actually a fantastic activity for families to do together. It builds confidence, familiarizes your toddler with practical household chores and objects, and most importantly, it’s a lot of fun! With a few tricks and tips it’s easy to turn your holiday cookie recipes into recipes for life.
Sharing Your Space
The number one reason baking feels like an “I need space from my family” ordeal is the kitchen counter. It’s up high, and your bestie is going to be down low for a few more years.
A Learning Tower is the perfect way to overcome that obstacle and turn all your parent-height chore surfaces into activity spaces for the whole family. The Learning Tower safely and simply allows your child to join you on the countertop for all the mixing, shaping, and decorating that makes your holiday season feel complete.
Break A Few Eggs
Cracking eggs is a wonderfully exciting activity for little hands, but sometimes that might mean eggshells in the bowl. They’re tough to get out and always seem to slip away from your fingertips.
Pro Toddler Tip: The secret to getting egg shells out of the bowl? Egg shells. Take one of the broken halves and use it as a scoop to get the little bits out. It works every time.
Recipes Aren’t Scripture
Those holiday cookie recipes are exactly notated out in cups and tsps—won’t they be ruined if someone dumps in a little extra flour?
Nope. Recipes are guidelines, not magic spells, and cookies are actually incredibly forgiving. Now let’s not go dumping in an extra ½ c. of sugar, but a few extra tiny handfuls of something here or there? Perfection.
Here are three of our favorite holiday cookie recipes for baking with a toddler. Put on your apron and slide that Learning Tower up to the counter!
1. Betty Crocker Gingersnaps
There are gingersnaps and there are gingersnaps, and when it comes to holiday cookie recipes, Betty Crocker knows what’s up. These are the cookies you remember your mom making, and they are simple and completely delicious every time.
1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup shortening
¼ cup molasses
2 ¼ c flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
Extra granulated sugar for sprinkling
Heat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease cookie sheets with shortening or cooking spray, or line with cooking parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
- In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses and egg with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with a spoon, until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients except granulated sugar.
- Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into balls. Dip tops into granulated sugar. On cookie sheets, place balls, sugared sides up, about 3 inches apart.
- Bake 10 to 12 minutes or just until set. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store covered in airtight container.
Pro Toddler Tip: Mixing is fun, but molasses can be messy even for adults. It’s all about teamwork and learning to share! Pouring flour and sugar in the bowl is great for kids while you handle the sticky stuff.
2. Peppermint Meltaways
These simple sugar cookies with a peppermint twist are an excellent addition to your holiday platter. Taste of Home delivers a no-fuss, delicious recipe that lets you use up those extra candy canes during the holidays. Plus, these free-form sprinkle decorations are a perfect way for your budding pastry chef to get some hands-on experience.
For the Cookies
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ tsp peppermint extract
1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup corn starch
For the Frosting
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp milk
¼ tsp peppermint extract
2-3 drops red food coloring, optional
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup crushed peppermint candies
- In a small bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in extract. In another bowl, whisk flour and cornstarch; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Refrigerate, covered, 30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.
- Preheat oven to 350°. Shape dough into 1-in. balls; place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
- In a small bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in milk, extract and, if desired, food coloring. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over cookies; sprinkle with crushed candies. Store in an airtight container.
Pro Toddler Tip: Put the ingredients (pre-measured) in separate bowls and let your little one pour it in while mixing!
3. Gluten-Free Buckeyes
Buckeyes are a fantastic addition to the repertoire, and the best part is they’re gluten-free so everyone can enjoy them! The ingredient list is super simple, and the two main ingredients are things everyone with a toddler should already have in the pantry: peanut butter and chocolate.
These easy no-bake treats are also a great activity for your newly-hired sous chef. Every one of these needs to be rolled into a ball before it’s dipped in chocolate!
1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter
½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp shortening
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- You'll need wax paper, a double boiler, a cookie pan, and a medium bowl. In the medium size bowl, mix peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar (mixture will be stiff).
- Shape into balls and place on a pan covered with wax paper. Place into the refrigerator.
- In double boiler, melt chocolate and shortening. Pour into bowl and dip balls with chocolate. Refrigerate for thirty minutes until chocolate is firm.
Pro Toddler Tip: Mixing is fun, and rolling the buckeyes is even better! Dipping in chocolate is for moms and dads, though.
Make Your Holiday A Holiday to RememberYour best friend is growing up so fast, and every holiday season is a unique treasure. Someday that little elf is going to be sharing your holiday cookie recipes with their own son or daughter, and the memories you make today are going to be a part of that.
Little Partners is committed to helping you make all of your holiday activities accessible to everyone in your family. Our Learning Tower brings your toddler up to your counter space safely and easily, so you can get to work creating the holiday season together.