Holidays and special occasions are a perfect time to introduce your toddler to the fun of cookie decorating. Not only is it entertaining and yummy, cookie decorating also allows your tot to express his creativity while practicing his motor skills at the same time. It takes work to place those little decorative sprinkles, you know.
The key to decorating cookies with toddlers is to adapt the process to their skill level. Instead of traditional frosting that can be difficult for a toddler to manipulate, use paintable frosting -- frosting that is thin enough for your little Cake Boss to smear on with a clean (new) paint brush. To make paintable frosting, mix 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup of milk, a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and food coloring together. If it still seems too thick, add more milk. If you don't want to make your own, you can buy icing tubes, which are the perfect size for a toddler's little hands to squeeze. The icing tubes also work great for creating swirls and lines all over the cookies.
If the idea of icing all over you, your table, your kid and your floor doesn't sound like your idea of a good time, let your toddler use “edible glitter.” Mix food coloring into granulated sugar, then have your toddler use a plastic spoon, an old salt or spice shaker, or his fingers to decorate the tops of the cookies before they go into the oven. If you don’t want to mix up your own confections, you can also buy colored sugars or sprinkles at the grocery store. To make cleanup easier, have your budding cookie artist work on a baking sheet with sides or in a casserole dish. In a pinch, a paper plate or even wax paper helps control the mess and keeps Fido from licking sprinkles off the floor.
If frosting is not enough for your little artist, start with a good slathering of icing and then allow your tot to go Van Gogh on the cookies with just about any topping -- sprinkles, glitter sugar, cookie bits and mini candy pieces like M&Ms or jelly beans all work well. Just be prepared for a good amount of finger lickin’ and topping sneakin' on the part of your little one.
Gingerbread houses are an excellent way for toddlers to display their cookie decorating skills. If you’re not a baker, gingerbread house kits are readily available at many grocery and craft stores during the holiday season. After you build the house, coat it with frosting and then allow your toddler’s imagination to run wild with a mix of toppings. This activity is especially great for toddlers, because while your little one is decorating, he'll also be practicing his fine motor skills as he picks up those little candy bits, gum drops, jelly beans, sprinkles, marshmallows and glitter. Just be sure to work on one side or part of the house at a time so that the icing doesn’t harden too quickly. Once it's all decorated and the icing has set – break it apart and dig in. Yum!