That’s the short answer. And let’s face it, if you have enough patience, this will be a happy memory and an activity you will repeat year after year!
Now, what else do you need to decorate Christmas Cookies with your kids?
The process of cut-out sugar cookies is not just the decorating. First, you have to decide if you will involve your kids in the “cut-out” stage. This is fun for all ages so we recommend it. But, it does cut down on time and mess if you just do that part and the baking of the cookies before you let your kids loose!
If you want to go all in, we suggest a two-part activity that can be done over two days or separated parts of one day.
Make the Dough
First, go ahead and make up the dough ahead and get it chilling in the refrigerator. There are plenty of things that kids can help mix up in the kitchen at other times of the year so they don’t need to be a part of this step.
This will at least give you one thing you can do without them.
Roll out and cut out the cookies
Next set up a rolling a cutting area. You can have an area for each kid. You will want to let them roll the dough out (possibly with your help) and let them decide which shapes to cut the dough into with the cookie cutters.
Let them do this for a few rounds and then gather up all the leftover dough scraps and tell the kids to take a break while the cookies bake or tell them you will have them decorate them tomorrow.
BUT…throw some sugar on a few so they can at least taste one out of the oven with sugar (not decorated with icing).
Decorate the cookies
Later, or day two, get ready for decorating. By now you have been able to clean up all the dough and baking mess and all you have is baked cookies.
To get ready for the kids, you need to make some and icing and get out some sprinkles.
Find a good buttercream icing recipe and thin it with milk for frosting the base of the cookies. Keep it thick for putting into bags with tips for decorating.
One thing you can also do in advance is frost the cookies with a base color. This is great for the littles. But you can leave some unfrosted for their imagination.
Tint all your frosting ahead of time! Make a lot! For Christmas, stick with red and green and white. Keep it simple!
Kids have a hard time handling decorator bags and tips and squeezing the frosting. This is part of the fun, and mess!
For very small children, just use zipper storage bags with the corner slightly snipped. This will allow them to “write” with the icing. Use a bag clip like this to close the top so the frosting doesn’t smoosh out the top!
For older kids, get a cake decorator starter set. They will love switching the tips and trying new designs!
Sprinkles are optional. You might consider doing just all frosting decorating and no sprinkles.
And if you want an easier activity all together, just make round sugar cookies, frost, and have the kids put on Christmas sprinkles. It will still be tons of fun!