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Spending time with kids in the kitchen is sure to revive your Christmas spirit. Don’t despair if you have no kids or grandkids. Borrow some, and give a young mother a break. My grand-daughter Elly was undaunted

by her mere two years. She rolled up her sleeves, submitted to being enveloped in an apron and climbed up on a stool to help me make cookies. Excitement danced in her eyes as she poked and rolled her bit of dough. To be sure, dough stuck on the rolling pin,

fell on the floor and got smeared in her hair. One sticky glob had to be removed from the toes of a bare foot. But Elly pushed and rolled until she formed several blobs into lopsided circles. We placed them carefully on the baking sheet (I count heavily on the sterilizing ef- fect of a hot oven.) Elly served her cookies on tiny plastic dishes to her brother and Grandpa. You may think kids will run away when its clean-up time, but Elly begged to help wash dishes. She stood on her stool at the sink and happily scrubbed for nearly an hour. She poured lukewarm water from cup to bowl to floor. She sloshed her cloth, un- wrung, along the counter.Yes, she made a mess. But she sang while she worked. Do you think I minded tweaking her clean-up job after she’d gone for a nap? Kids can learn from their first forays into the kitchen that clean-up is part of the job. Their skills grow as they grow. Here are a few tips to make things go more smoothly when you have kids in the Christmas kitchen: — Set an example. Scrub your hands like a doctor before you start. — Keep in mind the child’s age.Chocolate mousse from scratch may be mastered by a teen but will frustrate a toddler.Deep fried doughnuts are too dangerous for children under about 12. — Prepare. Set out utensils and ingredi- ents ahead of time, because a child will in- variably be perched on a stool blocking the cupboard you need to get into for supplies. You may want to make cookie dough ahead, and let young children simply use rolling pins and cookie cutters. If time is short, bake the items first, and the kids’ job will be to decorate.

— Dough that needs delicate handling is a no-no for small children. They’ll do too good a job, work the dough too hard, and the result will be tough and disappointing.

— Choose recipes with few ingredients.A

package of bright, red Jell-O is fun for tod- dlers to make.You handle the boiling wa- ter, they pour in the cold water and stir to their heart’s content. — In general, the adult operates power machinery: Mixer, blender, food processor, oven.Young children can pour measured ingredients into the bowl.They are experts at stirring and kneading. School-aged chil- dren can measure.They use math skills by picking out the right measuring cups and spoons.They can learn to sift and level-off flour with a table-knife. Let an elementary school child break an egg into a cup, not directly into the bowl.Later comes the tricky job of separating an egg. — You’ll sense when a child is able to be- gin operating small appliances. Don’t as- sume anything.Teach healthy respect, give full instructions and stay close. Start with a

simple microwave task and move up to more dangerous tools.Never leave a child unsupervised.

— Don’t be a perfectionist. Have fun to- gether. You can check websites such as or, for appro- priate and creative recipes. An easy project is to use a simple sugar cookie recipe or a mix if you’re in a hurry, ready-made icing and candy sprinkles. Let the kids be creative in molding or cut- ting the dough into Christmas items, such as stars and trees. One year, we made an entire Nativity scene from sugar cookie dough. The older ones carved shepherds and sheep, the most artistic one fashioned the baby in the manger, and even a toddler made a cookie-rock for Joseph to sit on.

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