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From The Christmas Kitchen a gathering place for making memories by Tammy Maltby with Anne Christian Buchanan Kids in the Kitchen The messy joy of creating with pint-sized cooks
Want to know the secret for a truly joyful, wonder-filled Christmas Kitchen? Make room for a kid—or kids—in it. Christmas, after all, is largely about children. It started with the coming of a child. It’s at its sweetest and most glorious when seen through a child’s eyes, experienced with the heart of a child. And to me, at least, no Christmas Kitchen is complete unless children share in its magic. Children reaching into cookie jars. Children standing on stools, sifting flour and licking bowls and beaters. Children setting the table for a family breakfast or making place cards for a dinner party, listening to family stories as they work. It’s all great holiday fun—for kids and adults alike.
Tips on Fun with Kids in the Kitchen
• Allow extra time for making crafts and recipes. If you’re not in a hurry, everything will be a lot more peaceful.
• Expect a mess—but expect the kids to help with cleanup too.
• Provide kids with appropriate-height work spaces (or sturdy stools) and, if possible, tools that fit their hands.
• Match the projects to the kids’ maturity level and plan activities that everyone can participate in without frustration.
• Especially with small children, don’t provide too many options for craft or food projects. Keep it simple.
• Whenever possible, let kids do the project (or their part in it) themselves. Don’t do it for them and just let them watch, and don’t insist they do things only one way.
• Do the activity with the children. (You’d be surprised how fun it can be to string macaroni on a piece of yarn!)
• Don’t have too many rules, but make the basics very clear: “Wash your hands.” “Always have an adult present.” Rules for using the stove or knives will depend on the age of the children.
• Expect the unexpected—and enjoy it.
“Thank You for Helping Me Grow” Christmas Snack Mix
It’s easy to make, and kids love the pouring and mixing. It’s also beautifully Christmasy. My kids made it for their teachers, packaged in an adorable flowerpot—and it was always a hit.
1 large (14 ounce) bag red and green candy-covered chocolate pieces (such as M&M’s)
1 large (14 ounce) bag red and green candy-and-chocolate-covered peanuts (such as peanut M&M’s)
1 large bag (11 ounce) red and green candy-and-chocolate-covered almonds (such as almond M&M’s)
3 cups corn cereal squares (such as Chex)
3 cups rice cereal squares (such as Chex)
3 cups oat cereal circles (such as Cheerios)
4 cups small pretzels
1 16-ounce jar dry-roasted peanuts
1 small can (about 9 ounces) mixed nuts or cashews
1 6-ounce package dried cherries, cranberries, or blueberries
2 pounds almond bark or white-chocolate chips
Mix all dry ingredients together in large bowl or jumbo (2.5 gallon) zippered plastic bag. In large microwave-safe container, melt almond bark or chocolate chips, stirring after every 30 seconds. Carefully pour over dry mixture and mix together thoroughly. Spread mixture on parchment or waxed paper to cool, breaking up large clumps. (Mix will be coated but not completely white.) Makes about 15 cups.
To make the gift package for teachers, pour mix into flowerpots lined with plastic wrap and “plant” an artificial poinsettia or other flower in each pot. Add a pretty bow and a card from your child that says, “Thank you for helping me grow.” The child can write or dictate a personal note: “I like you because . . . ” “My best memory was . . . ”
For an even richer taste, substitute one 12-ounce package butterscotch chips for part of the almond bark or white chocolate. Delicious!