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Making Cookies with Preschoolers

I am going in to my daughter's preschool class on Tuesday to make cookies for Hanukkah. My original plan was to make the sugar cookies discussed in this thread ahead of time and just bring them in to the class with a bunch of frostings/decorations, but the teachers would rather have me actually make the cookies in class. So I went back to make a list of ingredients that I need to buy and I realized that the dough needs to be refrigerated for a while, or overnight, before cutting into shapes.


So now I'm not sure what to do. This is class of 12 kids -- mostly age 4. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to best approach this? I will bring in all of the ingredients and cookie cutters but there really is no time to let the cookie dough chill.

They do not have to necessarily be sugar cookies, just nothing with nuts. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks...

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  1. Thumbprint cookies are fun for kids.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cassoulady

      preschool teacher here...very nice gesture....google ...no chill roll out cookie and there will be a few to choose..sorry mine are in my classroom have fun..4 yr olds are a blast:)

    2. Make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate. Bring the raw ingredients to class, assemble, cover, and set aside. Use the refrigerated dough in class.

      You do not have to make a "whole" recipe in class, it could be a half recipe. Take the "class" dough home and use later.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Alan408

        I think this is a good strategy. I just made cookies with my grandchildren, 3 1/2 and 2 years. They were up for about 20 minutes of continuous activity. I made the dough while the kids were running around, and after it was chilled, we cut a few. Then, the kids went away, and I did more. After the cookies were cooled, I made colored royal icing, and then gathered the kids together again for decorating. It worked pretty well, and they have great memories of it. But there's no way I would try to have them hang in with me through the whole process.

      2. I agree with cassoulady re the thumprints. Fun for adults, too (at least to eat).

        JOC has a recipe for whole wheat seed wafers that is meant to cut with cutters, but does not need refrigeration before using. Now...whole wheat isn't exactly what I want to reach for when splurging on holiday cookies, but...it's healthier, and if you want to make cookies that you can still decorate with them, it should work. The ratio is 1 c. whole wheat flour to 2 c. AP. The recipe calls for sprinkling a light layer of a mixture of ground seeds (anise, cardamom, coriander, etc.) atop the dough after rolling and before cutting. That don't sound particularly kid friendly to me, but you could skip that *in* the dough, instead.

        I tried to find the recipe on line for you, but I can't. I have a 1980 edition of JOC, and it's on page 712. "Whole wheat seed wafers".

        1. so are you going to try to make the dough, roll it out, cut out shapes, bake it and then decorate it??? with 4-year-olds? how long a day is your child in preschool??

          I would EITHER make cookies or decorate cookies, but not both - and I would probably find a no-chill recipe b/c even if you bring the dough directly from the fridge to to school, by the time you get set up and the kids start man-handling it, it'll be a goopy, frustrating mess. Go for ease over taste in this case, I say!

          Good luck. You're a nice mama to do this!

          1. How about making the dough and forming it into a THICK roll - 3" or so in diameter. To help form it, line an empty can or container with tin foil, or cut the top off a plastic soda bottle. Press the dough evenly into the container and refrigerate. Take it to school in a cooler with ice packs. Slice it into 1/8" thick rounds with a sharp, thin knife (dip in water between slices) and let the kids cut out shapes with the cutters before decorating. You could bake the centerless round slices as cookies, too. Not sure if the technique of crushing hard candy and filling the centers, for "stained glass " or "jewel" cookies would work when a large area has been cut out. Maybe put chopped chocolate in the center, leaving the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet until completely cooled? As a matter of fact, perhaps it would be educational to try both these fillers - tell the kids that you don't know if it will work, and you'll all find out at the same time.

            1. We're talking 4 y ear old kids here. Their attention span is about two blinks of an eye. I'd prepare the cookies and give them some bowls/cups of food coloring and paint brushes to color the cookies then bake them and let the kids enjoy them. As long as they're a sweet treat with "custom" colors (I know the food coloring will fade but 4 year old kids don't care) they'll be thrilled. Maybe let them put a thumb print and a nut or Hershey's kiss (half a pecan?) on top would make it a little more special.

              1 Reply
              1. re: todao

                I would make a drop cookie that does not need decorating. to make it fun for the kids, use holiday colored m&m's instead of choc chips.

              2. Yes, I realize that they have a short attention span -- I live with a 4 year old. But my daughter is so proud and excited that I am coming to do this that there is no way out at this point.

                As I said, I was going to bring in pre-made cookies (that I would make at home) but the whole point, according to the teachers, is to make the cookies in class. So now I am stuck making the cookies, but I'm not planning on decorating them. There is no time to make cookies, have them cook in the oven, let them cool and be decorated. Maybe I will get some sprinkles just so they have some decoration.

                I just googled the No Chill Roll Out Cookies and this seems like a good option. Ironically, the first site I went to was "www.christmas-cookies.com". Sorta funny since these cookies are for Hanukkah!

                Thanks for all your ideas...will report back on Tuesday night.

                11 Replies
                1. re: valerie

                  My grandma used to bake Chanukah cookies with every grandchild's preschool class. It took a lot of effort on her part, but her method really worked out. Here's what she did:

                  1. Prepared a double batch of cookie dough
                  2. Let one batch chill and rolled out and baked the other batch
                  3. Brought those batches to the classroom and also brought ingredients to make a third recipe

                  She let the kids make a mixture of dough, roll out and cut the previously chilled mixture of dough and put that in small aluminum trays, and then decorated the prebaked cookies to the kids. With each step, she explained what she was doing and why it's important for the cookies. The kids each brought home decorated cookies, a small tray of rolled out dough, a small ball of dough, and a copy of the recipe so that they could recreate it at home with their parents.

                  Every parent was thrilled and the kids always thought it was a blast. Sure, you'll end up making more than a few batches of dough, but the ingredients aren't super expensive and the kids will have a great time.

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    Your Bubbe was a genius and a saint! And the preschool teacher must be smoking something. My G-d, what is she thinking? I tried making pita last year with my daughter's 5-year-old class. All the kids had to do was roll out the pre-made dough. That's it. It took 2 adults, an older child assistant, and half the day - no joke. Took me another hour to clean up. What a patience-trying nightmare. (And yes, I bake with my daughter regularly at home. Other people's kids are somehow different.)

                    If you're set on going through with this, it looks like cheesecake17's grandma had this down to a science. Good luck and try to have fun.

                    1. re: rockycat

                      I am definitely in this mode of "what was I thinking" but I can't back out. My daughter keeps asking me if tomorrow is Tuesday (the day I'm going in) -- that's how excited she is.

                      The more I read this thread and think about it, here is my plan...let me know if this sounds reasonable.

                      Sunday night make a batch of the dough and stick it in the refrigerator.

                      On Monday night, make the cookies from that dough. Also on Monday night, make another batch of the dough and stick it in the refrigerator.

                      On Tuesday, bring in the raw ingredients for the kids to mix up, but when that is done, I will pull out the chilled dough that I made on Monday night and let them roll that out and cut into shapes.

                      Then, pull a bait and switch and pull out the finished cookies that I made on Monday night and let them decorate those and take them home.

                      A lot of work and a lot of wasted ingredients, but what can I do. I suppose it could be worse -- I also have a 2 year old son in this preschool and I could be doing this with a class of 2 year olds! Yikes!

                      1. re: valerie

                        For whatever the insane reason, I had a cookie making session w/my 2 yo grandson -- his attention span consisted of eating the raw dough. His participation was supposed to be helping stir the batter, spooning the dough onto the baking sheet and placing the raisins artfully where he wanted (the creative part), but alas, it all went into his mouth. I guess my expectations were unreal.
                        Hope your events turns out better, you saint!

                        1. re: Sarah

                          Ha! My 15 month old daughter is ALL about the cookie dough. I did get her to press down on a few cookie cutters though.

                        2. re: valerie

                          That sounds like a good plan. Have all the ingredients premeasured and let each child add something, or help with the mixing. My sister does that with her class and she said it goes really fast. When I make cookies for children to decorate, I add a lollipop stick in it so they have a handle when it's baked. Even more fun for the kids, if you want to do this step with them is use a little cookie cutter to cut out a hole in the middle. Add a lollipop to it so they have the stained glass in the center with the handle. It would be great if you had a small dreidel cookie cutter. It's cute and kids love lollipop cookies.

                          Oh and you can freeze the extra dough in logs and have cookies whenever you want.

                          1. re: chowser

                            I don't even care if they measure the ingredients wrong because I'm not going to cook the dough that they make anyway! In fact, there won't really be any cooking at all since in the end I will pull out the cookies that I make tomorrow night and let them decorate them. They will never know because the oven is not in the classroom!

                            And thanks for the idea on the sticks for pops but I am so stressed already that I cannot even go there!

                            The funny thing is that I love to cook, but I rarely bake. My husband keeps asking me why I'm so worried about this. Maybe because everyone keeps telling me how stressful it is!

                            I do feel like I have a plan, though, thanks to everyone here. I will probably get no sleep on Monday night for 2 reasons: 1) Because I will be worried about making cookies which is so crazy because it's only cookies and 2) because I will probably be up all night making the cookies that I'm going to bring in! Oh well, I can sleep on Tuesday night when this is all done.

                            1. re: valerie

                              Good luck and don't worry. As long as you're not nervous, the kids wont be nervous. Also, the kids will probably spend a ton of time decorating one or two cookies, so don't think you need tons and tons. If you have time, let your daughter watch you bake and cut out one or two cookies so that she can help "teach" her classmates. good luck!!

                          2. re: valerie

                            It'll be like your own little Food Network show!

                            You have my vote for Mother of the Year - seriously - this is above and beyond!!

                            1. re: gansu girl

                              When I was telling my husband my plan I said "you know, just like on the Food Network since they don't have time to wait for things to cook and cool down".

                              And thanks for the praise. But it's ONLY COOKIES!!! (let's see if I'm still saying that on Wednesday!)

                          3. re: rockycat

                            Thanks.. I guess my grandma got really good- there's 10 of us grandkids! The teachers loved how she explained what was going on in a way that the kids could understand. She was invited back to every class.. one of the teachers asked her to make jello shapes and explain why the jello gelled. Grandma loved it.. and now with a 1 yo great grandson she'll be back in the action soon.

                      2. If you change your mind about a rolled cookie, and decide on a drop cooking, I have a suggestion. Zip bags. All ingredients go into the bag (you can even premeasure the dry or wet ingredients into each bag and transport this way), add the rest of the ingredients, zip bag closed and SQUISH to mix. Cut a corner, and squish onto sheets, bake. Throw the bags away(I know a bit of a waste, but it makes clean up so easy). You can have squishing groups of two.

                        1. If they don't have to be cut-out cookies, why not just make chocolate chip cookies? They're easy and kids love them. You could even use M&Ms for the chocolate chips. That's always festive.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: NYCkaren

                            I'd feel sorta dumb changing my plan now since I already told the teachers I'd do the cut outs.

                            Trust me, I've been contemplating slice & bake cookies. The kids would be just as happy. Kinda like when you spend $50 on a toy and then they like the $1.99 yo-yo that someone gave them. Or better yet, the box.

                          2. What about rice krispy treats that you cut into shapes?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Amuse Bouches

                              Good idea, but I can't change my thinking now. I bought all the ingredients today and I am at work tomorrow. Maybe for next time, if there is a next time.

                            2. preschool kids are all about the process....cheesecake17's ideas are perfect.....preschoolers NEED to scoop, mix, knead,roll,cut,decorate,etc......
                              having everything ready at each stage - written recipe (preferably on a big board);
                              raw ingredients for kids to mix, then dough already made for them to roll and cut, and some already baked and ready to decorate. A lot of work for you, but so much learning for the kids!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: maomi

                                Good call on the recipe on a big board. I will do that.

                                I just completed Stage One -- I made and refrigerated the dough that I am going to cut into shapes and bake tomorrow night. Those will be the cookies that actually get decorated in the end.

                                I went with lstormont's No-Fail Sugar Cookies and that part was very easy.


                                Who knew this would be a 3 day process?!?

                                1. re: valerie

                                  lol I could have told you that!! But when you see the kids' smiles it's all worth it.

                                  I used to have a baking class for 6 year olds- lets just say I lined the floors with plastic and hoped for the best. We made some really cute projects and after the first few classes I learned to loosen up and let the kids have a little control.

                              2. I am back. Cookies are made. No lives were sacrificed. It actually went well, but boy do I have a story to report! (can't tell it now though, will report back later on.)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: valerie

                                  I'm happy it went well! Waiting for the story...

                                2. Sorry for the long report but I think you need the details....

                                  I started out on Sunday night making and refrigerating the first batch of dough and I felt confident. All was fine. On Monday night, my plan was to bake the cookies and make a 2nd batch of dough after my kids went to sleep (I work full time, so couldn’t do this during the day). Thought about letting my daughter help, but it would just go much quicker if I did it myself.

                                  So I get home from work at 6:00, and start to prepare dinner for me and my husband (kids had eaten already). I turn on the oven (broiler actually) so that I can broil some shrimp that I had gotten during the day and make that with some pasta. After about 5 minutes of the broiler preheating, I turn around and see smoke coming out of the oven. We have a rather large kitchen/family room that has loads of windows and my first reaction was to run to open some windows so that the house fire alarm does not go off (it is hooked directly to the burglar alarm company that will call the police/fire department). And since I thought it was just some crumbs or something, I figured there was no need for anything other than some open windows. But as I turn around again, I see a LOT of smoke. Now I am running through the kitchen opening windows, and I scream for my husband, who is in another room, to come help me air out the kitchen. He comes running in and we open the oven and hear a big “pop” and then we see flames.

                                  I have an electric double wall oven. The flames were not in the oven compartment itself but in the compartment above the oven behind the electronic control panel that houses the wiring. There is a small vent and we literally see the flames. So I run to get the phone to call 911 and he runs into the laundry room to get the fire extinguisher (not sure why because we have one in the closet right next to the oven, but I guess he forgot about that one!). Now the fire alarm is going off and he is fiddling around with the fire extinguisher trying to figure out how to use it as I am on the phone with 911. 911 says “what’s your emergency”? When I say that my oven is on fire -- he puts me on hold. I hang up, call back and start screaming at him to get the fire department here, but the guy tells me that the fire department has already been notified by our alarm company. Ok.

                                  So now my husband tells me that the fire extinguisher doesn’t work. I push him out of the way and grab the other one that is in the closet next to the oven, pull out the safety pin and hand it to him (he didn’t know that you have to pull out the safety pin!). He finally puts out the fire and now we are still waiting for the FD to get there at this point just to let us know that there is nothing else going on there.

                                  They arrive, my kids are terrified. It’s funny how little kids love fire trucks, but not when they are in front of their house and there are huge firemen in full gear walking around in the kitchen! Truth be told, my adrenaline was pumping too. And now all I can think about is “how the hell am I going to make 3 dozen cookies?”

                                  The firemen leave and now we are just left with a HUGE mess in the kitchen. Not from the fire but from the fire extinguisher. Dusty residue covering everything and don’t even ask about the inside of the oven. I didn’t even know where to begin. It is now around 7:15 and, as Chowhounds, we start wondering what’s for dinner. My husband starts to clean up and I make the pasta and sauté the shrimp on the stove.

                                  Kids go to sleep, so now again, what to do about the cookies? I can’t back out. I have to figure something out. Kitchen is “relatively” clean by this point, but oven is obviously not an option. The toaster oven is my only hope. I have a rather large Krups toaster oven and it’s my only choice. Funny thing is that it is actually a better oven than it is a toaster so I am in luck.

                                  With my husband as my assistant, I get out the dough that I had made already, aluminum foil, the cookie cutters. I put him in charge of making the 2nd batch of batter and I start rolling out the dough. Once I got into a groove, it actually worked really well in the toaster oven. The only thing is that I could only fit 4 cookies in at once. And I had to make 36. But they only had to cook for 10 minutes, so as one batch was cooking, I got the next batch ready to go in so it went somewhat quickly.

                                  There was one last piece to this whole thing. There is a kid in the class that is allergic to gluten (and I mean he has “death” allergy). His mother will always send in a separate cookie/snack for him. But since I am friendly with her (and I am off my rocker), I had offered that if she gives me the gluten-free mix, I will make him his cookies so that he has dreidel-shaped cookies too. It is now about 11:30pm and I am first starting to mix up the gluten-free batter. The good news here is that I only had to make 2 or 3 cookies from this mix.

                                  I finish up and go to sleep at around 1:00.

                                  Go into class the next day, armed, as planned, with raw ingredients, pre-made batter, and pre-made cookies plus frostings and decorations. After all that I had been through, the whole thing was a huge success. I had the kids take turns “measuring” and pouring the ingredients into the large mixing bowl. The flour was a very popular ingredient and everyone wanted a turn with it, so I figured, what the hell -- I have a batch of batter waiting to be cooked -- so I let each kid put some flour in. What’s the difference if this mixture had 12 cups of flour?!? When it was all mixed, I pulled out the premade batter and the teachers had mini rolling pins for each kid. I gave them each a ball of dough and they rolled it and used the cookie cutters. We put them on baking sheets and I took them to the kitchen. 15 minutes later, I returned with my pre-made cookies. They decorated them, ate them, and everyone was thrilled. I, of course, was ready to collapse, but that’s okay. My daughter was so thrilled and proud.

                                  And the story on the oven…a repair guy came, took off the electronic panel and says “whoa, you’ve got problems”, which is not exactly what I was hoping to hear. But after some looking around, he determined that it was some wires that shorted out. Scary and a mess, but fixable. And it only cost us $105. A lot less than a new double wall oven. I swear that if I had been upstairs while the oven was pre-heating that my upper kitchen cabinets would have gone up in flames. I shudder to think of what could have been…

                                  So all’s well that ends well (is that the saying?). And thanks so much to everyone who gave me suggestions. The pre-making of the batter and baking of the cookies in advance was a lifesaver. I love Chowhound!

                                  And as my husband and I were making the cookies that night, I said to him “wait until the Chowhounds here about this…”.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: valerie

                                    You win mother of the year (and optimist of the year, too--after all that still being thankful because it might have been worst...:-)). That was an incredibly story.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Thanks. Honestly, I wouldn't have cared if my kitchen burned down (well, maybe a little!), but I am only thankful because my kids were in the kitchen/family room watching TV. Had I been upstairs...

                                      Everyone -- get a fire extinguisher and keep it handy!

                                      1. re: valerie

                                        I'm in awe val, lesser people (by people I mean me) would have called the teacher after the firemen had left and called it all off. WOW!

                                        1. re: valerie

                                          In addition to the one with the pin, hardware stores alse sell smaller ones, aerosol cans the size of a hairspray can, which is good as a fallback or for a tiny kitchen where space is an issue.

                                      2. re: valerie

                                        To borrow a line from Kevin Henkes' "Chrystanthemum":

                                        "Wow." That was just about all I could say. "Wow."

                                        1. re: valerie

                                          Valerie, this is truly amazing. Again, you have my vote for Mother of the Year - I SO would have thrown in the towel after the flames. I'm sure you'll never, ever forget this - and wonder if you'll be volunteering next year!? Happy Hanukkah!

                                          1. re: valerie

                                            Wow.. You definitely win Mother of the Year in my book!! You're really devoted to your kids- and I hope they know it! I'm so happy the cookie making with the kids went well. I'm sure they were all thrilled.

                                          2. Really, truly thanks for the "mother of the year" votes. I guess now that I think about it, the whole thing was pretty insane.

                                            But the funny part is that as much as I love my kids, I think what kept me going was not the fact that I am "mother of the year", but it was my food obsession (so maybe I am Chowhound of the year!). Now if I could only be so motivated to do other things that are non-food related...

                                            And don't think I didn't let the teachers (and anyone else would listen) know what I went through!