Your kids will make the best kitchen assistants this holiday season.

By Zoe Denenberg
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It's time to get cooking. Time spent in the kitchen with our loved ones is the highlight of any holiday; we still dream about those winter afternoons spent in Grandma's kitchen, mixing pancake batter or pressing chocolate kisses into peanut butter blossoms. This holiday season, take the opportunity to create precious memories in the kitchen with your kids. Holiday baking projects are a great excuse to spend quality time as a family, and we want to make sure that the entire team can get involved.

From young tikes to teens, kids of all ages can get in on the kitchen fun over the holidays. We're sharing some of our favorite, simple holiday baking projects that the whole family can take on together. To make this a stress-free experience, we've broken down tasks and recipes that are appropriate for each age range, from preschoolers to teenagers. Here's everything you need to know in order to succeed in the kitchen this holiday season.

Santa's Kitchen-Sink Cookies
Credit: Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Baking with Kids 5 and Under

Young kids might just be the most enthusiastic kitchen assistants. As children develop their sensory awareness and culinary curiosity, they're often eager to join you in the kitchen. Plus, can any three-year-old resist some chocolate chips?

So what tasks are best-suited for the youngest bakers? "Cheyenne Richards, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Nutrition Rites told the paper that children ages three to five typically learn best with simple, hands-on tasks that involve tearing, mashing, and washing," writes Megan Overdeep for Southern Living. Here are a few other great tasks for your young bakers:

  • Stir ingredients in large, deep bowls
  • Open packages
  • Count out small numbers of ingredients, like eggs
  • Roll cookie dough balls
  • Add handfuls of mix-ins to dough
  • Brush egg wash onto pastry
  • Decorate cookies with sprinkles
  • Wash hands

Baking with Kids 6 to 8

Once your kids have reached elementary school age, they're ready for a bit more responsibility in the kitchen. Instead of just "helping" you, kids aged 6 to 8 can measure ingredients with your supervision to set up your mis en place. Letting kids measure out ingredients helps to build hand-eye coordination and gets them used to working with numbers (read: extra math credit). At this age, they can learn to crack eggs (you may have to go fishing for some shells) and practice their reading with recipes and cookbooks. Here are some tasks well-suited for elementary-aged bakers:

  • Measure ingredients
  • Crack eggs
  • Locate ingredients in the pantry
  • Add ingredients to the mixer
  • Knead dough
  • Scoop batter
  • Press cookies in a cookie press
  • Read instructions from recipes or cookbooks aloud

Baking with Kids 8 to 12

Once your kids have reached middle school age, they'll be ready to take on some simple baking projects on their own. Cookies, cupcakes, and muffins are great places for your tweens to start. You'll want to stick around in the kitchen to supervise, but allowing your kids to take ownership over their project—from start to finish—is a great way to teach responsibility. Here are a few skills that your middle schoolers have:

  • Operate a mixer and, with supervision, an oven
  • Measure and combine ingredients
  • Follow a simple recipe
  • Roll out cookie or pie dough
  • Mix batter
  • Wash dishes
  • Decorate cakes and cupcakes

Baking with Kids 12 and Up

Once your kids have officially reached their teens, they should be able to claim some autonomy in the kitchen. They'll be able to select their own baking projects and confidently operate an oven on their own. Teens can follow more complex recipes with multiple steps; this is a great exercise in time-management. Here are some ways for your teens to express themselves in the kitchen:

  • Follow recipes with multiple steps
  • Set their own timers
  • Operate an oven
  • Bake breads and layer cakes
  • Make candy and confectionary
  • Combine various elements in one dish
  • Pipe decorated cookies