Tips for Easy Christmas Cookie Decorating With Kids

If the idea of decorating cookies with the kids seems overwhelming, this guide is for you.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Over the holidays, we're always looking for fun ways to create new memories with the family. One of the easiest, most rewarding holiday activities? Cookie decorating. Cookie decorating is a fun activity in which the whole family can participate. Plus, it leaves you with a surplus of treats to fill your cookie tins.

With a bit of flour, a few supplies, and festive sprinkles, your merry crew will be ready to add a new tradition to the holiday line-up. We're here to help you make the most of your time with your family. We've compiled this guide full of tips on successfully decorating cookies with the kids this holiday season.

Decorated Christmas Cokies
YinYang / Getty Images

Stock the Right Supplies

You'll need a few supplies to ensure that your home cookie decorating party runs smoothly. You can find most of these in kitchen supply stores or online to have on hand for impromptu substitutions.

When mixing the sugar cookie dough and the royal icing, it's beneficial to have a stand mixer. Royal icing takes a good bit of time in the mixer to get shiny and glossy, so it can be difficult to mix by hand. So yes, this is your excuse to break out that KitchenAid (or add one to your Christmas wishlist).

Pull out the piping bags if you plan to use them to decorate your cookies. (Ziplock bags with the corner snipped off will also work.) If not, set out butter knives or small offset spatulas, which you can use to spread the royal icing on your cookies.

To fill in areas not entirely flooded with icing, use toothpicks to help smooth it out or create a unique marbled design. And don't forget the sprinkles.

Go-To Recipes

Start your cookie decorating adventure by baking your sugar cookies—this simple recipe for Easy Sugar Cookies is our go-to. Be sure to commission the kids' help in cutting out your sugar cookies. Use some fun Christmas cookie cutters or a glass to cut the dough into circles (you can order cookie cutter variety packs on Amazon).

While your cookies cool, mix the royal icing. Look for a spreadable consistency—if you add too much water, the icing will run off the sides of the cookies.

Next, divide your batch into smaller bowls to mix your colors. To keep things simple with the kids, we recommend sticking to three colors for your cookies. Save one-third of the white royal icing, then dye one-third red and another third green for a festive palette. You can, of course, adjust based on your design.

Involve your kids in the baking process or bake the cookies ahead of time and save the decorating for them—it's entirely up to you.

Decorating Ideas for All Ages

Once you've prepared the supplies, pick your cookie decorating approach. This approach may depend on your kids' ages.

For the young ones, there's no need to get fussy with piping bags or intricate designs. For kids aged four and under, we recommend using a "spread and sprinkle technique." Kids five to 12 can do some design work, like our marbling technique. The older kids may want a bit more of a challenge. For kids 12 and over, make some piped cookie designs.

Simple Sprinkles for Younger Kids

The spread and sprinkle decorating technique couldn't be more straightforward for your youngest cookie decorators. Once you've baked your sugar cookies, mix up a spreadable but slightly more firm royal icing for less mess.

First, line the table with newspaper or parchment paper, and set your sugar cookies directly on the table. Next, set out each of your colored icings in its own small bowl with a small offset spatula, spoon, or butter knife. Arrange a selection of sprinkles on the counter.

From here, your kids can decorate their cookies using a spoon (or their fingers) to spread icing and then top them with festive sprinkles. Holiday fun for the little ones is that easy.

Want a little control over the chaos? Try our recipe for Sprinkle Stocking Cookies.

sprinkle stocking cookies
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

A Simple Marbling Design

Kids a little older, around five, are ready for a slightly more advanced design. With our marbling technique, you'll need a few small casserole dishes (or shallow bowls) and toothpicks.

Mix your royal icing to a spreadable but slightly looser consistency. Have your kids help you pour the different icing colors into a rectangular dish, then swirl to create a marbled pattern. To dip a cookie, hold it face-down between your thumb and pointer finger and dip the cookie's surface into the icing to lightly cover the top of the cookie. Pull the cookie back up and lightly shake off any excess icing.

Once you've demonstrated the technique to your kids, they can take on the challenge themselves. Decorate with sprinkles for an extra festive touch.

For more details on this technique, check out our recipe for Marbled Heart Cookies.

Marbled Sugar Cookies
Zoe Denenberg; Prop Styling: Grant Gaar

Piped Cookies for the Oldest Kids

Piped cookies are always the star of the show, and with the right supplies, your kids, usually 12 and up, can create these beauties themselves. You will need piping or ziplock bags with the corner snipped off for piped cookies. A tip when using piping bags with kids: Press the royal icing down to the corner of the bag's edge, then twist and tie the open side with a rubber band to keep the icing from bursting out the other end.

You'll want to mix two consistencies of royal icing: Piping-consistency (firmer) and flooding consistency (looser). Luckily, we have all the information you need on icing consistency, preparing piping bags, and piping techniques in this handy cookie decorating guide.

In search of design inspiration? Our Snowflake Sugar Cookies are wonderfully festive and fun.

Painted Shortbread Cookies
Greg DuPree; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Not in the mood to pull out the piping bags? Our Painted Shortbread Cookies simplify the process, using food coloring gel and almond extract as "watercolors" that you can paint on your cookie canvas. This technique is another excellent option that limits your prep work ahead of time.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles