This article originally appeared in the Dinner Together Newsletter, Family Issue, December 2009.
The holiday season offers special opportunities for sharing food and family traditions. So many of our holiday traditions are related to food, and children can be involved easily in several ways. Here are a few quick ideas.
1. Baking and decorating cookies. A classic, but an activity I know my children look forward to and enjoy every year. Their favorite cookie-related activity is to decorate sugar cookies and gingerbread men, but I also like to get them involved in helping with other recipes. Usually, there are a few of their friends joining us for this activity as well.
2. Food for charity. Food drives with collections of nonperishable food items are common at the holidays. Have your children shop with you and drop off donations. Or perhaps you can find an organization willing to accept all those holiday cookies you made and don't want to keep in the house! Some soup kitchen programs request cooked meals. If there is one near you, enlist your kids help in preparing a large batch of chili or stew. Explore what opportunities are in your town or neighborhood.
3. Make food gifts. Over the years (in addition to all the cookies!) we've made pralines, jars with cookie recipes and ingredients, and jars with bean soup recipes and ingredients as gifts. These are all projects that kids can easily participate in and enjoy.
4. Menu planning. Include your children in your holiday menu planning. Whether you're hosting or bringing something to someone else's home, ask your children for ideas about what they would like and what they think others would like to eat.
5. Teach traditional recipes. As your children get older and can be of more help in the kitchen, teach them your family's traditional holiday recipes. I'm looking forward to teaching my daughter how to clean and prepare mussels for Christmas Eve this year. This is how our traditions get passed down from one generation to another.