There are a lot of national days to celebrate, but National Cookie Day on Dec. 4 might be my favorite, especially since baking cookies with kids can be such a huge bonding experience. If this is an activity you haven't yet tried with your kid (I know, the flour mess does sound overwhelming), the holiday season is a great time to start. So grab your spatula and your kids, because apparently there are some huge benefits to whipping up a batch of snickerdoodles together.
Maureen Healy, an emotional coach, child psychologist, and author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, tells Romper, "Baking cookies with your children helps you develop a strong connection with them, which fosters positive emotional health." And that's absolutely true. Baking is a wonderful (and yummy) opportunity for bonding with your child, and it also provides the opportunity for a few important lessons along the way. Here are some of my favorites:
While working together to see a project through, you're teaching your child to follow instructions, and to develop math, science, reading and communication skills. And if they give up along the way, they'll have nothing to show for the work they put in. (Honestly, that's an important life lesson everyone should learn.) There is satisfaction that comes when you finish a job, and in the case of baking, is there any better evidence than when you pull a sheet of delicious smelling cookies out of the oven? I don't think so.
Everyone knows that at the toddler stage, little ones are still busy developing their fine and gross motor skills. But did you know that baking can help develop a child's coordination? The OT (occupational therapy) Mom website noted, "Baking can give your child lots of opportunity to develop and use their hands in a coordinated way. Rolling balls of dough, rolling out dough with a rolling pin, and flattening dough with the hands are all great ways of letting kids practice their bilateral coordination skills. Sifting flour into a large bowl is also a good bilateral activity: it trains a child to use one hand to 'support' while the other does the heavy work." Additionally, eye-hand coordination is improved by "pouring ingredients into bowls and jugs, and pouring batter into tins," along with "decorating cookies with icing or putting frosting on cupcakes."
If that's not enough evidence right there, consider the creative outlet that baking provides. Sure, you do have to be precise with instructions if you don't want any blackened or tough cookies on your hands, but your imagination is actively at play while you choose a recipe with your child and think about how your cookies will taste when they're done. That "baking zone" that you and your children enter is a wonderful way to put aside the stresses of every day life and come together while you focus on creating something delicious. Psychologist Dr. Lisa Papadopolous told SWNS Digital News, ''In the same way composing music or drawing allows people to forget the noise of day-to-day thoughts and experience what we call ‘flow,' baking too can provide a stress relief via focusing on a creative and expressive outlet.”
And listen, will cookie-baking mistakes happen? Of course. Will someone get flour in their hair? Most definitely. As the saying goes, life is about the journey, not the destination (though obviously if the cookies aren't burned, that's a huge plus).
Maureen Healy, emotional coach, child psychologist, and author of The Emotionally Healthy Child