The Christmas season is all about roaring fires, roasting chestunuts, and festive holiday celebrations filled with smiling faces — if you live in a Hallmark card. If you live in the real world, the holidays can easily turn into an all-encompassing stress-fest.

What's the secret to enjoying the holidays more? You have to stress about the details less. And nothing provides a better example of just how important it is to lower your standards and embrace imperfection than an afternoon spent baking Christmas cookies with your little angels.

Baking with Kids: Tips to Get You Started

Baking cookies with your children should be fun. Keep the following tips in mind when you're ready to get started.

1. Set the Ground Rules

Baking with children is easier and more enjoyable if everyone knows what to expect in advance. Explain the directions that need to be followed, and be direct about any kitchen equipment or appliances (such as the stove or oven) that are off-limits.

2. Be Prepared

If you anticipate the messes and mistakes that will inevitably occur, such problems will be easier to handle. Fill the sink with warm, soapy water ahead of time, and keep towels handy for quick and easy clean-up. Lining the counter or table with newpaper or aluminum foil can help too.

3. Embrace Imperfection

Don't plan to whip up several batches of cookies that look as if they're ready to be photographed for a magazine. If your children are young, consider it an added bonus if the cookies are actually edible.

4. Keep Age and Skill Level in Mind When Assigning Tasks

Don't ask your two-year-old to roll out the dough if the rolling pin is too big for her to hold, or expect your five-year-old to crack eggs if he's going to have a meltdown when he accidentally cracks one onto the floor.

5. Consider Child-Sized Utensils

It certainly isn't necessary to purchase these, but a special, child-sized whisk or cookie sheet can make the tradition of baking together all the more exciting and memorable.

6. Think Sprinkles

Older children may enjoy mixing and measuring, but a lot of younger children just want to play with sprinkles. Sometimes, it's easier to make the cookies yourself, and then set out a variety of frosting, candy, and sprinkles so that everyone can enjoy decorating them!

7. Have Fun

Turn up the holiday music, make some cocoa, and enjoy the quality time with your kids!

Kid-Friendly Christmas Cookie Recipes

One of the best tips for baking Christmas cookies with kids is a simple one: choose easy, kid-friendly recipes. Now is not the time to try your hand at that complicated recipe that you just discovered in the latest issue of Gourmet magazine. Think fun and festive, not frustrating.

More great cookie recipes to make and bake together:

  • Snowman Cookies (donut holes dipped in white frosting)
  • Red-Nosed Reindeer Cookies (store-bought cookie dough decorated with chocolate-covered pretzels and red M&M's)
  • Santa Grahams (graham crackers, mini marshmallows, and red gumdrops are all part of this no-bake cookie)
  • Holiday Snickerdoodles (easy to make from scratch, and even easier when you use a Betty Crocker mix)
  • Classic Sugar Cookies (use holiday cookie cutters and let the kids go wild decorating with candy, frosting, and lots of sprinkles)

What kind of Christmas cookies do you bake with your kids? Any great recipes to share?