Whenever characters in a movie flash back to Christmas memories, they tell tales of families laughing, giggling and singing happy carols as they prepare for a food feast. The memory offers warmth, joy and love (and quite often a food fight), and is the perfect example of different generations uniting together over family traditions.
What the movies don’t tell you is that when so many hands are working in the kitchen, it’s often a scene of chaos. Ingredients are forgotten and spilled, biscuits are burnt, and the washing up that’s created is nothing short of outrageous. And while having kids in the kitchen doesn’t make for easy cooking, it does make for a fun family activity.
Cooking and hosting a Christmas dinner takes lots of planning and preparation. It’s tempting to tackle it all on your own as a way to keep order, but by undertaking all the preparations yourself you’re setting yourself up for a lonely and stressful Christmas. You’re also depriving your children of those ‘movie worthy’ kitchen memories and the sheer sense of pride when the food is finally served. Sure, having helpers can make things a little more confusing, but it can also symbolise that families are all about teamwork and togetherness.
If it’s your turn to host Christmas this year, why not reign in some little helpers and make the preparations a family affair? You might need to allow a little extra kitchen time, but by assigning some of these below tasks, you could not only offload some of your responsibilities and save yourself some steps, you could make some little people very happy in the process.
Designing the menu
A month before Christmas, sit down with the kids and look through your cookbooks to design a Christmas menu. Their input will make them more likely to eat the food you serve, and they’ll love looking through the pictures and coming up with ideas.
Get the kids to each be responsible for getting items on a list. Young children will love counting out potatoes and green beans, while older kids will enjoy hunting for nuts, seasonings and other hidden treasures.
If the kids are going to help you cook, assign them some easy recipes they can tackle without your assistance, such as:
125g softened butter
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup golden syrup
1 egg yolk
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 tbsp powdered ginger
1 tspn mixed spice
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
2 egg whites
2 cups icing sugar
- Cream butter and brown sugar in a food processor.
- Add egg yolk and syrup, followed by flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarb soda.
- Bring together using hands and place on a sheet of baking paper. Place another sheet on top and roll dough flat.
- Cut desired shapes and place on a greased baking tray.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 180°C.
- To make icing, beat egg whites to form stiff peaks. Sift in icing sugar. Add a couple of drops of water to combine.
- Pipe on the icing and decorate with a mix of smarties, jelly beans, chocolate buttons or whatever else takes your fancy!
4 bacon rashers, finely chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups breadcrumbs
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 tbsp finely sliced sage
1 egg, lightly whisked
- Fry off bacon, onion and garlic in a pan with the butter for 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a heatproof bowl, and add remaining ingredients.
- Season with salt and pepper, stir to combine and then stuff the turkey!
Most kids will happily take on the responsibility of setting the dinner table, and this is one job that you don’t have to oversee. Delegating this task really will save you time!
Place cards: Have the kids create place cards that tell the guests where they’ll be sitting. All you need is some cardboard, some glue, stickers, tinsel, gems or other such decorations and some coloured crayons or textas.
Centrepiece: Every Christmas dinner table should have a centrepiece, and the more creative it is, the better. Let the kids tackle this one solely on their own - you never know what they might come up with!
Place settings: Get the kids to lay out placemats, cutlery, plates and glasses. You can even encourage some fancy napkin designs!
Music: Having some Christmas-themed music play in the background while you eat is an important part of the overall ambience, so why not have older kids create a playlist?
Decorations mean so much more if they’re handmade, and an added bonus is that making your own decorations saves you money. This might also be another task you don’t need to oversee.
Christmas tree: There’s nothing more special than having the kids help you decorate the Christmas tree.
Paper snowflakes: Paper snowflakes are fun to make, especially if each one is different. They also look beautiful hanging above the Christmas dinner table. All you need is some folded paper, some scissors and a steady hand.
Peg angels: Peg angels make a lovely gift for each guest, and can be placed on each setting at the table. Using strong craft glue, stick a dress to a wooden peg, add some feathered wings and draw on a smiley face.
Every good Christmas party has some form of entertainment, so let the kids decide what it’s going to be. Good ideas include:
Celebrity heads: Under each plate, place a card with the name of a famous person written on it. Once you sit down, have the person next to you stick the card to your head without you seeing. You can then take it in turns to ask questions to find out who you are.
Guess the tune game: Place a card with three the titles of Christmas carols under each plate. Have the people hum out their given songs and the other guests guess.
Pass the Christmas present: Just like pass the parcel, but Christmassy!
Pantomime: Rehearse a Christmas play or pantomime to perform after dinner.
Singalong: Write out the lyrics to some classic Christmas carols and encourage a singalong.