How to Decorate Sugar Cookies with Your Kids

Round up all the sprinkles! You can teach kids how to decorate sugar cookies with this colorful craft.

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You don’t need a special occasion to bake with your kids. Having fun in the kitchen on a day at home means there’s no pressure to make your creations perfect. It’s an ideal time to show the kids how to decorate sugar cookies.

It doesn’t matter what age your children are, decorating is a sensory activity for small hands. Whether kids can handle a piping bag or a pinch of sprinkles, they love the process! Take this advice from my daughter: “Kids can get messy, even turn their hands—and hair—blue or orange. Let them have one or two cookies when you’re done.”

How to Make Sugar Cookies

For the cookies, I baked Pillsbury’s break-apart sugar cookie dough, and it was simple to use. In my experience, they’re a good size for simple decorations and small hands. I also used a recipe for royal icing, which sets up to a hard, candy-like coating.

For a homemade dough, I can’t recommend these white velvet cutouts enough. They’re 100% the best sugar cookie I’ve ever made. The frosting for that recipe is different from the one I used here, but is outstanding in its own right.

How to Decorate Sugar Cookies

Tools You’ll Need

You’ll need a mixer, a plate or shallow bowl for each color of icing you plan to use, plus sprinkles, sparkling sugar and crushed candies set out in small bowls. It’s also helpful to keep some napkins nearby, and definitely a broom. We recommend these products:

Ingredients

  • Prepared sugar cookies
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons meringue powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Food coloring
  • Sprinkles, sparkling sugar and crushed candies

Instructions

Step 1: Grown-ups make the icing

First, you’ll want to make the royal icing. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, water, meringue powder and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Beat on low to combine, then on high until stiff peaks form. That’s it!

Step 2: Grown-ups handle food coloring

As my daughter said, the coloring part can get messy. Her own fingers were blue, as well as a spot on her leg, somehow. One second of food coloring in a child’s hands is one second too long (as I learned).

I recommend grown-ups use the food coloring. Let the kids pick out their colors and have fun mixing colors together—once the coloring is already safely in the icing.

Step 3: Kids go to town

For simplicity’s sake, the dipping method for icing cookies is likely your best bet with kids. Dip the tops of your cookies in the icing and lift them up and out. Since royal icing hardens fairly quickly, you may have to mix in a spoonful of water or two to thin it out as you go. You can also hand the kids small rubber spatulas for smoothing on icing, if that works better for them.

My daughter used orange frosting, crushed Oreo cookies and a single red sprinkle on top to form “Volcano Island” cookies. When the kids are in charge of their creations, you never know what you’re going to get. And that might be the best part!

How to Set up a Decoration Bar

I brought my plain cookies to the table on a cooling rack, followed by different colors of icing in high-sided toddler plates. These make for easy dipping and won’t shatter if they’re bumped off of the table.

Set out small bowls for sprinkles, crushed cookies or nuts, sparkling sugar or crushed candies within easy reach. Work with what you have in the pantry here.

To level up, add icing to piping bags or squeeze bottles to create more designs on your cookies. For older kids, there are all kids of cookie decorating tools that are fun to use.

How to Store Your Creations

You’ve got to do a little taste-testing right away, as my daughter says, but you can store extra cookies stacked in an airtight container at room temperature for three days.

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Elizabeth Harris
Liz is an unapologetic homebody who loves bowling and beers almost as much as food and fitness. The highlight of her week is making cheesy popcorn for her family on movie night. She's been hooked on Taste of Home since interning for the magazine in 2010.