Tasty holiday treats are traditions with sweet benefits

In our wired world, anything that is less than instant, tends to fade into the backdrop or fall between the cracks of time demands. In the middle of the go-go holiday rush, it becomes even more important to create moments and memories. Time together in the kitchen making ultra-special, once-a-year treats is one way to do that.

Michele Brennan, Psy.D., in a post to Psych Central titled “Why Holiday Traditions Might Be More Important Than You Think,” writes that “Holiday traditions are an important part to building a strong bond between family, and our community. They give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us. They connect us to our history and help us celebrate generations of family.” She adds that treasured objects and activities that are passed down, “keep the memories of the past alive and helps us share them with newer generations.”

Even tough-to-reach tweens and teens benefit from holiday traditions, despite sometimes saying they want to opt out. Rebecca Fraser-Thill, tweens expert for About Parenting, goes so far as to suggest in her article “How Holiday Traditions Benefit Children,” that holiday traditions create stability, help children feel useful, provide a sense of identity, combat “adolescent egocentrism,” and pass along cultural values.

But the boundless multi-sensory opportunities packaged in the holidays are important for the littlest family members, too. For example, whipping up holiday treats together in the kitchen directly engages four of the five senses: smell, sight, taste, and touch. And let’s face it, the chit-chat, stories, and directions that go with it cover sound, too.  In “How Are the Senses Involved in a Child’s Cognitive Development, Amber Keeler, writing for Demand Media on Global Post, says that “Developing each of the five senses is a step toward children learning other skills as they grow. Sensory experiences work to raise a child’s innate curiosity. Children use the sensory skills of hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching to receive information for their brains to process.” Of course, recipes also offer lessons in measuring and following directions!

Baking holiday goodies encompasses all these big benefits, and also offers the opportunity to share the results with family, friends, and neighbors, spreading cheer, goodwill, and generosity. Below are 5 traditional Christmas treats that can fill your home with great smells and create amazing memories and learning experiences for your kids.

Gingerbread House  - Here’s one charming version from Simply Recipes. There are also kids available, and if time is an extreme issue, consider just making a Gingerbread Man and Woman! For a fun read, check out this PBS history of gingerbread.

Peppermint Anything – Even fast-food franchises pull out all the stops with peppermint treats during the holidays. Southern Living has compiled Cool Peppermint Treats, including Peppermint Bark and Triple Mint Sundaes.

German Stollen – This cake-like bread that’s usually made with chopped nuts and dried fruit, while sharing some ingredients with its distant cousin, is a far cry from fruitcake and makes a great gift. It dates back to the late-1400s, but here’s a recipe for today from Taste of Home.

Yule Log – During the Middle Ages, a tree would be chopped down to burn throughout the season. At some point, this symbolic (and edible!) rendering became a tradition. Again, Taste of Home has a lovely recipe and YouTube also has a number of how-to’s.

Cookies – Whether with frosting, sprinkles, nuts, or chips, in the shape of Santa, snowmen, angels, or bells, Christmas cookies are probably the most common—and diverse—baking tradition of the season. Looking for ideas? Here are “50 Essential Christmas Cookies” from Food.com   Whip up a few extra dozen and help kids wrap them in pretty paper or festive tins for friends and neighbors.

Take time for tasty traditions that yield big benefits that last all year—even a lifetime!