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There are a million things to love about the holiday season.

There’s lights up everywhere, a Santa Claus in every store, family and friends all around, and all of the family traditions.

One of my favorite holiday traditions that our family has had every year since before I was born is called “Cookie Day”.

I know what you might be thinking, “yeah, my family makes cookies every year too”. Trust me when I tell you, not like this.

My mom is a bit of a holiday-fanatic (wonder where I got it from?) and we’ve even joked about getting her a second house that she can decorate for the holidays year round.

Cookie Day started like your everyday family holiday tradition. My cousins would come over to play with my siblings and I. My mom would help us make some sugar cookie dough, then we’d watch a Christmas movie while it chilled.

Once it was ready, we’d cut them out and bake them, and finally we would decorate them (oooooor we’d eat all the frosting/decorations and make a huge mess).

Over time, our little family tradition grew. As my siblings and I started school, we’d invite a friend or two. My parents would invite over their friends with little kids. Not to mention, “my cousins” listed above is about 10 kids, plus my 2 siblings and me.

Basically, things started to get really, really crowded. Not willing to give up her Cookie Day, and not willing to limit invitations, Cookie Day expanded.

Now we meet yearly in a fire hall, we bake about 600 cookies, and some years we have nearly 100 kids all decorating cookies for Santa.

Sounds fun, right? If you want to set up your own version of Cookie Day, check out these six crucial steps for hosting a family cookie day.

Six Crucial Steps for Hosting a Family Cookie Day

6 Crucial Steps to Hosting a Family Cookie Day

First, You Need the Cookies

So, you obviously know that you need cookies to host a Cookie Day.

If you feel like being brave, you can make Cookie Day an all-day affair and let all those kids help you with the baking.

If you want to be slightly more controlled, you can bake the cookies ahead of time and only let your kids help.

Keep in mind, we “helped” my mom a lot by standing in the kitchen and watching her. It still counts!

We choose 6 cookie cutters with Christmasy shapes, and bake 90 (at least) of each cookie.

Now, you won’t need that many if you’re hosting your first cookie day and keeping the guest list small, but we want to make sure that each kid gets at least 5 or 6 cookies, and that we have some extras to snack on because what little kids can be surrounded by delicious cookies and not snack on them?

Next, You Need Decorations

Since the whole point of Cookie Day is to decorate the cookies, this part is a big deal!

You’ll want plenty of frosting in different Christmas colors, and try to make sure the frosting is easy to spread.

It’s also a fun idea to have some icing that you can use to write or draw on the cookies. The older kids will love being a “professional” decorator!

Once that is covered, you’ll want a ton of sprinkles (of course) and also any little candies you think would make good decorations.

M&Ms, chocolate chips, red hots, gum drops, the possibilities are endless!

Add in Some Snacks for Everyone

Like I mentioned above, kids can’t be around all of these cookies and candies without snacking, and that’s totally fine.

However, they also can’t eat nothing but sugar cookies and candy all day, or they’ll be super sick.

We host Cookie Day at 2 pm every year to make sure kids have a chance to eat real food for lunch.

Then at cookie day we usually have chips, crackers, and pizza available.

Is it healthy? Not even close. Will it help balance out the sugar in the cookies? A little bit, yes.

Trust me, you do not want to skip this part or you will have some overly hyped children (even more than you’d expect) and then very, very cranky children.

Keep those kids (and their parents) fed!

6 Crucial Steps to Hosting a Family Cookie Day

Setting Up for Cookie Day

Whether you’re hosting Cookie Day at your house or hosting a huge event at a hall, there are some very important things to remember as you set up.

First, you want a table big enough for all of the kids that will be there, plus a few parents.

Some parents will want to decorate a cookie or two, and others will need to sit with their kids to keep them from devouring all of the sprinkles.

Either way, make sure you have enough seats!

Also, head to the dollar store and buy cheap plastic table coverings. Yes, I know you have the cutest Christmas tablecloth. But I also know that the tablecloth would be ruined by frosting and sugar and pizza sauce.

Get a cheap plastic tablecloth and when Cookie Day is over, throw it away!

Also, if you have carpet where you’re hosting cookie day, consider grabbing a few extra cheap plastic tablecloths and covering the carpet.

You can thank me later.

Add Some Fun Surprises

This is my favorite part of Cookie Day, to be honest.

People expect to decorate cookies when they arrive at an event called “Cookie Day”, so do something unexpected.

Christmas time is all about the magic, and there is nothing more magic to a little kid than a good surprise!

For our Cookie Day the past few years, we’ve had Santa come visit and inspect his cookies. The kids can tell him what they want for Christmas, get pictures, and he gives them a candy cane.

The excitement whenever he arrives is crazy in a hall full of little kids!

Another year, since we host our Cookie Day in a fire hall, we had the owner come down and show the kids the antique fire engines that were there in the garage. The kids got to climb around on the trucks and get pictures.

Your surprise could be something as simple as a favorite Christmas movie and some hot cocoa. Just throw in something a bit unexpected to make the day more magical!

Tips and Tricks for a Successful Cookie Day

These are just a few odds and ends that we’ve picked up over our 20+ years of hosting Cookie Day that didn’t really fit anywhere else.

First, keep track of what cookie cutter shapes you make.

My mom made angels one year but not the next, and my cousin (who was three at the time) was heartbroken there weren’t any angels.

We were then trapped into making angels for her for years, even though they’re the most frustrating cookie to bake because the wings always break.

Which brings me to my next tip, pick simple cutters!

We like trees, bells, stockings, snowmen, etc. Reindeer with little antlers? Been there, done that, and hated life. Stick with big simple shapes!

Also, make more cookies than you think you would ever need.

When you have a ton extra at the end, donate them to a local police or fire station to make their holidays a bit brighter.

If you host a huge Cookie Day like ours, consider also having a canned food drive. We’ve done this the last few years, and it really feels good to give back to the community.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, accept that there will be kids being kids excited for cookies and Christmas.

There will be a kid licking the plastic frosting knife and putting it back in the frosting. There will be a kid eating fist fulls of M&Ms. There will be a kid (this year it was A-Man) who decorates their cookie simply to lick off the decorations.

If you expect it, it won’t bother you *quite* as much.

Making holiday traditions with your family is so important.

This is what they’ll remember years from now, and this is what they will want to pass on to their kids.

Trust me, my sister and I are already fighting over which of us will take over Cookie Day when my mom stops (which likely won’t ever happen).

Take some time this holiday season and start a new tradition. Make a new memory. And, of course, host a family Cookie Day!

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Kaylene George is an autistic self-advocate, author, and mother of five, including one autistic child. She realized her own autism as an adult shortly after her son received his initial diagnosis. Suddenly the parts of her that seemed so “weird” to society had an answer. Since then, Kaylene has passionately shared about her experiences with autism from both sides of the great divide between parents and autistic self-advocates on AutisticMama.com.