Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

The winter holidays are often marked by delicious treats and cooking traditions passed down from generation to generation. By sparkly decorations hanging from trees, windows, and fireplaces. And, all too often, by frantic holiday shopping for relatives, teachers, and neighbors. 

This holiday season, combine time together in the kitchen with a little light reading practice with your kiddo … all while creating some adorable decorations that also happen to make sweet gifts. These simple, DIY Christmas ornaments require only two ingredients (applesauce and cinnamon) and very little prep work. They do take a while to cook, so a little patience will come in handy. In the end, you’ll have festive homemade gifts that your child made from start to finish. Plus, they smell wonderful! This recipe makes about 15 ornaments, depending on the size of cookie cutters you use. 

This Christmas ornament recipe is part of our Read with Me Recipe series of printable recipes that are super easy to make—and, crucially, read—with children. They feature simple words and short sentences typed in an easy font that will set your little one up for reading success. Just print out the recipe and then read it with your child as you cook together. (Scroll down for tips on using it to help teach reading.) The idea is to make it easy for you to mix reading and writing into everyday life with your kids. This kind of “everyday literacy” is key to raising thriving readers. 

What do you love to cook with your kids? Submit your favorite recipe—or request a recipe you’d love to read (and make) with your kids! We’ll add them to our upcoming Read with Me Recipes. (See how below.)

Tips for teaching kids to read with this recipe:

  • Introduce your child to how recipes work. If you’re not sure they know them already, be sure to explain vocabulary like “ingredients” and other cooking terms. (Even though we won’t be reading such complicated words in this recipe, they’re important words to learn.) One of the biggest challenges for beginning readers—and most important oral language underpinnings of literacy—is just knowing and understanding all the words they’ll encounter in print.
  • Watch out for specific words in the recipe they may not be familiar with (possibly “cinnamon” in this recipe), and give a simple definition.
  • Keep an eye out for tricky-to-read words, such as “hours.”
  • For little ones who aren’t reading much yet, just pointing out what you’re reading and emphasizing a few key words or letters is enough. If you make the recipe again, you can help them find the words you pointed out before.
  • Use this as an opportunity to show them punctuation, as well as words and letters. Point to the commas, periods, or other punctuation marks, and explain what they mean. 
  • If they can’t read the recipe on their own, give them chances for success by asking them about what they do know, gently underscoring key knowledge. E.g., ask, Can you find a letter T? or What letter does this word start with?
  • For kids who are reading already, encourage them to read the recipe themselves. If they have trouble, just calmly help them with any words they can’t quite get. E.g., if they have trouble with the word “applesauce,” try covering “sauce” and helping them read just the first part of the word before you uncover the rest.
  • Bring your patience. Give your child space to read a word (or identify a letter) before you jump in, but be prepared to help if they’re showing signs of frustration.

Related: View and print our other Read with Me Recipes.

Applesauce Cinnamon DIY Christmas Ornaments

Notes: These ornaments are not edible, so avoid letting children eat the dough. 

Also, the recipe involves using a hot oven and isn’t appropriate for young children to complete alone. Adults should help with baking the ornaments. 

  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 2 cups cinnamon
  • Straw
  • String
  • Cookie cutters

Step 1: Heat the oven to 200 F.

Step 2: Put 2 cups of applesauce in a bowl.

Step 3: Add 2 cups of cinnamon. 

Step 4: Mix it. Form it into a thick ball.

Step 5: Pat it flat.

Step 6: Cut out shapes. Put them on a baking sheet.

Step 7: Make a hole at the top with a straw.

Step 8: Put them in the oven. Bake for 2 hours.

Step 9: Take them out and let them cool.

Step 10: Put strings in the holes and hang them up!