It's that time of year again. As the sun goes down, neighborhoods come alive with twinkling lights. Shop windows boast snow-covered scenes full of cheerful Santas, plucky reindeer, and mischievous elves. Happy strains of Christmas carols and holiday songs hang in the crisp winter air. Another magical holiday season is upon us –and if you're like a lot of parents, you can hardly wait for it to be over.

Before you drag your kids off to the mall to buy yet another useless gadget for Uncle Bill or chotchky for Grandma, ask yourself what you want your kids to remember about this holiday season. Do you envision them savoring childhood memories of plodding through the mall in a futile search for something – anything! – to buy for their beloved grandpa-who-has-everything just so they can see his polite smile as he opens yet another tie that he doesn't need? Or would you rather they remember time spent with loved ones and the satisfaction of giving a gift with real meaning? If you chose the latter, try cooking up some holiday food gifts together. Not only will your kids learn about the joy of giving gifts straight from the heart, you'll also have extra time to enjoy the season – together. Those are the memories your kids will truly savor.

Colorful White Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels

These festive treats are so simple, even very young children can help make them (just be sure the chocolate's not hot enough to burn tender little fingers). You can use any shape or size of pretzel – or a combination. Feel free to substitute dried fruit, fresh fruit, or cookies for the pretzels. Use red and green sprinkles for Christmas, blue for Hanukkah, or a combination.

1 bag large pretzels

1 10 to 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

Colored sprinkles

Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Stir chocolate and continue to microwave for 30- to 60-second intervals until chocolate is completely melted.

Place the melted chocolate and plates with different colored sprinkles on the counter. Dip pretzel sticks in chocolate to cover, then quickly roll in the colored sprinkles or decorating sugar. Lay covered pretzels on wax paper and let set completely, about 30 minutes. Place decorated pretzels in gift boxes layered with waxed paper and refrigerate until you're ready to take them to their recipients.

Cake Ornaments

This recipe, adapted from Jennifer Low's Kitchen for Kids, makes colorful balls that look like shimmering little Christmas tree ornaments. They're beautiful piled up in a glass bowl or adorning a cookie platter. Place them in a waxed paper-lined gift box and they'll look like sparkling jewels. Using blue and white decorating sugar makes these perfect for Hanukkah, while alternating red and green is ideal for Christmas.

1 box white cake mix, plus the ingredients required to make the cake according to the directions on the box

1/2 cup vanilla buttercream frosting

1 tablespoon milk

Colored decorating sugar

Bake the cake as directed on the box then set aside to cool. Divide the cake into chunks and put it into a large bowl. Using a spatula or your fingers, break up the cake into small crumbs. Measure 3 cups of crumbs and discard the rest. Thin the frosting with the milk and add it to the crumbs, stirring to make a “dough.” Roll dough between your hands to make small round balls about 1 inch in diameter, then roll in decorating sugar. Chill until firm. Balls can be stored in a baking dish or gift box, with waxed paper placed between layers.

Makes about 24 balls.