The holiday season means many extra opportunities to spend time with children. Kids of all ages love the edible entertainment of building their very own gingerbread houses. The finished products make great decorations for the holidays and make for a yummy family snack.
Create gingerbread houses as handmade gifts for family and friends, or even as a display for the family holiday party. Older kids can even tie in their gingerbread houses with geography lessons, building structures from around the world.
Steps for Building the Gingerbread House
Regardless of age or ability level, every child can help build a gingerbread house. The key is to select materials that are both tasty and easy to use.
- Make the walls and roof of the house. Use your favorite gingerbread recipe for the cookie dough. Create a template out of cardboard or stiff paper for the house walls, roof, and other structural details. If time is short, graham crackers make great building material as well. Small children love to break the crackers themselves to build their own creative houses.
- Select the “mortar.” Traditional gingerbread houses are held together with royal icing. Although royal icing makes for sturdy houses, it lacks flavor. As an alternative, try butter cream icing, marzipan, marshmallow fluff, or even peanut butter. Virtually any sweet and sticky food will work. Older kids can use piping bags for more precise application, while preschoolers may prefer using butter knives or even their fingers.
- Find the perfect decorations. Any brightly colored candy works for a gingerbread house, but candy canes and gumdrops are certainly seasonal favorites. Choose flavors that complement the product that will be holding the house together. For example, fruity flavors go well with vanilla butter cream, while chocolate pairs well with peanut butter. If toddlers will participate, avoid tiny candies like Red Hots, which can pose a choking risk.
- Create a sturdy base. For precision, a Lazy Susan or cake decorating platform makes it easy to work on all sides of the gingerbread house. A plastic cutting board or cookie sheet also makes a reliable base for the gingerbread house. Cover the surface in aluminum foil, which can be a base for the “garden” around the house.
- Build away! Work together to assemble the house. One person can hold the pieces together, while the other applies the icing. Once the house is assembled, the kids can decorate the house and the area around it, using the “mortar” to affix the candy.
- Add the finishing touches. Make “grass” by adding food coloring to vanilla icing, or create snow by sprinkling coconut flakes over white icing. Add a gravel footpath with crushed peanuts. Kids can even add action figures or plastic animals as residents.
Building a gingerbread house brings the family together for an afternoon of fun and creativity. Kids of any age will love creating an edible house to share.