Last year I wrote a post about the things a child can learn by building a gingerbread house. This year, I’m writing a post about the practical things I’ve learned along the way as the parent supporting the project.
First, if your kids have a ton of food allergies, it’s best to treat the gingerbread house as an art project. Attempting to make an edible gingerbread house is a ton of work. It’s really difficult to get almond flour as hard as it needs to be in order to build a sturdy house (at least one over a couple of inches tall). Also, powdered sugar (which contains corn), really does make the stiffest icing, which is what you want for making a solid house. I’ve decided that for us, we’re better off making gingerbread cookies for eating and gingerbread structures as art. We treat these as two separate projects. Of course, we decorate both.
Second, if you have access to them and a small expenditure isn’t out of the question, buying a pre-baked gingerbread house kit makes the process really easy. The kits even include icing. If it’s an art project, you don’t have to worry about the fact that the box is full of hydrogenated fats and artificial colors. Look at it as art supplies, instead of viewing it as food.
Third, if you’re inviting friends over to build gingerbread houses, it might be best (depending on your crowd, of course) to spend the extra money and get pre-assembled houses so the kids can simply spend their time decorating. My 6-year-old loves building things. To him, building the houses is part of the fun. For his friends, the house building was frustrating as their houses kept collapsing. While I think frustration is an important part of the learning process, and I don’t shield my boys from frustration, it can also be important to create room for ease when you’re working with a crowd. While we got everyone’s houses together in the end, it made for a rough start to an otherwise fun project.
Fourth, be ready for a huge, huge, huge mess. When the four boys finished decorating their houses, there was frosting on everything. It was all over the boys, the table, the floor, the chairs, the surrounding furniture, and pretty much everything else within touching or nearby walking distance. It all came up with the help of a rag and a vacuum, but if your carpet didn’t live through a decade of rental tenants before you moved in (these sorts of projects are exactly why we haven’t replaced our carpet yet), you might want to put down a drop-cloth.
Finally, have fun. It’s art. It’s a great project to work on together. Once my 2-year-old is old enough to make his house without my constant help, I look forward to decorating a house of my own.
Have you ever made Gingerbread Houses with your kids? What other seasonal art projects do you do each year?