Cooking with Children: Making Gingerbread Houses


LIZ WILLIAMS (this article was first published December 2012)

 

gingerbread
Gingerbread house. Photo by PatríciaR, via Wikimedia Commons.


Making gingerbread houses is a glorious thing to do during the holidays. And the idea of doing it with children is also very appealing. The big problem with actually making a gingerbread house with children and dreaming about making a gingerbread house with children is that actually making a gingerbread house with children can be frustrating, as well as result in a house that looks like children made it. We should admit that unless children just watch you make the house, it will very likely not be very decorative.

Now I am perfectly happy to display the work of children, even if the aesthetics are questionable. All of this is done in fun. But sometimes the children become frustrated that the house that they have made is not perfect. And during the holidays who has time to bake the walls and roof? So here is the perfect compromise. I used it year after year and I plan to use it with my granddaughter when she is ready. The solution? Graham crackers.

My kids loved this. They loved that the sides were straight and rigid. They loved that the size was manageable for their little hands. They loved that they could make several, but no one house took forever. Sometimes we made a village and they looked great gathered together, no individual house really predominant. And best of all the houses could actually be eaten. And even while making the houses broken pieces of graham cracker could be eaten.

1024px-Graham-Cracker-Stack
A stack of Nabisco Graham Crackers. Photo by Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons.

I admit that this is not a gingerbread house project.  It is a graham cracker house project, but so what?  Children can put a house in a plastic bag with a bow and give one as a gift.  Grandparents and aunts and uncles will be appreciative, but so will classmates.  I encourage you  to try this with your kids.

  • 1 box of graham crackers (you can use classic graham crackers or cinnamon sugar covered crackers)
  • 1 container of pre-made icing (it is a busy time, so unless you must make your own, this will do)

Candy:

  • Necco wafers for roof tiles
  • Fruit leathers to cut doors and windows
  • Candy canes
  • Peppermint candies
  • Marshmallows for snowmen
  • Cinnamon candies
  • Pretzels

Make each house on a paper plate for easy handling. Break the graham crackers along their scored lines. Make rectangles and squares. With a butter knife  using the icing like glue along the edges of the crackers, stick the crackers together. Use four to create walls of the house. Then balance two for the roof like a tent. Then cut out windows and doors, once again using icing as glue. You can tile the roof and generally create to your heart’s content.

Glue  the marshmallows together or use toothpicks to hold them together. Use either cloves or cinnamon candies to make eyes and buttons. A piece of fruit leather can make a colorful scarf. A pretzel can make a staff or a piece of pretzel can make a nose.

You get the picture. This is so much fun. Everyone will be laughing and trying to be creative, but there is no pressure to create a picture perfect mansion or a cathedral. And if you break your house, you can eat and it and start again.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

By Esra (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/230055) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

By Esra (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/230055) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

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