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October 23, 2005

DIY: How to Help Children Build a Gingerbread House

Today's "How to" article courtesy of English-blog contributor Holden J.:

Building a Gingerbread House

There are many activities that occur during holiday seasons such as the Easter egg hunt during Easter time, trick-or-treating during Halloween and sending flowers, cards and candy during Valentine's Day. These activities truly make the holidays festive for people both young and old. But above all of these there is one holiday that children enjoy the most and is during Christmas time, making a gingerbread house. The entire process is exhilarating and produces anticipation within kids. From organizing the ingredients and setting up the foundation for the House up to decorating and ultimately the eating of the House, makes children look forward to this seasonal activity. It makes some children feel like a master chef every time they make this delicious treat because of the diversity of candies and sweets that can be used to ornament the project. No matter what candies they use to decorate their gingerbread house they still come out with an edible masterpiece . . .

. . . The first thing children need to learn how to do in order to make a gingerbread house would be to organize the types of sweets they will use. Fundamentally they will start with graham crackers, the hardening adhesive-like (though still edible) Confectioners icing, an even piece of cardboard, aluminum foil, color dye and an empty milk carton for the structure of the House. They may bring an array of different candies such as DOTS, assorted lollipops, licorice, and peppermints, Sour Patch Kids, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey's Chocolate Bars, Gummi Frogs, Hershey's Kisses and assorted Skittles. The kids will begin to collect these things they have brought and put them away for later when it is time to decorate and ornament the house. So, the Graham Crackers, milk carton, piece of cardboard, aluminum foil, color dye, and confectioner's icing remain out for current use while the other ingredients are put away for now.

The first order of business when constructing a gingerbread house is to wrap an even sheet of aluminum foil around the piece of cardboard and tape where the ends of the aluminum foil meet. After finishing with that, the kids "glue" the empty milk carton onto the surface side of the board with the confectioner's icing. Before they can do anything else they must wait for this to dry (putting it in the refrigerator helps speed up the process). Then the children must "glue" the graham crackers onto the side of the milk carton as to imitate the walls of a house. Along with that they also must "glue" smaller graham cracker pieces onto the pinned top of the milk carton as to imitate a roof. They must patiently wait for these things to dry as well. Lastly when they are constructing the case for their house, the kids add green color dye to a separate batch of confectioner's icing and use that to cover the remaining uncovered surface of the canvas board simulating grass on a lawn. The children have to set it aside for about 15-30 minutes in order to dry and in the meantime get out the other ingredients.

Upon putting down the foundation, the children become ecstatic about the next step in making a gingerbread house, the decorating. The kids start with decorating the roof of the house first with DOTS candy, Hershey's Chocolate bar pieces, and confectioner's icing and Skittles. They use confectioner's icing to cover the roof and then add DOTS candy to imitate roof tiles. At the very tip of the roof some kids want to be creative by creating a design with the confectioner's icing. While that dries they use some more confectioner's icing to create the illusion of windows on the sides of the gingerbread house. The children then "glue" two even symmetrical Hershey's Chocolate bar pieces to the front side of the house for the illusion of parallel doors. They may design a lintel and post for the door with confectioner's icing and ornament it with Skittles. They will have to once again set this aside and leave it to dry for about another 20-35 minutes. The children must prepare for the final stages of preparation of the gingerbread house.

This portion of making the gingerbread house calls for the remaining candy that was listed in the second paragraph. Two Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are used to create tree stumps on the lawn by flipping them so that the widest circumference is facing downward and confectioner's icing is put on that side to stick on the lawn. The children then scatter and "glue" Gummi Frogs for the effect of wildlife and sprinkle some Sour Patch Kids to imitate young people running around, frolicking. Next they design a pathway leading up to the door of the gingerbread house with lollipops, licorice, Hershey's Kisses, and peppermints. These ingredients are lined up in so that if you drew a straight line from one piece of candy on the pathway to one on the other side of the pathway, they would be the same type of candy. It now looks like a real "Candy Land", but it is too soon to eat it because the confectioner's icing that is "gluing" the pieces of candy on the walkway needs to dry.

After letting it dry in the refrigerator, the anxious kids take it out and behold the spectacle that they have created. They have carried on a tradition that in the future when they see a gingerbread house or celebrate Christmas, there will be nostalgia of this moment. It will remind them what it was like to be a child when they were in elementary and middle school. It will also help them to enjoy celebrating and appreciating each holiday, with vigor, creativity and an open mind. They steadily devour this massive treat in order to savor it, and to stay out of the Dentist's office. It is a wonderful experience that they will carry on with their children and hope they get out as much out it as they did when they were young, aside from the sugar rush.

~ Holden J.

*NOTE: For more English-Blog DIY or "How to . . ." articles, please click HERE!

Comments for Holden's article "Building a Gingerbread House?" Please leave them below:

Posted by lhobbs at October 23, 2005 12:29 AM

Readers' Comments:

I think that the process involved in assisting children in building a gingerbread house is a rather fun process. Who wouldn’t want to build a house out of candy and other sweets? The author went into much detail, including how long to let the house sit and dry for, what kind of candies and other supplies would be needed, and where to put each thing. I do feel, however, that in making a gingerbread house, like any other arts and crafts project, that creativity is key. Various kinds of candies could be used and placed in different ways and I think that creativity is necessary, especially when dealing with children, who do not always have the easiest time following instructions. Then, also when they children are finished, they will not be trying to compare their house to a house that is supposedly the “perfect” gingerbread house, and will not be discouraged when theirs does not quite meet that standard. After all, they are only children. I do, on the other hand, believe that the author of this do-it-yourself article gave very informative directions for composing a gingerbread house. This would be a good place to get started and see what kind of supplies will be necessary, but I think that in the end, the children should be given a little bit more freedom with making their houses so that they are individualized.

The idea of having a Christmas tradition, such as making a gingerbread house, is something that I think that every family should have. It is nice to reminisce while watching and assisting your children build their very own gingerbread house, knowing that so many years ago that was you and your siblings with your parents helping you create an edible masterpiece. I think that every family should have holiday traditions that last generations, it ties a family together. This is one reason I think that the author has a very valid point about gingerbread house making being a holiday activity that should not simply be a one-time event, but rather something that becomes an annual occurrence. Gingerbread house building is a fun tradition that never gets old.

Another point is the fact that gingerbread houses do not necessarily have to be strictly a Christmas activity, but rather something that persons of any religion can enjoy. It might be better if it were thought of as a wintertime activity rather than a Christmas activity, which limits the group of people who can enjoy the fun of building a gingerbread home with their children. People of any religion can make a gingerbread house.

I think that the author’s ideas were very good and very informative, however, a few things were overlooked. The general idea of the paper is an excellent description of how to create a beautiful gingerbread house, however there is little room left for creativity and the group of people to whom it is addressed is limited due to the idea of the author that gingerbread house building is a “Christmas” activity, rather than a wintertime activity.

Posted by: Kelsey L. at April 10, 2006 12:40 PM

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