Are you looking for how to make gingerbread houses with your kids AND keep your sanity? Admit it – it’s worth a shot. Gingerbread house building is sometimes one of those experiences that you think is going to be great, but it can quickly turn into messy chaos. Here are the top tips I have for making it a fun experience versus a stressful one. There are many different ways to build gingerbread houses with young children and older kids that will make it quality family time for all of you.
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Think About Your Child’s Age When You Make Gingerbread Houses
Making gingerbread houses with kids and keeping your sanity has a lot to do with your child’s age. If your child is under the of 6, it is going to be challenging unless you are committing to being right there with them and you only have 1-2 children involved. If one of them is a baby or toddler, then…may be the force be with you.
How about some other gingerbread house options?
Foam Gingerbread Kits
If you are looking for a fun option for young children, consider building a foam gingerbread house from a gingerbread house kit! You can find these at a local craft store or order online (Michaels, Amazon, Oriental Trading), and contain lightweight gingerbread house pieces. They are fairly easy to set up, easy to clean up, and involve no small candies that little ones will try to eat.
You can also easily transport it, so if your child wants to put it in their room or a playroom, there’s no risk of them snacking on it or any other little creatures trying to take a bite! You can even pack them away and bring them back out next year. We saved ours from last year and loved bringing them back out for some holiday spirit.
Gingerbread Sticker Kit
Gingerbread sticker kits are another great option for little ones. They can decorate the homes in any different way and post their results on a bulletin board or even send them to friends and family. Young children can use their fine motor skills to grasp the stickers and place them. My kids have loved these, and the clean up is easy peasy!
Gingerbread House Coloring Sheets
Simple, simple, simple. Print a coloring sheet of a gingerbread house, pull out the markers or the crayons and let your little one go to town! Again, you can mail these to a loved one and keep them from year to year. Find some great coloring sheet options here. This is also a great way to keep young children occupied in the car during holiday travels and this busy time of year.
Pop Tart or Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses
If you still want the gingerbread house-building experience, try considering making the house out of pop tarts or graham crackers. The entire experience is scaled down and not quite as daunting for little ones to handle.
To make a Pop Tart gingerbread house, the easiest way to use 6 pop tarts. Four can be plain for the side piece portions and 2 can be colored with sprinkles for the roof pieces. Place pop tarts on parchment paper or a sturdy paper plate for easy clean up and prep royal icing. For a simple royal icing recipe, check here. Fill a pastry bag or a plastic bag with the bottom point snipped off to line the pop tarts with the royal icing. Children can attach their gingerbread house pieces and leave them to dry on a flat surface before attaching other ingredients.
After the royal icing is dried, children can add extra dry ingredients like red hots, mini marshmallows, Fruit Loops, jelly beans-many types of candy will work. They can make an entire gingerbread village from items found at the grocery store.
How To Make Gingerbread Houses – Tips
If your children are elementary-aged or older, and they are ready for the traditional gingerbread house experience of building their own house, here are my best tips.
1. Consider a pre-built house.
There are lots of options for pre-built houses out there that provide the gingerbread house kit and gingerbread house template. The one here is from Wilton. We have also found them at Costco. These homes come ready to go, so your kids get straight to decorating. Ours also contained gingerbread cookies to decorate with extra icing too! I also appreciate that they contain cardboard pieces to place the houses on for easy cleanup.
2. Read the directions before you get your kids involved.
Make sure you read through the directions before you get your kids involved. Our pre-built house from Costco still had a top piece that could be attached before decorating, and that was a little stressful. Reading ahead will cut down on the waiting time.
3. Use hot glue versus frosting.
If you do have pieces that need to be attached, have an adult use a hot glue gun to attach them. It is much faster, neater, and has a stronghold.
4. Put down a disposable tablecloth under the homes.
Need an easy cleanup? Set up a disposable tablecloth so clean up happens in a snap.
5. Put all the candies in one spot for each child and place the house on a cardboard surface.
Consider using muffin tins and separate plates to keep candies and small pieces organized for each child. Putting the house on a cardboard surface is an easy way to transport the house when finished.
6. Let go of perfection.
If your kids can handle the building, turn on some holiday music and let them go at it! Our 6, 9, and 11-year-old kids spent 2-3 hours on their houses this year and had a great time without their parents having to help too much. It was a success for all of us.
7. How to Make Gingerbread Houses with Your Kids – Do it during naptime.
If you have little ones, build the houses while they are napping. We built ours while our one-year-old was asleep this year and gave her the box to play in when she woke up. Win, win!
I hope this list gives you some helpful ideas on how to make gingerbread houses with your kids AND keep your sanity this holiday season! Remember you can also find a list of holiday books to read with your little one while they make sticker houses here. Happy holidays!