Gingerbread houses are special in my family and it was interesting to start my handyman business, where houses take on a whole new meaning. I personally enjoy working on gingerbread houses, from mixing the batter and backing the pieces to whipping up the frosting for the kids to use in construction. With a gingerbread house I can easily see all the pieces and have fun creating something that is uniquely mine.
Our family's gingerbread house tradition started many years ago, when my younger son was six. When his older brother started trombone lessons, Ryan decided he too must take music lessons. My best friend taught piano so off Ryan went for his weekly piano lesson … but some days he just wasn't ready to sit still. One week he brought home our first gingerbread house, and every year since then, we've made at least one gingerbread house as a family.
Gingerbread houses can be a family affair as everyone can get involved. Our family has shared the tradition with good friends and neighbors for many years. Each family gets to assemble and decorate their house, and each child gets a gingerbread cookie too. We've also tried to make mini houses but they're difficult to assemble and the smaller kids don't understand why their house is smaller than their big brother or sisters house.
Tips for a Great Gingerbread Party
If you live near family, inviting everyone over in early December lets you share ideas and plan the rest of the holidays in a relaxed atmosphere. When family isn't nearby, inviting neighbors is great fun or sometimes you might let each child invite one or two of their favorite friends.
- Invite guests 1 to 2 weeks ahead of time. Ask each family to bring at least 2 bags of candy to contribute to the house decorations and be prepared to offer suggestions.
- Bake the gingerbread house parts in advance and it's best to have spare parts to replace the piece that inevitably gets dropped or cracks while under construction. Children get frustrated during assembly so few pieces work better for them.
- Cover large cardboard pieces with aluminum foil, to provide a platform for each gingerbread house. Don't be surprised at the landscaping which has including trees, snowmen and ponds for skating.
- Bake gingerbread cookies too so children have something all their very own to decorate. There are inevitable sibling squabbles so you'll want to have these cookies ready to go at a moments notice.
- Put a drop cloth on the floor underneath the house construction area.
- Use lots of small bowls for the candy to minimize children reaching in front of others who are busy working.
- Prepare the icing 30 to 60 minutes before your guests arrive. The icing acts as the glue (mortar) to hold the house pieces together and it's using for decorating too, by itself and to glue the candy to the house.
- Use small plastic storage containers for the icing or cover bowls with plastic wrap so the icing won't dry out as then it gets hard and you can't use it. Each house should get it's own bowl of icing.
- Parents should help children assemble their houses. It takes a few minutes for the icing to harden and someone has to hold the pieces in place while this is happening. Don't worry when a piece falls down – just put some more glue on and start the hardening process over.
- Once the house is assembled, it's time to start decorating … and that's the part the kids love. Don't be surprised at how much candy they'll eat while working, and sometimes it feels like a contest to see who can put more candy on their house.
- Plastic knives or popsicle sticks to spread the icing are easy for the kids to use and save time when you're cleaning up the sticky mess.
- Last … don't forget to play Christmas music while you're decorating and have a wonderful time!
Ready to Build (Bake?) Your Gingerbread House
- Recipes to build (oops, bake) your house, including “Royal Icing” glue for assembly and decorating.
- Templates to trace when making your gingerbread house.