Small Hands in the Big World

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Adventures: Gingerbread House Play Date

Technically they aren’t gingerbread houses, they are actually made from graham crackers, but it’s the same idea. What is so great about this variation on the theme is that the kids not only have a chance to be creative with the candy decorations but they can also use their imagination to build whatever type of structures they want.
William's house with garage

Since there would be six kids making their own little scenes, I pre-made a LOT of graham cracker right angles. To do this, I mixed 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar and heated it to about 250 degrees, the point at which it will harden to a firm state when cooled. Next, I dipped two sides of graham cracker halves into the hot mixture and affixed them in a right angle then set them on a parchment lined cookie sheet to cool. I also made some right angles of one fourth of the graham cracker and left out plain crackers from the box so the kids would have more materials to work with. Ice cream sugar cones are another great addition to the construction mix. They make great trees (even when they break along the top, they can be broken into a smaller tree), chimneys, castle turrets, or ballroom dancing buildings (yep, that’s what William decided they were on one of his creations).
Admiring her park with a slide, climbing wall and skate ramp

Another good tip to prepare for a bunch of kids to work on these at the same time is providing cardboard or mat board to build on and preparing multiple bags of frosting for “glue.” (Recipe here.) Taping the back of the bag so the frosting is less likely to squish out onto small hands is also important (one squished out mess still happened despite my efforts – it helps to go around and “fix” each bag from time to time, pushing the frosting down as if it’s a tube of toothpaste).
This activity is even cool enough for Super Girl
...and easy enough for her little sister (almost 3) along with Spider Man's supervision

Once the young architects have built their creations, muffin tins are a great way to distribute all the candy and goodies they can use for decorating. Fill as many as you have so there is less reaching across the table which inevitably results in trees toppling as things get bumped.

Mostly candy filled our tins but it was fun to add some unexpected pretzels and bunny crackers too. One friend made a wreath using the pretzel and trails of bunnies all through the yard of his scene. The options are endless. Leave it to the kids to come up with some really cool ideas.
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