Gingerbread House Fun

Posted on December 15th, 2013 by Denise | No Comments

gingerbread house

 

Gingerbread House Fun

By

Denise Koonce OTR

Recently I had a conversation with a mother regarding her impression of putting a gingerbread house together with her daughter and what it would be like.  I thought she might have an anxiety attack just talking about it.  What trepidation over a little flour, sugar, egg, and ginger.   I, however, have little room to talk, as I reflect on the first time I made a gingerbread house with my daughter.  She was only 3 ½ years old and I was way too detail and perfection oriented.  I finally realized this wasn’t about me or the perfection of the house but rather the quality time spent with my daughter.  It was about allowing her to be creative and build confidence through her choices.  It provided an opportunity for her to explore with her senses, whether it was through her hands, eyes, nose, or mouth.   It is now an annual tradition at our house and we look forward to our time together and what our creative minds will imagine.  The thought of building a gingerbread house is no longer anxiety producing but instead joyful because I have learned a few tricks over the years that help to make for a much more enjoyable experience.  So here are the tricks I have learned and I hope they help your experience also.   

  • Larger Cardboard Base – Find and use a larger more firm piece of cardboard than the one provided with the kit.  You can cover the cardboard with foil or have the child paint the cardboard white for snow.  It is also helpful if the cardboard is then placed on a cookie sheet for ease in transport if the house needs to be moved and will catch any run away candy pieces.
  • Royal Icing – You can use the icing provided with the kit but I have found that I always need more icing than what is provided.  Royal Icing (see recipe below) is easy to make and is a great substance to use in holding the walls and roof together.  You want to put the walls and roof together the night before, if possible, to allow enough time for it to dry prior to decorating.  The kits generally recommends allowing the walls to dry for at least 1 hour, then affix the roof and allow it to dry for an additional 2 to 3 hours.  This decreases the concern or frustration of the child pressing down to hard while applying the candy and having the roof collapse.
  • Homemade Pastry Bag – If you do not have a pastry bag or icing bag then use a quart sized freezer bag.  Do not use sandwich bags as they are to thin and will pop.  Fill the bag about half full of icing, remove the air, and then cut a very small hole in one lower corner of the bag.  Move icing down towards the hole and squeeze from the top.  This technique works great for small hands. 
  • Purchase Additional Candy – The last hint is to save up candy from Halloween or purchase more candy.  I do not believe the kits come with enough candy to cover all of the areas kids want to cover.  Also when you buy extra candy you can choose, at least, what candy you want them to have.  I do not allow our daughter to eat the candy from the kit but it is also to tempting to have all that candy present and not be able to taste it.  So I buy at least a bag of mom approved candy that she may snack on during the building.  That way it takes away the endless stream of questions regarding “May I have some more candy? or May I eat this please?”  Also, it helps to remove the candy from the bags and place it in small individual containers so it is easier for little hands to access the decorations.    

Once you can put into perspective what the purpose of building a gingerbread house is for, especially when your children are young, it makes the entire process much easier, less stressful, and a lot more enjoyable.  It also inherently provides a motivating way to work on visual motor, sequencing, following 1,2,or 3 step directions, fine motor skills, color and shape recognition, hand strengthening, head and truck control, upper extremity strength, coordination and activity tolerance, expressive and receptive language.  Regardless of what areas your child needs to work on they will not realize how hard they are working while they are decorating their gingerbread house because they will be having too much fun.  If you build a gingerbread house please share a picture of your masterpiece on our Facebook page and share your experience with us.  Happy Building!

 

Royal Icing

3 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)

2 egg whites, beaten

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

In a bowl, sift together confectioners’ sugar and cream of tartar.  Using electric mixer, beat in 2 beaten egg whites for about 5 minutes or until mixture is thick enough to hold its shape.

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