Make, Jane, make!: Fourth Birthday: Gingerbread Houses


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fourth Birthday: Gingerbread Houses

What do you do with kindergarten age children during a birthday party? There's food and cake, but how to keep them occupied during the remainder of the party? Having winter birthdays means that my kids will never be able to have any outdoor fun, like sprinklers or jumping castles. And complicated crafting activities that require a lot of sitting still don't work that well for kindergarten kids... especially the boys.

So I figured I would combine something that involves food (in this case, candy and cookies), decorating (for the girls) and making a mess with icing (for the boys). And since it was something that was connected to the holiday season, I hoped that it would be something new and novel for the kids.

Gingerbread houses! What child would say no to candies and colours and icing "glue"?

I had originally whipped up a whole batch of gingerbread dough to bake the cookies myself, but when I went to Bulk Barn to pick up the candies, I found they had house kits that were very reasonably priced and saved me the trouble and sleeplessness of doing too much the night before the party.

The miniature gingerbread suburb along with the spinosaurus cake.
I assembled the houses the morning of the party and hoped desperately that the icing would set hard enough in the two hours before the party to withstand the rigours of young children decorating them. To this end, I intentionally mixed the royal icing a little thicker than usual, which definitely helped the houses dry faster, but almost gave me carpal tunnel trying to squeeze it out of the icing bag!

Note to self: Assembling one or two gingerbread houses is fun, but assembling nine in a row under a time limit is not.

When the kids initially sat down to the dining room table for this craft, I wasn't sure that they understood or wanted to participate. However, once I had demonstrated and handed them each their own bag full of icing plus a table full of candies, they were off in their own little sugar-fuelled worlds.

Here are some of their creations:

The last one belongs to my son, the birthday boy. He was complaining that the candies weren't sticking. And it was no wonder when I turned his house around to investigate and found the icing avalanche that was sliding down his roof. I just had to reassure him that the icing would dry soon and he just had to keep replacing the candies that were sliding off :)

They had lots of fun and the mess was more or less limited to fingertips and the tabletop... not much on clothing or hair. Luckily I had my SIL and a couple of moms here to help me clean up and wrap the houses up in cello paper. So the craft was a success and the kids enjoyed having something they made to show to their moms.

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