Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

Today my son and over one hundred of his closest first grade friends gathered in the school cafeteria to create gingerbread houses using milk cartons, graham crackers, and tons of sweets.  As I scooped frosting, opened candy canes, and passed out baby wipes, I remembered nineteen Christmas' ago when I crafted gingerbread houses with my own class full of first graders.   I was pleased to observe that children still love to thoughtfully add cookie walls, candy cane chimneys, and gum drop windows to little candy houses.

In order to make these simplified gingerbread houses with some children that you love, first gather and wash out a variety of milk cartons.  Along with individual school milk cartons, tall thin ones from half-and-half are fun in addition to short square containers from buttermilk or heavy whipping cream.  Once the cartons are fully dry, staple the tops and the gather the rest of your materials.  You will need sturdy paper plates or pieces of cardboard to be used as the base, white frosting (homemade or store bought), and a variety of colorful holiday candies, sprinkles, and cereals.  Start by attaching the prepared carton to the base using a gob of icing.  Then attach the graham crackers to the sides and top of the carton using lots more icing.  Finally, adorn the little house with candies and other sweets.  This is one case where less isn't more - more is more!

The decorating portion of this project is the most interesting for me to observe as a teacher and as a parent.  The method of embellishing the house along with the finished product is always reflective of the child's personality.  Some little people will painfully sort through all of the sprinkles in order to create a symmetrical monochromatic roof line or  use holiday M&M's to speckle the walls in an evenly spaced red and green pattern, while others will attach treats to their structure with joyous abandon resulting in a spectacular and fully loaded gingerbread house.  No matter what the method, making gingerbread houses with kids creates unique and decorative structures along with many fond holiday memories.  Merry Christmas from Heidi's Recipes!

Before the decorating begins, open all of the goodies and place them in individual containers.
Attache the base of the carton with a glob of icing.
Spread icing on each side of the carton to attach the graham crackers.
For children under 5 years old, adults can do this step ahead of time.
Provide plastic knives and lots of baby wipes.
Colored icing can be used to add details to the house.
Sample goodies and let the creative juices flow!

Gingerbread House Instructions
     bases on the instructions from Kid's Create by Laurie Carlson

variety of milk cartons; washed, dried, and stapled closed
sturdy plates or foil covered cardboard for a base
white frosting (canned or homemade), recipe follows
tubes of colored icing
assorted small candies 
miniature marshmallows
dry cereal in assorted shapes and colors
gingerbread boy/girl cookies, gummy bears, teddy grahams
  1. If making homemade frosting, prepare ahead of time and keep covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.
  2. Wash and thoroughly dry milk cartons.  Staple tops closed.
  3. Attach prepared carton to base with a big dab of frosting.
  4. For the walls, spread frosting on each side of carton and attach graham crackers.  Press them in place against the four sides of the carton.
  5. For the roof, liberally dab frosting on the slanted parts of the carton.  Gently position the crackers on top of the carton.  Hold them in place for a minute or until the frosting is set. To cover the eaves at the front and back of the house, cut or break a small rectangle of cracker into a triangular shape and attached with frosting.  As an alternative, completely cover the eaves of the house with frosting.
  6. To decorate, use frosting to attach candy, cereal, and other goodies to the house.  Sprinkle with coconut or powdered sugar as snow.  Create paths, chimneys, doors, and windows.  Add gingerbread boy and girl cookies, gummy bears, or teddy grahams.  

Frosting Recipe
     from Kid's Create by Laurie Carlson

(I have always used this frosting when making gingerbread houses with children.  This recipe produces a frosting that once dry is very hard and keeps the houses and decorations together for years, if covered tightly to store.  It, however, is not recommended for young children who might sneak a lick due to the raw eggs.)

1 pound confectioners' sugar
3 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed.  
  2. Increase the speed to high and beat for about seven minutes, until the frosting stands in stiff peaks when a knife is pulled through it.
  3. Scoop the frosting into small portion cups as needed to created gingerbread houses.
  4. Keep this frosting covered at all times.  It can be refrigerated for up to five days.
  5. This makes two cups of frosting which is enough for two small or one medium house.
Linked to theses sweet parties:


  1. So very cute!! I love these little houses, all of the amazing creativity that goes into them. Fun post! Thanks for joining, sharing. :) And I hope you have an amazingChristmas!!

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