With Christmas on the horizon, your to-do list is probably longer than your child’s holiday wish list. I know all too well how precious every minute of free time is this time of year, which is why I usually set my kids up with a big gingerbread house project to keep them busy (re: out of my hair) so I can focus on a little merry-making of my own.
While you might think I’d be inclined to make my own gingerbread house from scratch, the exact opposite is true. I’m all for the store-bought kits, packs of pre-made icing and candy from the bulk food bins for decorating, in order to keep my effort to a minimum. I’ve also used graham crackers in a pinch, and insisted my kids create a small town since houses are quick to make when using this method.
One other thing I do to extend the length of the project is to get my kids to spend some time planning their “dream” gingerbread house. I set them up with paper and colouring tools and get them to brainstorm, draw and colour what they hope to create.
Gingerbread houses are pretty foolproof, but I’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years that make the process even easier. Here are 6 tried and true secrets to making a successful gingerbread house.
- Use a Glue Gun
The easiest and best tip I have is this: if you don’t plan on consuming the pieces of your gingerbread house, use a hot glue gun to assemble it. It’s a guaranteed way to ensure the pieces stay together and the house remains structurally sound regardless of how many people touch it and how often it gets moved around. This step will ensure gingerbread house-building success!
- Decorate Each Individual Piece of the House Before You Assemble It
Do you do this already? I spent years making gingerbread houses before I realized that’s it’s easier to decorate each separate piece and let them fully dry before putting the house together. Besides, it’s easier for the kids to add the candies to a flat surface, and helps to ensure the candies will stay put and not slide off as they work.
- Thin Your Icing with Vinegar
Speaking of decorating, if you use store-bought icing to assemble the house, it’s usually very thick. Thin some of it out with water for decorating the house. Better yet, use a splash or two of distilled vinegar instead as it also aids in helping the icing to harden.
- Be Mindful of Candy Size
When it comes to the candy, the most important thing to consider is the size. Small candies create more detail on the house than big candies do. Also, it will take the kids longer to decorate with smaller pieces, leaving you with even more free time to work on that to-do list.
- Add Frosting to the Inside of the House
When you start connecting the walls to the roof, add a thick line of frosting on the inside and outside of the house to add structure. You won’t be able to see the inside, so it won’t affect the final look of the house, but it will offer additional support to the walls.
- Let it Dry, Let it Dry, Let it Dry
Royal icing can take forever to dry. Use a hairdryer to help speed it along (the kids love doing this). Also, after you construct the walls and roof let the house dry overnight – or for a minimum of 8 hours – before you move it.
Lastly, if making a traditional gingerbread house feels like to much work for the coming week, this simple idea is always a hit with the kids!