HOLIDAYography: Gingerbread Magic

My incredibly sweet and generous neighbor and friend Meghan hosted a gingerbread party for 8 kids 6 and under last weekend.  Of course, it was all for a good cause - an fundraiser auction item for our children's preschool.  Although I admit I was skeptical that pre-Christmas-sized attentions could be held for 3 hours without disaster, it was a complete and total success.  I was happy to help her out and provide a few details, but she was the definite ringmaster of this three ring circus!

Here's the play-by-play in case you want to host one of these parties.

1)  The houses -  Meghan did ALL of the work on the houses and they were really amazing.  She started with a small milk pint container and then made a template from that.  Each house had a milk carton base which made it very sturdy and easier to assemble.  She used the gingerbread and icing recipe from Joy of Cooking.

She mounted each on piece of foam board covered in tin foil.  How cute is this?!

2)  Table set-up - We started with a plain white paper tablecloth with a plastic lining (purchased at the grocery store) to protect the table.  The perfect blank canvas.  Each kid had an assembled gingerbread house, a plate of candy, a plastic knife, a small dish of icing, and a dish with candy in front of them when they sat down.  We tied balloons to each chair - red, green, and brown. (Side note - brown balloons are not standard colors at most grocery stores so you may need to plan further ahead (I didn't) and head to a party store instead).

3)  House decor - Here is a list of the stuff that we had on hand for the kids to decorate with.  In hindsight, we probably should have unwrapped anything that was wrapped.  We didn't use anything with nuts.  Each kid had a gingerbread dish in front of them, but there was also candy strewn on the table and in other bowls and plates which they threw passed around.  Each kid also had a small dish of royal icing in front of them which we replenished as necessary. 

  1. Peppermints
  2. Andy's Candy Mints (great doors)
  3. Necco Wafers
  4. Marshmallows - large white and pink/green holiday ones
  5. Twizzlers
  6. M&Ms - holiday and regular colors
  7. Mike & Ike's holiday
  8. gumdrops
  9. gumdrop rings (make great wreaths)
  10. Junior Mints
  11. Candy canes - we had large ones but you could use either large or small or both
  12. Square pretzels (make great windows)

4)  Trees - Meg's hubby Jeff made Christmas trees with cone shaped ice cream cones dipped in green royal icing.  The kids loved decorating them for their gingerbread yards!

5) Snowmen - Big white marshmallows make great snowmen!  

5)  Inspiration - We printed a few pictures of gingerbread houses we found on the internet to give the kids ideas.  I think they had plenty of ideas without looking but it was some good inspiration for some.

6)  Goody Bag - Each child took home a goody bag in addition to their gingerbread house.  The goody bag was a plain small brown paper gift bag.  Meg had stickers and markers on hand for decorating.  It only took them about 5 minutes to decorate but that was a great time filler between snack and pick-up time.  The goody bag included a ceramic gingerbread shaped dish that we used for candy (we washed and dried them while the kids took an outside play break), a homemade Christmas music CD with a custom "Gingerbread Play Date 2010" label (may main contribution to this entire project), and a gingerbread cookie wrapped in cellophane.  We tied a balloon to each bag.  What kid doesn't like balloons?!

6)  Party Schedule (roughly)
  • 2 p.m. - Kids arrive and head to the basement playroom until everyone arrives.
  • 2:30 p.m. - Decorating (and candy and icing eating) begins.  We each help the kids along a little but they quickly get the idea and are gung-ho with decorating!
  • 3:30 - Kids head outside to run off some sugary energy with Jeff.  Meg and I clean up the table and move the houses to the sideboards for safekeeping.  
  • 4:00 - Snack time - Popcorn and hot cocoa.
  • 4:15 - Kids decorate their goody bag with stickers and markers.
  • 4:30 - Awards!  We award each child an award certificate - Most Beautiful House, Sweetest House, Most Decorated House, Most Sparkly House, Most Christmas Spirit, etc.
  • 5:00 - Parents picked up - Meg offered everyone beer and wine so things were a bit festive for them too!
Here's a sample of the award certificate.
    If you are thinking about hosting this party, I would not do it with less than the 3 adults that we had on hand at all times to help out with the 8 kids.  We probably could have done it with 2 but it would have been much crazier.  It was also great to have Jeff take the kids outside to run off the sugar while we did a quick clean-up and prepared the snack. 

    Here are some of the kids' awesome creations!

    We put Elizabeth's on the mantel in our family room!

    Overall, it was a tremendous success.  All of the kids were really into it.  I don't think I would try this with kids much younger than 3.5 without having their parents on hand as well.  The parents all seemed so impressed with the result and loved the goody bags - people were telling me days later at school that they loved it.

    All of this creativity really got my juices flowing.  I think both Meg and I both were dying to get our hands on a house and decorate.  Maybe we'll have to do that sometime over a glass of wine!  The possibilities are really endless.

    In case you are interested, check out these other parties I have hosted!

    Have you done a gingerbread party? What worked and didn't work?

    p.s. In 2011, this is the most linked page from my blog on Pinterest!

    As featured on Apartment Therapy's ohdeedoh!