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!


      1. You guys did awesome!!! I love it all! Mackenzie is doing this at school today so I am hobbling over there to try to help! Wish me luck!

      2. Don't let Melissa fool you - her contributions were crucial to pulling the whole thing together. I couldn't have done it without her!

      3. You did such a fabulous job of sharing your big day. Thanks!
        In years past, we've included a "Gingerbread Man" scavenger hunt. We cut out brown paper men and write clues to the next hidden guy on each one. Each clue ends with "You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!"...and at the last spot (usually the clothes dryer, or something whacky like that) the kids find a cluster of candy canes with a "Oh, you caught me!" message. (We live in the north, so it's an inside activity...but outside would be even better!)

      4. Christy - That's a great idea! We'll remember that for next year :)

      5. Awesome! I am planning this for my daughter's 7th birthday next month, and I'm wondering.. Are those cute gingerbread men candy dishes from Michael's? I need those! :)

      6. @Jackie Hi Jackie! Yes, they are from Michael's. My co-leader looked last week but they weren't out yet. I was at Michael's yesterday and they were putting out all the Christmas stuff. We gave every child a gingerbread dish to take home as one of their favors!

      7. I got them, they're a bit different I think this year, they have gingerbread faces and bodies on them now but they're there now. :)

      8. Did the children apply the candy with royal icing? Did they use a bag or just apply it with a spoon or ?

      9. We buy the kits and do this every year! Favorite activity!! It is so much easier for the kids to stick things on with a tub of ready made white icing and a plastic knife. The cheeze whiz style icing is great too. We tried ziploc bags but no one could figure out how to squeeze it without help. We put all the toppings in bowls all over the table and the kids share or trade as needed. Always - always - put them together several hours or even the night before you decorate or they collapse under the weight of the candy. We hot glue ours and they become fairy houses outside in January. No one here wants to eat the stale mess when it's over.

      10. Such a fun, family oriented party idea. I love it! Thanks for including all the details of how you put the party together. :) Visiting from Centsational Girl...hope you'll stop by my blog to say hi too. :)

      11. This party reminds me of my cousin's birthday parties when we were growing up (she was born on December 19th). Love it!

      12. Good idea I like j'aime quoi :)

      13. I did this in my classroom with my students. Try 1 adult and 28 little ones :) Definitely a good time and graham crackers make great gingerbread houses too!

        1. How much confectioners sugar did you need for an entire class? I am trying to organize this for a class if 28 and have no idea how much we will need.

      14. What did you put the houses in to go home? We do this every year at school and I have still not come up with a great transport?

      15. I have done this for 13 years and I learn something new every year. Now my friends depend on it as part of their holiday! I ask people to bring a bag of two of candy and we always have plenty of left over from trick or treat. I have a cake mold for the houses. I put canned icing in ziplock bags and clip the corner off for decorating. Each family gets a house to decorate and they take them home in boxes I collect from SAMs or some other store who have smaller flat boxes. This past year we did 15 houses....that's a lot of kids and lots of sugar flying around. My house stays sticky until Easter...lol. Parents all come and I make something yummy and easy like chicken and dumplins or beef stew. This is really a great tradition

      16. this is so awesome! i do this with my preschoolers each year but i am looking for an easier way to make so many of them! anonymous left a comment about a cake mold... where did you get it? I bought a gingerbread house cookie cutter set from Wilton, but it's about triple the size of these houses and took me hours and hours to make enough! is yours different? also, I love the idea of the milk carton... so she cut apart one for the template and then the rest are glued around another milk carton? thanks in advance for the help and ideas!!

        1. make the houses using graham crackers. they make nice "mini" houses. we've done this with the grandkids for several years now, and I believe I originally saw it in a "Taste of Home" magazine (or something similiar), but I can't find a link online anywhere for that (although there are several others). Use royal icing and put them together ahead of time. Then let the kids do all the decorating. Use upside down sugar cones for trees.

      17. Awesome! I love this idea!!!!

      18. this is amazing, you did a great job! It is very informational, enough to motivate me to do this for a fundraiser as well. If you don't mind me asking roughly how much did you guys spend and how much did you raise for the fundraiser?

      19. we do this every year w/ 9 kids older han these I thnk 3rd-5th graders, may i suggest adding licorice ropes? AHREDDED coconut, dyed greenMAKES GREAT GRASS,( put in a ziplock, add a couple drops oF Food coloring and shake or knead) wheat chex, or shredded wheat look good on roofs you can buy jelly beans that look like rocks(garden walls, pathways, chimneys) from cake decorating shops, squeeze bottles make a good substitute for piping bags for little hands rainy or muggy days will make royal icing weak you'll need to add more powdered sugar to make it hold well tub icing works? I had no idea if you buy a lot of the candy after halloween and watch for sales on the rest it doesn't cost much

      20. So cute!!!!
        I love Christmas, also this idea!! Manny thanks for sharing!!!!

      21. This is absolutely fabulous!! Thank you for sharing. I have a daughter w a dec birthday so this is very helpful.

      22. Also the milk carton gingerbread house is such a great idea. Any tips and further guidance on that would be appreciated.

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      24. I'm so excited to do this again for our family. My kids are older now and I hadn't even thought of doing anything like gingerbread houses until I saw your terrific post! thanks!!

      25. Do you use recycled milk cartons or do you have a place to buy empty ones?

      26. We use recycled milk cartons. It's a neighborhood effort!

      27. This comment has been removed by the author.

      28. This will be our 5th year hosting a gingerbread party. It will also be the first time we are doing two separate parties. One for our oldest and her friends and one for the younger two and their friends. If everyone shows up we will need 19 houses. It's really fun and a few of the kids who've been coming since we started doing it really look forward to it as a part of their holidays.

        1. That's a great story! Meghan just hosted us again last weekend and both my 6 and 3 year old participated. So much fun! I'll be posting a few pictures of our houses tomorrow.

      29. I just hosted my 3rd party this year....and each year it gets better...i pre make a kit for each family that will attend..and so the men don't rush out to have there"man time" we made it a rule that each member of your family must complete 25% of the house.....made it so fun plus the prize we had made it competitive

      30. Hi there where did u get the ginger bread certificates!! I am planning this for my son next week than ks

      31. Anonymous Oct 2014
        I taught pre-school for 14 years, we did this every year it was always the big hit of the season. I also pre-made the walls on the milk cartons but I used graham crackers cut to fit. I have since retired from the school district after 22 years, and this year I plan to do the houses with the seniors in our little town. I'm really excited to see their houses!


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