Hooray…it’s one of my most favorite themes in Kindergarten! There is such a short time between Thanksgiving and Winter Break, usually 3 to 4 weeks, which makes it the perfect time for gingerbread man, boy, girl, etc., theme. I love all of the different versions of the gingerbread books and of course, we have to end our gingerbread unit by building and decorating Gingerbread Houses in the Classroom!
Planning Ahead for Building & Decorating Gingerbread Houses in the Classroom
As teachers, we know that planning ahead is one of the keys to success. So let me share a few ways to plan ahead for building and decorating gingerbread houses in the classroom. As always, there are hundreds of ways to do this, but these are ideas that have worked for me.
1. Make a list of items you will need for this project.
You will need a base and ‘structure’ for each gingerbread house. I like to use paper plates as the base and school milk cartons as the structure. In the past, I have went to the butcher counter at my local grocery store and asked for the foam meat trays and they worked great, but paper plates with a ‘rim’ work just as great!
(Check out picture below for an example of the foam trays.)
Possible Gingerbread House Items
You do not have to use these same things. You can use what works best for you and your students, especially if you have students who have allergies. These are just possible options.
- Base for gingerbread houses (foam tray or paper plate) – 1 per student/house
- ‘Structure’ for gingerbread house (school milk carton) – Have students or an adult collect milk cartons from breakfast or lunch and empty them of any milk. Rinse them out completely with water. Turn them upside down and allow to dry completely. Staple spout closed.
- Hot Glue (to glue structure to base)
- Graham Crackers – (I use 3 full crackers for each house)
- Tubs of White Frosting (1 tub per 4-5 kids)
- Plastic knives (If allowed, for spreading frosting. 1 for each student…yes, we talk about these are ‘tools’ we use for this activity)
- Gum drops
- Peppermint Discs
- Shredded Coconut (for snow)
- Hershey Kisses
- Jelly Beans
- Mini Candy Canes
- Gingerbread Man Cookies
- Quart sized Baggies – (for individual gingerbread decorating kits)
- Gallon sized Baggies – 1 per student/house (to transport gingerbread house and goodies home!)
How do I get these items?
I ask grown-ups/families to donate them! The first few years that I did this project, I had a sign up list, but not all families were available to sign up at school, etc. So, I decided to change the way that I asked for donations. I make my list of items that we need and split them up, so each grown-up/family can donate at least 1 item. (Take into account your students and their family situations. Some grown-ups/families may be able to donate and others may not…use your teacher discretion. It has been my experience that all grown-ups/families want to donate something, but if someone cannot, then I purchase what is needed.)
I print out this Gingerbread House Decorating Letter for Grown Ups and print out a picture of the label of item needed and staple it to the letter. I always follow up with a personal message through Class DoJo or whatever messaging system you use. Sometimes substitutions have to be made and that is okay.
You may be asking where I get the pictures from and the truth is that I just use Google. I open up a document or PowerPoint. I google white frosting and search for images. When I find what I am looking for, I copy the image and insert it into the document or PowerPoint, like shown in the picture above. I can fit many items on one page. Then I just print out the page and cut out each item. As you can see, we need 4 containers of white frosting, so I need 4 pictures. You don’t have to do this step, but grown-ups LOVED that I did this and they knew exactly what to get!
2. Pre-Prep the Houses & Gingerbread Kits
Make sure your ‘structures’ are empty, clean, dry and ready to go. Then hot glue the structure to the ‘base’. For instance, this would mean gluing the milk cartons onto the paper plate. This does not take much time, but I try and have this done at least the day before.
Next, after all candies & decorating items have been collected, it’s time to sort and make individual kits.
In years past, I put all candy and decorating materials on the table like the image below…but it’s a little messy and while I don’t mind messes, making individual kits, makes it easier for the students to take home their leftovers easily!
I make up a decorating kit for each student. I divide all of the treats up and separate them into individual baggies. This helps to contain the mess and each student gets to take home their leftovers. Individual kit includes the structure (milk carton) glued to the base (paper plate or foam tray); graham crackers (for gingerbread house) and a quart sized baggie filled with candy decorations.
3. It’s time to make Gingerbread Houses!
I like to do this activity right before the end of the day on the last day before winter break! I put butcher paper on each table. This also makes it easy for me to clean up after the students have left for the day. I set out 1-2 tubs of frosting for each table, a plastic knife for spreading the frosting (if allowed at your school), and each student gets their kit.
I promise that making individual kits makes it so easy for the students to clean up and take their gingerbread house home! And one more thing…as you can see in the image above, I give students a gallon-sized baggie, so they can put their entire gingerbread house (base and all) into the baggie and take it home!
I hope you have enjoyed all of the tips and images. Feel free to leave a question here or email or message me on social media! But most importantly…have fun making Gingerbread Houses in the Classroom!