Baking for the holidays? Why not start with a gingerbread village the whole family can explore? We began a new tradition in my family a few years ago that starts with cookies and ends with candy.
Family Bonding over Gingerbread
Gingerbread is a shortbread cookie that can easily be cut into shapes and creatively designed by little and big hands. This sturdy cookie makes the prefect base for all kids with imaginative ideas. My family starts planing the gingerbread idea around Halloween. We search Pinterest, magazines and cookbooks for creative ideas to craft out of gingerbread.
As Thanksgiving approaches we start to settle on an idea. A medieval castle, a mission church, a western village or maybe the Washington Monument lit for Christmas. Grandparents, kids, and parents all lend their special talents to create a group effort. Each person participates according to their skills.
Fun Roles For Gingerbread Builders
Idea Generators– Most often these are the kids. Their disregard for practicality makes the ideas fantasy worthy.
Architect– Since these structures will stand up a person with design skills is helpful in planning out the pieces. If no one in your family wants this job there are wonderful cookbooks with printable patterns.
Dough Makers-This is a fun project for kids to help measure and mix the dough. (With no eggs this batter is perfect for a “little taste”while mixing.)
Cutters– Give the little ones their own cookie cutters to make things that will go around the main gingerbread structure. Their job is also to make cookies that will actually be eaten as the structure will stand until after Christmas.
Bakers- parents, always parents.
Structure Assemblers– back to the Architects.
Decorators– Everyone! Decide in advance how perfect you want the creation to look. If it is more important for it to be a family creation than a perfect looking creation then just start and have fun. If you want a more polished finished product, it is helpful to assign rolls based on strengths. Here again giving the smallest one’s their own candy, frosting and gingerbread cookies to decorate will satisfy everyone.
Setting up For Success
We do this as a family over Thanksgiving the way some families work on a large puzzle. We set up an extra table in the kitchen as a work-in-progress table. This frees the counters and dinning table for meals and other activities. Just like a puzzle having the gingerbread out all the time allows family members to see progress and “puzzle” over what needs to happen next.
Most of the time we work on the gingerbread as a family. Swapping stories, laughing at our mistakes and eating cookies. Leaving it set up over several days also lets the more artistry family members work on it in their time frame. Don’t be surprised if the kids get bored and run off to play something else after 15 min- 30 min. They will come back.
Three Main Hints for Gingerbread Family Fun
- Everyone eats so every one helps.
- Eat something healthy and filling before you start. The sugar rush can make everyone cranky and tired if they only eat sweets.
- Be realistic about time, outcome and budget. This is about fun with family not perfection. Decide what is fun. If the baking and designing seem like a drag. Buy a prebaked, precut boxed set that lets the family sit down to assemble and decorate together in one evening.