Guest Post by Isabella
Children love decorating Gingerbread Houses at Christmas time. It’s a great way to keep them busy in the days leading up Christmas. They can bring their finished creation to the table to delight your guests on Christmas Day, as a grand finale. I did this with my children last year and they loved the gasps of delight their work elicited, and were so proud of their achievement. Here are a few ideas to make Gingerbread House making a learning opportunity too.
Make It Healthy
You try so hard to make your child happy and healthy. They sleep on organic mattresses for their health, they eat healthy snacks and brush their teeth twice a day. Why not make their Gingerbread House as healthy as possible too? The sugar content is high, but why not challenge your children to give their house a healthy modern twist, bringing the Hansel and Gretel fairytale up to date.
Here is a beautiful healthy Gingerbread House Recipe to follow, by leading health food writer Alison Anton. You can download child-friendly templates here. I prefer to use icing glue for sticking together house components, rather than ‘sugar glue’, simply from a safety point of view. Boiling sugar and children is not a good combination. Simply combine 2 egg whites with 500g (or 2 1/2 cups) of icing sugar and use an icing bag to apply generously.
Research and Planning Activity
You could involve children of about seven in making the gingerbread roof and walls, and it is a good opportunity to teach them about planning, measuring, cutting out, maybe even making a cardboard model first. It helps them to understand shapes and teaches them to turn one-dimensional shapes into three-dimensions. The gingerbread pieces will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container.
Another learning challenge you can incorporate into this activity involves research. I am a great advocate of teaching children to research and plan things they would like to make, since it develops their ability to resist the urge to rush into tasks, take their time and enjoy looking at various approaches to a problem. If they find that the research is almost as enjoyable as the task itself then you have succeeded in teaching them a valuable lesson.
In the case of the Gingerbread House making activity you have an easy win. I asked my children to simply put ‘Gingerbread House’ into Google Images and listened to them spend a glorious hour laughing at the dreadful ones, wondering over the beautiful ones and ultimately coming up with drawings and ideas about what they would like their house to look like, based on their own research and negotiations. They loved seeing what other people had achieved, and it inspired them to be more creative in their own thoughts. Healthier options they found included
- Adding healthy almond flakes at an angle to the roof sections before baking, to create roof-tiles
- Using dried fruit for some of the decorative detail
- Organic nuts and seeds for decoration
- Banana chips for a path
- Organic pretzels for fencing
Finally, make sure you let your children use some sweets when decorating their house. Christmas is such an exciting time for them and half the magic of the Gingerbread House that it is made of sweets. You can get healthy sweets from your health-food store, free from artificial colors and sweeteners. It will teach them the art of compromise.
Isabella A. Woods is a freelance writer specialising in travel and personal finance, but has previously engaged in teaching English as a foreign language to help fund travel and enrich her understanding of education both at home and abroad.
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