We recently made Gingerbread houses together. As soon as I brought out the graham crackers and frosting, I wished I had purchased one of those kits instead. But, the entire gingerbread house-making project was full of lessons and learning experiences (and so much gooey fun too), it was worth the extra hassle.
Here are twenty-five of the thousands of lessons we have learned from making the gingerbread houses.
1. Stability – You can see in the photo above, which house is stable and which is on the verge of collapse. Teaching my children why the first house is wobbly is foundational geometry. We explained how the bottom and side pieces all work together to support the top of the house.
2. Creativity – Adding the candies to the houses was full-on, no-rules expression of creativity. Just letting them have fun and playing with all the different colors and textures releases things in their brains and fuels their other educational moments.
3. Generosity – We put each type of candy in one large bowl and all three of my children had to share the candy. When one person needed the gum drops, another child helped them reach the bowl. This is a lovely social development.
4. Science – why frosting becomes hard. My 3-year old asked my why the frosting became hard as a rock. It was fun explaining to him and watching him learn!
5. Health/Nutrition – “Why can’t we eat all the candy, Mommy?” That was a fun one to answer! We explained how our bodies need to eat a variety of healthy foods to stay strong. The 5 year old understood the different types of food and vitamins too. “Like how oranges help my cold go away (Vitamin C) or carrots help me see in the dark (Vitamin A).”
6. Patterns – Lizzie (5) absolutely loves patterns! They are a foundation for early reading success and we use them in almost every educational activity. For the houses, I laid out candies on the table in different patterns and let her finish the pattern: (AB, ABC, ABB, etc)
7. Addition – We asked Lizzie if she added 3 chocolates to her house that has 2 chocolates, how many will she have total? She counted 5.
8. Subtraction – Then we asked her if she has 5 chocolates and mommy eats 2, how many will she have left? This left her with a frown of protest, but she answered and I gave her 2 more chocolates for her house.
9. Teamwork – My three children worked so well together! They shared candy, passed candy, helped each other by adding candies to each other’s houses. And since they are so young, we also taught them to “use your words if you are frustrated.”
10. Problem Solving – When they ran out of one candy, we helped them think through a solution. What other candy will work? If they ran out of room on one side of the roof, we looked at all options. It was helpful to teach them how to consider all options instead of giving up.
11. Story telling – creating stories is another beginning skill for early reading. As we built the house, we created characters that might live in it, then added twists to the plot – who will destroy the house, how will they escape? It was so much fun!
12. Colors – Two year old Lucy had fun learning the colors of the candy!
13. Shapes – The house is made up of so many different shapes. And for fun we even used candy on the table to create more shapes like hearts and hexagons.
14. Patience – Learning to take your time and not rush through a project is a life skill. I constantly instructed them to take it slow, calm, and think before they act to make sure the project turns out how they want.
15. Perseverance – Even when things do not go as planned, it is important to pick up the pieces and try again. As you can see, the house on the left took some patience!
16. Planning – This is another skill they will use their entire life. Thinking before acting improves the success! We organized the candy and planned out which candy would go on the top, which on the sides and which they would eat.
17. Hypothesis and estimation – Science and math! I let Lizzie create a hypothesis that she tested. She estimated how much candy she would use on the right side of her house. Then she either accepted or rejected her hypothesis after making it.
18. Pride – Seeing the beautiful house all decorated with candy sure fills my kids with pride! Pride in their work means they try harder next time and always do their best.
19. Personal information – I just used this time to say “This is a house. Do you know the address of your house, Lizzie?”
20. Fine motor skills – From picking up individual Skittles to stringing the licorice, every activity improved their fine motor skills.
21. Making mistakes – Kids must be able to handle the mistakes they make and learn how to improve their actions so they don’t make the same mistake twice.
22. Spatial concepts – Thinking through spatial relations is early geometry. “Will this piece of candy fit in between these 2 large chocolate pieces?”
23. Language skills – While you are building the house, recite your favorite Christmas song or poem, like “The Night Before Christmas”!
24. Distinguish similarities and differences – Lizzie loves looking at things and how they are similar and different. Both houses are made of the same thing (graham crackers) but they are different. Why are they different? How can you tell they are different?
25. Mathematical concepts of “more than” and “less than.” – I would dip two pieces of candy in the frosting, “which one has more frosting?” Then I told her to say “this one has more frosting than this one.” We also did this with “whose house has more candy on it?” And so forth.
Have you made gingerbread houses with your children? Please share your learning experiences too!