Holiday baking with kids and a gingerbread house recap

Our weekend plans went awry when little Clara fell quite seriously sick and we were back and forth from the emergency room both Saturday and Sunday.

She is on the mend (we hope) and we are catching up on sleep and life. Maybe I’ll finally get to unpack from London and tackle my email inbox.

Not surprisingly, it was baking together as a family over the weekend that offered a respite from the stress. My mind has a tendency to head to a very dark place when these mysterious medical issues show up (it doesn’t help when not one, but four doctors misdiagnose the case) and I need a diversion. Preferably some thing with cinnamon and spice, cookie cutters and sprinkles.

decorating gingerbread with kids

So the five of us mixed and rolled, cut and baked, then decorated gingerbread cookies for two solid hours. Clara perched at the table, somewhat distracted from her ‘boo-boo’, and made a beautiful mess out of icing and sprinkles. Christmas music filled the house, and as Danny and I were utterly sleep deprived, we kept our coffee cups full.

At the end of the day, it felt like we had made the best of a bad situation. I think we’ll remember that day more for our sweet afternoon project than those hours we spent waiting on tests in a hospital corridor. Baking Christmas cookies created a little normalcy when things were shaky. And it made us happy.

gingerbread

Baking gingerbread is nothing new around here. You can pull up my tutorial anytime and turn out trays of cookies, for swapping or gifting.

But for something really fun, why not build a gingerbread house? It’s an ideal family project (what kid would turn it down?) that is perfect for the holidays; just the stuff that sweet memories are made of.

Kids in the kitchen: The after school gingerbread project

I’ve broken down the process into something I call The After School Gingerbread Project. I’ve divided the work into five steps that can each be done in under 30 minutes, perfect for completing after school or after dinner.

Day 1: Gather ingredients and equipment.
Day 2: Make and chill the dough.
Day 3: Cut and bake the pieces.
Day 4: Prepare Royal Icing + assemble the base.
Day 5: Decorate!

Of course you can bake and decorate all in the same day if you like! Whatever fits in best with your schedule.

Making a gingerbread house from scratch is sure to be an activity your children will look forward to each day. My two boys thoroughly enjoyed every step (amidst all this silliness) and were exceedingly proud of their creation.

Kids in the kitchen: The after school gingerbread project

I introduced this tutorial last year, and was SO encouraged by everyone who participated. They tagged me on Instagram, emailed photos and left comments to let me know how much fun they had building a gingerbread house from scratch. I think it was a first for most, if not all of the participants. This year, they will know exactly what’s what.

Kids in the kitchen: The after school gingerbread project

I hope to inspire a whole new group of bakers this December. Are you ready? Head HERE to get your tools and ingredients in order, then be prepared to have a lot of fun.

Have you started baking for Christmas? Will you make a gingerbread house?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. Aw, I hope Clara is all well!

    I bought a kit from Aldi, and it was just the perfect thing for our family! I do love (so love!) making things from scratch but for us at this time it just seemed right to buy a kit. My daughter just loved it and it made for a fun family evening activity.

  2. We were among those who followed your instructions last year to make our first gingerbread house. We baked the gingerbread and assembled the houses ahead of time and then invited friends over for a decorating party. I am excited to make this a holiday tradition and am planning on gathering more friends to join in the fun again.

    I am sorry that Clara was so sick and that it was such a rough weekend. I hope that she recovers quickly and that you can all catch up on rest.

  3. Nice

  4. Aimée, so glad to hear Clara is on the road to recovery and I love that you all turned to baking in a stressful time – I can totally relate! Loved your gingerbread house series – such a great resource for anyone!

  5. Our family followed your tutorial last week and had a great time! It was the perfect project and breaking it down into 5 steps made it very manageable. Thank you!

  6. Aimee, we wish your family, especially Clara, all the best. It is scary to be sick, especially when you don’t know what is wrong.
    We spent last weekend making your gingerbread and following the boys’ tutorial again. This year both my boys (1.5 and 3.5) helped, and we had a wonderful time. We ended up with a sweet, ramshackle little house and more dough in the freezer to have cookies all month. We might even make some today, since a fever is keeping us home. You’re right – baking (and eating) are wonderful distractions!

  7. How terrible that little Clara had to go through all that — and misdiagnosed!! How frustrating but it certainly is a relief that she is on the mend. I certainly understand that baking is cathartic– it is relaxing and with music it totally relieves all of the tension. I love the idea of the gingerbread house. I wish I would have discovered it when I had little ones at home.

  8. I’m so sorry to hear about Clara. I hope she feels better soon. Glad you could still enjoy some quality time as a family.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to post amidst your wild times! To answer your question, we have a freezer full of interesting baking (okay, not so full now that the children have discovered the treats…), a Christmas cake “relaxing” in the pantry and soaking up goodness, mince tarts made & delivered, and a Buche, a trifle & a tortierre still to make (and perhaps I’ll make the pastry from some Red Fife that our awesome friends grew & milled!). So very glad your little lamb is on the mend. Peace & best wishes.

  10. I’m so glad to hear Clara’s alright, and I love the pics of the fun family time you guys had this weekend. Ours looked much the same – such a wonderful time of year for baking and memory making together! Merry Christmas!

  11. Kristi Goldsberry says

    So sorry to hear about your little girl, hope she gets better quick now!

    I am so excited to make this gingerbread house with my children–is there an easy way to print out all the steps?

  12. Your comment – “Baking Christmas cookies created a little normalcy when things were shaky. And it made us happy.” completely resonated with me. Baking centres me like nothing else does.

  13. Christina Wilson says

    So sorry to hear little Clara is unwell. Best wishes for a speedy and healthy recovery for her and for some rest for the rest of you.

    Thanks so much for posting your gingerbread house recipe again. My daughter and I did it last year when she was two and had so much fun. She was just asking the other day if we were going to make another one this year. The answer was a solid YES! 🙂

  14. Hi Aimee, thankyou for your blog, I just love devouring all of your recipes, photos, and everything Canada – such a beautiful country.
    I am sorry about your terrible weekend. I hope Clara gets well soon.
    Here in Australia it is the end of the school year. I have a number of teacher gifts to make and I wanted to make gingerbread cookies wrapped in cellophane. The trouble is when I made a batch last week for a get together the cookies stuck to each other a little as the icing softened. I just used icing sugar and water. What would you recommend? Would you use a different recipe for a harder icing, or given the importance of the gift just leave the gingerbread biscuits not iced? Or just make something else?

  15. Debbie Niskin says

    Hi Aimee,
    Say “Hi” to Clara for me. There is almost nothing worse than a really sick child. Once my 4 year old daughter had a very high fever and she kept saying “The baby’s OK” That made it more scary for us.

  16. Debbie Niskin says

    Hi again,
    I would love your advice. We are Jewish and celebrate Sukkot (your Feast of Tabernacles, I think). A sukkah is a temporary dwelling with three walls and a roof that is not attached (it can blow away in the wind). It is supposed to represent flexibility.

    So, I would make the walls just like you did. The roof could be twizzlers (maybe from mango puree half dehydrated and then sliced and twisted and fully dehydrated. Then we decorate the sukkah (most of us buy Christmas tree decorations like glittery grapes, fish, etc) We also hang small bottles of olive oil. I can make small versions of those with cookie batter or dried fruit.

    My question is, what would I use to hang the decorations? It has to be something that little kids could eat. My idea is to have my grandkids make the gingerbread sukkah as a centerpiece and let them tear it up for dessert. They would love that!

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