Ready to get into the holiday spirit? Make this mini-gingerbread house with your children or students! Use the completed house as a centerpiece or holiday decoration.
The secret is using two clean, dry paper cartons as the frame and covering with graham crackers and candy. I have completed this kid-friendly holiday project with groups of children- aged preschool through high school- they all enjoy it and leave with a one of a kind candy covered "house" and a big smile.
Make a holiday memory today!
Step 1: NEEDED SUPPLIES
-Newspaper to cover your table work surface (optional)
-2 washed and dried small paper cartons (I used two one cup milk cartons)
-Masking tape and a stapler
-1 plate (glass or plastic- your choice---just make sure it is sturdy and doesn't flex)
-Damp paper towels---hands will get sticky!
-Royal icing with piping bag or can/tube of decorating icing with tips
-Graham crackers- at least 7-8 full crackers (plain/cinnamon sugar/gingerbread flavor- your choice)
-Sugar ice cream cone (optional)
-Green food coloring (optional)
-Knife, scissors, toothpicks---tools to shape cookies/crackers/candies
-Confectioner’s Sugar and sifter (optional- use if you want “snow”)
Step 2: ASSEMBLE THE CARTON HOUSE
Staple the spouts of the two washed and dried cartons closed. Use the masking tape to secure the two cartons side by side (Note: For the picture, I used painters tape- masking tape is what I typically use.) Make sure you press the cartons tightly together as you tape.
Next, use more tape to secure the carton set to the plate. I suggest positioning the house close to the back side of the plate- this permits more room for decorations in front of the house.
The plate you choose does not matter as long as it does NOT flex which will loosen all the icing "glue" of this project. You could also cover a piece of sturdy cardboard with foil and use that as a base if you prefer.
The paper cartons become the framework of the “house”.
NOTE: For this Instructable and in the classroom, I used two lunchroom sized milk cartons. You may use any size paper carton you choose.
Step 3: ATTACH THE GRAHAM CRACKER SIDING AND ROOF
Cover the outside and roof area of the house with the graham crackers. Use icing as glue and the knife to shape the graham crackers. The cinnamon sugar graham crackers add a sparkle and nice scent.
Do not worry about the edges joining…later; more icing will be used to outline the entire house.
In addition to the crackers below...you will also need one more to shape into two triangles for the gable area of the roof. (See the last picture in the group below.)
Step 4: SHINGLE THE ROOF
DO NOT PANIC---THE CRACKERS WILL NOT MEET ALL THE WAY...
YOU WILL USE ICING TO OUTLINE ALL THE JOINTS LATER!
1. “Shingle” material suggestions: colored vanilla wafers, iced mini shredded wheat cereal, cinnamon toast crunch cereal, any flat disc candy like Necco wafers, peppermints, etc. I have found that lighter shingles work well---heavier ones may slip unless the icing is very stiff or you wait for the icing to set up and work in sections. As a kid’s project or in the classroom, no one seems to have patience for working in sections so lighter “shingles” are preferred.
2. Application suggestions: Apply a stripe of icing near the bottom edge of the roof line. Work quickly and attach the “shingles” along the bottom line of the roof. Add another stripe of icing and then another row of shingles above the first---each row should slightly overlap the one below it. Work your way to the top of the roofline. Turn the house and repeat on the other side. When the two sides meet at the top- you may choose to overlap one side or later apply a thin ribbon of icing. As a third option, you may place small candies on top of the icing ribbon as a finishing touch.
After completing the roof, consider a snack break….especially, if you are working with a group of younger kids. Until the icing is set (maybe 5-10 minutes), the roof is the most fragile part of the project. In the next steps, the house will be turned many times- you do not want to disturb the shingles until the icing is set.
Step 5: DECORATE THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOUSE
Door: Consider using a decorative rectangular shaped cookie for the front door. You may also, break a graham cracker into a single section to use as the door. Secure the door in place with a bit of icing. Later, you may outline the door with more icing or use a small dab to attach a small candy as a door knob or fashion a wreath from gumdrops.
Windows: You may use icing tips to “draw” windows directly onto the sides of the house. Another idea is to use fruit leather as curtains or “stained glass” windows. Use icing to affix these additions and then outline the window frame.
House Decorations: Use icing to secure candy canes to the sides of the house. Two candy canes may be used together to form a heart. Fashion a wreath from gumdrops. Candy sticks may be used as columns.
Shrubs/ Trees: Use the icing to secure gumdrops or marshmallow snowmen around the house. Mix a couple of drops of green food coloring with icing and then “ice” the sugar ice cream cone. Use more of the icing to secure the tree” to the plate. Sprinkles or small candies may then be used to decorate the tree. Leftover green tinting icing may be used to spread over the bottom of the plate as grass. Note: icing may be tinted with blue food coloring to make a “pond”.
Lamp Posts: Use a medium gum drop as the base- secure with icing. Insert a pretzel or candy stick into the gum drop base. Top with a small gum drop (light).
Walkways/Pavers: Use any disc shaped candy to make a pathway. Use the glue to secure each to the plate.
Snowmen: Use regular sized marshmallows and attach with icing. Use small candies for features/ buttons. Fruit leather may be used for a scarf and pretzels may be used for arms.
Fire: Use red/orange/yellow gum drops to fashion into “flames”. Fruit leather may also be used. Secure to plate with icing. Outline with candy “rocks”.
You may want to outline the entire house with icing for a more finished look….this will hide graham cracker sections that don’t match. Icing “icicles” may be made along the bottom of the roof line if desired.
NOTE: IN THE PICTURE BELOW...I USED TOOTHPICKS FOR THE SNOWMAN ARMS! I TYPICALLY USE PRETZEL STICKS...EXCEPT THIS TIME...SOMEONE HAD SNACKED ON ALL THE PRETZELS!
Step 6: LET IT SNOW!
After you are COMPLETELY finished with all decorating, put about a tablespoon of Confectioner’s sugar in a sifter. Lightly “sift” snow onto the roof and yard around the house.
Do not touch the sugar…it will show fingerprints. This step is optional.
Step 7: NOTES AND PLANNING TIPS
For a classroom project, I suggest using the cans of icing. While expensive (about $3/can) it works easier for each student to have their own can. They enjoy using the decorative tips and one can will complete one house. If you are making royal icing, one recipe usually is enough for 4-5 houses. You will need bags/tips and a way to keep the icing from setting up during the activity….this is a problem if you have large groups or more than one class. I usually ask the students for a $3 contribution for purchase of the can and I purchase the quantity needed in one trip to the craft or grocery store. I then ask each student to bring one bag/box of candy/crackers/etc. to contribute to the activity so that we have a good variety of items to use as decorations. I provide the washed milk cartons, plates, tape, graham crackers, gum drops and Confectioner’s sugar and other “tools”.
MILK CARTONS: Plan early- it takes awhile to collect all the cartons needed for a large group! Also, washing and drying time needs to factored in as well. Plan to use gloves, hot water and antibacterial detergent to wash the cartons. While this "house" is used only as a decoration, it is important to wash thoroughly.
PROJECT REQUIRED TIME: Plan for the activity to last about 1 hour. Younger children/ students will need volunteer assistance.
Storage TIPS: These houses keep for years. I stored a couple in my de-humidified basement storage room for about 5 years….we used them each year as part of holiday decorations. Do not store in a hot, humid area or in an area where insects are present.
I hope you enjoy this fun holiday activity!