Making Graham Cracker “Gingerbread Houses” (or…Why I Bought Candy)

While Christmas shopping with the boys Monday, I picked up several bags and boxes of candy.  Twizzlers, Dots, Red Hots…

Why?

Because Elias saw the fun gingerbread house kits and thought that might be a fun project.  I agreed with him, but couldn’t stand the idea of spending so much for one kit for one kid.

I suggested an alternative.  I told him we would buy candy (“Really??!!” he said) and graham crackers (“Seriously??!”) and make our own gingerbread houses.  In fact, if all of “the brothers” wanted to make one, we would actually have an entire village.

Elias loved that idea.  And he loved helping me pick out candy.  And he loved bringing it all home to surprise the rest of the crew.

I really thought that some of my boys would not be very interested in the idea.  But would you believe, Wednesday night after church they all sat down and got busy building houses?  (It must have been the red food dye that enticed them…)

The conversation was hilarious.  You should have been there.  No actually, be thankful you weren’t.  ;)

I made a “paste” with powdered sugar and milk – then put it into two condiment bottles.  That made a great way to apply the “glue”.

Pardon the quality of this picture.  My camera doesn’t take good shots at night.

We found that it was best to build the structure first, then let it dry completely before adding any embellishments.  It only took a few minutes to dry – and then they were off!  Candy, candy, and more candy.

It was crazy fun.  And a little bit messy.  And did I mention that the conversation was hilarious?

Shucks, I don’t even remember what we talked about.  I just know we laughed a lot.  Which means that I applied the frosting glue in a wiggly pattern at times, because have you ever tried to apply frosting glue when you’re giggling?  It makes for a very wobbly line.

But that’s nothing a red hot can’t fix.

Ever tried making Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses before?  It was our first time and I learned that it’s way too much fun!

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Comments

  1. Julie says

    Did you make the paste of powdered sugar/milk just thin enough so it could be squeezed through the bottles? We always have a hard time getting the walls to “stick”….so I would like to try this.

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    Laura Reply:

    Yes, that was a bit tricky to get the right consistency. It needs to be pretty thick, kind of like elmer’s glue. I just kept adding powdered sugar until is seemed right. It was a little tricky to get into the bottles, but wow those bottles made the frosting so much easier to work with!

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  2. Leigh says

    I love the idea of using condiment bottles for the icing! My kids and I made graham cracker houses a couple of years ago and pulling out my condiment bottles for the icing would have made the process so much easier.

    When we made ours I used a serrated knife to trim one end of a whole graham cracker into a peak so we had a solid wall all the way up to support the roof. It was truly a lesson in patience and a way to provide many, many graham cracker pieces for snacking. If you put a piece of thin ribbon in the front and out the back of the roof in a complete loop then you can hang your graham cracker house on the Christmas tree once it’s dry.

    Thanks for the reminder of a fun project! Now I have to go put candy and graham crackers on the grocery list.

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  3. Jen says

    Those houses are so adorable! I want to do this with my 2 boys, but they’re only 2 and almost 5. Somehow, I can’t envision it as “fun” yet. :) Maybe in a year or two we’ll give it a try.

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    Laura Reply:

    Ha! Yes, you are right. The only thing that would make it “fun” is if you didn’t let them into the kitchen until you had the structures already made and dried. Then you had a few pieces of candy available for each and you just let them tell you where to place it. Shew! Maybe in a few years! :)

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    Melissa Wheeler Reply:

    You could always have them make Christmas trees instead of houses. Just frost a sugar ice cream cone (the ones that are pointy), and place it pointy side up on a plate. The kids can decorate the tree to their hearts delight and don’t have to worry about pieces falling apart.

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    Myra Reply:

    Great idea about the trees! I’d never heard of or thought of that! I’ll add that to our supplies for our Gingerbread House party! Thank you! The kids will love it!

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    Jen Reply:

    Thanks for the idea, Melissa! I always see such cute ideas on blogs, but then I think it would be too frustrating for both me and the boys, at their ages. I’ll have to give this a try!

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    Myra Reply:

    Jen,
    just keep in mind, you’re not aiming for perfection, just the fun of making the memories together. Keep it simple for now, with a few kid “safe” candies like gumdrops and licorice (not the hard stuff, so it’s not a choking hazard). My kids have been doing this since about age two and they love it! :)

    Abbygail Mendoza Reply:

    Thanks for the great idea! I babysit 3 boys (3,4, and 5) plus my own
    3 year old and 4 month old girls. I was already envisioning 4 graham
    cracker houses falling apart every 2 seconds! Christmas tree cones
    are a perfect idea for little hands!!

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    Brianna D. Reply:

    You can paste the graham crackers onto a small cardboard carton, like an empty whiping cream carton; that would make it more sturdy for small ones to work with!

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  4. Kristin says

    My daughters’ preschool makes gingerbread houses every year at their Christmas party and parents are invited to come help their child. Empty milk cartons (1 cup) are used as the base to stick the graham crackers on. This makes the project makes the project doable for 3 & 4 year olds. This year it is my middle daughter’s turn to make a gingerbread house. She is so excited! I also participated in a team gingerbread house building contest in college. Our winning team created an open roofed church complete with gummy bears in the choir loft. It is truly a fun project for all ages.

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    Laura Reply:

    Empty milk cartons – GREAT idea!

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    Jen Reply:

    Thanks, Kristin! Maybe I will give this a try with my young boys after all. Along with Melissa’s ice cream cone “trees”, we should be able to have more fun than frustration!

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  5. Laura says

    We discovered last year that if you wait until after Christmas the kits are $0.99 at Michaels. But, it’s so much more fun to have gingerbread houses sitting around during the holidays. So, we will probably do both this year. Thanks for the great idea!!! :)

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  6. Myra says

    Hi Laura! This was a timely post! I just went a little overboard at the dollar store yesterday to prepare for our annual gingerbread house project! I’ve always done this same project with my kids since they were about two years old. Actually, I always buy the big kit you were talking about AFTER Christmas when it’s on clearance, and save it for the next year. Then I decorate that (yes, I’m selfish that way) and my four kids make a little graham cracker house, so we end up with a cute village! We keep them on display in the kitchen, then on Christmas Eve, the kids try to pick off some of the candy and eat it! lol. Next Saturday we are having a “Gingerbread House Party” and a couple of friends & moms will join us for the fun! I love the idea of using the condiment bottles! I always use Pillsbury creamy vanilla frosting & use a butter knife to apply. I think I’ll try the condiment bottles this year too! Thanks for the great tip! :)

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  7. says

    Where did you find the condiment containers.
    I’ve looked for them for other home-made condiments and I can never find the squeeze type that you show.
    Please HELP. THANKS.

    Can’t wait to try this with my sons!!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I found those in the cake decorating section at Walmart. :)

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    Myra Reply:

    You can also find them at the Dollar Tree, although I’m not sure if they are white, but they usually have red and yellow.

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  8. Dorothy says

    We did this last year with our boys (then 2 and 4) and had a wonderful time. We used banana chips and pretzel sticks for roofing and siding and raisins and cranberries and dried cherries and almonds for more decorating. My boys loved it and we loved that when they ate it all it was mostly fruit and nuts!

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    Myra Reply:

    That is a great idea! I wish I’d thought to do that from the beginning! I think my kids would gasp in horror if I tried it now! lol. But maybe we can try the pretzels as a baby step toward a healthier tradition! Thanks! :)

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    Dorothy Reply:

    Oh and we used popcorn for snow! Pretzels make good fences, too! Have fun!

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  9. Karen says

    When I was a kid, we made gingerbread house glue/frosting with egg whites, pwd sugar, and ???. I remember that it was bright white and set up hard as concrete. Worked great though.

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    Charlotte Moore Reply:

    It must have been what is called royal icing. You can find it on the internet.

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  10. says

    Oh my word! That sounds like so much fun! Someone gave us a kit a couple of years ago, but it was way too involved for my (at the time) 4 year old and I to do. I have leftover sugar cones from the summer (that probably won’t be good by next year). I think I will try the tree idea. She’s going to love this. Thank you for the ideas!

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  11. Amy says

    What great ideas from everyone! I have not yet done gingerbread houses with my kiddos – 22 mo & 4 years (maybe because the cookie decorating when my son was 2 was a bit too crazy) and because I have wondered how to do it without using all the candy. I love the idea of using dried fruits & preztels. I have also recently learned about Unreal Candy “Candy Unjunked”. Don’t know if you’ve heard of it. Less sugar, GMO-free, sustainably sourced ingredients. It’s supposed to be available nation-wide, so you might want to check it out. http://getunreal.com/.

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    Tami S. Reply:

    I am so checking this out! Thanks for sharing about this new healthier candy! :)

    [Reply]

  12. Susan F. says

    That is a great idea! Tell the boys that the gingerbread houses are adorable. Real fruit, fruit snacks would be cute embellishments also.

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  13. Andrea says

    My mother-in-law gave one of these kits to my 3yo yesterday. Apparently, my face conveyed a less than gracious response because I think I hurt her feelings. *Sigh* All I could think about was all the sugar. When my daughter showed me she said, “Look! CANDY!” (she is a little sugar hound). This combined with the fact that all the kids from church are getting together to make them, and I already decided not to take her. Plus, a little sense of pride that if I wanted to make gingerbread houses, I could bake a gingerbread house and do not need Wilton’s pre-made cookie/icing/candy kit to do so. But mostly, I have been forced to put her on antibiotics recently and her immune system is limping along right now AND her teeth seem to be getting discolored and plaque covered. I cannot imagine doing this with her without her consuming pounds of sugar and that is the LAST thing she needs…
    Sorry for the rant. I guess I needed this post to remind me to chill a bit, but on the other hand I wish I could be allowed to be the guardian of my children like they need me to be.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I definitely understand. It’s so hard to keep all the junk away from our kids! We did eat a little of the candy, but mostly we used it for the houses. Hopefully your daughter will enjoy the activity while only eating a tiny bit? One can hope. :)

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  14. Charlotte Moore says

    Empty milk cartons work. I have saved a ton of them in the cafeteria at school for the teachers. Believe me when I say…. it is still not an easy task for even 5 year olds. Maybe with only a couple of kids, but not a room full. I am retired now and I DO NOT miss art projects at all.

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  15. Dione says

    2 of my children have birthdays on either side of Christmas so one year we had a combined birthday party and rather than games and gift bags we made these and everyone got to take theirs home after a warm lunch followed by cake and icecream of course.

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  16. Aleta says

    We made them for the first last year, only we used the whole graham cracker on the sides and then for the end we stood one up and with a sharp knife, very carefully, angled into the peak. Gingerbread houses are fun for any age :). Great memories too!! It’s always fun in extended families to see everyone’s creative ideas.

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  17. Birdie says

    What fun Laura! A few years back I purchased a kit that was in the discount cart. We tried to put it together, make a big mess, then taste tested it. It was absolutely awful. We all have a sweet tooth but it was yuuuck. We will have fun doing these.

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  18. Tami S. says

    Thank you for posting this! We made these several years back and it was fun. I saw this post this morning and this evening we picked up some graham crackers and candies from the bulk bin at the grocery store. My 3 kids and 2 nephews will have lots of fun making these! :)

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  19. Lynnette Shields says

    In my art classes, I take ice cream cones (sugar cones or waffle cones) and we frost them with regular frosting tinted green and decorate them with candy and … tada! Christmas trees!!

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  20. Shelly says

    What a cute idea! I found this site: https://www.naturalcandystore.com/ and it has a nice selection of candy with out all the junk. I haven’t tried their stuff yet, but did place an order. They have natural dyes and baking decorations too. My daughters are sensitive to dyes so they are excited to make Christmas cookies and gingerbread houses with candy and sprinkles they can actually eat. Oh, there is also the Unreal Candy and it’s good too! It’s supposed to be available everywhere but it’s sold out around here and hasn’t been restocked.

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  21. Deja says

    How funny that I’m just now reading this post several days later…I’m sitting next to a box of 45 graham cracker houses that my daughter and I assembled last night for our 1st Annual GGB House Decorating Fun at church tomorrow. We had made these last year along with another family and I had the “GREAT IDEA” to do this with our church…ask me tomorrow afternoon if I still think that way LOL. We use a Royal Icing Recipe to basically cement the houses together.

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  22. Sarah says

    I have made these a lot through the years, with both my preK students and my own children and their friends. What I usually do is hot glue the houses together beforehand. I always explain that we aren’t going to eat them, but I do let the kids snack on candy and graham crackers while they decorate. I give the kids popscicle sticks or plastic throw-away spoons to spread frosting (either homemade or store-bought, depending on the setting and how much time I have). This is one of those traditions that is worth relaxing our normal food standards for, in my opinion. Glad you had fun!

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  23. Lana says

    I love that you put the “glue” in condiment bottles. Brilliant! Our 6 year old has a hard time with pastry bags so I am going to try the bottles.

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  24. Penny says

    The kids n i do this every year we just found white and yellow cotton candy at dollar tree for the snow on the yellow container it says dont eat yellliow snow my kids think its halarious so im now looking for a dog to add to the back lot behind one of the houses
    I thought the cotton candy was a great idea

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