DIY Paper Bag Book with Japanese Binding {Free Download}

Tinkerlab DIY Paper Bag Book cover.001

You might know that I’ve been working on a fun project with the San Francisco Children’s Creativity Museum DIY Studio Space. Each month for a full year, we’re developing creativity-boosting invitations for children who visit the museum. If you visit the Studio this month you’ll find an assortment of interesting found materials and a host of ideas for upcycling books from these materials.

And in case you didn’t make it to the CCM this month, I’m giving away a free project download: Tinkerlab DIY Paper Bag Book

The cover is made from a paper lunch bag, the inner pages are made from any paper you like, and it’s bound with a traditional Japanese 3-hole binding that elementary-age children could do with a little assistance.

Children will work through spatial reasoning and learn about a traditional binding method through the process of binding. They will also explore different recycling possibilities through the selection of materials. And once the book is made, children can fill it with sketches, stories, stickers…the possibilities are endless.

This is new to me and I’d love to hear your thoughts: Would you rather see all the steps in a blog post or do you like having it in a sweet and tidy PDF?

Microwave Puffy Paint

puffy microwave paint

Who wouldn’t love a good experiment that combines mixing flour + watercolor paint, and zapping it into puffy magic in the microwave?

When I saw this inspiring post by Rashmie at Mommy Labs, who in turn was inspired by Tammy over at Housing in a Forest, I knew it was something that my 3.5 year old experimenter would love to try.

We mixed a batch of puffy paint from water, flour, baking soda, salt, and liquid watercolors. See Rashmie’s post for all the deets.

I poured the mixtures into these awesome Nancy Bottles from Discount School Supply.

And N made some cool designs on cut-up manilla file folders.

We zapped them in the microwave and they came out looking like this. I think my ratio must have been a little off because the texture isn’t as puffy and beautiful and those over at Mommy Labs, but my 3-year old was ENAMORED by the process and kept making them until we ran out of paint.

What a fun way to spend an afternoon. Thanks, Rashmie!

Is it Magnetic? Testing Objects for Magnetism.

magnets and water

How was your weekend? We took a mini-vacation to play in the snow and I enjoyed a little computer break along the way. I thought I could get online with my phone, but it turned out that the reception was horrible and I’ve been completely out-of-touch! It was probably a good thing, as I could really focus on my family and be as rested as possible when my one-year old woke up, inconsolable, for 2 hours in the middle of the night! I also want to formally thank my good friend Melissa from The Chocolate Muffin Tree who checked in to make sure I was okay! How lucky am I?

I’ve been on a science kick lately. Maybe because my 3-year old is completely self-serve in the art department or maybe because I’ve checked every science for kids book out of our local library? If you’re in the market for a great book of kids science experiments for ages 8 and up, I checked out The Science Explorer Out and about: Fantastic Science Experiments Your Family Can Do Anywhere (Science Explorer Out & about)and it’s phenomenal. It was written in 1997 and looks a little bit dated, but the concepts are solid and it stands the test of time. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco’s Exploratorium or if you’re familiar with their publications, you’ll feel connected to this book.

magnet and water experiment materials

Today’s experiment is similar to one we’ve done before with paper clips +magnets (Traveling Magnets), and this takes it up a notch with a few more magnet surprises and discoveries. Here’s what you’ll need…

Materials

  • Glass or vase of water. Thin glass works better than thick.
  • Pipe cleaners and/or paper clips
  • Strong magnets
  • Scissors
  • Small magnetic and non-magnetic objects

pipe cleaners in water experiment

Cut the pipe cleaners up and add them to the vase of water and mix them up so the pipe cleaners sink. Three-year old N loved doing this step herself.

Using your magnet/s try to pull the pipe cleaners up the side of the vase. Once they reach the top, you can retrieve them or drop them back in.

It’s like fishing!

testing magnets experiment kids

This opened up a conversation about what would stick to the magnets, so I pulled out a handful of small metal and non-metal objects for us to test.

Meanwhile, my 1-year old enjoyed stirring the water and fishing pipe cleaners out with her hands.

testing magnets experiment kids

N understood that the magnet would only stick to metal and quickly ruled out rubber bands and post-it notes from the “Is it magnetic?” list, but we also learned that the magnet wouldn’t stick to ALL metals.

And that was a surprise!

magnets on hardwood floor nails

One of the funnest surprises, however, was when a magnet fell onto the floor and stuck to a hidden nail! We dropped the rest of our magnets onto the floor and flicked them from nail to nail, watching them dance from floorboard to floorboard.

One more thought — I kept a close eye on my 17 month old throughout because our magnets are so tiny — just a thought that you might want to do the same or find some big magnets for the under 3 y.o. crowd.

What did your weekend look like? Have you been able to take a technology break? And have you had any fun magnet discoveries?

 

 

Yeast and Sugar Experiment

yeast experiment

yeast experimentI’ve been baking bread just about every day for the past three weeks (nothing too crazy since it’s all done in the bread maker), but last week my 3.5 year old and I got into a discussion about the properties of yeast.

We like to tinker and  experiment – big surprise, I know — and decided to see what would happen if we mixed yeast with warm water. N took this job very seriously, poured the water into a bowl, added a couple teaspoons of yeast, and waited a few patient minutes before she said, “it makes a brownish color.” True, and to make it bubble like it does in bread, we needed to activate it with sugar.

So we took about fifteen minutes to clear some space and set up what would become the Yeast + Sugar Experiment.

What’s so great about an experiment like this is that it’s easy to do with household materials, and it’s ripe for authentic child-generated questions and observations. When I asked what she thought would happen if we added sugar to the yeast she said, “I don’t know! Let’s mix them and find out!.” And when we finally attached the balloon to the bottle she wondered, “will it fill up all the way and blow off the bottle?”

yeast experimentWhat you’ll need

  • Sugar, 2 tablespoons
  • Active Dry Yeast, 1 packet or 2 1/4 tablespoons
  • Balloon
  • Warm water (105-115 degrees F, 40.5-46 degrees C)
  • Mixing bowl + funnel (we used a cocktail shaker instead)
  • Bottle that you can fit a balloon over

yeast and sugar experimentMix the yeast and sugar into the warm water and stir. I noticed that N was sniffing the concoction and asked her what it smelled like. She said “poop.” I could see what she was saying. Consider yourself warned.

Once it all dissolves, pour the mixture into the bottle and cover the bottle with the balloon.

yeast experimentAfter a few minutes you’ll be amazed by something like this!

yeast experimentN wanted to feel it as it filled with air. She noticed the balloon was getting bigger and wanted to know how big it would get.

yeast experimentMy handy-dandy ship captain sister (no joke — that’s her job!) was visiting, and put herself right to work as chief measurer.

yeast and sugar experimentOnce the bottle filled up completely, we moved the whole operation to the sink. The bubbles were slow-moving, and there was nothing to worry ourselves with, but N enjoyed pulling the balloon off and watching the foam slowly pour over the bottle’s top.

As we went through the process, I thought of a few fun extensions for older kids or those who want to take this further. You could play around with food coloring/liquid watercolors, have a few bottles going at once and compare the results of different sugar:yeast ratios, or compare the results of different water temperatures.

I found my recipe at The Exploratorium’s Science of Cooking series, where we also learned that as the yeast eats the sugar it makes carbon dioxide, which is essentially the same process that yeast goes through in our bread dough.

Mmmmm. I’m off to eat some whole wheat cranberry walnut oat bread. Toasted. With butter and Maldon salt. How do you like your bread? And have you played around with yeast concoctions?

This is shared on It’s Playtime

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Chalkboard Painted Canvas

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“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Chalkboards…I love them. You? The texture, the dust, and contrast are oh-so-appealing.

When I started to see them disappear from classrooms in favor of dry erase boards, I was a little bit shocked. Dry erase boards are wonderful too, but they’ll never have the same rustic appeal as a chalkboard.

This project began when I found a $3 canvas at a thrift store back in September (it had a print of a cow on it — truly hideous), and painted over it with a few layers of black chalkboard paint. Since October, it’s been filled with these house “rules,” and while I enjoyed looking at them, and even managed to inspire a neighbor to add some chalkboard quotes to her own kitchen, I was ready for a fresh start and enlisted the help of my crew to come up with something new.

And maybe I was feeling a little bit guilty on those days that I just ate buttered toast and wanted to spit. Maybe.

So I pulled the canvas down, wiped it clean with a damp rag, and let the kids go to town.

They loved it.

This is how it looked two weeks ago, and then this week we started all over again.

We also have a chalkboard that’s painted right onto part of our kitchen door, and it gets a lot of use for everything from chicken scratches to make-shift calendars to homemade infographics.

We collaborated on this one: the bunny is mine, the yellow is N, and the pink is Baby R. Funny thing, at least for me, is that back when I was brainstorming names for this blog, I called it Chalkbunny for a couple months before landing on Tinkerlab. So here we have a real, live chalk bunny, which is what we decided to call the little character in my new banner.

Do you have a well-loved chalkboard? What makes it special? And how do your kids use it?

 

Symmetrical Butterfly Prints

butterfly images.001

When my 1 year old naps, my three and a half year old non-napper and I like to pull out some of our favorite messy materials that don’t normally surface when baby hot-hands is awake. The other day N wanted to paint, and we ended up making butterfly rorschach paintings. BTW, every time I have to spell that word – rorschach — it stumps me! Anyone else? We called these butterfly prints, which may have some bearing on why my daughter made at least thirty of them! And I should say that I was recently asked to lead an activity at her preschool, and THIS is the project that N wants me to bring in. Not that I’m trying to sell anything, but how’s that for an endorsement?

The set-up was really simple. I squeezed four colors of tempera paint  on a plate (I always try to limit the palette — fewer choices enable children to focus more on the process and feel less overwhelmed by materials), she picked her four favorite paint brushes (these happen to be from our watercolor sets), and I gave her a stack of white copy paper (the thin stuff). She had an extra sheet of paper to rest the dirty brushes on — her idea!

I suggested, in the most open-ended way possible, that she could paint on one half of the paper or the entire paper — it was up to her — before folding the paper in half. She had her own ideas, as kids often do, and once she made the first print she turned into a printmaking powerhouse. Crank. Crank. Crank.

The fun reveal!

Ta-dah! So cute, she actually said, “WOW,” after the first print opened. Not so much the following prints, but it was clear that she loved the process.

The experiments included lines, dots, overlapping colors, and even a couple diagonally-folded papers.

Do you remember making these when you were a kid? I loved these, and it’s evident that it’s a timeless wonder. If you have or work with older children, this activity is an excellent way to introduce symmetry. For a few more related ideas, Frugal Family Fun Blog has this idea for teaching symmetry with butterflies (I always enjoy how happy Valerie’s kids are in her photos), and Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas shares two more ways to teach symmetry with butterfies + a handful of book suggestions.

Growing Gummy Bear Experiment

The incredible growing gummy bear experiment | TinkerLab

Do you know about the growing gummy bear experiment? It takes very little room, isn’t messy, and kids love it!

The incredible growing gummy bear experiment | TinkerLab

Here’s how we landed on this experiment…

My kids and I stopped at the drug store for baby wipes, and my 3.5 year old bombarded me with five minutes of excitement that sounded like this, “Mom, stop! You have to see this. Mom, can you get me this light up candy cane/cup shaped like a fairy/snow globe. Wait!!! I really want it!” Ugh. Why do stores have to put all their bling at child height?

I normally adore her enthusiasm, but I have a short wick for the begging and pleading for random odds and ends. Pair that with a one-year old who insists on standing in the shopping cart and you get the picture of me yearning for a hot cup of coffee and a trashy magazine.

In my mom-haze I accidentally walked us down the candy aisle on the way to check out. Dumb move, I know, and my older daughter quickly managed to pull a bag of gumdrops off the display with a request to make gumdrop sculptures. 

Ack. She knows my weak spot for creative projects!

Um, yes, we can buy the gumdrops for the sake of your growing mind. And with that, she also pulled down a pack of gummy bears. I remembered reading about a gummy bear experiment, and that’s how we ended up bringing these little jelly woodland creatures home with us.

The experiment is easy.

Supplies: Gummy Bear Experiment

  • Gummy Bears
  • Water
  • Bowl

Directions

Add a gummy bear to water. Check on it after a couple hours and compare its size to the original gummy bear. See what happens if you leave this in the water for one day, two days, and three days.

Experiment Ideas

  • Set up a number of bowls and place one gummy bear in each one. Add different liquids to each bowl (water, soda, vinegar, etc.) and see how or if the solutions change the results.
  • Document the changing scale of the gummy bears with drawings or photographs.
  • Compare the taste of the plump bears with the original bears.

How we ran this experiment

My older daughter and I each had to eat one, of course, we chose a couple to add to the water. I asked her what she thought might happen to them after being submerged, and she said she didn’t know. After a couple hours we checked on them, and found them covered in tiny bubbles. We compared them to one of the dry originals, and the wet bears were a bit plumper!

I left 3.5 year old N in the kitchen while I put her baby sister down for a nap, and returned to find her nibbling on one of the plump bears!! She had this to say, “I know I wasn’t supposed to eat the bear, but I had to also compare the way they taste to see if they tasted the same.” How could I be upset with that?

In all, we let the bears sit in water for three days, and you can see the size difference in this image. The gummies kept expanding and then finally seemed to fall apart.

If you try this at home, and want to do a taste comparison, be sure to refrigerate your gummy bears so they don’t grow bacteria. Yikes!

The Science behind the Experiment

Gummy bears are made up of water, sugar, and gelatin. Like a sponge, gummy bears will absorb water but the gelatin keeps the bears from dissolving in the water.

More Science Experiments

If you enjoyed this project, you will probably love 12 Science Fair Project Ideas.

 

Last Minute DIY Gifts To Make With Kids

diy gifts with kids

Okay, so we’re down to the last holiday minute, and if you’re in need of a little something for your lovely neighbors or visiting cousins, this might just do the trick. My 3.5 year old actually helped me make everything here (in various ways), you might already have all or most of the ingredients/materials, and these won’t take you all day to pull together.

diy gifts with kidsDIY Project #1: Activity Bag

My daughter decorated some paper lunch bags with bits of wrapping paper and markers, and we filled them with a couple activities + a tape measure.

Activity One: Make an Ornament. I folded a piece of card stock in half, typed (with this typewriter) “Make and Ornament” on one side (you could also stamp, print, draw this on, etc.) stapled up the sides, and attached an example of the activity to the side with a piece of clear tape.

diy gifts with kidsWe filled the envelope with a small baggie of assorted beads (from a few big bags that we sub-divided) and four pipe cleaners that I prepared with a little bead-stopping loop at one end.

diy gifts with kidsActivity Two: Make a Snowflake

diy gifts with kidsI prepared an envelope the same way, with typing, stapling, and filling. This time we placed a short stack of colorful tissue paper circles and a few pre-made snowflakes in the envelope for inspiration. I didn’t have time to write up directions, but hopefully everyone remembers how to make a snowflake. Most people don’t have circular tissue paper on hand, and a little stack of flattened, round coffee filters or squares of upcycled magazines would also do the trick. I love this tutorial for making snowflakes from squares of newspaper squares, from Maya Made.

diy gifts with kidsDIY Project #2: Sugar Scrub

This is a nice way to spread some pampering cheer that will shine away rough wintery skin, and they couldn’t be easier to assemble. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Glass Jar with tight-fitting lid
  • Sugar
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Essential Oil in your favorite smell
  • Decorative Fabric or Paper
  • Paper Label
  • String or Rubber Band
  • Small wooden spoon (optional)

Collecting my materials was the most time consuming piece of this project. I found the jars and wooden spoons at Daiso, a Japanese dollar store that rocks my world, and the essential oil was from Whole Foods. I used grapeseed oil (Trader Joe’s) because it’s virtually scentless and has a long shelf life, and I included a wooden spoon so that my friends can scoop out their scrub without adding bacteria into the jar. It’s not really necessary, but I think it’s a nice touch.

diy gifts with kids

I wish I was more scientific about this, but I’ll tell you how I made it and hopefully it will make sense. I filled 1/4 of the jar with sugar, added enough grapeseed oil to coat it, and then mixed it well. Then I added sugar to the 1/2 way point, added more oil, and mixed it again. I repeated this until the sugar-oil mixture was about 3/4″ from the top. I added a little more oil so that it floated on top of the sugar, making the whole mixture easy to stir. Once it was nicely blended, I added about 30 drops of grapefruit essential oil. Basically, I added the essential oil, smelled it, and then added more until I was happy with the strength of the smell. I thought about using lavender, which I also had, but the grapefruit smelled so refreshing and it complemented the green fabric.

Lastly, I covered it with a circle of fabric (traced with a bowl), secured it with a rubber band (to hold that heavy spoon on tight), and wrapped a gift tag on with some baker’s twine.

diy gifts with kidsDIY Project #3: Pecan Chocolate Turtles

These are so simple, absolutely delicious, and I made them with both my 1-year old and 3-year old. My one year old exercised some fine motor skills by unwrapping the candies, while my 3 year old placed them on the pretzels. It was assembly-line cooking at its finest! They won’t disappoint you, I promise! I found the recipe on All Recipes, and if 5 stars out of 855+ reviews doesn’t tell you how good these are, I’m not sure what will :)

Ingredients

  • Small Pretzels
  • Rolos (Chocolate-covered caramel candy)
  • Pecan Halves
The recipe can be found here: Pretzel Turtles on All Recipes
When they finally cooled (this part took a while, maybe 2 hours), I wrapped them up in wax paper and sealed them with a sticker.

What are your favorite DIY gift ideas?

 

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Rolled Paper Snowflakes

chipboard tube snowflake

paper roll snowflake decoration

When I saw this toilet paper tube star garland on Creative Jewish Mom, I knew my 3 year old would enjoy it. We didn’t have any toilet paper rolls on hand, so I improvised with what we had.

chipboard tube snowflakeWe made them from a chipboard box (very sturdy, just like toilet paper/loo rolls) and from construction paper (not so sturdy, but it worked well too).

chipboard tube snowflakeI cut the front off a box of yummy cookies, and then cut that in half.

chipboard tube snowflakeThen I stapled them right up like a toilet paper roll.

chipboard tube snowflakeNext, I cut vertical strips to about 1/2″ from the bottom.

chipboard tube snowflakeSpread them all out to reveal a starburst or snowflake.

chipboard tube snowflakeAnd then added glitter glue to make them a bit fancy.

Before we bought the cookies, we tried this out with construction paper using the same process.

paper roll snowflake decorationAnd we hung them from the ceiling with a couple feet of baker’s twine.

paper roll snowflake decorationThey’re a bit wobbly compared to their chipboard box cousins, but my 3 year old is quite pleased with the results.

Because I’m sure it’s the same for many of you, it’s a busy time at Casa Tinkerlab. I’m half-way through sewing an elf costume (it’s the only thing my 3 year old has asked me for this season!), cookies are cooling in the kitchen, and homemade sugar scrubs are in the works. I plan to slow down on the posts through the end of the year. But do check back because I have a few more ideas in the hopper before the end of 2011.

How are you getting busy on these days of early winter? What are you making?

 


{If you haven’t had a chance to read my interview about setting up a kids art space with the inspiring Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent, take a look today, and leave a comment by 9 pm PST to be entered into the giveaway.}

Microwave Marshmallow Experiment

microwave marshmallow experiment

Have you heard of the microwave marshmallow experiment? It’s really simple and a fun way to explore how the volume of gas expands a marshmallow as it heats up. My kids also enjoy this experiment because it mixes science (+ fun) with a sugary treat.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Microwave Marshmallow Experiment Supplies

  • 4 (or more) Marshmallows
  • Paper Towel or Microwave-safe plate
  • Microwave
  • Paper to jot down observations (I’ll share my 3-year old’s observations in italics below)
For this microwave marshmallow experiment, we’ll microwave three marshmallows for different periods of time, and then  compare what happens to the marshmallows as they heat up, and then cool down again. This is an engaging way to involve children in scientific observation and discovery, it raises lots of questions, and doesn’t require a lot of prep or clean-up. Are you with me?

Step One

Microwave one marshmallow for 10 seconds and remove from the microwave. Compare it to an uncooked marshmallow and describe how it looks. How does it feel?

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabObservation: It’s small, shorter than the other marshmallow, but fatter. It’s gooey.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Step Two

Microwave the second marshmallow for 30 seconds and remove it. How does it compare with an uncooked marshmallow? What happens to it as it cools?

Observation: It’s a little bit larger than the other one. It got dry as it cooled.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Touching the second marshmallow.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Cool, a little hole showed up in the middle after it cooled down a bit.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Step Three

Microwave the third marshmallow for 50 seconds and remove from the microwave. Compare to and uncooked marshmallow right away and after it cools. How are they different? How does this marshmallow feel?

Observation: It’s huge and wrinkly and dry. It’s brown. That means it burned. That means it’s good to eat. Crunchy to eat.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabYou can see all three marshmallows here. We noticed that the 30 second and 50 second marshmallows got hard and crunchy as they cooled, and N decided to taste them for a flavor comparison.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabThe 50 second marshmallow was brown, crunchy, and caramelized. Have you ever tried astronaut ice cream? It had a similar texture.

The science behind the activity is explained clearly over here at The Exploratorium. In essence, the volume of gas in the marshmallow increases when the temperature increases, and then decreases as it cools down. The Exploratorium suggests not microwaving marshmallows for longer than 2 minutes, less you want a dark, stinky, burnt mess on your hands.

This project was inspired by a book we found at the library: Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow?

Have you ever microwaved anything and been surprised by the outcome?

 

Seven Ways to Make a Gingerbread House

gingerbread house from scratch

Seven ways to make a gingerbread house | Tinkerlab

Have you ever made a gingerbread house? 

Last year, my 2-year old and I made super simple graham cracker gingerbread houses. I’m not even sure if you can call them gingerbread houses since they were made from graham crackers. Hmmm.

But making a real, bonafide gingerbread house: this was new territory for me, and I wasn’t prepared for how much trouble I would have with it.

After a few tears were shed and lessons learned, I thought I’d share my experience and a host of others so that you won’t have to go through the growing pains I went through.

pressing the Gingerbread house dough

Use a gingerbread house mold

To make our house, we started with a Gingerbread House Mold similar to this one.  You simply make the dough and then press it right into the mold. Brilliant!

To make it even simpler, we made a batch of gingerbread with the recipe from the Trader Joe’s gingerbread baking mix. So easy.

My kids enjoyed pressing it into the mold and my 3 year old helped pop the cookies out once they cooled. So far, so good!

Gingerbread house candy

 

Candy Toppings for Gingerbread Houses

While the dough was cooling, we went candy shopping! Mmmm. This may have been the funnest part.

Since this was mostly new to me, I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations and they had the BEST ideas (clearly, my fans are professionals).

Gingerbread house

Are you ready for this?

Candy for Gingerbread House Decorating:

  • gumdrops
  • M&M’s
  • marshmallows
  • mini candy canes
  • rainbow nerds
  • dried fruits and nuts
  • life savers
  • ribbon candy,
  • colored frosting
  • gingerbread men/trees to add to scene
  • pretzels for a fence
  • sweet tarts and those candy necklace candies
  • Christmas Captain Crunch with tree shapes
  • star shaped cookies from Trader Joe’s
  • skittles
  • jellybeans
  • cut out fruit strips into shapes
  • gingerbread shaped marshmallows
  • tootsie roll for a chimney, Pretzel squares for windows
  • crystal like sprinkles for a special touch of snow
  • sifted powdered sugar and cotton candy to look like snow
  • Twizzlers
  • red hots and mint
  • swirled red and white mints.

Gingerbread house frosting

I made a batch of royal icing, the same way I made it for our gingerbread cookies, but I added a bit more powdered sugar to thicken it. Traditionally, royal icing is made with egg whites, but because I knew my kids would lick their fingers I opted to go with this meringue powder version instead.

RECIPE FOR ROYAL ICING

  • 1/8 cup Meringue Powder
  • 1/4 cup Cold Water
  • 2 cups sifted Confectioners Sugar

Add water to meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar into the mixture and beat until it’s the desired consistency. Add more sugar for stiffer icing.

Gingerbread house kids table

I made individual houses out of graham crackers for our neighborhood friends, and we all worked on the big house as a collaborative project.

Gingerbread house graham crackers

Oh, we ran out of graham crackers, which is why some of the houses have this funky shape. Sigh. Maybe next year I’ll be more prepared!

Thankfully, our friends didn’t let on if they minded. We’re lucky to have such kind neighbors.

Six More Gingerbread House Ideas…

Graham Cracker House on a Milk Carton

This is the recipe my friend made for our toddler play date last year, and it was perfect for little ones. I know my friend had a hard time collecting milk cartons for all the children in our group, but once you gather the milk cartons, they’re easy to assemble. From Martha Stewart.

Gingerbread house with milk carton base

Gingerbread House from Scratch

Mama Smiles shows us how she made her house with a toddler (no small feat!) from scratch!

 Gingerbread House from Graham Crackers

Caked Alaska shows us how to make a beautiful graham cracker house (unlike my ramshackle shanty town houses). And this post from Kelley Moore is also lovely.

gingerbread house from graham crackers

Tiny Gingerbread House Perched on the Rim of a Mug

Oh my goodness! These are most definitely not for making with little kids, but what a show stopper! Couldn’t resist sharing these beauties from Not Martha.

Gingerbread House from a Kit

Or, take the easier route with a store-bought kit. A Spoonful of Sugar Designs shares their Ikea kit. Lovely.

Matzo House

Not exactly gingerbread, but we made these jelly bean matzo houses earlier this year and I couldn’t resist sharing, just to show that with some icing and candy, you can turn just about anything into a house.

Matzoh gingerbread house

Your turn! What’s your favorite way to make a gingerbread house?

Note: This post may contain affiliate links

 

Drizzle + Paint Gingerbread Cookies

gingerbread cookies with kids

Mmmm, gingerbread cookies. After making our salt dough ornaments (and having one of our friends try to eat one…yikes!), we thought it was high time to make real, edible cookies. My mother-in-law’s gingerbread recipe is truly the best one I’ve tried, but when I discovered that the Gingerbread Cake and Baking Mix from Trader Joe’s could be adapted to make cookies, and all I had to do was add an egg + butter, I was sold.

We rolled out the dough, selected our favorite cutters, and cut our shapes. If you’ve never made gingerbread cookies, give yourself an hour to chill your dough before you plan to work with it. Even with refrigeration, the dough is pretty sticky and required a fair amount of flour to keep it flexible and off the counter.

I filled a piping bag with royal icing (dry hard icing). My MIL uses more of a buttercream frosting, which is delicious, but I thought we’d have some fun “painting” with the royal icing. Most of the royal icing recipes you’ll find ask you to make it with raw egg whites, but I wasn’t comfortable with that, especially since I’m feeding these sugar bullets to kids! Instead, I used meringue powder. I happened to have some in the pantry, but you can find this at specialty groceries and Michaels craft store (so I’ve heard). And low and behold, it can be found on Amazon.

Recipe for Royal Icing

  • 1/8 cup Meringue Powder
  • 1/4 cup Cold Water
  • 2 cups sifted Confectioners Sugar

Add water to meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar into the mixture and beat until it’s the desired consistency. Add more sugar for stiffer icing.

I fit the disposable piping bag with a small, round #4 tip, gave my daughter a few suggestions on how to hold and squeeze the bag, and let her go to town. We started with white icing, and then I mixed the remaining icing with all natural yellow food coloring on my daughter’s request.

Once the icing firmed up, we moved the cookies to a nice, clean plate where we could admire our handiwork.

And eat some cookies.

Mmmm, I hate to say this, but these gingerbread bites rivaled those from the original recipe.

I picked up three more boxes today. Yum yum.

Next up: Ginger Bread Houses!

What are you baking for the holidays (with or without the kids)?

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