Monday, December 23, 2019

Mini 'Gingerbread' Houses II - Family STEAM Program

Mini Gingerbread house program, graham cracker houses

I did everything for the second round of building mini "gingerbread" houses pretty much the same as I did the first time, except that I raised the registration limit from 30 to 36. Since the first one went so smoothly I realized that I could easily accommodate that many, and since we always have no-shows I figured I needed to up it to 36 to get 30 anyway.

I've already written up all the details about materials needed, budget, etc., in my prior post, "Mini Gingerbread Houses", so I'll just quickly summarize here. Each session required about $75 in supplies for 30 houses, using graham crackers and canned icing. No pre-assembly was done, the only "glue" used was canned icing (no royal icing required, and most definitely no hot glue 😖), and no milk cartons or boxes). Participants were given brief instructions, tips for construction, and shown a few examples, then had the rest of the hour to free-build and decorate their houses.

Mini gingerbread house program for kids, graham cracker houses

While this session did go very well, there were some distinct differences from the first session. First of all, I ran into a LOT more broken graham crackers; in the first session I had maybe 2 crackers that were broken in the box, but there were at least 20 broken ones in the second session! I have no idea why, as they were the same brand, purchased from the same store at the same time, and stored in the same place. It was very frustrating and cost me several minutes of set-up time, but thankfully I had purchased an excess of crackers in case this happened. 

mini gingerbread house program for families, graham cracker houses

I also noticed the demographics of the crowd was quite a bit different from the first. In the first session I had mostly moms with younger kids in the 3-8 age range, but in the second I saw more older kids and teenagers, including two teens who came together rather than with family, a family who brought a couple of adult friends with them, and a mom that came by herself. So clearly this is an activity that appeals to all ages.

Mini gingerbread house program for kids, graham cracker houses

And finally, I noticed that in the second group I observed more people making up their own designs rather than building the typical square or rectangular house with a gabled roof. I saw one that looked something like a cross between art deco and Chichen Itza, one that resembled a pagoda, and one that reminded me of a house of cards, plus several with flat roofs.

Graham cracker structures STEM program

Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I didn't notice anyone getting frustrated. I got lots of compliments and "thank you"s, and some expressing the hope that we do it again next year (and I certainly hope to).

Gingerbread STEM program, graham cracker houses, mini gingerbread house program for kids,

So, long story short:
  • Get plenty of extra graham crackers in case of breakage.
  • Royal icing is NOT necessary (or recommended).
  • Gingerbread house building can be a STEAM activity
  • Pre-assembly and milk carton bases are unnecessary, and deprive participants of the opportunity to use their imagination, creativity, engineering, and problem-solving skills.
  • All ages enjoy making gingerbread houses, making it a perfect multi-generational program.
  • Must-have candies for decorating are mini candy canes, gum drops, starlight mints, and small candies like mini M&M's and/or Smarties. Cinnamon candies were not popular.

Gingerbread STEAM program, mini gingerbread house program, graham cracker houses for kids


  1. Thanks so much for all your tips and knowledge sharing! We hope to do this at my library next year (we do it for teens now but want to make it all ages going forward), so it's really helpful!

    1. You're very welcome! I was really pleased with how well this went, and hope to do it again next year. It was a lot of work setting up (mainly filling the piping bags with icing in advance to save time since we only had an hour, but if you schedule a slightly longer time, you could let the adults/teens do that part themselves at the beginning; I may try that next time). Thanks for stopping by, and I appreciate the comments!