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    Gingerbread Houses
    By Kathy

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    I've done gingerbread houses for years and it's great fun for this age group--really lets them show their creativity.

    In the past, I've used graham crackers for the houses, but actually milk cartons work better because they don't fall apart! You can cover them with the edible glue before decorating them. (You could even color the "glue" if you want to get fancy.)

    If you use the graham cracker houses make sure they have plenty of time to dry before decorating them as it's very frustrating for all concerned when they collapse! (The ideal thing would be to have a room mom come in the day before and make one or two for each child. It's kind of hard for this age group--especially if you have a large class.)

    Some of the things you will need for this project:

    Cake boards to set the display on (Cardboard covered with aluminum foil also works well, but takes a lot of time unless you have a mom who would do it for you!)

    "Edible Glue" (You need lots--there's nothing worse than running out! I have parents make this and send it in--one less thing for you to do!!)

    Plastic knives to spread glue

    Christmas candy to decorate houses and yards--You can get whatever you want, but some I almost always get from year to year are:
    Candy canes (small ones work best)
    Pretzels (for fences)
    Gummy Bears or Grammy Bears
    Christmas tree cookies
    Chocolate covered snowmen or Santas
    Peppermints (Red and green)
    Licorice sticks (String for decorating)
    Red and green M & M's
    Red and green gumdrops
    Graham crackers
    Red hots

    The list could go on and on...but you get the idea. I usually make a list of what I want and then assign each student something to bring that goes into a "class pile." The first year I bought all the materials myself and I'll never do that again!! It makes a real showy project and I've never had parents complain about sending things in. I save the leftover candy from year to year. (And warn the children they should not eat their project because of the old candy!!)

    You can make a really cute train out of Snickers bars. If you do that, have each student bring, 3 Snickers bars, a roll of life savers (for the light)and a Reeses peanut butter cup for the bell in addition to the candy or edible glue you've assigned. You can use one of those orange slices for a cowcatcher. They are really cute!

    You have to go step by step with making the train, but they can use their creativity with decorating their houses.

    Some things I've found helpful:
    Cover the floor area where the children are working as the "glue" is really hard to get out of the carpet. A plastic table cloth or paper on the desk/table area also helps in clean-up.

    Organize the candy the night before so it is set our for children. I usually put signs up by the candy and only let the children take so many of each kind. (Otherwise they tend to stockpile the candy inside the houses which defeats the whole purpose!!) Also, all unused candy goes back to the table. (If they know this rule upfront, they won't be as tempted to take more than they need.)

    I have sometimes let them choose one or two pieces to eat before we start the project (or at the end) which keeps them from asking to eat it throughout the project. You have to put them in the mindset that the candy is an art medium, not a food!!

    I think you will have great fun with this project! We always do!!!

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