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The holiday season has gotten hijacked in some ways, by the hustle and bustle. There are sales and deals to buy more and more and invites to seemingly endless obligatory holiday events, which leave mamas and their families feeling overwhelmed and burned out. Yes, that’s the opposite of the intended holiday spirit. Instead of focusing on physical gifts to convey feelings of caring, what if we gave the gift of quality time and special memories instead?
Streamlining what truly matters has made the holiday season much more enjoyable and special for our family. We buy a few gifts and don’t attempt to attend every holiday gathering. The holiday meals we make are delicious, but not elaborate. With the time saved by stepping back from the hustle and bustle, we have created more space for quality time with family and friends.
One of my favorite ways to spend quality time with our friends who also have toddlers is to build gingerbread houses together! As a child, making gingerbread houses was a fun holiday activity that I looked forward to every year. It’s funny, I’d totally forgotten about that until I had my own children and now I’m excited to reignite the tradition! These 5 tips show how fun and easy hosting a gingerbread house party event can be:
- Short guest list. Invite your 3 closest mom friends and their families. (Dads are particularly fun to include because they’re often more skilled at construction. We joked we needed to give the husbands a week to draft their blueprints and test mock-ups with magnatiles :-P) Including your own toddler that’s a total of four toddlers and probably the maximum for this type of activity.
- Healthy meal or snacks. It’s important to ensure toddlers are filled with nutritious food and especially so in an attempt to reduce the amount of snacking on the sugary building materials. We know how busy the day can be, so make it easy on your mama friends and provide this option for all the kiddos! Okay, so the meal I picked this year isn’t exactly “healthy”, but it’s still better than a sugar-only dinner 😉 This Bacon Cheeseburger Soup with pretzel rolls was a major hit!
- Strong base. Cut a cardboard box or purchase some flat cardboard or thick foam to serve as a base for the gingerbread houses, and cover them with foil. (If you have an extra-large base the wide grilling foil is handy!) If you want to simplify, you could use a large paper plate, but I like the idea of not limiting creativity by providing ample space for construction and/or little paths, extra trees, and whatever else they may think of.
- Frosting. This is the perfect “firm-hold” frosting that you’ll need to “glue” all the bits together. (If you want to purchase containers of frosting, just add a little powdered sugar to firm them up ;-)) This cheap set of frosting tips and bags is a great way to ensure creative capabilities. You could also create a thinner version of the frosting by adding more liquid so it could be used for creating icicles or drizzling in general. Be SURE the butter is at room temperature before you decide to start making the frosting. Also, this frosting is very sensitive to liquid, so using gel colors to achieve rich color without creating runny frosting is ideal. I also like to make the frosting the day before so it’s one less thing to do the day of, but if you choose to go that route, be sure to take it out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours prior to the party time or it will be too firm to use.
- Building materials. Okay, so technically we make graham cracker houses since that’s what we use instead of baking gingerbread in molds 😀 (I’m not a great baker and I’m lazy, so baking prior to the building activity feels like way too much work.) Graham crackers mean no baking AND the kiddos will be inspired to create unique designs without the limitations of a gingerbread house template 😉 (I also get cinnamon graham crackers for variety.) Select a wide variety of candy and invite others to bring candy, too. It’s always fun to see what creative ideas other parents have for types of candy to use and to see how creative little minds are inspired to use them. Some people make a standard house and invite people over just for the decoration portion, but I find a lot of fun in seeing what type of structures people come up with on their own. Plus this year I saw how my son absolutely glowed with excitement and pride as he got to build something with his daddy. (He had so much fun he even requested making gingerbread houses for his birthday next year – perhaps that will become a new tradition, as well!)
- Bonus points: Purchase candy molds of Christmas trees, stockings, etc and a variety of colored candy melts and prepare these chocolate treats in advance for kiddos to adorn their gingerbread homes with.
If there’s a holiday party that you’re dreading, maybe you shouldn’t attend, and instead host an amazing gingerbread house party instead! If quality time with friends is energizing and joyful for you, making gingerbread houses together is a fantastic activity to do together. This tradition can be something that you look forward to during the holiday season instead of forcing yourself to do other activities that leave you feeling burned out.
Do you have an annual holiday activity that you love hosting? Please share about it in the comments!