It's such a fun time with my daughter! She's getting "into" crafty things and doing projects with me. Every year I try to do a "Christmas craft" which is usually an ornament, and this year I'll do the same, but I added gingerbread houses to the list.
I found some ideas on pinterest and online and armed with a few ingredients I went to work and one night after dinner we all decorated our houses. It was so much fun!
While my daughter was napping I assembled the house and the bases.
First I cut the graham crackers. Each house uses 4 full crackers. You cut two in half (for the two sides and two roof pieces) and you cut two on an angle creating the end of the house. I drew a diagram here so you can see how it cut them. I simply put them on a cutting board and used a bread knife to gently saw apart the crackers. Not one broke where they should not have. Set the scraps aside.
I then used the small boxes I had and cut them with a knife and covered them with foil. This served as the base of my houses.
i began to mix up the royal frosting. I used 1/4 of the recipe below and it was enough to put together and decorate all four houses. If I were to do this next time, I'd use 1/2 a recipe so I could put snow on the "ground" of the foil bases. I didn't because I really didn't want to whip up more frosting. Also, making 1/4 of the amount in my mixer was a tad challenging because of the small amount in the mixer. When the frosting is done, put it in a decorator bag with a tip. (Also see note about green tree frosting.)
Then I assembled the houses. Just pay attention to where you affix the pieces, my first house was a little lopsided, but the others were great. Just run a line of frosting along the edge of the pieces, affix them together and then run frosting on the bottom to affix it to the foil covered base.
When I was done affixing the houses to the bases, I covered the tip of my frosting bag and saved my frosting for later. It worked fine for this project, it didn't harden and we had just enough as I said above.
I felt like it worked best if one person handled the frosting and the other decorated. I put frosting on the houses for my daughter and husband and the two of them affixed the candy. I knew my daughter wouldn't be able to do it by herself, but my husband and I kept passing the bag back and forth, so next time I will just have a bag for him. If you were doing this with a group of kids, I'd recommend 1 adult per two kids, with the adult affixing frosting and the kids adding the candy.
For the ice cream cone trees, I had white frosting left over in my fridge that I colored green. I ended up using two cones per tree because it was just easier to affix it to the base when you weren't touching green frosting! It would be hard to frost after the cones were affixed to the base only because my bases were smaller and the trees were pretty close to the house.
And yes, my daughter "sampled" a lot of the treats. She asked repeatedly what things were. She tried a gumdrop eagerly, and then half way through eating it said she didn't like it and spit it out. She dove into the mini m&ms and had gummy apple rings, gummy bears and smarties. It was great having all of the candies organized in the muffin tin, making cleanup easy and all of the items accessible.
(1 box made these four houses and when I was finished cutting all the pieces, I had 1 entire package and two whole graham crackers left. Most boxes come with 3 packages inside. Hope this helps to guestimate how many boxes to purchase.)
I picked up most of these items at the bulk food store and used them for decorations.
shredded wheat cereal
gummy apple circles
mint flavored pink, green and yellow chocolate chips
animal crackers (I picked out the cute bears)
sugar (ice cream) cones
Royal Icing Recipe (there are LOTS of these recipes online)
3 Tablespoons Meringue Powder
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar
6 Tablespoons warm water
Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at low speed with a heavy duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand mixer). You may need to add more water for softer icing, one Tablespoon at a time.
Make 3 cups
QUARTER RECIPE that I used
1 Tablespoon Meringue Powder
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tablespoons warm water
*Remember I had left-over icing in the fridge for the green trees.