I thoroughly enjoyed an early Christmas gift this last week. I spent the weekend with my grandchildren, aged 4 1/2 and 3. They live in another state some 12 hours away (or even 14, if I happen to get lost on the way), but the trip was a total success.
The kids opened their Christmas toys early so we could play with them, which is a great perk for any grandparent. I don't usually like battery-operated toys - they have a whole lot more natural energy than I do, so I wanted something to burn off some of that energy. Both games were a big success, even when the sound effects became annoying.
In addition to the usual pastimes of games, reading and playing with Thomas the Tank Engine trains, I cautiously tried out the new trampoline in the backyard. We had a ball, even though I wasn't anywhere near as agile as the kids.
One of my favorite memory-makers with the kids was to build individual gingerbread houses for each of them, which is a tradition we started last year. We all put on aprons, including some I had made for the kids with gingerbread on them. Given how young the grandkids are, we opted to use graham crackers to speed up the process and keep it geared toward their relatively short attention spans.
To make gingerbread houses this fast & easy way, you will need a box of graham crackers, a pound of powdered sugar, water, food coloring and assorted candies for decorating. We had an eclectic mixture of candy to include their favorites, such as gummy goldfish, as well as gum drops, miniature candy canes and M&Ms.
We carved the crackers into squares for the walls because they did not cooperate in breaking evenly and dry-fit them around a smaller floor section. The roof was two more squares, plus a square cut diagonally for the end pieces. The frosting we made was super simple - 2 cups of powdered sugar blended with 3 Tablespoons of warm water until smooth. Add more water if needed and a few drops of food coloring if desired.
To keep the kids occupied while my son & I assembled the two houses, I gave them each a plate of graham cracker pieces in various broken shapes covered with a dab of frosting. They delighted in sprinkling the "cookies" with colored sugar, red hots & M&Ms. They had a ball and grinned each time they popped one in their mouth.
We found it worked well to put a bit of frosting on a plate to anchor the walls while the frosting set. We assembled the roofs separately until set, then attached them on top of the walls.
Once the houses were firm, the kids decided how to decorate them with just a little help from us. Who says gummy goldfish don't belong on a house? We had a great time building gingerbread houses and memories.
As soon as the houses were decorated, the kids were ready to eat them, which may have been the most exciting part of the afternoon. Daddy made a loud growling noise and took a huge bite out of each roof, while the kids happily broke the walls apart.