Why make the same old gingerbread house when you can get creative and turn that tradition in to a new gingerbread STEAM project?!
This is a great time of year to spend quality time with your kids. I always find it is a whole lot easier to enjoy our time together if we have a project that we can all work on. Otherwise, my kids devolve into the desire to just watch a movie, which is awesome when we are all chomping on popcorn in our zip-up jammies, but also, not quite the memories we will look back upon in ten years time.
There are a ton of fun STEAM projects you can do this time of year that will blur the line between science and art while also making decorations you can have around the house. In the past, we have created LED ornaments, little light up reindeer faces, cooked up window hangers and more.
You can get some great STEAM ideas from our current holiday science experiments list from this year. But, I also have a creative, and tasty gingerbread STEAM project idea that builds upon last year’s gingerbread house creation.
Gingerbread And STEAM
To give credit where credit is due, this really came from my kids, who wanted to make a gingerbread house but didn’t want to make a gingerbread house. I agree, it’s a confusing proposition at first. My 4 year old really wanted to make a model of a cheese cracker as the family gingerbread house, which got nixed after she realized we couldn’t think of much in the way of candy topping decorations (although if you have ideas, I’m sure she would welcome them and go back to wanting to make the model).
My eight year old pitched an idea that would cater to my 4-year-olds love of unicorns, and her love of ugly sweaters, which turned out to be a pretty fabulous exercise in negotiation, communication, and idea building. So this year, instead of creating the age-old holiday engineering tradition of assembling a gingerbread house we opted to build a rainbow ugly sweater unicorn dancing in the clouds. Seriously.
Using STEAM Concepts
STEAM concepts were used right from the beginning of this gingerbread STEAM project. The girls used geometry to draw paper templates for the unicorn body and headpieces. In addition, they practiced their spatial visualization skills when determining how many pieces of each rectangle or square they would need. This can be trickier than at first glance since many kids will forget one or two faces of their rectangular solid. Plus, they have to match up the lengths of sides to create the ends of the solid. Math also came in handy while doubling our recipe of gingerbread.
Engineering came in handy while discussing the different frosting types we could use. We discussed whether we should use the same frosting mix for construction as we did for decoration. What type of frosting would we need to glue the unicorn together? What sort of frosting would we need to create a blended rainbow sweater?
Can we make both frostings with the same ingredients? This was a mind-blowing moment for my 4-year-old who was adamant we needed completely different ingredients.
When she saw how the addition of water made the stiffer frosting flow, however, she learned about how mixtures depend on the quantities of wet and dry ingredients, and that the same ingredients could produce very different structural frostings! This was a very tasty lesson, because we, of course, had to see if thick and thin frostings taste the same!
Problem-solving was exercised when we were at the dollar store gathering candy (this is my go-to secret for creating gingerbread creations that don’t break the bank). My girls had the task of finding options that would look good on our unicorn. Ultimately we settled on gumball eyes, Nerd ‘pom-poms’ in the ugly sweater, sour gummy worms for the rainbow mane, and gaudy gold Rolos for the horn (which emphatically trumped my idea of a sugar cone horn).
So much math, science, critical thinking, planning and cooperation already, not to mention the art side of decorating! Needless to day, taking our gingerbread house mindset out of the box really opened up a fun and creative avenue for us to learn all of these skills with a whole lot of laughter. So I urge you to try the same.
What interesting thing could you make instead of a gingerbread house this year? Will it be from Minecraft or My Little Pony?
Will it be a common day object or something from the future?
Your imaginations can dust off this holiday tradition and build some seriously amazing memories in the process with your own gingerbread STEAM project.
Dr Erica Saint Clair blogs her real, fun science adventures with her kids on RosieResearch.com. You can also find her in an online classroom at Outschool. Dr. Erica has her PhD in Molecular Biophysics from Boston University but left the lab life behind when she realized how much her kids were missing out on in their early childhood science projects.