gingerbreadhouse kit science and engineeringEvery year when December comes around my kids are ecstatic to make our DIY gingerbread house. We often go all out, making our own dough in a cast iron skillet (which is called for in the recipe), cutting out the pieces by hand, and assembling them eagerly. This year I thought about running a test to see which is better – making our own DIY gingerbread house, or creating one from a gingerbread house kit.

What is a gingerbread house kit? Go to any store after Thanksgiving and you will see the baked good section lined with big boxes of gingerbread house kits. These kits have everything you need to put together your gingerbread house: a base, pre-cut and baked pieces of gingerbread, icing, and candy.

Why will your kids love making a gingerbread house? Whether you make your own gingerbread house from a recipe, or you use a gingerbread house kit, your kids will enjoy putting together and decorating the house. Most kids love to create art, and gingerbread houses are the perfect vehicle for 3D art, pattern creation, imagination, and engineering.

Gingerbread houses for all ages. Whether you are two, twenty, or beyond, you will have a blast engineering and designing a gingerbread house. If you have a wide age range of kids in your house, this is a great project to keep them all busy, engaged, and entertained while you have a little R&R.

Making gingerbread houses might not seem like an obvious science activity, but you and your kids will learn so much as you are doing this project.

Science you can learn while making a gingerbread house

  • Structural engineering principles
  • Geometry
  • Spatial reasoning
  • Pattern recognition and creation
  • Chemistry and chemical reactions (for DIY gingerbread houses)
  • Logistical planning

What you need to make a Gingerbread house:

  1. Gingerbread Recipe
  2. Gingerbread house patterns
  3. Gingerbread house icing (Here is a recipe without eggs)
  4. Decorations (candy, pretzels, crackers, etc)

Or, you can purchase a gingerbread house kit…

Which one wins? DIY Gingerbread house vs. a Gingerbread House Kit

So when you are ready to engage in some delicious structural engineering and pattern design, which option should you choose? Each option has their own strengths and weaknesses.

DIY Gingerbread House Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Flexibility in design
  • Family time
  • Ingredient integrity
  • Scalability
  • Allows you to explore structural engineering

Cons

  • Time
  • Structure stabilization
  • Vision disconnect (ie, your house might not look like what you were thinking, which can be difficult for lots of kids)

Gingerbread House Kit Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ready to go out of the box.
  • Everythings included
  • Allows you to explore structural engineering
  • Time

Cons

  • Ingredient integrity
  • Taste
  • Design freedom

Check out our other fun winter crafts!

Which is better?

Well, that depends. Time is a pro for the gingerbread house kit, but only if you are looking for a quick one-and-done type of activity for your kids. If you are looking to fill a whole day that time pro suddenly moves into the other column. I really love that the gingerbread house kits are ready to go out of the box, you can pick one up after breakfast and have your houses built and decorated before lunch.

With a gingerbread house kit, you won’t need to worry about buying various types of candies or crackers to decorate because you already have them in hand. On the other hand, having my kids pick out their candies from the candy aisle and seeing them use a ton of different types on their houses really gives me, personally, a lot of joy.

The taste winner is hands down the homemade DIY gingerbread houses. The homemade gingerbread house we make every year is the highlight of our big family get together dessert. It tastes phenomenal. Together we have devoured an entire village of gingerbread houses in under an hour. The gingerbread house kits, on the other hand, lack the spices and richness of homemade gingerbread dough. I think they taste a little bit like cardboard. To be fair, I don’t think the gingerbread house kits are really meant to be eaten, so keep that in mind if you are planning to eat it one day.

Both a DIY gingerbread house and a gingerbread house kit will allow your kids to learn about structural engineering, and how to stabilize pieces as the cement frosting hardens, so it’s a wash in that category. However, kids will learn a lot more science creating their own DIY gingerbread houses since they will engage in baking, cutting, and geometrical planning.

If you have kids that don’t like a whole lot of choice in structural design the gingerbread house kits are perfect. They will quickly create a four sided, easily roofed house. If your kids are more interested in creating towers, decks, porches, side barns, dog houses, etc, however, the DIY gingerbread house is a better way to go. This one again really depends on the creativity you and your kids want to put into the project.

The history of gingerbread houses and the rise of the gingerbread house kit.

Gingerbread has been around since seemingly the dawn of time. OK, it wasn’t around with the dinosaurs, but one of the first records of gingerbread being made is from 2400BC in Greece. That is a long time ago. It wasn’t until Queen Elizabeth I that the cookies started to get their decorations, however. In the 16th century, Germany took the decorated gingerbread to a whole new level when they began creating elaborate gingerbread houses, often decorated with silver and gold foil.

The popularity of gingerbread houses exploded when one particular fairy tale gained the hearts of the public, the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel. In the story, Hansel and Gretel stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is when this fairy tale came out that gingerbread houses started taking on the look and feel that we know of today.

Flash forward to present day and our love of gingerbread houses is still going strong. In 2013 a new world record was set for the largest gingerbread house – and this really was a house.  It covered 2,520 square feet, rose 21 feet, and rang in at more than 35 million calories. The recipe called for nearly 2,000 pounds of butter, more than 7,000 eggs, and more than 7,000 pounds of flour! To keep it all standing they had a wooden structure inside.

The gingerbread house kit is a recent development, one rooted in commercial interests and the drastic decrease in free time that many families are experiencing. These gingerbread house kits can come pre-cut, or pre-built, and have everything you need to make the traditional holiday treat!