Planning starts days in advance, each team holding secret meetings to discuss strategy. The rivalry is fierce. Siblings compete, grandparents judge, and a winning team is announced.
Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my family’s annual gingerbread house competition, a holiday tradition we love so much that we’ve continued it into adulthood. As our family has expanded with the addition of spouses, in-laws, and kids, the competition has grown along with us. Each year the themes are more creative and the designs more impressive. In addition to the traditional Norman Rockwell-style houses, over the years we have also made an igloo, a tiki hut, a lighthouse, an adobe-style home, and even a military tank. Now my daughters absolutely love our sweet family tradition (pun intended) and I feel a mixture of joy and nostalgia watching them use creativity and imagination to construct their designs.
As I watch them play, I notice differences in how they learn at various stages in their own development. My 4-year-old is honing key skills for social and emotional wellness, including patience, flexibility and collaboration while learning how to articulate her ideas. Little sis is only 2, so she’s busy mastering her fine motor skills. Gathering the materials helps develop strength and coordination, while using the small pieces to decorate improves her dexterity.
At the Glazer Children’s Museum, we celebrate the holidays with Gingerbread Village, sponsored by Macy’s. From Decemeber 15-30, 2018, little learners can build their own gingerbread-inspired houses from recycled materials and everyday objects like cardboard, pipe cleaners and bottle caps, then add their house to our growing village. Parents can enjoy this festive holiday activity knowing that real learning is happening beneath the surface. Building gingerbread houses encourages kids to learn the four basic steps of engineering–draft, test, prototype and finalize–through experimentation. They’re developing creative planning skills as they plan their concept, determine the supplies they need, and figure out how to meld creativity with structural integrity.
You can continue the merry making at home this holiday season by creating your own version of a gingerbread house challenge. You could replicate my family competition, challenge your kids to build the tallest house possible or collaborate together on a family gingerbread house. And don’t forget add the Gingerbread Village at the Glazer Children’s Museum to your list of holiday traditions!
More holiday fun in Tampa Bay: