Blogger Abby Johnson

Gingerbread Houses: Best Practices

‘Tis the season when many children’s and teen librarians are offering gingerbread house programs at their libraries!  It got me thinking.  I know how we do ours, but I wonder what other interesting things librarians are doing.

Here’s a little about what we do:

Our Gingerbread House Worksop is an annual December program that’s been held at our library for over 10 years.  Almost all of the supplies we use are donated by local stores.  This year we received gift card donations from several Kroger grocery stories, Target, and Meijer.  We also received a donation of royal icing from Jay-C (another local grocery chain) and we received small milk cartons (cleaned out) from one of our local schools.

We use graham crackers instead of actual gingerbread.  When each child arrives, he or she gets a sturdy paper plate with a milk carton, graham crackers, a cup of icing, and a plastic knife.  Children “glue” the graham crackers onto the side and top of the milk carton and then use icing to attach decorative candy.

We set up tables all around the room for families to sit while they make their creations and we have several large tables in the center with bowls of candy.  We ask each child to take a plate and to take only one spoonful of each candy in order to make sure it all lasts.

This year, we’re printing out simple instructions to have at each place.  We’ll also be 1) offering bags for them to take their houses home and 2) asking that they leave their creations in the room if they want to go into other parts of the library to look for books.  (I was informed by our Reference manager that in previous years children have created quite a mess by eating their houses upstairs in the Reference area while parents used the computers and looked for books… Yikes!)

We require advance registration and for the past couple of years we have offered a morning and an afternoon session.  We have several wonderful teen volunteers that help us with set up and keeping a handle on things during the program.  They help hand out materials, clean up spills, fetch additional supplies for people, etc.

So, that’s what we do.  Here are a few other library gingerbread programs that I know of:

Sarah of YA Librarian Tales did a Gingerbread House program with her teens.

Jennifer at the Solon (IA) Public Library does an annual Gingerbread House Decorating program and she’s posted lots of pictures.

Jennifer at the Matheson Memorial Library (WI) shared pictures of her Gingerbread House program.

How about you?  Anyone else do a gingerbread house program?  Do you use real gingerbread or graham crackers?  Do you have any tips?

What are best practices for gingerbread house programs?

Abby Johnson, Children’s Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN


  1. Melissa

    We have done a similar program for several years now. The only thing we do differently is we prefab the houses. This takes some extra work but then the houses are totally edible and we don’t have to clean out milk cartons. A couple of days before the event we take graham crackers and “glue” them together with Royal Icing, an icing that dries rock hard. Then we leave them out to dry and they are ready for the kids to decorate. A very fun and popular program every year.

  2. Serena

    Every year, in our children’s department we do a family craft session called “Santa’s Workshop”. This year, the main activity was to decorate gingerbread Christmas trees. One of our employees made the gingerbread trees at home and brought them in to be decorated with candy. The trees were large enough to be a snack for a family of four. The cost to do two sessions with eight families per session was under $20 CAD.

    This seemed like a simpler way to do gingerbread decorating without the trouble of fabricating the houses. It was a fun and well-recieved program.

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