Childhood during the holidays isn’t complete without some gingerbread men strewn into the mix. They’re delicious and the blend of ginger, molasses, and sugar makes for warming comfort food during the winter months.
Everyone can recognize the delicious sweet treat but do you know the story? It provides not only an amusing yet cautionary story but also a world of fabulous holiday crafting ideas.
A Quick Fable
There are several versions but the oldest one documented goes back to 1875 and it may very well be much older than that. So the story goes that a childless woman decided to bake a gingerbread man. When she pulled it out of the oven, the gingerbread man came to life and immediately ran away. She ran after to capture the gingerbread man but to no avail.
His entire journey involves a never-ending flight from danger, where he evades several animals wanting to eat him. He meets a cow, an owl, and ends with a fox who tricks him by making the gingerbread man think he’s going to help him across a stream. This mistaken trust leads to the gingerbread man’s ultimate demise.
Upon successful evasion, the animated cookie shouts laughs, and taunts at his predators; telling them to run all they like but they’ll never catch him.
Valuable Life Lessons
This classic story indicates two morals. The first is how we should not be foolish in trusting strangers, especially when they pretend to be helpful. The second is an advisory against hubris and arrogance; just because we skirt danger once doesn’t mean we should keep going and think we’ll be safe every time.
Gingerbread Men Crafts
This story provides plenty of ideas to create your own gingerbread men. Of course, you want to actually make some edible cookies but there are other things you can craft for fun, ornamentation, and gifts.
Fragrant Gingerbread Ornaments
Source: By Growing a Jeweled Rose, “Gingerbread Clay Recipe” (https://www.growingajeweledrose.com/2013/11/gingerbread-clay-recipe.html)
This inedible recipe is great to make tree ornaments, wall hangings, or containers for pencils, utensils, or coasters. These could even act as dolls for children to reenact the tale. The possibilities are endless when sculpting clay gingerbread men.
- 1 Cup Corn Starch
- 1 ½ Cup Cold Water
- 2 Cups Baking Soda
- 1 tbsp Cinnamon
- 1 tsp each of Ground Ginger and Clove
- REPLACEMENT – use essential oils instead of spices
- Brown Food Dye (optional)
- Moistened Towel
- 1 Stiff Straw
- Boiling Pot
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Wax or Parchment Paper and/or Aluminum Foil
- Rolling Pin
- Gingerbread Men Cookie Cutters
- Baking Sheet
- Paint & Paintbrush
How to Make It
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, stir all ingredients, except food dye, until well incorporated and it’s the consistency of stiff mashed potatoes.
- Place into a large mixing bowl, cover with a moist towel and allow it to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 200°F while kneading the clay with clean, dry hands. Add food dye and more spice as you wish.
- You may have to add more cornstarch if the clay is sticky or more water if the clay isn’t adhering together right.
- Place the dough between two pieces of wax or parchment paper and use the rolling pin to flatten the mixture until about ½ to ¼ inch thick.
- Cut out your gingerbread men with the cookie cutters and use the straw to make a hole. This will give you a place to put string, yarn, embroidery floss, ribbons, etc for hanging.
- Cover the baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and place your gingerbread men on it, ensuring they don’t touch. But you could have some holding hands to denote mom and dad, siblings, or friends by pressing the hands together.
- Put it into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until they are hard and baked through.
- Allow these to cool completely before decorating with eyes, buttons, and a white outline. Look up photos and artwork of gingerbread men if you need ideas.
Source: By Kids Activities, “Christmas Preschool Craft with Play Dough Gingerbread Man” (https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/21858/christmas-preschool-craft/)
For fun that never ends, you can make gingerbread playdough to give your little angel hours of enjoyment and creativity. If your child is prone to putting things in their mouth, this is not the activity for them.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Large Kitchen Spoon
- Large Mixing Bowl
- 1 ½ Cups Boiling Hot Water
- 2 Cups Flour
- ½ Cup Salt
- 2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar
- 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
- ½ tsp each: Ground Ginger, Nutmeg, and Cinnamon (you can replace spices with essential oils)
How to Make It
- Combine cream of tartar, spices, vegetable oil, salt, and flour into the large mixing bowl. If using essential oils, wait to add the scent.
- Next, an adult or responsible adolescent should stir the hot water into the flour mixture while stirring until it forms into a sticky ball. Allow this to cool.
- Add essential oils, if using, and knead the dough until well incorporated and smooth. Add more flour if it’s too sticky or more water if it’s not sticking together.
- Play, shape and mold the clay with cookie cutters. Sculpt the clay into anything you or your child can imagine, not just gingerbread men. You can use objects for decoration and carving detail like buttons, beads, toothpicks, plastic silverware and etc.
- Store the playdough in an airtight container when not in use so that it will keep for a while.
- Adults should always supervise while making the playdough and when children play with it. But, you want to delegate tasks to the child and make them part of the process every step of the way.
- Do not let children eat this under any circumstances. The high salt content should make it undesirable enough but seek medical attention in the case of ingestion.
Paper Gingerbread Men
Source: By Sam @ Simple Everyday Mom, “Gingerbread Man Paper Bag Puppet Craft,” (https://www.simpleeverydaymom.com/gingerbread-man-paper-bag-puppet/)
By Stacey Gibbon @ Glued to My Craft, “Paper Plate Gingerbread Man” (https://www.gluedtomycraftsblog.com/2014/12/paper-plate-gingerbread-man-kid-craft.html)
Of course, you can always make gingerbread men out of things like brown paper bags, paper plates, or cardboard. This offers a great many possibilities to create little villages, families, gifts, ornaments, wall hangings, and refrigerator art.
This entire project can comprise things you have at home, which will teach children about resourcefulness and creativity on several levels. So, it’s advisable to spend as little money on this as possible. Be sure to investigate all the versions of the stories and plan out how you want to depict them with your child.
Material & Crafting Ideas
Collect things like paints, markers, crayons, colored pencils, glitter, ribbons, odds of gift wrap, bows, buttons, chalk, glue, scissors, tape, and pens. You could even collect things like stones, twigs, dead leaves, and pine cones from the yard. Old cosmetics will work also.
Allow creativity to run unabashed and wild! You could paint or make paper cutouts of the entire gingerbread man fable – woman, cow, owl, fox, and all for the playroom wall. A diorama could make for an interesting 3D display under Christmas trees or on fireplaces.
Creating Gingerbread Men
Gingerbread men’s crafts with children are an exhilarating way to spend the holidays. It allows for passing down the gingerbread man tradition while learning important lessons about trust and humility. Regardless of which artistic suggestion you do, make sure you include yourself in each aspect of the process and reflect on the story while crafting your cute gingerbread men.