How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (2023)

One of my favorite holiday traditions growing up was making a gingerbread house.

We had a heavy duty cast iron mold that my mom baked gingerbread in. My dad always assembled the house, and my sisters and I would decorate it with candy (and eat a ton in the process). It was a fun, creative, and delicious way to spend an evening together as a family.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (1)

When my oldest was a toddler, I wanted to introduce him to the magic of making a gingerbread house but didn’t want to take on quite so much prep work.

I found the inexpensive and awesome Trader Joe’s gingerbread kit. While it’s a little light on the decorations, it’s still a thrilling gingerbread house experience.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (2)

Food Allergies and the Holidays

Fast forward a few years, and little sister is at the age where she’s able to experience the magic of gingerbread house making. However, due to some potentially life-threatening food allergies, I needed to make sure that there was a way she could still participate and keep everyone safe.

With all our cardboard crafting, it occurred to me, why not make a cardboard gingerbread house?!

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (3)

Late night stress crafting during the 2020 election gave me time to cut out cardboard pieces and hot glue them together.

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How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (4)

Then I painted peppermint stripes onto wine cork slices to make peppermint candies (it was actually a very calming and therapeutic activity).

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We already had some upcycled plastic sprinkles made from Bunch O Balloons tubes. And the kids helped me make heart shapes out of recycled wrapping paper using our little heart hole punch.

I remembered a fun puffy paint recipe fromCrafty Morningthat I thought just might work as a royal icing replacement. So I mixed ¼ cup of shaving cream with ¼ cup of white craft glue in a plastic bag, mixed it together, and then cut the tip off a corner of the bag to use it as a piping bag. And it totally worked!!!

Here’s a picture of the big cardboard gingerbread house, frosted and pre-decorated.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (7)

We also made little trees from recycled egg carton pieces. They were as much of a hit as the gingerbread house.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (8)
How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (9)
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Cardboard gingerbread houses are the perfect, allergy-safe holiday art activity and holiday decoration. And I just love that they are made from mostly recycled pieces.

Winter Botanical House

With our abundant garden herbs, I also decided to make a cute winter botanical house using the garden herbs rosemary, sage, and oregano.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (10)
How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (11)

More Ways to Play

What I especially love about this project, is there are a ton of recycled things that can be used as decorations!

I could see using applesauce pouch lids to make a fun pathway, bread ties as house shingles, cut up cardboard or recycled artwork as stepping stones, painted popsicle sticks as a picket fence, really the options are endless.

And once the puffy paint fully dries you can paint over it, glue more stuff onto it, and really get wild with the decorations.

The shaving cream/glue combination also holds up pretty well and the kids had fun playing with the little houses too. There are Winnie the Pooh figures napping inside this particular house.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (12)

The cardboard gingerbread house makes a great activity to add to your Christmas Countdown Calendar this year! Check out my blog post about how to create a magical calendar to build excitement and fun this holiday season.

Allergy Friendly Treats

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (13)
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When I told the kids my cardboard gingerbread house idea, my son was a little skeptical since there wasn’t real candy to eat. I reassured him that we’ll have some safe treats to eat when we decorate the big cardboard gingerbread house I’m making for them.

Candy and treats that work with our family’s allergies include Enjoy Life Chocolates. They are delicious! I usually buy them at Thrive Market.

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In case you don’t know aboutThrive Market, it’s a wonderful online grocery store chock full of healthy and allergy friendly foods, cleaning supplies, health and beauty, and more. Their boxes are sturdy and great for recycled projects too!

We also like the Yum Earth Candy Canes and treats too! And you can get them at Thrive Market as well.

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And for a super simple, allergy friendly Christmas cookie idea, check out Sweet Loren’s Sugar Cookie dough! It is so incredibly tasty and a healthier, allergy friendly cookie.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (16)

When frosted with Simple Mill’s Vanilla Frosting they taste even better than the old school Lofthouse Cookies!

Simple Ideas

If a full on gingerbread house is a little too much for you this year, you can always cut out a gingerbread person or one dimensional house from cardboard and use the puffy paint icing recipe to decorate it.Mad Mini Things has a fun collage house post for inspiration!

By the way, even if your family doesn’t have food allergy issues and loves making real gingerbread houses, I still think you’ll enjoy creating a recycled version too!

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Directions

I created a gingerbread house template that you can print it, cut it out and put it on cardboard. Then trace around the template and cut out the shapes to make a mini house. Or you can use this as a general guide to make a larger cardboard gingerbread house.

If you’re planning to make several houses, you might play around with the angle at the top of the house and the size of the roof. You’ll notice in the picture at the very beginning of this post that my houses are a little different in shape. I think it adds some interest to the overall look if there’s more than one!

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (18)

Supplies For the House

Decorations

  • Bits of plastic straws or other small recycled pieces for sprinkles – We used upcycled Bunch O Balloons
  • Corks cut into small circles and painted to look like peppermints – to make these, I carefully cut the corks using a sharp knife and then painted each cork slice white. Next, I dipped a toothpick in red paint and pulled it through the white to create the marble effect
  • Recycled paper punch out shapes – we have a punch similar to this one
  • Other colorful recycled materials like pouch lids, bread fasteners, painted popsicle sticks, etc.
  • Fresh herbs, flowers, or other items found in nature
  • Egg carton centers cut out and painted to use as trees

Step By Step

  1. Cut gingerbread house pieces out of cardboard – template here
  2. Hot glue house together along edges. You can mount the house on a small cardboard box if desired
  3. Mix 1/4 cup shaving cream with 1/4 cup of white craft glue in a plastic bag. Knead together to mix. Close bag and cut corner. Pipe glue icing onto the cardboard house.
  4. Decorate wet icing with recycled candy, items found in nature, etc.
  5. Enjoy!(but don’t taste, obviously!)
How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (19)
How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (20)

It would be so cool to make a seaside house using sand and seashells from the beach. If your kids are into LEGOs, it might be fun to use spare parts in the decorations too.

You could even use acrylic paint markers and just draw onto your cardboard gingerbread house. Straight up craft paint would be fun too. And if you want a true candy experience, you can even decorate your cardboard house with real candy (just don’t lick the glue icing)!

Book Recommendation

If your kids are sweet treat obsessed like mine, The Story Orchestra, The Nutcracker book is one of our all time favorites! I love that it introduces them to the actual music from the Nutcracker too. There’s nothing cuter than a toddler humming the Nutcracker Suite.

How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (21)
How to Make a Cardboard Gingerbread House - Barefoot Carrot (22)
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And if you shop for books through Bookshop, you are able to support local bookstores. If you shop using my links, I also receive a small commission and appreciate your support!

What Will You Create?

If you try the cardboard gingerbread house, please share your pictures and experiences with us. We’d love to see what you create!

FAQs

What can I use instead of icing on a gingerbread house? ›

Well, TikTok user @tastyentertaining has the answer to all of our gingerbread house problems. She recommends using granulated sugar instead of royal icing to hold the walls together.

What can I use as a base for a gingerbread house? ›

Pick a solid base for your gingerbread house - either a flat cookie sheet, or a thick, sturdy piece of cardboard. If you want, line the base with aluminum foil or wax paper. Mortar the sides of the house with royal icing: Pipe a thick line of icing along a short end of one of the side pieces.

Should gingerbread house be hard or soft? ›

The gingerbread for houses needs to be hard and dry so it keeps its shape well – it's unlikely you'll want to eat it on the day you make it after all your hard work!

Do gingerbread houses attract bugs? ›

By far one of the most delicious holiday decorations, gingerbread houses attract the attention of guests and sugar-seeking bugs. How to Avoid a Humbug Christmas: Wrap the gingerbread house up at night and stick it in the fridge to keep from attracting insects.

Why does my gingerbread house fall apart? ›

Let it dry

“Most gingerbread disasters, collapses, and frustrations happen because the icing hasn't had an adequate amount of time to dry. It's not always easy for kids to be patient, so it's a good idea to have some other activity lined up in between steps to distract kids while they're waiting to work on the house.”

How do you make gingerbread houses without gingerbread? ›

Graham crackers are a better alternative to gingerbread house kits because not only are they expensive, they're nearly impossible to build. Building with graham crackers is easier because they are much lighter so they stand up much better and are less likely to collapse.

Can you use cardboard for a gingerbread house? ›

Cardboard gingerbread houses are the perfect, allergy-safe holiday art activity and holiday decoration. And I just love that they are made from mostly recycled pieces.

Is it cheaper to make your own gingerbread house? ›

If you're trying to keep holiday costs down, know that a completely DIY gingerbread house might not be cheaper than a kit you buy for less than $10. But we're guessing the DIY gingerbread will be tastier, and you'll be able to enjoy yourself while you make the cookies. Plus, you'll get extra bragging rights.

What age is gingerbread house for? ›

“A gingerbread house can be as holiday and Christmas-y as you make it,” she says. “No matter how much you celebrate Christmas, it's a great way to get anyone in the holiday spirit, and they probably won't go to more than one a year.” This party is good for all ages, but it works best for a group of kids aged 6 to 12.

How do you make a fast Bee gingerbread? ›

Using Mother Bear's Gingerbread House (1 for every 2 hours of playtime). Completing certain Beesmas 2021-exclusive quests rewarded a varying amount of Gingerbread Bears. As a rare drop from Fireflies.

Do you build a gingerbread house first or decorate first? ›

It really helps to bake the gingerbread one night, glue together the next day, and then leave a few hours the next day to decorate.

Are you supposed to eat your gingerbread house after you make it? ›

Gingerbread houses, once finished, are meant to be admired and appreciated, but not eaten.

Why are gingerbread houses not edible? ›

Yes, gingerbread houses are supposed to be edible. They are made from edible parts, like the gingerbread itself, the icing, the candy. It may not taste great, depending on how the items were made.

Do gingerbread houses grow mold? ›

Since cake is moister than cookies or a gingerbread house beware that cakes may form mold over time, but gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses are generally dry enough that they just become drier and denser.

Where do the Kardashians get their gingerbread houses? ›

The houses appear to be from the Solvang Bakery, which has been making elaborate, custom gingerbread houses for years. (Khloé Kardashian even seems to have gifted one to Kim Zolciak-Biermann in 2017.) And they don't just stop at Valentine's Day.

What color house repels bugs? ›

Bugs are naturally attracted to bright colors like white, yellow or orange. Colors like green and blue won't register as vividly when seen in the UV spectrum, deterring bugs away from these colored objects.

Why are gingerbread houses a Christmas thing? ›

The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest.

How long should you let your newly constructed gingerbread house dry before decorating? ›

After your house is fully assembled allow your house to dry for 2-3 hours prior to adding decorations. Granulated sugar is used to decorate candy pieces or frosting to achieve the look in pictures shown on the box.

Will hot glue work on a gingerbread house? ›

Once your gingerbread house pieces are cool and ready to go, you will need a strong glue to hold the pieces together. In my opinion, the best glue to use if you really want to make it stay is hot glue. Hot glue guns work wonders on gingerbread houses!

How long should gingerbread house dry before decorating? ›

How long does it take a gingerbread house to dry? Wilton suggests letting your gingerbread house dry for an hour in between putting up the walls and roof, and another two to three hours before decorating.

How do you keep a gingerbread house from collapsing? ›

1) Take a tip from the hobby modeler's toolkit, and use 't-pins' to hold all the bits together until the icing dries. 2) Try frosting the roof first, while it is laying flat, then assemble to the walls, and use those t-pins to hold it until dry. 3) Use 'royal icing' instead of regular, (even if thickened).

How do you make a strong gingerbread house? ›

So to make sure our walls could stand strong, we sandwiched melted marshmallow cement between two graham crackers. The marshmallow adds weight, which helps stabilize the structure. It also acts as a sealant, ensuring that the cracker won't crumble.

Do gingerbread houses attract ants? ›

Once opened and decorated, a gingerbread house has about a month before it becomes uneatable. Please remember, if you leave a gingerbread house out as decor, it can collect dust and attract ants.

What is the best ingredient to keep a gingerbread house from falling? ›

Royal icing is the edible "glue" or mortar that holds a gingerbread house together and can be used to make fancy sugar decorations. It's the best option for projects like gingerbread houses since, unlike buttercream frosting, royal icing will harden once dry.

How do you stick things to a gingerbread house? ›

Generally, frosting or icing is used to hold a gingerbread house together. It is important to use very thick piping icing so the walls of your house don't slide off! This royal icing is thick, spreadable, and dries quickly. It makes the perfect glue!

Are boxed gingerbread houses edible? ›

Yes. The gingerbread house pieces and candy that comes with the kit is 100% edible. The toys that come in the kit are not edible. However, please keep in mind that there are no preservatives added to the gingerbread house pieces, and if they are left out for a long period of time then they may no longer be edible.

What makes gingerbread hard or soft? ›

A 1:4 ratio of butter to flour makes the gingerbread strong. Corn syrup keeps freshly baked gingerbread pliable and soft, so it's easy to cut while warm. Rolling the dough directly on parchment makes it easy to transfer to the pan.

How thick should the walls of a gingerbread house be? ›

For houses larger than 6 inches square, use 1/4-inch thickness and for smaller houses, use 1/8-inch. Weight-bearing walls should be just slightly thicker, roof slightly thinner, due to weight of the gingerbread.

What size is a normal gingerbread house? ›

The front (and back) is a standard house shape (ie, a rectangle with an isosceles triangle on top of it). The base is 9cm (3.6 inches), the short side height is 4cm (1.6 inches) and the total height to the point is 11cm (4.4 inches).

Are gingerbread houses Christmas or winter? ›

Making gingerbread houses is a Christmas tradition in many families. They are typically made before Christmas using pieces of baked gingerbread dough assembled with melted sugar. The roof 'tiles' can consist of frosting or candy. The gingerbread house yard is usually decorated with icing to represent snow.

Is the Oreo gingerbread house edible? ›

This Oreo “Gingerbread” House Looks Delicious

If you follow the instructions below or use pre-pasteurized egg whites, your entire gingerbread house is edible. With these Oreo gingerbread houses, not only will everyone have fun memories in creating them, but they will also enjoy eating them.

Why is it called the Gingerbread Girl? ›

"The Gingerbread Girl" was also released as an audiobook, read by Mare Winningham, by Simon & Schuster Audio on May 6, 2008. The title is an allusion to the fairy tale "The Gingerbread Boy" (also known as "The Gingerbread Man").

What are the three types of gingerbread? ›

The three distinct types of gingerbread are brown gingerbread, wafer-based gingerbread and honey gingerbread.
  • BROWN GINGERBREAD. This includes all gingerbread dough made with honey or syrup and baked without using a wafer base. ...
  • WAFER GINGERBREAD. ...
  • HONEY GINGERBREAD.

How do you get a wind bee? ›

To get the Windy Bee from the Shrine, players must first donate a spirit petal to it. After donating a Spirit petal, any Cloud Vial donated gives the player a chance to obtain a Windy Bee Egg. The player's chance to obtain the Windy Bee Egg depends on how much Favor the player has with the shrine.

Do you put egg in gingerbread? ›

Tip the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl. Add the warm syrup mixture and the egg, stir everything together, then gently knead in the bowl until smooth and streak-free. The dough will firm up once cooled.

What can I use for the bottom of a gingerbread house? ›

Pick a solid base for your gingerbread house - either a flat cookie sheet, or a thick, sturdy piece of cardboard. If you want, line the base with aluminum foil or wax paper. Mortar the sides of the house with royal icing: Pipe a thick line of icing along a short end of one of the side pieces.

How do you cut a milk carton for a gingerbread house? ›

Step-by-Step Instructions:
  1. Cut off the bottom third of a milk carton with a serrated knife. ...
  2. Attach the milk carton to the foil-wrapped cardboard using the icing as glue.
  3. Measure the graham crackers against the sides of the milk carton and cut them with the serrated knife to make the walls of the house.

How do you cut a gingerbread house without breaking it? ›

Put the graham cracker inside a damp paper towel, then put it in the microwave for about ten seconds. Now, the graham cracker is soft enough to cut without breaking it. So cool! Be sure to use a serrated knife.

Why do you need cornstarch for a gingerbread house? ›

Cornstarch can be used to smooth icing without it sticking to your finger. Confectioners' sugar is used with fondant to reduce stickiness or dust your work surface before rolling it out.

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