This is our second year playing host to a simple, but fun, little gingerbread party playdate!
This idea started when a few of my best friends from college and I wanted to get together with our kiddos for the holidays. One of my girlfriends from this group used to host a bigger holiday pajama party playdate, and we would help her co-host to get everything ready. It was so fun, but we all agreed, a lot of work! So last year, we decided just to do something fun and festive with our small group of close friends, to keep it more simple and less stressful.
I volunteered to have everyone over to decorate gingerbread houses last year, and literally all I did last year was get the gingerbread house kits from Costco (they’re pre-built) and plopped them on the table! It was super simple and the kids loved it!
Even so, I learned a couple of things from that first go round. And since I do love decorating and hosting, I decided to step it up a bit this year. So, I thought I’d share a few of the tips I learned here! This year’s party was still simple and fun, but because of these lessons, it was even less stressful and more cute. And couldn’t we all use a little more of that around the holiday season?! 😉
Even if you get a gingerbread house kit, prep everything in advance!
I hadn’t even opened the kits last year when everyone arrived, assuming [since they were pre-built] it would be easy to just open them and get going. But it takes some time to open all the tiny packages of candy, kneed the icing, cut the tips of the icing [and consequently, keep the scissors away from the kids], etc. And as moms we all know that Kids x 12 + The Promise of Sugar = Hectic Mania. This year I ended up getting these gingerbread houses from Trader Joe’s, and I liked these ones SO much better. They weren’t pre-build, but they were smaller and more manageable for tiny hands, and super simple to build. Well technically, I enlisted my husband to build these the night before. And I had everything set up and ready for when our guests arrived!
Some people asked me what I put out to decorate with, and the answer is, I just used what was in the kit, mostly! I also added a few pine nuts and dried fruit I had on hand, and the sprinkles that were in the cookie kit [see below] I think it was sufficient for all the decorating needs.
This one might seem obvious, but I usually try to avoid disposable as much as possible [because it’s so bad for the environment]. But these square compostable paper plates fit the gingerbread houses perfectly! I wrote all the kids names on them so they knew where to sit, and which ones were theirs to take home afterwards. I’m also normally a sucker for real linens, but for this event, I found this cute scalloped paper tablecloth at Target. I also found the other paper plates and festive napkins with gold foil I used at Target. I couldn’t find them online to link them, but there were in the birthday party section at my store! So it still felt fancy without having to get out the good dishes.
Pro Tip: mist paper tablecloths lightly with a spray bottle of water to minimize the wrinkles from the package!
Have something for the kids to decorate that they CAN eat.
I don’t know about you, but I never actually let my kids eat their gingerbread houses. #meanmom I don’t even think they realize how much sugar they are consuming while decorating [or maybe they don’t think I notice haha]! I tell them the houses are just for decoration and we keep them out until Christmas as such. So this year, in addition to the gingerbread houses, I got the Trader Joe’s Ugly Sweater decorating kit, and put one cookie out for each kid [and even our little one-year-olds] so everyone had something to decorate that they could eat right away.
Have some non-sugary snacks for kids + grownups.
I put out a few different healthy and savory appetizers for everyone, and asked our guest to bring an app or adult beverage to share! Later, after the gingerbread house decorating, we also ordered pizza to feed the hungry tummies and dilute the sugar rush.
Give prizes at the end.
I actually can’t take credit for this idea, but my girlfriend brought over some small dollar-store-type prizes for all the kids and created a decorating competition! The competition had as many categories as there were kids, with things like “Most Decorated” “Most Colorful” and “Most Creative.” All the dads were the “judges” and announced the winners at the end. It was so cute to see how excited and proud they all were when they won a little something!
Keep it small.
As much as I would have liked to invite more of our friends to this type of thing, keeping the group tight also kept it more manageable and less stressful. I think you could probably do this type of party with more kids, but it would for sure be more prep work, and I’m not sure it would be as much fun!
This little gathering is well on it’s way to becoming a new tradition for us. As one of my friends so eloquently put it, “nothing makes my heart happier than seeing my kids play with my besties’ kids.” I couldn’t agree more!
What are some of your holiday traditions with friends?
For another fun and simple holiday activity with kids, see my salt dough ornaments from a few years ago here.
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