Gingerbread House STEAM Challenge

Gingerbread House STEAM Challenge- A Candy Cane Lane Lesson: science-exploration, critical thinking, problem solving, and art

Teachers and their acronyms, amiright? Welp here’s one of the popular ones you’ll see floating around these days: STEAM. No, it doesn’t have to do with teachers blowing off steam at the end of the day with a few glasses of wine (am I projecting? I think I’m projecting). STEAM is the hot term that stands for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. STEAM activities can help our children develop skills like high level critical thinking and problem solving, both of which are seen as highly valuable 21st century skills.

I designed an engaging and challenging STEAM lesson featuring a favorite Christmas activity-making gingerbread houses!! Check it out!

Prep: This lesson did involve a bit of prep. The night before, I started a house on a plate using graham crackers and icing as a model for Jack to use. I wrote a little note to Jackson with instructions from the Paw Patrol character, Rubble. I also got the materials I needed ready as pictured:

Materials included graham crackers, icing, a spoon, gumdrops, peppermints, and a note

Poor Rubble needs help with his house!

Day of the Lesson:

  1. Read aloud, Gingerbread Mouse by Katy Bratun. I wanted Jack to notice how the gingerbread house was built in particular, so before I started the book I said to him, “Make sure to pay close attention to what the house the mouse lives in looks like!” This strategy of having children listen for something in particular can also be a great way to get a less-enthused kiddo to pay attention during a story.
  2. Discuss the story– ask, “What did the mouse’s gingerbread house look like?” Any details from the story will work as a response to the question and demonstrate to you that your kiddo WAS paying attention, regardless of the fact that they were enthralled with their toes during the story. Now you know that they have a mental picture of a gingerbread house ready to go!
  3. Challenge Time!!
    1. I showed Jack where I had the challenge set up. “Oh wow, a note!” I exclaimed in awe. “Who’s it for?” Jack knew that it was for himself and replied smartly with, “Backson!” I laughed at his silly four year old joke and eventually he admitted that he knew it said Jackson. I had him open it up! It read:
      • Hi Jackson! I tried to make a house but I couldn’t figure it out! Can you please help me? Pretty please with sugar on top! (Jack found that hilarious. I love four year old humor so much.) p.s. if you’d like, I’ll share 4 gumdrops with you but I need the rest of the materials for my house. Sincerely, Rubble
    2. Ah, see what I did there? A precorrect. I LOVE precorrects (correcting a behavior you foresee happening before it starts). Who wouldn’t be tempted to eat some delicious candy when faced with the temptation? So. I thought ahead of an amount of candy that I comfortable with him eating and then had Rubble set the boundary before the question, “CAN I EAT IT??!” could even be asked. I considered setting this boundary for myself because those gumdrops were awfully tempting looking…until I bit into one. Ewwwwwww!! Do not recommend.
    3. Time to get to work!
      1. I said, “Jack, your challenge is to make a gingerbread house for Rubble with the materials provided in this basket. There may be some parts of this challenge that are hard but you can do hard things!” I kid you not, I wrote this down on the other side of Rubble’s note because Sawyer’s been having rough nights lately and Mommy’s a little sleep deprived. Ugh you Mamas know. ZzzZzz
      2. Let him work! This lesson is about the process, not the product. Make it your mantra. Today isn’t the day you’re getting an adorable little gingerbread house to display with your Christmas decor. Today is the day you’re getting a mound of graham crackers smudged with glops of icing and haphazardly strewn about candies. Today is the day that you get to observe a child whose brain synapses are firing wildly as they make meaningful connections. A child developing the building blocks of what they’ll need later to become an engineer. An architect. A scientist. An artist. An electrician. You get the point. Simple as it sounds to us, this activity is truly, truly difficult.
        • The key is to let your child feel challenged but not frustrated. You know them best. Help in ways that support the work of the child; keep in mind that the objective is exploration. You’re looking for the child to try different techniques of getting the house to stay put.
        • I found that spreading the icing was very challenging for Jack’s 4 year old fingers, so once I noticed him begin to feel frustrated, I offered to be the “cement layer” and he took me up on the offer so I glopped icing wherever he asked.
      3. The challenge is over as soon as the child decides it is over! Now it’s time for YOUR challenge: where will you keep this monstrosity?? Hahahaha! I’m sorry *I ain’t sorry* (cue Beyoncé singing and me shaking my hips clumsily) You know what? I’m going to leave you with that image. Enjoy!
Alright, alright here’s a cute kid pic

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I’m a stay at home mom of two little boys, Jackson and Sawyer. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and a masters degree in the education field as well. I have experience teaching a variety of ages from birth through grade 12! I’m passionate about child development, gentle parenting, and learning through play. I’ve spent the last few months developing a preschool curriculum for my 4 year old son and would love for you to follow along for inspiration in your own home!

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