Posted on Friday, 22nd November, 2019
While making a Gingerbread House at Christmas isn’t a uniquely Australian tradition, it is one seniors can enjoy.
Gingerbread Houses are believed to have risen in popularity starting from the 16th century, when miniature, edible houses became associated with Christmas in and around Germany.
If you have residents with roots in Europe or America, they are sure to recount tales of constructing Gingerbread Houses. The aroma of gingerbread may help dementia patients reconnect with their past and recall fond memories of family and Christmas.
At your aged care facility, making (and eating) Gingerbread Houses can be a stimulating activity, either on a quiet day or with family and friends as guests. It encourages active engagement and creative thinking, which can be beneficial to older residents.
At your aged care center, you can make building a Gingerbread house as easy or as involved as you like.
To start you will need to create the slabs of Gingerbread. You need large baking trays as well as the dough ingredients (usually flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, golden syrup, egg and milk). Ideally, your Gingerbread will be firm enough to stand up but not so crisp that residents find it hard to bite and chew.
Once your dough is cooked, use a printed template to cut out the shapes for the walls and roof of your Gingerbread House. You might like to cut the window and door shapes out as well, as this can be a fiddly job.
When you have your cut slabs ready, it is time to build.
Host a Gingerbread House making party at your facility and invite friends and family. Provide tables with room for small groups to take part. It is a good idea for each table to have a carer helping with the construction of the house as some residents might find the activity difficult if they aren’t as dexterous as they once were.
Icing is key for a sturdy structure. Royal icing is best for gingerbread houses. Make plenty and pre-fill piping bags for easy application. Residents and their families will have a great time, albeit a messy one. Supply wet wipes, paper towels or even thin gloves if hygiene is a concern (there will be lots of sticky finger licking!). Some flat knives or spatulas will come in handy for evening out the icing.
Many recipes recommend a break and some time in the fridge for the first round of icing to ‘set’ before taking the next step.
Now for the fun part!
There is no right or wrong way to decorate a Gingerbread House. Supply Smarties, M&Ms, Hundreds & Thousands, chocolate drops, candy canes, Jaffas or other Christmas sweets. Guests may also want to bring their own lollies or small toys to use as decoration.
More piped icing will give the finishing touches something to stick to before the Gingerbread Houses are camera-ready.
Offer a prize for the best house and take lots of photos but be quick, they are sure to be popular with guests - especially if grandchildren have come to help. Serve coffee and tea to mark the transition between construction and demolition.
Gingerbread keeps well so leftovers can be added to goodie bags or served at your facility for afternoon tea throughout the Christmas period.