Gingerbread: A Family-Style Unit Study

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Hot apple cider, hot cocoa, peppermint, sugar cookies…

There are so many delicious flavors that remind me of the Christmas season. I do not want to pick a favorite, but gingerbread certainly ranks very high on my list. I enjoy soft gingerbread cake and crunch gingerbread cookies!

This year, I thought it would be fun (and delicious) to do a unit study on gingerbread.

Gingerbread Cookies

History of Gingerbread

Gingerbread has a long and interesting history. A few variations are told, but we know that gingerbread has been around for a very long time. Years before Christ, possibly as far as 2400 BC, gingerbread was initially just preserved ginger, and it would be hundreds of years later before gingerbread became what we know it as today.

Gingerbread developed differently in different countries, from China to Germany to England. Queen Elizabeth I is credited with gingerbread cut into shapes and decorated with gold leaf. While gold leaf is not common anymore, shaped and decorated gingerbread cookies are still popular today.

Another common tradition is building and decorating gingerbread houses. This tradition originated in Germany in the 16th century, and they were made famous by the Hansel and Gretel story by Hans Christian Anderson. Today you can buy kits or create your own gingerbread houses.

You can find out more over at The Spruce Eats or PBS. You can also check out this documentary with Amazon Prime Video about gingerbread. (This is on our list to watch this year, but I have not yet watched it.)

Books for a Gingerbread Study

Books tend to be the backbone of our studies, and I love a good read-aloud. There are so many to choose from for this gingerbread study. Rather than choosing just one to base the unit around, I have picked out several that we could read during the study.

Gingerbread Study Books

Some of my favorites are the Jan Brett gingerbread books because of the stunning illustrations. She has several, but we particularly like Gingerbread Christmas and Gingerbread Friends for this study.

I also found this bilingual edition of The Gingerbread Man (included for free if you have Kindle Unlimited). My seven-year-old has been trying to learn Spanish, so I think he will enjoy listening to the story in both languages.

Hansel and Gretel is also a good story for a gingerbread lesson. There are many different versions with some excellent illustrations.

I even found this chapter book Rescue at Gingerbread Mountain that sounds intriguing, and I have not yet read it but did grab it with my Kindle Unlimited subscription to give it a try. It sounds like a great read for your upper elementary-age children.

Bonus Tip: If you want to add a few of these books to your household collection, Amazon is offering this $5 off of $20 book purchase, including several gingerbread books.

Gingerbread Art

You know I had to add some art to our study.  We love this gingerbread and holly lesson included with our You Are an Artist membership (If you want to try it out but don’t want the membership, you can also purchase the Christmas Course.)

In addition to a traditional art lesson, you can build and decorate a gingerbread house or gingerbread men (maybe even both.) It is such a fun way to incorporate family members of all ages.

If you need a less messy option or have food allergy issues, you can make one from a foam kit.

Gingerbread Activities

There are so many gingerbread-based activities that you could do to go along with your students. This Gingerbread playdough is a hit with all ages. Younger children can use it like regular playdough, and older children often like using it more like a stress ball.

I found this Gingerbread House Kit idea that you could make ahead for your children to do. You could even have your children make them for their friends or family as an inexpensive but fun Christmas gift.

There are many free and inexpensive gingerbread-themed printables such as The Mailbox, Royal Baloo, and 123Homeschool4Me. These offer a way to stay in the gingerbread theme while reinforcing reading and math skills.

For older students, you could assign a gingerbread-themed writing prompt. For example, have them write their own gingerbread man story or do a descriptive writing exercise about a gingerbread house.

 If you have done all of this and your child still wants more gingerbread fun, check out this list of fifty gingerbread activities.

Putting It Into Action

Whether you spend one day learning all about gingerbread or sprinkle gingerbread activities into your learning over several weeks, it is sure to be a fun family time. There are hundreds of wonderful gingerbread recipes available on the internet, and I encourage you to try one or more. However, if you want to keep it super simple, remember there is nothing wrong with making memories from a box mix!

We enjoy the Betty Crocker Gingerbread Mix for making soft gingerbread cakes. We make them in a decorative pan similar to this and dust them with sugar. They look so beautiful and fancy, but they are simple and quick.

Remember; make this study work for your family. Do whatever activities interest you and skip the ones that do not. It is not about completion but learning and having fun together as a family.

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