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Gingerbread people

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Cooking

Duration/age

Duration: 
Suitable for children: 
Location: 
Child putting green icing on gingerbread man with an adult assisting.

What type of gingerbread people could you make with your child? Will each biscuit be decorated differently with individual personalities or will they be your favourite football team?

Before starting to cut out the people, talk about how they will look. If they are going to have lots of decorations will you make them bigger compared to ones that will only have eyes, a nose and a mouth? Once you have worked out how big the biscuits will be, talk to your child about how thin to roll out the dough.

We are going to make a gingerbread person for each member of our family. The biscuit will need to be big enough to pipe their name on the tummy. That will be 10 biscuits.

Let’s make little people with currant eyes and a cherry mouth. We can leave the dough quite thick as they are not going to have any other decorations. We need to put their faces on before they are cooked.

As the biscuits are cooling you and your child can start to get the ingredients ready for decorating. Will you sort the ingredients into different bowls or leave them in the packets? Will you make the icing or buy icing that is ready-made?

We have to put the icing on first and then the lollies. We need to work quickly so the icing does not dry before the lollies can stick to them.

Materials you will need

  • Bowls
  • Oven
  • Knife
  • Icing
  • Lollies
  • Gingerbread dough
  • People-shaped biscuit cutters
  • Edible decorations

Alternative tools

  • Dried fruit
  • Bought gingerbread biscuits

Why does this matter?

As your child helps you to cut out and decorate the gingerbread people they are experimenting with design, placement, sorting and classifying objects by colour, size and shape. Creating their own patterns or designs allows them to make their own decisions and to plan how they will go about creating their design.

As the dough is rolled out thinner and thinner your child is hearing and using the language of measurement. The language of measurement helps them to make decisions – how many gingerbread people do we need to make, how long will the dough take to cook, what size cutter will we use?

When your child decorates the gingerbread people they will be counting out lollies or decorations to put on top. They will be matching a number to an object and practicing to count in sequence and order. They are learning that the total number counted represents the quantity of the object. The same quantity can be divided into smaller or larger groups.

"We can cut 20 small people from the dough, or 10 large ones."

What does this lead to?

By decorating the people your chid is learning to create designs within a confined space. As they do this they are experimenting with space, placement and position. Once the design has been created they are able to use mathematical language to describe and compare what the people look like. They are learning that we can describe and compare things by size, function, colour and shape.

'I have made a blue man with a very grumpy face. Your gingerbread person looks like a girl wearing a dress.'

As your child counts out the lollies or looks at the size of the gingerbread person, they are learning to estimate and predict using quantity and number. As they make predictions and match the number of lollies to the size of the person they are learning that 4 is 4, regardless of how we represent it.

Four is the total amount, or quantity, and it can be represented with 3 yellow lollies and 1 red one, or 4 red lollies.

Language to use

  • Decoration, lollies, icing, cherries
  • Biscuits, bikkies, decoration, cookies, gingerbread
  • Placement, position, direction
  • Shape, size, colour
  • Dough, thick, thin
  • Top, bottom, middle, edge, sides
  • Before, after, later, next
  • Bowl, knife, spoon, tray, cutter, plate
  • Oven, temperature, hot, cold, cool
  • Pattern, description

Questions to use

  • Will the gingerbread people all wear the same clothes?
  • What size will the eyes be?

Useful tips

  1. You might also like to take a look at the icing and decorating activities A freckle here, a sprinkle there and A star with a cherry on top.
  2. For some healthy options, take a look at Nutrition Australia's cake recipes and other healthy sweet ideas.
  3. You might like to look at Feeding toddlers - 10 tips for happy meal times and other great food tips from Child and Youth.
  4. Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

More ideas

  1. Pipe the names of different family members on the top of each biscuit.
  2. Read the list of the ingredients for decorating the gingerbread and ask your child to look for them in the pantry.
  3. Make a shopping list of ingredients for decorating. Your child can help you find the ingredients when you go shopping together.

Variation by age

Three to five year olds

  • Trace around the biscuit cutter on paper before making biscuits. Your child could use the stencils to design how they want their gingerbread people to look.
  • Get your child to help sort the lollies by colour. You could sort them into bowls that are the same colour as the lolly.
  • Write your family’s names on paper so your child can copy them onto the biscuits.
  • Make up stories for each gingerbread person.
  • Read the story “The Gingerbread Man.”

Questions to ask

  • What colour decorations will we need to make Crows players?
  • How many gingerbread people will we need to make so each member of our family will have one?
  • Do we need to make all of the people the same size?
  • Where will you start eating your gingerbread person - at the head or the feet?

Language to use

  • Body, tummy, head, face, arms, legs
  • Decorations, clothing, colour, pattern
  • Thick, thin
  • Number, quantity, total