Chocolate, science, sensory, a great book...this activity/lesson has all the best parts of learning in it!! And all our kiddos loved it...from two to eight years old!!
In anticipation of Roald Dahl's birthday coming up, I decided to read Charlie and and the Chocolate Factory aloud to our kiddos. They are absolutely loving it! It is so creative and bizarre that it is like candy for their imaginations, while at the same time it has a lovable main character that they all relate to. An extra bonus is that each chapter only takes a couple minutes to read, so it is something my child with a short attention span can easily sit and listen to each day! We haven't quite finished it, but it is safe to say that it is one of our new favorite read-alouds!
Since we've been reading about chocolate every day (and talking about it...can you imagine a life-time supply?!!), I decided to have a short lesson on where the chocolate they love so much comes from. When I used to teach high school students, another teacher once commented to me that they love to learn about things tied to their tummies. Well, preschoolers are no different! When I told them we were learning about chocolate, they were thrilled!
Chocolate comes from a cacao tree (scientific name: Theobroma Cacao) that only grows near the equator in hot, rainy tropical forests. They are not the tallest trees--most are between 20 and 40 feet high--but they can live over 200 years!
Pods about a foot long grow on the tree's branches and main trunk. Inside the pods are about 50-60 cacao seeds or, as we nicknamed them, chocolate beans! Check out the pods:
The pods and beans are harvested by hand, often using machetes or other long knives and mallets. The chocolate beans are so bitter no animals will eat them! The beans are then processed in several steps:
1- They are scooped into piles, covered with banana leaves, and left to ferment for 2-8 days. They get very hot and experience chemical changes that help break down some of the bitter enzymes (though my kids will tell you they are still very bitter)! The seeds also change from purple to dark brown.
2- The seeds are spread out in mats and trays so they can dry out in the sun.
3- Broken seeds and trash are removed.
4- The final chocolate beans are packaged in burlap bags weighing up to 200 pounds and shipped around the world!
You can buy unsweetened baking chocolate (100% cacao) in most grocery stores. My kids associate chocolate with sweetness, so I wanted to let them taste what it's like before it is drowned in sugar! I picked up some unsweetened powdered cocoa and a bar of unsweetened 100% cacao last time I was shopping.
We were especially delighted when we opened the Ghiradelli bar and saw...a golden wrapper (just like Charlie found a golden ticket)!! (Note: this is not a sponsored post...we just happened to use the Ghiradelli bar and it worked out wonderfully. You can use any brand you want!)
Break off a piece of pure chocolate for each of your kids!! This is the fun, tasting, sensory part! Ask them what they expect it to taste like, let them taste it, and then see what they think.
I love the Ghiradelli's bar! Unsweetened chocolatey goodness! My kids thought it needed sugar! Desperately!
They also thought the powdered cocoa needed sugar.
We ended with some (sweetened) chocolate chips. They thought those were wonderful!
During the next few days, we made a couple treats with chocolate...and, of course, they were all sweetened. :) It was a fun way to tie in a few chocolate activities to an awesome book!
Have you ever tasted unsweetened chocolate? Have your kiddos? How did they react? I'd love to know!
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AND, here are some more great ideas to want to celebrate Roald Dahl's birthday with more book related activities:
I may share at any of these parties!
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