There really is no getting away from it. No matter how healthy you want to be you really can’t escape it at this time of the year. All that hard work getting the kids to explore, try and regularly eat healthy foods… And then Christmas comes along. Everything is chocolate. Naughty, delicious, incredible chocolate. And we can’t say no! So instead of banging your head against the wall, embrace it. You can’t beat them, so join them and check out some great tips for great chocolate this holiday season.
When you are trying so hard to teach the kids good habits, there is always something that creeps up to knock us back in our valiant efforts. But chocolate needn’t be one of them. There are many different types and qualities of chocolate. Not all of them are necessarily bad. At the end of the day, chocolate comes from a plant that is quite versatile. Chocolate itself is also quite versatile. It is in that versatility that there are many lessons for the kids to learn. They can learn a great deal about this particular treat. So embrace the wonder that is chocolate, and get those children learning something about something they really have great interest in!
Plant – Chocolate comes from the cocoa plant. You can teach your kids a great deal about nature, geography and climate by letting them explore the origins of chocolate. Have them check out http://www.chocolateguru.net/chocolate-cultivation-is-where-it-all-begins/ online to get to grips with where cocoa comes from, and what it takes to get it to us.
Environment – Have them learn something about South America, the weather there and the working conditions.
Language – Maybe you could try and get them to learn a few words in Spanish and Portuguese, if these are not languages they regularly speak.
Politics – Talk also about the Ivory Coast and Ghana in Africa, which are two of the biggest cocoa supplying countries in the world. Let them learn about the political issues that have occurred and to think about how the trades in cocoa may have been affected.
Science – See if you can help the kids understand how to store the beans to help them dry out for use.
Business – Some of the big chocolate makers have tours of their chocolate factories. Seeing how commercial chocolate is will help them understand more about the business world. Kids can see the process of making chocolate, factory conditions, and packaging for distribution.
Literature – To really inspire them for the trip, have them read popular fiction like Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’.
There are many great lessons to be learned from a little bit of research into chocolate. It needn’t be all about the eating! You may be lucky enough to live near to a fine chocolatier who can help you talk about preparing high-quality chocolate. Talking about flavors and spices that can be added to enhance the flavor of chocolate will help spark the imagination of the children.
Perhaps the best lesson you can teach the kids is cooking. Preparing the chocolate to pour into molds, or to make cakes and cookies will be the highlight for children. There are ways you can ensure the chocolate isn’t all consumed in one go!
Diet – Be open about your opinions on consuming chocolate and where that has come from. Be frank in your discussion. Speak clearly about the ingredients that are added to make chocolate more palatable. Prepare yourself to answer questions about portion sizes and dietary requirements. Chocolate contains fats and sugars, which we have learned to restrict in our diets. Help the kids understand why. Talk about the nutritional make up of the chocolate so children can understand why a little is enough, and too much can be harmful. Ask them to explore why they think chocolate tastes so good, and why we might want to eat more than is good for us.
Recipes – Once you fully understand chocolate, you can start exploring some great recipes that include chocolate. Experimenting in the kitchen is important to help children understand cooking and to encourage their creativity. Most chocolate recipes are for sweet treats like puddings, cookies, and desserts. There are some great savory ideas out there too, to make the most of the unique cocoa flavors. For very young children, just being able to melt the chocolate down to pour into character molds can be enough.
To restrict the intake of chocolate, you can freeze cookies and puddings for later, or make advent calendar style boxes, so just one chocolate is eaten a day. Most people would love to have chocolate daily, but it is important to consider the portion size when we do that. Chocolate can be very good for you in small quantities too. Using the chocolate as a learning aid can be very helpful as it will cover so many areas of the curriculum for children of all ages.
At Christmas time, it is very easy to overindulge. For children, that overindulgence can be far more harmful than for us. Aside from the more dramatic digestive discomfort kids can suffer, there is a fear it will teach them the wrong things about managing their own diets in years to come. There are so many wonderful treats to be had at this time of year, but rationing our intake is very hard.
The stores are piled floor to ceiling with chocolates, cakes, candies, desserts and a wealth of other goodies. The holidays are a great opportunity to sample many different foods and flavors from all around the world. It may be wise to let the children have a taste of everything on offer with a ‘sampling’ evening. A small amount of everything unique to the season can be placed on a table for them to have a bite of. Things that they like can be noted, and maybe recipes can be found to make them later in the year. This practice of sampling is a great way to encourage children to try new foods, and find out about other cultures too.