Today is apparently #worldchocolateday! As I missed #nationalwineday and #nationaldrinkwineday, in May and February respectively, I felt the need to indulge today. Not that I need an excuse to eat chocolate, but it definitely helps; otherwise D just looks at me disapprovingly.
As I was unaware of today’s significance I did not have anything special planned; however, a few weeks ago we did this, and today seemed an appropriate day to share it:
As we had been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at bedtime I decided that we would make some chocolate playdough.
To make this we used:
2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
½ cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups boiling water
Few drops glycerine
We mixed all of the dry ingredients together and then added the vegetable oil. Once this was well mixed we added the water and glycerine and stirred until all was well combined (and the mixture was cool). Once cool, we kneaded it by hand on a clean surface for about 10 minutes until the stickiness had gone and the dough had become smooth and stretchy. Then it was ready for play!*
I added some chocolate boxes, as well as some sequins, to the play, and A and E brought a range of cutting objects to share.
They began by kneading the dough as we had done when making it, as well as prodding it and pinching it. Then they started rolling it into shapes with their hands, as well as cutting it using the knives. A made sure that she described what she was doing for my benefit (she has a habit of doing this ALL OF THE TIME and it drives me crazy, though I do appreciate it during activities like this – she was really able to describe the resulting shapes and textures without any assistance or prompting from me)!
After a while I showed them how to make imprints in the dough, using the sequins, and they were quite impressed. They copied for a while, but in the end preferred just to leave them stuck into the playdough. I have to admit, this made a really quite lovely product, with the sequins sparkling in the light and adding to the prettiness!
Then they realised that they were allowed to use the chocolate box and the opportunities seemed endless. E stuffed large lumps of dough into the tray and then removed them, remarking at the resulting imprints and shapes created. A moulded some of the dough to shapes and sizes approximately matching the spaces in the tray before adding them. The products really did look and smell like an actual box of chocolates! I even decided that I wanted to have a go myself (see right-hand picture below)!
Once they had exhausted the making process they wanted to play sweet shops. They got the play till and some pretend money and just played! They took it in turns to be the shopkeeper and the customer. They took money as payment (and cards obviously – they are very modern my children). They even pretended to weigh some leftover chocolate. They handed each other their purchases. A tried to do some simple sums and correctly counted out change.
I love play like this! Play that is virtually completely child-led and self-differentiated. Play that develops so seamlessly from my simple decision to make some chocolate playdough. Play that teaches them so much without them even realising!
*However, the success of this recipe seems highly dependent on the brand of flour used and sometimes takes a little bit of adjusting and guesswork to get it right – in general, if the stickiness does not disappear after kneading, add some more flour, and if the dough seems too dry, add some more water.