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Practical Parenting: Chocolates and school holiday ideas - 29 September

Making Chocolates

Something fun to do with kids is cooking. It's a great way of having some hands on fun, while inadvertently teaching kids about math's and science.

Today we are going to look at different things you can do with chocolate and how to really keep your kids engaged in the kitchen!

I am not proposing to make chocolate from scratch. The easiest way is to get some easy melt chocolate (although any chocolate will work) from the supermarket or somewhere like Spotlight. These generally come in generous quantities and are fast melting.
There a couple of different ways you can melt the chocolate, obviously when doing this with kids you have to be really careful with the heat.

1) Double Boiler Method: A double boiler is created using two pans. The lower pan is filled with water. Heat the water on a low setting. Once the water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat. The top pan is used for the chocolate melts. Add the chocolate melts to the top pan (which sits atop the pan of boiling water) and stir constantly until the chocolate becomes smooth and creamy. Be carefully not to get any water in the chocolate pan as this can curdle the chocolate.

2) Slow Cooker Method: A slow cooker is excellent for melting large amounts of chocolate. Make sure the setting is on low. Stir until smooth and creamy.

3) Microwave Oven Method: The microwave oven is a quick and easy way to melt chocolate melts. Place the melts in a microwavable container. Microwave at 20-second intervals until the texture is perfectly smooth. Be careful not to overdo as it will go all yucky or burn.

Choose a method, or a couple of different methods to melt the chocolate (I tend to think that the boiling water method with children is the most dangerous but also very effective and good for them to watch.) whatever method you use it's a great way for kids to learn about the change of solids to liquids.

Once you have your melted chocolate there are many different things you can do. Today we will show you 4 different treats that can be made.

1) Chunky Chocolates
Add coconut, dried fruit, marshmallows or anything you like really, to the melted chocolate, mix and then pour into molds or little cases.

2) Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Wash and dry strawberries (ones with long steams are great.) Hold by the stems, and dip them until they are covered with melted chocolate that is still warm. Let the excess drip back into the container. Place the dipped strawberries on nonstick paper, let them set in fridge.

Other fruit that is good to dip in chocolate: pineapple, apricots-dried and fresh, cherries-watch the stone and kids also love whole marshmallows dipped in chocolate. Experiment!

3) Chocolate-Dipped Pretzels 
If you like the sweet and salty thing, try dipping pretzels in chocolate using the same method as strawberries Place your pretzels on non-stick paper and pop in fridge.

4) Chocolate in Moulds
Chocolate moulds are cheap and easy to get hold of (spotlight has a wide range) you can use them over and over and get a variety of different shapes.

Once you've melted the chocolate, spoon it into the mould. Tap the mold very gently to eliminate air bubbles. Place in the refrigerator for 5-7 minutes. Take the mold out of the refrigerator and turn it upside down above some non-stick paper on a flat surface. Gently tap on the mould and the chocolate will fall out the melted, the chocolate will harden at room temperature, although you can put them back in the fridge.

Something else to try is melt some white chocolate, colour it and make coloured chocolates, or mix white and dark chocolate together.

Homemade chocolates make great gifts.

Things to do with the kids during the holidays

1) Make volcanoes, rockets or blow up balloons with baking soda and white vinegar

2) Design, shop for and cook a three course meal

3) Make chocolate, coconut ice or fudge, wrap them up and give away as gifts

4) Create giant ice cubes, using water, food colouring, plastic animals, flowers, anything really , try different methods of melting, breaking up the ice.

5) Model things out of clay, fimo, plasticine or playdough. Create whole villages, jungles, seascapes.

6) Plant a garden, grow sprouts.

7) Make puppets and have a puppet show

8) Have a picnic inside or outside, invite children's soft toys or dress up in character (and stay in character.)

9) Go for a bush walk, gather examples of native plants and identify them at home

10) Collect things on the beach and make a collage out of them.

11) Paint outside on the concrete and then wash it all away

12) Make a fort - a tree fort or one out of blankets, pillows, sheets

13) Create amazing things out of junk, boxes, cans, bottles etc

14) Paint a blackboard in your house and draw all over it

15) Make jam

16) Put on a show (Recreate a children's book)

17) Make ginger beer, or homemade lemonade

18) Make musical instruments out of junk

19) Make bird feeders or a bird house

20) Make a book using photos and writing about some of the things you have done in the holidays.