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Archive for March, 2011

Creativity Inspired By Easter Candy

If you’re lucky enough to have little ones in your life, you know how wonderfully imaginative their minds tend to be. They can entertain themselves for hours by creating fun stories around whatever they have to work with, be it a few dolls or building blocks, or a few crayons and sheets of paper. Sure, most of them love video games and other electronics as well. In fact, most kids I know had an iPod before me! But they can still be quite captivated and creative with some of the simpler things, even if you have to give them a little push.

I came across a video recently on YouTube that I had to watch a few times to truly appreciate. One of YouTube’s top viral videos, kittens inspired by kittens features a vibrant little girl flipping through a picture book of kittens and offering her take on what each is thinking. At first, I thought she was just being goofy, saying the first thing that came to mind. But after watching it a few times, I could see what she saw! The kittens really did look like they might be thinking those things. Some were a little more obvious, while others showed that the girl really took a picture in for a moment before deciding what to say. She looked at it the way a child looks at things, where anything is possible and one must rely on clues instead of life experience. Then, we all get to look at it through her eyes too, and it’s suddenly a lot more magical!

While we think any time that you encourage your child’s creativity is the right time, we couldn’t help but wonder what amazing tales kids would tell involving the ‘characters’ in their Easter baskets. This Easter, we hope you’ll consider asking your kids to create a story for the contents of their basket before they dig into the deliciousness. If they don’t know where to begin, simply ask them how the Gardners Chocolate Bunny and the Marshmallow Peeps met, or how the Easter Bunny makes breakfast in the morning – with regular eggs, or Bubble Gum Eggs? You’ve seen your children dream up imaginary worlds of wonder with little more than a rainy day inside fueling their creativity. Imagine what they can originate with a basket full of Easter Candy! If you’ll be giving an Easter basket anyway, why not let it fill their minds and their bellies with fun? Even if their story is shorter than it might otherwise be as they can’t wait to indulge in a Jelly Bean breakfast, it’s sure to be one of the best stories you’ve ever heard.

Make Learning Fun and Delicious with Jelly Beans!

It’s no secret to most people that many teachers spend quite a bit of their own money on their students throughout the year, every year, and don’t ask to be reimbursed. When I was a little girl just a few years ago (we won’t get into exact numbers here), I was lucky enough to have a teacher who recognized the power that Twizzlers and Tootsie Pops held over our 6-year-old minds, and she would purchase both regularly to share with us. Once each week when our lesson was to go around the classroom and practice reading aloud, she would open her desk drawer and grab a bag of Tootsie Pops or Twizzlers while we all eagerly smiled. Each child would get one piece of licorice or a Tootsie Pop to start with, just to ensure everyone got something sweet regardless of their reading ability. Then, we would all open to the same page in our books, and starting with the first student in the first row, we would read aloud one by one until we made a mistake. We had to read at a normal pace, and when we made that first inevitable mistake, the next child would pick up at the beginning of the sentence that slipped us up. This continued around the room until we were finished with the story. And the lucky kid that read the most lines without making a mistake? That kid got 3 extra Twizzlers or 2 extra Tootsie Pops. Yeah, that kid was very often yours truly!

This post isn’t simply me bragging about my 6-year-old reading prowess, which was something I was naturally good at with or without candy (though the candy didn’t hurt). It’s the realization that many years later I still remember the sound of that bag coming out of the desk drawer like it was yesterday. And I also see things now that I didn’t see then. At the time, I felt sorry for the kids that couldn’t read as well as some of us. I felt sad that they had to struggle and stumble in front of all of us. But looking back, I remember them getting better as time went on. And I remember that everyone was so focused on scoring some candy for themselves that they didn’t notice the other kids fumbling as much as they otherwise might have noticed. In short – my teacher wasn’t only generous, she was also very smart!

I’m sitting at my desk right now eating licorice, which is probably what sparked this memory. But it’s the bowl of jelly beans on the desk that really has my attention. Jelly beans – quite possibly the most affordable candy ever conceived, in addition to being a near universal hit. Who doesn’t love jelly beans? Nobody I know doesn’t! And certainly no kid I know doesn’t.  This got my brain working on some fun and educational jelly bean ideas for teachers to use in the classroom. I’d love to hear if any teachers out there have used jelly beans or any other candy in the classroom as a tasty learning tool!

Jelly Bean Bingo – Bingo is a game that we never grow tired of, whether we’re 5 or 105. To help young children learn their numbers, teachers could print out paper bingo cards, and hand out little cups of jelly beans to use as markers. Once bingo is over, each kid could eat their markers! And the big prize for the winners? Perhaps one of these adorable Jelly Belly LolliBeans Lollipops?

Counting on Candy – Math can be much more fun when the numbers being added, subtracted and multiplied are jelly beans.  The best way to make this activity work for you would depend on your class size. For a smaller class, you could set a pile of jelly beans on a piece of plastic wrap to keep it clean, as well as wearing plastic gloves. Call students to your desk and create math problems for them to solve using the candy. For example, set out 12 jelly beans and ask them how many you’ll have if you take away 5. Push 5 to the side and the first student to answer correctly gets the 5 that were taken away! Continue the lesson adding, subtracting and multiplying until the jelly beans are gone.

Creative Thinking with Candy – This game will not only get your students thinking creatively, but also help you to learn a little more about them. Give each student a small pile of jelly beans, and ask them to write down different things that each color of jelly bean reminds them of. Perhaps the yellow jelly beans remind them of the sun, while the black jelly beans remind them of being afraid of the dark, or their black Labrador puppy. You’ll never know until you ask! And once you know what they like and don’t like, it will be easier to talk with them and relate to their lives, encouraging them to see you as a teacher and a friend. Plus, they get to eat the jelly beans when they’re done. Sounds like a good lesson plan to me. :)

A Completely Made Up Story About How the Easter Basket Came to Be*

Many, many years ago (like, 59 years ago or so) there was no such thing as the Easter basket. Sure, there was Easter candy, in fact Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs date back to Shakespeare – they were totally his fave, and the candy that fueled his writings more often than even bread and water! But they were not to be found in a basket on Easter morning, rather they sat in a pile on the table. A pile that while delicious, left itself open to thieves. Candy thieves. The worst thieves of all.

Many children would excitedly scamper out of bed only to arrive in the kitchen just in time to see a Jelly Bean Bandit filling his pockets with their Marshmallow Peeps, and greedily stuffing Mini Cadbury Eggs into his big, thief mouth! The parents couldn’t handle it anymore, going to bed every year on Holy Saturday wondering if it might happen to their family. Committees were formed, meeting times were set, and business was most certainly gotten down to!

Like any idea in its infancy, some missteps were made. The Easter Sock lasted for exactly 1 Easter before they went back to the drawing board. Nobody likes to retrieve their chocolate Easter bunnies from that which usually holds their feet.  Next came the Easter pocket; an oversized pocket stitched to children’s pajamas that was designed to hold their candy, which the parents would sneak in to fill while they slept. Well, it turns out chocolate melts pretty easily, especially if you sleep with it in your pocket. A big Easter oopsy! As luck would have it, the third time was the charm, and like so many great things it was an accident.

One of the committees had decided that it would be best to have a paper ballot so people felt free to offer ideas they otherwise might not. On her way out the door on the way to the meeting, the committee chairwoman grabbed a basket to hold the ballot. That night’s ideas for solving the Easter candy debacle were particularly varied! Now that people had the freedom to offer any off the wall suggestion they wanted without ridicule, they went a little crazy. One person suggested an Easter wheelbarrow. Another suggested burying the candy the night before and letting the children dig for it in the morning. Strangely, 2 people suggested leaving it out on the table. They apparently didn’t understand what this meeting was about AT ALL! It had become customary to close these meetings by enjoying a piece of whatever Easter candy you brought along – to end the night on a good note. But everyone was so frustrated that no practical idea had been born, that they threw their candy down on the table in emotional exhaustion. After all, Easter was just 2 days away, and the best idea thus far was an Easter wheelbarrow!

It was as if it happened in slow motion. Someone had tossed their Cadbury Crème Egg at just the right angle for it to bounce off the table and land squarely in the middle of the ballot basket. Everyone stopped talking. Everyone stopped moving. It grew so quiet you could hear a jelly bean drop. Slowly, they raised their heads from the basket to meet each others’ eyes. As quickly as it had become quiet, there began a celebratory uproar! Baskets! Of course, baskets! Women hugged, men high-fived, Old Man Murphy did a little jig in the middle of the table, holding what was once just a ballot basket, and now was oh-so-much more.

*If this bears any resemblance to the real way the Easter basket happened, it’s purely accidental. For realz.

Dear Mini Cadbury Eggs: I Love You. So Much.

I’m not going to beat around the candy bar bush – I love chocolate. This may not be the most profound thing about me, or the most surprising; after all, I work at a candy company, and most people love chocolate, so chances are pretty good that I’m a fan! But profound, surprising or otherwise, it’s definitely a way I identify myself – as a chocolate lover. Of course I have my favorites, including plain Hershey Bars and oh-so-satisfying Snickers Bars. Those are candy bars I can enjoy all year, and I am happy for that, believe me I am! But there is something special about those candies that only stop by for what seems like a Sunday afternoon before they’re off the shelves and barely past the tip of your tongue. Of all these seasonal sweets, of which there are many that I love, I can’t think of any so fabulous as you, Mini Cadbury Eggs.

I love everything about you, Mini Cadbury Eggs. Ev-er-y-thing. I love your glossy purple bag. I love your adorably speckled candy shell.  I love the way that candy shell perfectly cracks, letting your milk chocolate middle shine! But before the crack of the shell, I love to just enjoy that subtle sweetness of your shell – not a flavor really, just a sweetness. I love finding one of you tucked into the corner of the bag when I thought I’d eaten you all. I love always eating a blue you first. Even though you all taste the same, the blue reminds me of robin’s eggs, and I also love robins! (I don’t eat them though. Pinkie swear!)

I just wanted to write you this note, Mini Cadbury Eggs, to let you know the world isn’t absent-mindedly buying you. You are not an impulse purchase. You are not a take-it-or-leave-it candy. You are special, delicious and treasured. You spring onto the scene like Spring herself, bringing memories of so many Easters before in your arrival. For me and many others, you are *the* Easter candy. You have some excellent company for sure – there’s no denying the delight of jelly beans, Reese’s peanut butter eggs, Marshmallow Peeps and much more! But despite how much I love all those candies, you’re this lady’s favorite. Despite how much I love them all, I love you more. ♥

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