When we start reading gingerbread stories I like to immerse the class in the smells of the experience. Aside from making gingerbread play dough and gingerbread cookies, we explore the various spices that go into these recipes. It is very interesting for the children to see them whole before they have been ground up and put in a jar.
We use mortars and pestles to crush them or graters to grate them up. We have a wonderful spice store fairly close to us where we can buy big bags of spices.
Star Anise, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon and fresh ginger were placed out on a surface for the children to grind, grate, touch, feel and smell.
Many of these spices are very interesting to look at. Nutmeg has purple veins running through it, and ginger root is so gnarled, and star anise is actually star shaped with seeds inside.
The action of grinding is very enjoyable for children and several children spent time in this center everyday for the week.
When we were done, we had a nice large bowl of ground up spices. Rather than waste them, we made sachets with the children.
The children were given a small square of fabric.