Our camps are off to a delicious start at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine! Our first camp of the summer was Candy Cook Camp, for ages 4-6. I had the sweet opportunity to join camp mid-week as a photographer and camp reporter. As a child, I spent many summers with my grandmother cooking candy, so the theme of this camp is particularly nostalgic to me. As an adult and an educator, I looked at making candy through a totally different lens.
Making candy takes patience! There are many intricate steps in the candy making process, and you can’t lick your fingers along the way, even if you really want to. When I first arrived on Wednesday all the campers wanted to show me the lollipops they made the day before. It took every ounce of will-power not to devour the pops, and we all demonstrated fantastic self-restraint!
Next, the young candy cooks faced their daily challenge—marshmallow fondant! You can check out the whole recipe here. This involved mixing 2 jars of marshmallow with 2 pounds of confectioners’ sugar. As you can imagine, this mixture was incredibly sticky. You may think kids would just want to dive into a sticky mess—these candy chefs were tentative, responsible. They contemplated the risk, some more comfortable with the idea of stickiness than others. I watched as each of them embraced the sticky for the higher purpose of mixing the marshmallow fondant. Once they were deep in sticky, one camper turned to me and said, “I can’t believe my mom signed me up for this camp!!” a look of pure exhilaration on her face. Getting really sticky and making a sticky mess is a safe risk that happens here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine! While the candy makers kneaded the dough they sang different variations of the Candy Man a song from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, sometimes providing their own lyrics about their marshmallow fondant. In that moment, every single one of them was a candy man or candy girl!
Later, after we snow plowed all the marshmallow fondant into a general pile and had snack, the candy chefs became scientists. They donned safety glasses and explored the molecular make-up of the marshmallow. The now scientist campers used a process of scientific inquiry to explore air pressure and observe what happened to a marshmallow when air was removed from a pressure jar. (I don’t want to give too much away, but if you’re curious, check out an Incredible Enlarging Marshmallow program at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine sometime—this is a program we do pretty regularly.)
After making some scientific conclusions, the candy chefs turned scientists became artists. It was time to mold the fondant. Using rolling pins, cookie cutters, fingers, and plenty of concentration as well as creative inspiration they molded small marshmallow sculptures. I’m not sure what happened to them, but I think they were shared with loved ones at the end of the week. That’s really the best way to enjoy homemade candy! While our upcoming cooking camps are all sold out, there are a few spots left in the rest of our camps.