Traveling the World Without Leaving Home Part II

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Bonjour! Góðan dagiin! Hello!

Helping your kid grow into a curious and culture-savvy adult can also be a lot of fun. We covered things like cooking traditional foods from other regions, crafting a faux passport, and reenacting a customs office in Part I of this series. Here we explore some other cosmopolitan projects you can do with your little travelers.

One great way to help your kids grasp the idea of other countries is to have a map in your house.

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Sure, you can look up any place on the Internet and zero in with Google Earth, but there’s something satisfying about a big world map hanging on the wall. Kiddos can see where they live relative to “everywhere else.” A map will help them visualize any places you talk about or research. You can even stick a pin in each country, after you cook a food from there or “visit” in some other way.

Folklore is a great path to understanding a culture. Pack a little luggage — which can be some sunscreen, a snack and a hat — and take a trip to the library. Your kids can choose which country you’ll explore. (You can check ahead to make sure there are some relevant books on the shelves, as most libraries have their catalogs online.) Then spend an afternoon reading the folktales and myths of your place. Talk to your kids about themes that arise, or recurring characters or ideas. If you come across unfamiliar words or objects, make a list of vocabulary words to track down. Since many folktales emphasize universally good traits, such as caution, empathy and perseverance, you’ll be reinforcing lessons you’d want your kids to pick up anyway.

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Another educational project can be looking for the cultural influences in your hometown. Do you know what groups of people lived in and helped build your city? Do your children? If your town offers some kind of an historic tour, don’t discount it as being just for tourists. A guided walk through downtown can often yield info about a place’s past that residents weren’t aware of.

You can also check out what kind of cultural centers your town has. Even small burgs often have visitor centers with historic information. Maybe discovering that the city they live in was founded by a lot of Irish immigrants will launch your kids into researching Ireland. Or perhaps learning that their town has a growing Eritrean population will send them on a journey exploring cultures of the horn of Africa.

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Across the street from the restaurant I was in the other night, I noticed a building labeled “Podkrepa.” Curiosity and some quick research helped me discover that it was a Bulgarian and Macedonian cultural center. A quick look at its website revealed an upcoming, family-friendly Bulgarian Community Celebration, with potluck, music and dances. What a great weekend activity for little world adventurers.

It’s never too early to start teaching your kids that every place has a rich history, which can be traced to some other part of the world. If they get intrigued at an early age, they’ll be primed to have a life of appreciation for other countries and cultures.

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