Cześć! Buenas Dias! Guten tag!
Part of becoming a well-rounded adult is traveling outside your own hometown bubble. We know you want your children to be empathetic, worldly and sophisticated, but what if touring Europe this summer is a bit out of your reach? You can still foster in your family a curiosity about other places, as well as open-mindedness for other cultures and traditions. Better still, you can do it while spending time with your kids on fun projects – without even leaving your home.
MAKE YOUR OWN PASSPORT
Any of us who have traveled overseas know that applying for a passport, waiting for it to arrive — hopefully before the trip — and dealing with customs is kind of a drag. However, I have a friend who invented a project for her son called “Passport Office,” and it was a huge hit. First they talked about what a passport is and why someone needs one. Then she helped him make his own.
This is the construction paper part of the game, but you can get as in-depth as you want. Think about taking a picture of your child and printing a small version to glue into the passport. Or maybe you and your child can research and recreate the visa stamps from various countries. In fact, if you’re going to investigate multiple countries with your kid, you could even put a visa stamp in her passport each time you “visit” a new country.
GOING THROUGH CUSTOMS
After my friend’s son made his passport, she actually dressed up as a customs official and grilled him on the nature of his trip.
Although, I think her costume was only as elaborate as a hat, and in reality she asked him questions about the country he was pretending to enter and his own, it was both a fun and educational game to play. If the exercise seems a little staid, imagine your kids dressing up to go on vacation — possibly with big hats and sunglasses — creating and filling out funny landing cards and interacting with you using your silliest customs agent voice. It’s a great way to kick off a “vacation” full of armchair traveling through a particular country.
Once “landing” in the child’s country of choice, it’s time to sample the native cuisine. (You’ve got to feed your family anyway, right?) You can use the internet, of course, but we also love taking an actual trip — to the library. Hunting down books about a specific country can be part of the project. You can help your kids discover that maybe what people eat in China isn’t much like the food served in Americanized Chinese restaurants at all. Or you can find out what people do for breakfast in Portugal.
Once you’ve perused the edible options of a locale, find a recipe for something that appeals to your kids. It might be tempting to choose something that sounds familiar or closer to your usual fare, but it could be more exciting to pick something strange to you. It’s great to make crepes — they’re delicious and doing them well is a skill. However, to challenge yourself and your little chefs, try making Pommes Duchesse (a classic French food that involves making mashed potatoes mixed with egg into shapes and then baking them.)
Stamp your kids’ passports, set the table and find some traditional folk music of the country you are visiting. You’re dining internationally tonight. Bon appetit!