Raising digital natives can be exciting and challenging at the same time. How can we help kids grow into healthy, happy and successful global citizens? Exploring other places with them can inspire curiosity about our world, an appreciation for other cultures and help them develop empathy for people who are different from them. They’ll ask better questions, learn how to see themselves as part of a global community and ultimately, be more likely to thrive in an increasingly connected world. Here’s the good news: With that world at our fingertips you can bring it to them without stepping foot on a plane. Here’s how!
1. Explore the globe (literally).
Not sure where to start? Grab a desktop globe or pull up a map on your phone or tablet and pick a spot. Or ask them where they’d like to visit or learn more about. Feeling lucky? Have them close their eyes and let their finger fall where it may.
2. Taste your way to your destination.
Once you’ve picked a destination, start by finding a recipe to prepare together. You can learn a lot about a region’s history and traditions through the foods the locals love. Did you know that olives are so important in Greece that according to legend ancient Athenians chose the goddess Athena as their patron because she gifted them an olive tree? It’s amazing what you can learn in the kitchen. Need some ideas? Try your hand at making Vietnamese spring rolls, a Moroccan tagine or Mexican pork carnitas and see what you learn about these cultures.
3. Learn the language.
Another fun way to get to the heart of a culture is by learning words and phrases in the local language. Check out some bilingual picture books from the library, show them how to use Google Translate or spend some time on fun, free learning apps like Duolingo. Get involved by teaching them how to count in another language. According to this Parent.com article, learning a second language as a child encourages empathy, boosts brain function, offers academic advantages and more. Pretty cool, right?
4. Transport yourselves through books!
Picture books are an exciting, vivid way to explore other places and cultures. Like the titles in this educator-created Around the World collection. For the most authentic experience, choose “own-voices” picture books, like a few of our recommendations in this post. These are books that feature diverse characters and perspectives written by authors who share those identities. They not only support creators from other communities and cultures, they handle nuanced topics with authenticity and the right level of cultural awareness.
5. Practice a craft.
Learning–and doing–arts and crafts from other countries and cultures is a visceral, hands-on way to develop a better understanding of their history, traditions and what’s most meaningful to them. So get out the construction paper, scissors, glue–whatever you have on hand and find ideas related to the part of the world you’re learning about. Some kid-friendly crafts you can try could be an origami swan, a Chinese dragon puppet, a Frida-inspired flower crown or a Brazilian rain-stick. Check out this site for more ideas. As you craft together, you can talk about the elements of the culture that contributed to the art form.
6. Take an online tour.
Over the past couple of years, field trips have been in short supply. But lucky for us, there are lots of virtual tours, museums and other adventures to choose from. Check out Google’s extensive collection of virtual exhibits. You can also take your kids to see geysers in Yellowstone National Park over breakfast, then stroll over to admire the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. You’ll still have time to walk the Great Wall of China and have a deep-sea adventure at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Pro tip: search “360” and the location or attraction of your choice on your phone (ex: “360 Egypt” or “360 Everest”) and you can view it in all angles by rotating your device. You can also find these by clicking “360°” in the filters.
7. Get festive.
One of the most exciting ways to get inside other cultures and parts of the world is to take part in the celebrations! Learn about the holidays, the festivals and the days of observance. Take this quiz with your kid and test your knowledge, and if you get stumped, look up the answer. You can also read books that explore global holidays.
We’ve got lots of recommendations in our posts: “10 Festive Holiday Read-Alouds From Around the World,” “Holiday Picture Books for All Ages” and for global Halloween tales, “Spooky Stories From Around the World.” Want a more immersive experience? Check with your local library or city tourism center and see what festivals may be going on near you. Many cities have Chinese New Year, Diwali, Cinco de Mayo or other events you can participate in.
8. Game on.
Pick a game that originated in another country to play with your kid or have a family game night. You could grab a Mancala board and talk about its origins in North Africa, for instance, and other countries in which it is still popular today. Or check out some fun travel-themed apps on your phone. 80 Days is an example of a super addictive and educational game, based on the classic kids’ geography book. It’s chock full of geo-historical tidbits for your kid to absorb. The board game, The World Game, is another great choice for older kids.
9. Have a global movie night.
Pop some popcorn, grab your snacks and tune into a documentary, foreign film or movie set in another time and place. The award-winning Indian film “Like Stars on Earth” is a great kid-friendly choice if you want to get them into foreign cinema. You can also pick an animated film that takes place in a place your kid is curious about, like Disney’s “Encanto” (Columbia), “Coco” (Mexico), “Brave” (Scotland) or “Moana” (Polynesia). Movies are an entertaining way to get a glimpse into the fashion, music, language and customs from other parts of the world.
10. Listen & move!
Last but not least, you can learn about the sounds from another country or region by listening to its traditional music and trending pop hits. Pull out your smartphone, and open Apple Music, Spotify, or YouTube and jam to Cueca music from Chile, Korean Pop for kids or traditional Irish step-dancing music. You can also go to Youtube and find folk dance tutorials to try. Need some inspo? Check out this list of world music for kids.
These tips just scratch the surface of all the creative ways you can get your kid into globe trotting from home. We hope these globally inspired activities will help you raise curious, empathetic global citizens right from the start.