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Friday, March 18, 2016

Laughter Is Universal: 7 Playful Ways to Teach Children About the World

Photo by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (Flickr)

Have you ever noticed that almost every aspect of our parenting style is based on cultural beliefs and values? A neighbor challenged me with this truth last week as we discussed homework. She makes her kids do extra homework every night so that they will succeed, and I think my kids need more play to succeed. Even though we have different philosophies, our conversation made me think about how I can teach my girls to appreciate other cultures, learn global geography, and understand diversity. Here's my take on seven playful ways to teach kids about the world.

Learn a New Language

Whether you speak a second language in your home or not, words are a fun way to learn about other cultures. I suggest you start with phrases like "I love you" or "thank you." Learn the phrase in a different language, such as Spanish, French, Mandarin, or American Sign Language, every week, and add new phrases once a month. You can even enroll your kids in an immersion school or hire a multilingual babysitter as you teach your kids a new language and expose them to the world.

Read Books

Reading is one of my favorite fun ways to teach my girls about geography and culture. We already visit the library every week, so it's easy to grab books about other cultures, international landmarks, and related topics. You can choose from a long list of multicultural books, or if your kids are old enough, challenge them to do some digging on their own and find books that focus on these topics.

Eat Your Way Around the Globe

I remember the first time my girls helped me make baklava. They were in love! That's why cooking is one of my favorite ways to learn about other cultures. As your family prepares international dishes like kimchi, Irish stew, and curry together, you can discover dozens of differences and similarities of cultures around the globe without leaving the comfort of your home!

Visit the Zoo

When my girls first visited the zoo, they were so young that they didn't even know the difference between an elephant and a giraffe. It's funny looking back on it, and I'm blown away by how much they've learned over time. Today, they know so much about where the animals live and what they eat. We love looking up facts as we stroll the exhibits, and zoo trips also naturally lead into conversations about other places and people. Plan a zoo trip today as you expand your child's worldview and perspective.

Attend Cultural Festivals

My local neighborhood hosts several cultural festivals each year to celebrate different holidays, and I make sure we always participate. It's fun to meet our neighbors as we learn about different cultures, holidays, and traditions. If you can't find similar festivals nearby, celebrate holidays including Chinese New Year, Purim, and Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, with food and games at home.

Explore Your Culture

No matter where you live or what you look like, your family has a history associated with a certain part of the world. Celebrate your ancestry as you explore your culture with your kids. Websites like Ancestry.com allow you to explore your roots, and after you learn more, you can take your knowledge a step further as you prepare food, celebrate traditions, and research the beliefs that shaped past generations.

Play in Diverse Groups

I appreciate that my girls have friends from all around the world, and they chat about all kinds of things as they play. I realize that not all neighborhoods are diverse, so help your kids learn to play games from other parts of the world and share those games with their friends to foster understanding, communication, and respect through play.

Our globe is shrinking thanks to increased mobility and the Internet. I want my kids to appreciate other cultures, and we plan to play our way to a greater understanding of the world. Will you join us?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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