How to expose your kids to different cultures
If you feel your family would benefit from cultural diversity and want to expose your children to different languages, traditions, holidays and food, there are many ways to tie different cultures into your daily lives. Here's how!
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, so there is no better time to step outside of your own cultural background and explore the way others live. It can be enlightening, fun — and also quite tasty.
In your community
Take advantage of programs in your community that offer cultural events. If you live in a bigger city, they may be common and quite popular, but even small towns have festivals through libraries or museums. In areas that aren't ethnically diverse, you may want to go on day trips to visit bigger cities to experience more cultural diversity. Rachelle from Ohio loves visiting festivals. "Right now, we just go to ethnic festivals," she explained. "The Asian and Irish festivals here are amazing!"
In your home
Explore other cultures by bringing them to the dinner table. Plan an Ethiopian meal, for instance, or get your kids to love Thai food. Visit an ethnic market to get your ingredients and have your kids help prepare dinner. If you don't have easy access to some of the ingredients, look online for the best deal you can find on the internet.
If you can, immerse your child in another culture with the help of family members who have a different cultural background than you do. "My mom and her husband (Oma and Opa) are from Germany," shared Niki, mom of one. "My mom mostly speaks to Lucas in German. He is picking it up — he replies back to my mom (in English) when she says something to him in German, or will do what she tells in him German."
Many schools offer opportunities for children to learn about and experience different cultures — even within the student body itself. Charlene, mom of two, is opting to put her kids, who are biracial, in a city school — as opposed to one in the suburbs with a 95 percent caucasian student population. "There is much more of a mix of cultures in the city schools," she told us. "I want my kids around different races, and I especially want them around white and black people so they can get to know their own cultures."
Heather from Oregon is taking advantage of her city's unique academic opportunities for her daughter. "My daughter is about to take full Japanese immersion (80 percent of her day not speaking any English at all) in a school that also offers Mandarin and Spanish immersion," she said. "All three cultures are represented in shared performances."
In books and other media
Media, in any form, is an excellent way to introduce your child to new and different cultures. For example, as May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, there is a fun and engaging new series of children's books available in both a traditional format as well as for e-readers. The Fujimini Adventure Series from ONCEKids features an early introduction to Asian culture, holidays, food, traditions and has ample vocabulary-building opportunities.
“At ONCEKids we celebrate diversity and encourage families to explore other cultures, especially those with an Asian influence,” says author and founder, Eileen Wacker. “We believe a love of reading starts with fun, so our products are available in a variety of formats to incorporate different learning styles from interactive game apps to traditional hard books.”
With these few ideas in mind, go explore other cultures. You and your kids will learn something new and might incorporate a few new traditions in your family.