Growing up in Toronto, Canada, my closest friends were either born in other countries or first generation immigrants. All were multilingual, and their families travelled as often as they could to their home countries. They made sure to continue the rich traditions of their native lands and pass along their heritage to the next generation.
I developed a deep affection for other cultures, a love of languages and a yearning to travel and learn about the world. My husband, who was born and raised in Europe, shared this sentiment and we have always strived to impart a global view onto our children.
The world is indeed smaller than it used to be! Travel is more accessible and so is learning about and communicating with the rest of the world. Providing children with an informed, international perspective isn’t simply an important educational opportunity which will set them up for success in the long run, but a way to provide greater understanding and empathy for others.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate geography into your home:
The Families of the World video series takes children through a day in the life of a typical family in a number of countries from around the world. Touching on many topics of interest, like school, clothes, communities, housing and religion, the series is narrated by children and seen through their eyes. It is a delight to see a child’s fascination and joy when watching these videos that allow them to take a peek through the window into another house in a far away place.
Something as simple as putting a map on the wall, an interactive rug on the floor or a globe in your child’s room can be life-changing. Above my son’s bed hangs a map, and we spend most nights before he falls asleep talking about the pictures and places portrayed. We reminisce about places we have travelled to and discuss the cool places he dreams of visiting. Decorating with geography-themed decor is a great way to inspire imaginations and spark conversations about the different parts of the world and the various animals, cuisines, people, countries, climates and landscapes.
Fellow parent, artist and renowned interior designer, Aaron Christensen, weighs in on the topic. “As parents, we love to think of all the places our children will go, but looking back at the places they’ve been can also be a source of room decor fun. Shelves and shadow boxes are a terrific way to display mementos from their personal travels. While traveling, encourage your child to take their own photographs. Displaying those photos in whimsical frames or in collage form will help make those memories last forever. Using thumb tacks and string, your little traveler can easily and visually notate, on a map, their world travels or the distant locations of family and friends.”
Consider introducing your children to games and toys that familiarize them with cultures from around the world. Award-winning children’s toy maker, eeBoo, does a fantastic job of using vibrant and colorful illustrations in their educational games and gifts. I am drawn to their toys because they are fun, beautiful and encourage diversity. Sitting down and playing with these games is just another great way to talk about different people from various backgrounds, some of whom your children may have already met.
Teaching our children about our wonderful world is fun and rewarding for parents and kids alike. We all know that learning makes tummies grumble. Check out these delicious kid-approved international recipes… Enjoy!