Teaching Children About Other Cultures

By Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed., C.H.C

 

Rachel in Ghana 2012

Our world is truly a global village! This phenomenon makes it easy and fun to introduce your children to other cultures from all over the globe. Fostering an appreciation for other cultures not only expands children’s borders, but also begins to lay an important foundation for tolerance and understanding of others who are not like us, or live differently than we do. Our world can always use a little more of that.

 

If your child is old enough, choose a country of focus and find it on the map or look at some photos on-line to establish a frame of reference before embarking on any of these intercultural adventures. Even children who are too young to make a connection will still benefit from a wide array of experiences, so have fun no matter the age.

 

Make your international adventures (without leaving town!) fun, tasty, and engaging. Let’s get traveling!

 

FOOD: This is perhaps the easiest as far as accessibility and getting some first-hand experience. Most small towns, and certainly big cities, have restaurants dedicated to the cuisine of certain countries.  Choose one to try! Some children may be a bit hesitant to try new foods and flavors (remember, it can take multiple exposures for kids to accept new foods). However, most menus have something that is close to a familiar food, so you can start there, if need be. Ask for sauces on the side and encourage some experimental dipping. Let your child see you enjoying cuisine of other cultures and talk about how great it is that we can eat foods from all over the world. Your excitement will be contagious.

 

MUSIC: Listen to music from other cultures together. You can talk about the instruments that are being used, look at pictures of them online, make up dances, and do creative movement games to the beats of other nations. If you can, take your child to kid-friendly music venues and festivals where they might see the music live, or stop on a city street and enjoy a street performer from another country.

 

LITERATURE: Children’s books about other cultures abound, and reading them together can be a lovely way to explore other parts of the world. As you read through these stories, talk about what your child is noticing in the pictures. What are the clothes like? Is there any food in the story, and is it like what they eat? What is the same, and different, from what they experience? Do they see anything they might like to try? Here are a few favorites to get you started

Russia: Babushka Baba Yaga, by Patricia Polacco
China: The Story of Ping, By Marjorie Flack
Mexico: Off We Go to Mexico, by Laurie Krebs
Australia: Diary of a Wombat, by Jackie French
France: The Cat Who Walked Across France, by Kate Banks

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