I love to explore cultures with my kids. Recently, I sat down to reflect on how we’ve been doing that lately. I quickly realized that we haven’t really been doing much. We’ve all had to do a lot of re-thinking lately, haven’t we? We’ve had to pivot, regroup, go back to the drawing board.
Life just isn’t like it used to be. No more autopilot or default mode. Every aspect of life requires deliberate thinking. But, even though we might not be able to teach our kids about other cultures the way we used to, there are still lots of options.
This past August I would have taken my kids to our local Ethnic Enrichment Festival where they get a “passport” and travel to different countries (booths) around the world. Although they held the festival virtually, there weren’t going to be enough sights, sounds and smells to keep all four of my kids engaged in front of the screen.
We also used to make it a habit to visit a local museum or neighborhood grocery store, to eat at a new restaurant we hadn’t tried before, or to attend a cultural event put on by our local library. Those things haven’t happened for us in 2020. So what’s a multicultural loving family to do?
I thought about all the “go-to” ways we’ve learned about culture before and came up with some good pandemic-proof alternatives.
1. If you can’t Visit a Museum or Famous Landmark…
Try: Virtual Tours
It would be great to pair a virtual walking tour with some great books from your local library…that way when your kids want to stop and look at something in detail, they can do it with a book!
The tours linked below are long enough that you can just turn them on in the background and let your kids go about their business. Letting them come and watch when they feel interested will make this pandemic-proof activity feel more special to them.
2. If you can’t Attend Cultural Events or Festivals…
Try: Watching Events on YouTube or Facebook Live
Festivals and events are full of many exciting aspects – dance, food, music, language – which makes them a great way to explore cultures. To create something similar at home, watch a video of traditional dances, try a new recipe from a new-to-you country or region, or listen to some folk music from that place to really feel like you’re there!
I did a simple “cultural festivals” search on Facebook and found lots of upcoming virtual events to attend. YouTube also has a plethora of choices.
Festivals we attend usually have a kids’ spot that offers fun activities or crafts to help the kids connect to the culture. Make sure to try some kid-friendly activities at home like the ones below.
Explore Cultures Through Dance
Sakura Saku Ondo Dance Tutorial (Japan)
Explore Culture Through Dress
Explore Cultures Through Food
Mofongo with Spanish Olives (Caribbean)
Explore Cultures Through Activities
3. If you can’t Travel to Far Out Places…
Try: Finding a TV/Streaming Series to Take You There
We started watching the “Most Dangerous Ways to School” documentaries today (they can be found on Prime Video and YouTube to my knowledge). My 5- and 6-year-olds were amazed to discover the different ways kids their age get to school.
We also really like the series “Families of the World,” which can also be found on Prime Video (we also sometimes borrow the DVDs from our local library). The episodes are so dated, but we still really like them! Each one follows two children – one from a rural area and one from a city – as they go about their daily activities. It’s fascinating to see what normal life is like where they live.
4. If you can’t Make Friends from Other Cultures…
Try: Reading Books About Kids from Around the World
Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
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Children Just Like Me By DK
Look Where I Live! (English/French) By Catherine Bruzzone
Look Where I Live! (English/Spanish) By Catherine Bruzzone
Letters from Around the World (It’s an old book series, but your library might have it)
Or, you might be able to find a class online where your kids could join other kids to learn something new – like a new language!
5. If you can’t Learn by Immersion…
Try: Immersing your Family in Learning
I love, love, love doing this! It’s hard to get a “feel” for a place or its people if you “stay” for only a short while. Instead, try focusing on one particular place for a longer period of time.
First, pick a place that interests your kids and that they can connect to. Then, begin your extended exploration! Find books from your library about that place. Watch movies set in that place or produced there. Enjoy artwork created by artists who are from there. Learn folk songs. Study maps. Make recipes.
The list can go on and on! Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to really delve into the culture and learn about it. I think three months is a good minimum to begin with. This article will get you started.
It helps, too, if you find grown-up resources that interest you. When you learn about the place yourself, your enthusiasm will catch on, and the kids will want to learn along with you.
For example, I like to find a memoir written by someone from the country we’re learning about or to watch a few movies set there. It also doesn’t hurt if I can find a local restaurant with that country’s cuisine to try out!
Whatever you decide to try, remember to go easy on yourself. Set reasonable expectations, and focus on enjoying the moment with the loved ones around you. We all need to give ourselves so much grace during these times. Take care and stay safe.
How have you kept cultural adventures alive in your house?
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