Many parents have commented to us how they wish they could take their children all over the world but can’t due to various, very real obstacles. Finances, work and school schedules, family commitments, health issues and other impediments can make travel, domestic or international, difficult to impossible. There are still so many things we as parents can do to introduce our children to the world beyond their back door, even if we can’t get on a plane with them and jet set somewhere exotic. Here are a few of our ideas we do with our kids while at home. Please share your ideas too!
1) Read books with global themes. A few of our recent favorites include Four Feet, Two Sandals (Afghanistan); Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog (Japan); Selavi, That is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope (Haiti); and Whoever You Are (Reading Rainbow Books).
2) Make other languages normal and fun. The summer she was 4 Grace attended a summer Spanish language camp near our home. She learned some new words while discovering that new languages are fun, not scary. Many community centers offer language classes or clubs for kids. Try out words in a new language yourself to show your kids it’s fun to try, even if you make mistakes.
3) Bring the world to your family. We regularly invite people into our home from around the world. In recent years guests have been from Haiti, Japan, Germany, Colombia and Taiwan. Some have been over for a meal, others have stayed a few nights. Many have brought books or toys or snacks to our children from their home countries, which expands our kids’ horizons even after the guests have left. We both grew up in homes where hospitality, especially to those from far away, was regularly practiced and we do the same in our home. Some families host international exchange students for an extended period of time, giving their child a big brother or sister from someplace new and interesting. Having a friend from a distant country makes that place seem a lot closer and a lot less “foreign.” We’ve even video skyped with our friends in Japan. Their kids loved the “tour” we gave them of our home by toting the laptop through all our house’s rooms!
4) Check out local ethnic restaurants, festivals and fairs. Expand your children’s (and your own !) sense of adventure by showing them the wonders of new foods, smells and sights by finding those experiences in your own community. They might make new friends too!
5) Read the newspaper. Sure not everything is appropriate for kids but we share articles/ pictures in the daily paper about places our kids have been or heard about. It helps them grasp that a lot goes on all over the world, every day, even when we’re going about our regular daily routines.
How do you expand your children’s world while close to home?