We traveled to Brazil last Tuesday. Well–sort of. I guess I should say we learned all about Brazil one night last week. We’ve recently started teaching our preschoolers about different countries around the world.
A few times a month we choose a new country and declare it our country of the day. We find it on our wall-sized world map, plan dinner around its common cuisine and discuss interesting facts about our special place.
The kids have responded better than we ever expected. My 3-year-old can point to Madagascar and tell you that the vanilla we use to make cookies probably comes from there. My 4-year-old loved the Brazilian soccer pictures we found online, but wasn’t a huge fan of the feijoada dish (basically beef, beans and rice) we had for dinner that night.
We started the exercise simply because our kids were asking incessant questions about our globe. But I’m even more excited about our world studies now that I’ve read an article in Parents magazine. The article points out how learning how to appreciate other cultures will help kids approach problems creatively and come up with fair-minded solutions.
“When I was growing up the message was, ‘Here is a photograph of children in Africa with flies on their heads–help them,’” says Dana Curran Mortenson, the cofounder and executive director of World Savvy, a global education program that operates in public and private schools in New York, San Francisco and the Twin Cities. “Today we want children to understand the root causes of poverty. Like many global challenges, it’s a complex issue where there shouldn’t be an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’”
The root causes of poverty are a little more than my preschoolers can grasp right now. But there are lots of simple ways to give your child the benefit of a global perspective. Here are just five of my favorite from the article:
1. Make it personal. As Americans, we all can trace our ancestry to somewhere else. Find out about your family’s history and discuss it with your kids to help them connect to a larger world.
2. Embrace world music. Add some songs from other countries to your playlist and listen to them in the car or while you’re eating dinner. I think my kids would like the idea of watching international pop videos on YouTube.
3. Cheer on a soccer team. Choose an international soccer to team to follow. The choice can be based on your family’s heritage, your child’s favorite food or the language you want to learn to speak. Go to FIFA.com for an interactive world map to help you learn about the teams.
4. Throw a party. When your kids are old enough to understand, plan a birthday party around an international celebration–Bastille Day, Cinco de Mayo, World Cup or Olympic Games.
5. Watch a foreign film. The article offers some great suggestions for all ages (The Red Balloon, My Neighbor Totoro and The Secret of Roan Inish). Instead of watching dubbed versions, choose subtitles and read it like you would a book so kids can also hear the language.