As someone who enjoys different cultures it is important that I pass down this same sense of respect and excitement to my children. Even though we live in a large and very diverse metropolis, I want to make sure that I intentionally help them soak up language and culture. As a parent, diversity and global awareness is too important to me to simply hope that it will happen. It can be difficult but I try to come up with many creative ways to keep my children aware and interested in different cultures.
If you can afford foreign language classes for your children then that’s a wonderful way to introduce them to a new language! While it is beneficial for your children to formally learn language, there are limitless free ways to encourage this process if that’s not an option for your family. Here are some inexpensive ways to pique their curiosity:
Keeping Travel Photo Albums
Between my husband and I we have visited places like Thailand, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Russia. Ever so often I will get out the photo albums of these trips and show them to my children. I hope that this captures their imagination and plants a tiny seed of wander into their hearts.
Watching Language Learning Television Shows
Until I had children I really didn’t think that television shows like Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao, Kai Lan could possibly teach a child phrases in a foreign language. And then I saw my own children enjoy these shows and use the phrases as they played throughout the day. While this isn’t the only source of language learning in our home, it definitely helps.
Reading Books From Different Cultures
Your local library is a never-ending supply of cultural resources. You should be able to find language learning DVDs as well as books from different cultural perspectives. Some of my favorite cultural books for children are:
- Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi: Every child in the world loves bathroom humor and this Japanese author creates a great book to keep kids fascinated!
- Akimbo and the Elephants by Alexander McCall Smith: Africa easily opens a child’s imagination. Paired with elephants (an animal every child knows and loves) this is a great way to expose your children to African culture.
- Snow by Uri Shulevitz: My children love this book! The pictures are simple and the background scenery is a great way to introduce your children to Eastern European architecture and weather.
Creating A Pretend Passport
If you have older children then take them on a pretend adventure around the world. They can make a passport and choose different places around the globe to visit. You could help them make cultural dishes from different countries and conduct online research. You could even teach them a few basic phrases in the local language!
The ideas are endless when it comes to helping your children learn and appreciate language and culture. Please share additional thoughts as we all try to create a love for the world in our children’s hearts!