Whether you’re a teacher who wants to expose your class to other countries and cultures, or a parent who wants to broaden your kids’ knowledge of the world, teaching kids about other countries and their cultures is a great way to do just that. These tips will help you come up with a lesson plan about countries and cultures to help kids understand the world outside their own experiences. From food to art, there are lots of ways to travel with your kids without ever leaving home or the classroom. These suggestions will help you keep your kids learning about other countries and cultures while having fun at the same time. And who knows? Maybe they’ll be inspired to travel to these places for real someday.
Choose Which Countries You Want to Visit
Depending on how you want to structure this activity, you may choose one country a week, a month, or whatever works for your family or classroom. This is also a great activity for summer vacation: choose a handful of countries and do the following activities throughout the summer. You may choose to start with the countries of your ancestry, countries you’d like to one day visit, or countries your kids have talked about in school. Having a map or globe will be helpful for this project. As you teach about various countries and cultures, mark on the map which countries you’ve “visited” so that kids can see their virtual trip around the world.
Research Basic Facts
For each country you learn about, help your kids research basic facts about that country. Find out how old it is, basic history, what the government is like, what major holidays they celebrate and so on. Your local library will have lots of resources to help you find this information. Many coloring pages and printables exist on the internet; print some out and have your kids color the flag, people in traditional dress, and other scenes related to that country. Here are some sights to get you started:
Countries and Cultures Coloring Pages
Countries & Cultures Activities
Maps of Countries Coloring Pages
Flags of the World Coloring Pages from Crayola
Read Each Country’s Stories
Every country has literature and stories unique to that culture. And any lesson plan about countries and cultures should include these folk tales. There are many traditional children’s folk tales specific to various cultures; your kids will enjoy reading and hearing the stories that children are told in different places around the world. Plenty of these exist on the internet, as well as your local library. Some books include stories from many cultures, while others focus on just one. Enjoy this reading with your children as you discover new characters and adventures while you teach about different countries and cultures. These resources will help you get started:
Stories, Legends, and Folktales from Around the World (website)
Stories, Folklore, and Fairytales from Around the World (website)
Stories From Around the World (Stories for Young Children) by: Heather Amery
The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book: World Folk Tales Especially for Reading Aloud by: Bob Hartman
Cook and Eat Each Country’s Food
One of the most fun things about exploring other countries and cultures is sampling the food indigenous to that region. From salads to desserts, each country has specific foods its known for, and no lesson plan on countries and cultures is complete without trying to cook, and of course eat, some of it. Look up recipes on the internet or check out an ethnic cookbook from the library (these are great because they usually contain explanations, history, and pictures). Sit down with your kids and choose an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, or whatever sounds appealing to you. Some ingredients may be hard to find, but a trip to a local ethnic food market can provide a learning experience in itself. And if you’re nervous about cooking, try visiting a restaurant that serves cuisine from the country you’re studying. This can be a lot of fun, as many times these restaurants are decorated in native décor and play native music as well. This is also a fun way to try a variety of expertly-prepared dishes from a certain region of the world, and makes for a fun family night out.
Listen to Each Country’s Music
To complete your learning experience, play some music from the country you’re learning about to really get a feel for the culture. Many libraries have an excellent selection of world music that you can check out; music stores also tend to carry world music at a discounted rate, and sites like iTunes have a large music selection where songs start at only $0.99. You could choose to learn a special song together as a family or class, or simply listen to the music while you color or cook through your lesson plan. Most cultures also have children’s music specific to the region, which can be a treat for your kids.
The above tips will help you get started in traveling the world with your kids and having a great time learning about other countries and cultures. You can also try talking to family, friends, and neighbors from the countries you’re learning about, visiting local museums that have artifacts, artwork or exhibits from the countries you’re exploring, or even decide to plan a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to your country of choice. Most of all, have fun learning with your kids; doing these activities will help them to be open to trying new things and looking at their world in new ways, which is an invaluable experience for everyone.