As a mom raising a bilingual and bicultural child, I’m well aware of the importance of play for so many aspects of my daughter’s development. We know that immersing her in the Spanish language in fun and engaging ways is the best way for her to absorb the language. Not only do we want her to be bilingual because it’s the language of our heritage and a bridge to her family overseas, but also because we know it opens up her mind to be more accepting of different cultures since she’s been exposed to more than one from birth.
This summer we were lucky enough to travel to Europe and we spent a couple of days in Barcelona, Spain. It was easy for her to connect because she understood the language, but I was so surprised when she became obsessed about buying a flamenco dress, with shoes and fan to boot! To this day, I have no idea how she understood that if we were in Spain she had to get a flamenco dress because I don’t remember consciously teaching her that. I was more than happy to get her that dress so it could inject a bit of exoticness into her chest filled with princess dresses in all shades of pastels. This flamenco dress was a blood red with black polka dots that just screamed “¡Ole!” and she loved it, and still does.
If one dress for imaginative play can connect a child to another culture, then we must not pass up the many opportunities we have daily to help our children discover other cultures through play. Play knows no boundaries or cultures, yet it helps children learn about their own world, its cultural values and those across the globe.
Here are 5 ways to teach your kids about cultures through play:
1. Find dolls or toys that represent other cultures either through language or their dress. I love the Barbie Dolls of the World that represent Mexico, Holland, India, Argentina, Chile, Ireland, China, Hawaii, France and so many more.
2. Engage your kid with games that will help him learn about new cultures and even a bit of geography. Little Passports – a monthly subscription service – is ideal to take kids on a global adventure through play. They will receive a box to their name every month that will be filled with letters, stickers, souvenirs, photos and more from different countries their Little Passports friends Sam and Sofia have visited. Great way to focus on a country every month and extend the fun and learning with your own activities and books.
3. Puzzles are great for the brain, but also to teach children about other countries. It’s perfect to get them engaged while they’re focusing on putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Melissa and Doug has a beautiful Children of the World 48-Piece puzzle.
4. Children adore puppets and they are perfect to teach young children pretty much anything. Get your hands on a multicultural puppet collection or make your own with different ethnic clothing and colors and have a blast putting together stories from around the world.
5. Digital play is key nowadays, so apps need to be part of any cultural play. We’re loving World Atlas by Barefoot Books because the experience of being able to so quickly access information about so many places in our globe and do it so beautifully is just amazing.
How do you teach your children through play to value other cultures?
Photo credit via flickr