Your child knows a lot about the outside world. Thanks to his or her education and your own family activities, your preschooler or elementary school-aged child spends time in nature and knows a lot about the city or state in which you live.
But while you want your child to love life in your area, you also want him or her to grow into a global citizen-and there’s no better time to help your child become a compassionate, helpful member of the global community than while he or she is young.
Fortunately, you don’t always have to pay for international travel to help your child grow. Parents and teachers alike can help young children foster an interest in the rest of the world from right here in Minnesota-just follow the tips in this blog to help your child learn more about the globe.
1. Help Your Child Learn a Second Language
We’ve already written about how learning a second language helps children succeed. In particular, though, learning a second language can help children develop a better understanding of different cultures. Learning a language means learning more than just grammar and syntax-it also means experiencing life the way another culture experiences it, which helps students develop empathy.
Plus, once your child is an adult, he or she will likely connect with people all over the world. Technology increasingly bridges the gap between countries, and if your child knows more than one language, he or she will be better prepared to succeed in this interconnected world.
Finally, children will also develop empathy for students in their classroom who might not speak English as their first language. Learning how hard it is to speak another language can let children feel empathetic towards classmates they might otherwise consider different or have a hard time understanding.
It doesn’t matter what language your child learns-every language from Mandarin to French and Spanish will help him or her develop crucial skills. Talk to your child’s teacher about what languages he or she teaches, and help your child practice language skills at home.
2. Expose Your Child to New Foods
Food is the one thing that connects people globally. We all eat, we all have to eat and we all love to eat. Let your child help you try recipes from various countries to expose your child to new tastes and new foods. Children are less picky eaters if they are exposed to new tastes and new foods early in life.
3. Watch International Films
Most adults are used to watching foreign films with subtitles, which makes parents think that kids can’t watch foreign films or TV shows. However, the most popular children’s shows or movies from around the world often have an English-dubbed version once they’re released in America. Do a little research on Netflix or at your local library to find fun films your child will enjoy.
If you need ideas about where to start, try adding some of these films to your inventory:
- My Neighbor Totoro (Japan, 1988)
- The Secret of Roan Inish (Ireland, 1994)
- Ponyo (Japan, 2008)
- A Cat in Paris (France, 2010)
- Ernest and Celestine (France, 2012)
- Song of the Sea (Ireland, 2014)
Of course, you should always preview any film before you show it to your child-he or she might find it too scary or too boring, depending on his or her personality. Still, some of these foreign movies or TV shows will give your child a helpful international experience and supplement his or her more American diet of Disney and Pixar films.
4. Find Cultural Events in Your City
Most cities have city calendars where they list important upcoming events. For instance, Minneapolis’ city calendar lists international concerts, film festivals, and art exhibits. If you can’t think of anything to do on a weekend, check out your city’s calendar and find out about local events. You might just learn that there’s a Japanese cherry blossom festival or an Indian food cook-off not too far from your location.
If your city doesn’t have a calendar, try listening to local radio or checking out posters at local coffee shops and other community locations. You’ll find interesting, child-friendly events that give your kids exciting international experiences as soon as you start to look.
5. Read International Children’s Books
Of course, not every foreign children’s film gets dubbed into American English, but you can count on most libraries to stock copies of the best children’s picture books in translation. You can also check your favorite e-book store to find translated picture books with beautiful illustrations.
Along with translated books, you can find picture books by American authors with international experience. To get started, check out some of the following books:
- Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, Ai-Ling Louie (China)
- The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela: A Tale from Africa, Cristina Kessler (Ethiopia)
- Babushka’s Doll, Patricia Polacco (Russia)
- The Problem with Chickens, Bruce McMillan (Iceland)
- The Rich Man and the Parrot, Suzan Nadimi (Iran)
- Cold Feet, Cynthia DeFelice (Scotland)
You can also read chapter books like Pippi Longstocking (by Astrid Lindgren, who is Swedish) or the Tintin comics (by Herge, the pen name of Belgian author Georges Remi) with older children.
Help Your Children Learn
When you introduce your child to international experiences early on in his or her childhood, you help your child prepare for a confident, compassionate future in a global world. Try to add some of these fun activities to your daily schedule, and talk to your child’s teacher at Miniapple Int’l Montessori for more ideas about how you can complement international school lessons with at-home learning.