travel, kids and cultural awareness


I read an interesting article the other day. It made me stop and think. So how do you teach your kids to be culturally aware? And is this even possible? I wrote a long response to the author’s question on this on the twittermoms forum, but I care enough about this topic that I thought it worthwhile to share my ideas and opinions here too.

This question is posed at the start of this article: “How do you bring a culture into your own living room and bring back the actual experiences that forever make you see life differently?” I say, you have to start with what’s in your own living room. Abstract concepts like race and culture are difficult for children to understand, but they love to hear stories about you and to know more about their own family. Start with sharing that story. Use the foods you eat and your family’s traditions and celebrations to make the story come alive. This is step one in your child’s cultural awareness education.

Children of the World

You’ll need props to explain what you mean when you say that: “Your great-great-grandmother came from Italy.” I like to have a globe on hand. You can help your preschooler trace the route taken with his finger. Step two: The world is a big place and everywhere is not the same. Large floor puzzles Melissa and Doug World Map , Children Around the World) are a great way to integrate learning about the world into play – which is really how little kids learn.

If the World Were a Village

For me, step three was teaching my children about differences whether they are physical, social and economic. I have found the unicef store a great resource for books and puzzles for this. David J. Smith’s book If the World Were a Village excellently describes the uneven distribution of food, resources and education using simple math in a way that an elementary school child can easily understand.

And finally, step four is getting out there an experiencing the world. It may be choosing to take the bus around your town or traveling to another country (any other country) and savoring the differences you find there. Most importantly, when you travel, don’t stay in expensive hotels and rent a car. Live like a local or stay in a family-run guesthouse and take public transit. Yes, it adds an extra level of difficulty to traveling with children, but it’s worth it.

CAM, with his aunt, on the RER in Paris in 2002. Six, and patiently handling public transit like a pro.

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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

4 thoughts on “travel, kids and cultural awareness

  1. jyl @ mommygossip

    First of all, thanks so much for linking to my article. I am so glad it prompted you to write this post, which was amazing. I have forwarded this link to tons of people, because raising culturally aware kids is a big passion of mine. And, after reading your post and Jessie’s article (from the first comment), I realized I am not doing all I can.

    Anyway… thanks for your ideas here. I am going to implement them and can’t wait to see what my kids do with the info.

  2. Rebecca Sorrenson

    It is so important to teach children about the diversity of people and the unique cultures of the world. I read a great article on how to incorporate culture into your child’s life, in simple everyday ways. Here is the link:

    When you live in a place where there aren’t many ethnicities, there are still so many ways to help your child to be culturally aware. It will enrich his or her future.

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