J Is for Joy: Keeping Learning Fun
As you all know, I am a big advocate of global learning; indeed, it’s a major part of our home school curriculum. But just because kids are learning, who says that it can’t be fun, too?
Of course, I always want to make sure I am keeping learning fun for my kids, but even more so with global learning, as raising them to be world citizens and truly feel at home in the world is very close to my heart.
Perhaps because so much more is at stake – our world is in desperate need of champions! – and perhaps because idea of exploring the world was something that captivated me from an early age and continues to drive much of what I do.
But start talking like this and your five year old’s eyes are likely to glaze over! So how do we make sure we are keeping learning fun while exploring about the world?
Pretend play can be a powerful way of teaching empathy, by getting children to imagine themselves living in different countries. One of my favorite activities was when Monkey dressed up to learn about Saudi Arabia. Putting on clothes from another culture is not only fun, it really gets kids thinking about what it would feel like to be in that place. It can also raise questions, for example, about climate, relative wealth, and ideas about modesty. (For more on this, you can read this great article on teaching cultural appreciation through fashion).
I’m also lucky to belong to a great multicultural moms group, where we do cultural play dates. We pick a country and share storybooks, crafts, and foods with the kids, like this one I did for Costa Rica. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have a moms group like this in your area, you could always invite friends over to celebrate a holiday with you or share about a recent trip.
Crafts & Games
Crafts are another easy to teach about other cultures. Arts and crafts lend themselves particularly well to this kind of exploration, as they are hands on ways for kids to learn about the colors, textures, and symbols of other countries. We have used them to learn about traditional ways of life, such as housing and music.
Of course, my two very active boys aren’t always interested in sitting down to do crafts, so I make sure to do a lot of games and other hands-on activities. When we studied the manatees of Senegal, we did word games, for example, and when we measured wingspans (including ours!) when we learned about Andean condors. (Don’t miss this resource for fun games from around the world!)
Of course, we can’t forget about food! Food can be such a fun way for kids to explore. Who wouldn’t want to learn about Hungary if it means getting to eat strudel? Or read a book about Cuba while sipping a mango shake? Or experience Saudi Arabia with some “magic” cake?
And finally, books are a wonderfully fun way to explore the world with kids. We read together constantly, just for fun and as part of our studies. Sometimes we choose a theme, such as friendship around the world or global adventure books. Other times I get books to go along with the country or culture we are focusing on, such as Mongolia or the Cherokee. And when possible, I try to make them interactive, with games like this one for the Parrot Tico Tango.