If you are like me, a gift for your child is not only fun, it’s also an opportunity to teach them something. Fun toys that teach coding! Great gifts for book lovers! And so of course I have some great recommendations for you of multicultural gifts that your kids will love and that will also teach them about the world and encourage them to explore it even more. Enjoy!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of many of the items below; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no cost to you.
Multicultural Gifts for Kids
I absolutely adore the alphabet posters from Gus on the Go! We have one in Spanish and one in French hanging in our baby’s room, and she loves pointing at all the adorable pictures! I love that she is learning the Spanish alphabet (and French!) in an organic way, with pictures that correspond to the correct Spanish letters – and it includes the “ch” and the “ll”! And did I mention how adorable the pictures are?? Also available in Hebrew, Greek, and Italian, and you don’t want to miss their fun language learning apps, like Gus on the Go: Spanish for Kids.
What young child wouldn’t want to play with this inviting Plush Basket of Babies from Creative Minds? These soft, 10″ dolls are huggable and fun multicultural gifts for all ages, from very young children in search of a snuggly toy to older kids who love pretend play.
Karen Katz’s books are real favorites around our house. Her bright, colorful illustrations always include diverse characters, and her stories are told in simple language for the very young. I love that she takes her young readers seriously and talks to them about topics like world peace, as in the beautiful Can You Say Peace?. A lovely addition to the library of any little world citizen!
I was so excited to find out about Culture Chest, a subscription service offering multicultural picture books for children ages 3-8. Packages typically include 1-2 paperback books plus an activity. Books are selected with care for cultural relevance and accuracy. I love that the boxes follow the celebration of the heritage months. For example, for November (Native American Heritage Month), our box included two wonderful books related to Native American heritage: Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales and the lovely Navajo legend How the Stars Fell into the Sky. This service makes a great gift to help children learn about other cultures and celebrate their own heritage.
If you want a fun STEM project for your child to work on, you can’t beat the next two multicultural gifts! Japanese Paper Toys Kit: Origami Paper Toys that Walk, Jump, Spin, Tumble and Amaze! is so fun and creative and work well for a range of ages. Each paper toys kit comes with materials and instructions to make 21 different toys – that really move! The projects are easy enough to finish quickly so that kids can start playing with them!
Another great STEM activity kit is the Origami Zoo Kit, which includes the book, 40 papers, 95 stickers, and a zoo map for pretend play with your creations. It is so fun! Perfect for your animal lovers, or any child that likes crafts! I love Tuttle’s origami kits for kids, because they are so colorful and engaging for kids, and parents will love how easy the projects are to put together. The papers already have the patterns on them, plus they come with stickers to decorate once you are finished. And kids will love playing with their animals at the “zoo” afterwards. Hours of fun!
Older children will love All About Thailand: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids. It is packed with all kinds of fun learning activities about Thailand, from stories and songs to recipes and games. Kids can practice speaking a few words of Thai, learn more about elephants, or make their own shadow puppets! This is one my son really enjoys reading, and that I steal from my kids’ room to read for myself! Would also be perfect for the classroom or a home school unit.
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I’ve reviewed this album previously, but it is one that we pull out every holiday season, because everyone in the family loves it. Celebrate The Season: Multicultural Songs For The Holidays By Daria is a beautifully done collection of traditional holiday music from around the world that will have everyone singing along. It is a nice mix of upbeat songs and more gentle tunes, with wonderful instrumentals and Daria’s warm, resonant vocals. Not to miss! These CDs make great multicultural gifts to stick in your loved ones’ stockings!
The holidays are fast approaching, and this year I decided to try a new treat: a Christmas pudding from Haiti. It is heaven, a sweet combination of flavors we typically associate with the Caribbean, like coconut and banana, with those we associate with the winter holidays, like cinnamon and sweet potatoes.
Pain patate is a traditional treat in Haiti, served throughout the year but particularly at Christmas. It is sometimes translated as sweet potato cake or bread, but in other places as sweet potato pudding, which is more how ours turned out.
The recipe is very easy, but it does require quite a lot of cooking time, since the sweet potato are not cooked ahead of time but instead grated and cooked in the batter itself. If you decide to use orange yams like I did instead of the white sweet potatoes traditionally use, be warned that your pudding will take much longer to set, as the white sweet potatoes are much drier and so hold up better in the batter.
2.5 cups of sweet potatoes (I used one large sweet potato)
½ cup raisins
1 cup evaporated milk
1 ¼ cup coconut milk
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup butter
½ tsp of salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ripe banana
1 lime (zest only)
1 T ground ginger
2 T vanilla
Soak the raisins in boiling water. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Grate them with a box grater or (much faster!) cut into pieces and grind in a food processor.
Put the grated sweet potatoes in a pan, along with the evaporated milk, coconut milk, brown sugar, butter, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
Cook on medium heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring frequently. As it cooks, mash the banana and add to the pan, along with the raisins, lime zest, and ginger. Continue to stir frequently.
Add the vanilla then stir and cover. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the batter begins to thicken.
Pour into a greased 8 x 11 baking pan and cook at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 ½ hours. The dish is done once the pudding has set and turned a golden color.
For a more cake like consistency, refrigerate for 24 hours.
You’ve heard of the holiday cookie swap – here is a virtual swap, hosted by Crafty Moms Share, with recipes from around the world! Visit the linky below to find new multicultural recipes to try this holiday season, and link up your own!
Recently we looked at children’s books about the Aztec. Today we’re reaching further back into the history of Mesoamerica (that is, Central America and Mexico) to learn about what is often considered the “mother culture” of this culturally rich region: the Olmec. We learned some of the background of this ancient people and looked at the art they left behind. We focused on some of their most important carvings with a simple but fun jaguar craft that helps reinforce the history lesson but can also be used for younger children to learn about the letter “J.”
The Olmec: Mother Culture of Mesoamerica
The Olmec civilization prospered in the swampy region along the Gulf of Mexico from 1200 BC to 400 BC, more or less at the same time as ancient Greece and the New Kingdom in Egypt. Many of the elements we associate with later civilizations like the Aztec and Maya – sacred ball games, pyramids, human sacrifice, and foods like corn and chocolate – actually began with the Olmec.
Olmec Stone Head, Xalapa Museum, Source: Wikimedia
If you have heard of them at all it is probably due to the massive stone heads they constructed, most likely in memory of their rulers. (A fun craft to do with your kids would be to make their own “stone heads” with play dough!) The Olmec were also known for smaller stone carvings that seem to be related to their religion. Many of these are believed to represent deities, often associated with powerful animals like the eagle, the snake, and the jaguar.
Now, who could resist such a perfect subject to bring my boys to the crafting table? This craft works well for different ages, because my older son was really focused on capturing all of the elements of the ancient carvings. With my preschooler I focused mostly on the “J is for Jaguar” aspect and let him just have fun building with the dough.
J is for Jaguar: Olmec Jaguar Craft
This is a very simple jaguar craft, and you could make it even simpler by substituting play dough for salt dough, or even just making masks out of construction paper or craft foam. Go with what is easy! I picked salt dough because in the end it would have a similar feel to the stone masks we were copying (without having to carve any stone ourselves!) and we would have the option of making them permanent creations.
If you are making salt dough, I recommend this recipe. To color our dough green like the jade that was often used, I used all of a small tube of liquid food coloring. Some people recommend using powdered paint or gel food coloring so you aren’t adding more liquid to the recipe, but ours turned out fine. Be aware that once the creations dry overnight the color will fade somewhat, though it still is a nice shade of green.
Be sure to look at images of the were-jaguar for inspiration. For younger children, you can leave it at that, but for older children you can ask them to incorporate the major elements from the Olmec were-jaguar carvings:
a cleft head (that is, a notch cut on the top of the head)
somewhat slanted eyes
an open mouth, either with fangs or toothless
The finished were-jaguars
The Olmec carvings varied on how much they looked like a jaguar and how much like a human, so leave that to their imaginations. When they are happy with their work, set them out to dry overnight and bake, if desired.
After taking a break last year due to the arrival of Baby #3, we are back with one of my favorite series, the 31 Days of ABC! You can look forward to 31 more days of activities, crafts, books, apps, and more, all dedicated to teaching young children the alphabet.
I am so happy to be working with an amazing group of kid bloggers, who will be sharing their amazing ideas with us in the coming days. And this year for the first year we are also adding a giveaway, so be sure to scroll to the end and enter for a chance to win!
So join us as we jump, skip, hop, and read our way through the alphabet this October!
Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win this great prize package, open internationally!
3 month subscription to the Kidloland app, which includes 575+ interactive nursery rhymes, songs, stories, and educational activities to help children learn ABCs, animals, fruits, vegetables, shapes and more!
The Aztec were one of the greatest (and best known) civilizations of pre-Colombian America. They actually referred to themselves as the Mexica (pronounced “Meh-shee-kah”), which is where we get the name “Mexico” from. The term “Aztec” didn’t become popular until the 18th century, although there is evidence that the Mexica originally called themselves this because they had migrated central Mexico from a homeland they called Aztlán in what is today northern Mexico.
The Aztec are a great topic to explore especially with older kids who will be fascinated by their rituals, warriors, and (of course) human sacrifice. Here are the best books I have found for learning about the Aztec with kids.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
Top Books for Kids about the Aztec
A great book to start with, especially for young children, is Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate. After all, who wouldn’t want to learn a legend about how humans came to have chocolate? Long ago, Sun God is the only one who has chocolate, which he keeps guarded inside the pods of the cacao plant. Wind God thinks he should share this treasure with humans, but Sun God greedily refuses. Wind God then transforms himself into a blue frog, who spies on the Sun God and helps humans discover where the chocolate is hidden. The colorful illustrations are inspired by Aztec and Mayan art. Includes a recipe for hot chocolate.
In Musicians of the Sun famed author/illustrator Gerald McDermott brings to life the legend of how the Lord of the Night brought joy to the human world through music. The Lord of the Night, seeing that his people were sad and the world a colorless place, helps Wind fly to the house of the Sun (yes, here is that mean Sun God again!), where Sun is holding captive the Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green musicians. With the Lord of the Night’s help, Wind is able to battle the great Sun God and free the musicians, who bring color and laughter to the world with their music.
I love Ballplayers and Bonesetters: One Hundred Ancient Aztec and Maya Jobs You Might Have Adored or Abhorred. It shows the real diversity of this ancient society, and what everyday life would have been like for those holding various jobs. Examples of some of the types of jobs included are state jobs, palace jobs, everyday crafts jobs, luxury crafts jobs, and military jobs. Kids will love the latrine boatmen (who basically collected and sold human waste) as well as the voladores, who would perform at festivals, swinging by their feet like birds high above the crowds. Includes a general introduction to Mesoamerica, with a timeline, fun facts, and quick overview of the language.
Hail! Aztecs is an incredibly fun book. This faux tourist guide is a hilarious, engaging look at the Aztecs, put in terms of modern day society. So for example, there is a shopping guide (all about the markets) and a careers guide. I laughed out loud at the Celebrity Big Brother, where different gods and goddesses “compete” for your vote by telling why they are the best of the bunch. You also don’t want to miss Monty’s blog, posts from Montezuma himself (who was also named Hunk of the Month) as the Spanish first arrive. This is soon interrupted and an “Under New Management” sign appears, followed by a few “blog posts” from Cortés.
I love the concept of What Did the Aztecs Do for Me?, which breaks down why kids should care about the Aztecs. (Like the fact that they invented chocolate and tortillas!) It covers worship, games, and food, with “then and now” comparisons, such as where the Day of the Dead originated and how it is celebrated today.
If you have a child who is interested in fashion or crafts, a great choice is Clothes & Crafts in Aztec Times. It goes over what crafts were done by the Aztecs (such as making pottery or building stone pyramids), as well as the different kinds of clothing and jewelry used. My favorite part is at the end, where you can learn to make some Aztec hairpieces and clothing. (Note: this DIY part is only a small section of the book).
Interestingly, when I searched for books on the Aztec, there were quite a few about Aztec warriors. I found How to Be an Aztec Warrior to be one of the best. No surprise, since it’s from National Geographic! The premise is that you are a living in the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán and wish to become a great warrior. Do you have what it takes? The book goes through the various qualifications of being a warrior, from being loyal to your clan to handling the various weapons. I love the use of very engaging but realistic illustrations as well as photos of actual artifacts. If you run across How Would You Survive as an Aztec?, it is by the same author and illustrator and appears to be an early version of this book. Though it doesn’t focus just on warriors, it has almost identical information and many of the same illustrations.
I adore this series, which is a tongue in cheek look at everything from the Assyrian army to Titanic. They are totally fun to read, with silly illustrations and irreverent looks at history that will leave everyone laughing – and I guarantee they will remember the information! Keep in mind that they do make light of serious situations (like human sacrifice, in this case), but if you don’t mind that then you will love them. I do wish they would focus on something other than human sacrifice, since that’s such a sensationalist aspect of the Aztec civilization, but I also understand it because it does get kids’ attention!
Another very irreverent book is The Angry Aztecs. Before you get too upset about the title, you should know that other books in this series include The Vicious Vikings and The Rotten Romans. These are very funny books that older kids will love, using humor to convey well researched information. My son has been reading these books and laughing out loud, but at the same time he really is learning a lot from them!
One middle grade book I have not had a chance to read but that looks really good is Neil Flambé and the Aztec Abduction, part of a series of adventure books. I was worried at first that it might be an Indiana Jones style adventure that relies on popular rather than accurate information about the Aztecs, but this looks to be well researched as well as fun.
This post is also part of the series Global Learning for Kids. Each month we will feature a country and host a link party to collect posts about teaching kids about that country–crafts, books, lessons, recipes, etc. It will create a one-stop place full of information about the country.
This month we are learning all about Mexico, so visit Multicultural Kid Blogs to link up any old or new posts designed to teach kids about Mexico – crafts, books, lessons, recipes, music and more!
Don’t miss all of the great posts from previous years as well: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway!
Giveaway begins September 14 and goes through October 14, 2016.
Enter below for a chance to win one of these amazing prize packages! Some prizes have shipping restrictions. In the event that a winner lives outside the designated shipping area, that prize will then become part of the following prize package. For more information, read our full giveaway rules.
Is your family excited about the upcoming Summer Games? Explore the world together as you watch and learn with this fun Summer Games activity pack!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the Summer Games activity pack from Multicultural Kid Blogs for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.
I love to find creative ways to explore the world with my kids. I try cooking recipes from other countries, and we read a gazillion books together, many about cultures from around the globe. And all of these are great, but one thing that really gets kids (and adults!) excited is a sporting event, especially a big, huge sporting event like the upcoming Summer Games.
When the World Cup happened two years ago, my then four year old got really into watching the matches with my husband, and we learned so much about the countries that were participating, like Iran and Costa Rica. He memorized an unbelievable number of national flags, as we charted the progress of the teams in the tournament.
The Summer Games offer a similar opportunity – a way to see a friendly competition of nations play out on our TV screens on a daily basis, in all its pageantry and glory, with all its incredibly true tales of heroism, dedication, and perseverance.
That’s why I was thrilled when the incredible team from Multicultural Kid Blogs put together this brilliant activity pack for the Summer Games. It is over 100 pages (yes, that’s right – over 100 pages) of fun facts and activities to help kids learn about the Summer Games, the host city Rio de Janeiro, and the participating countries. For example, for each featured country (the host country plus most medaled nations) kids learn the history, geography, landmarks, wildlife, music, famous residents, and history in the Games, plus a fun recipe to try and a list of books to read.
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I love that as they learn about each country they can color it in on one of 5 continental maps. Plus there is a medal tracker that I can’t wait to use, as well as features on most medaled athletes. As a homeschooling mom (and one with an eye on avoiding the summer slide!) I love the review worksheets at the end of the pack. The good news? They are so fun that my son loves them, too!
Even with my back turned I can tell when my son is reading the pack, because I hear things like this: “Did you know that golf will be in the Olympics for the first time in over 100 years? 100 years!!” “I want to try water polo!” “Did you know that a famous athlete from Great Britain has the same first name as my uncle – your brother??” “Let’s make Viking Bread today!” (These are all actual quotes).
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If you want some fun activities for your kids to do related to the upcoming Summer Games, I highly recommend this activity pack, which has so much for kids – and adults – to enjoy. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to print your FREE Olympics passport!
This month we have been exploring the beautiful country of Pakistan as part of the Global Learning series from Multicultural Kid Blogs. The boys and I have been enjoying some wonderful children’s books about Pakistan, from folk tales and fun picture books to ones on topics like refugees and child labor.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
Pakistan: Favorite Children’s Books
A great place to start is P Is for Pakistan, part of the World Alphabets series. It has amazing photographs of everyday life in Pakistan, from clothes and foods to transport and landmarks. For example, A is for Asslam-U-Alaikum and B is for Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. Wonderful way to give an overview of the sights of this beautiful country and give a sense of what life is like for children there.
Ruler of the Courtyard is an edge of your seat, laugh out loud book from Rukhsana Khan, who has written a number of wonderful children’s books about Pakistan. Saba is scared of the chickens who live in the courtyard of her house, until a confrontation with a snake makes her realize that she has the courage to be the Ruler of the Courtyard. Saba is a spunky, melodramatic narrator that will take her young readers on the journey with her. We loved the surprise ending!
The Gifts of Wali Dad: A Tale of India and Pakistan is a fabulously silly tale of a humble grass cutter who just wants to enjoy his simple life. Unfortunately, his well-intentioned attempts to gift away his growing wealthy inadvertantly makes him the object of increasingly lavish gifts from those he has given to. Children will love this traditional tale and watching as the elaborate gifts become more fantastical and poor Wali Dad more miserable. In the end he is set free from his unbelievable riches with a little divine help.
One of the things I love about Rukhsana Khan’s books is that they are just plain good stories, whether or not you are learning about Pakistan, though of course children learn quite a bit about the country as they enjoy the book. In Silly Chicken, Rani believes her mother loves their pet chicken more than she loves Rani. Rani, of course, doesn’t like the chicken at all. In fact, she thinks Bibi is quite silly. But when Bibi disappears, Rani discovers that she actually misses her. Spoiler alert: though there is a happy ending to this story, Bibi is never found, so be prepared to (possibly) discuss this with your children, although my kids actually didn’t seem to notice this as they were so focused on Rani’s new pet.
Nadia’s Hands is a beautiful book about a young Pakistani-American girl learning to be proud of her culture. When Nadia is chosen to be the flower girl at her aunt’s wedding, she is nervous but soon is caught up in the excitement of the wedding preparations. She does not, however, like the look (and smell) of the designs painted onto her hands, which no longer look like her hands. She worries about what the other kids at school will say on Monday, but the loving words from her family help her to appreciate this tradition and think about classmates that have shared their own cultures. I love the kind gestures and loving words from Nadia’s aunties and uncles as they help Nadia feel like an important part of the celebrations. My favorite line is from the Grandma, who tells Nadia, “When I look at your hands, it’s as if I’m looking at my past and future at the same time.” Lovely book about family and tradition that second generation immigrants (and any child sometimes embarrassed by being different) will appreciate.
King for a Day is another gem from Rukhsana Khan. This book is wonderful on so many levels. It is a great way to learn about Basant, the spring festival in Pakistan, when the sky is full of gorgeous kites battling each other. (This lends itself to many extension activities, of course, like kite crafts and just going out and flying or battling kites yourself!) It also teaches about overcoming bullying and showing kindness to others, as Malik uses his cherished Falcom to battle the expensive kite flown by the bully next door. The book does not address directly the fact that Malik is in a wheelchair, but the lesson will not be lost on the reader that Malik is able to use his cunning and skill to become King for a day, and that he in turn decides to be kind to a young girl he sees crying in the street below.
The remaining picture books on this list address serious issues related to Pakistan. Four Feet, Two Sandals is the story of two young girls (originally from Afghanistan) in a Pakistani refugee camp. They both need a new pair of shoes, but when only one pa available, the girls suddenly find their lives intertwined. They work out a deal to wear the sandals on alternate days and soon find themselves sharing even more – first their stories of loss then their hopes and dreams. A poignant story to get children thinking about how world events affect children just like them.
Pakistan has given the world two fearless young human rights leaders: Malala, who was nearly killed because of her defiance of the Taliban’s prohibition of education for girls, and Iqbal, the young boy who escaped indentured servitude to speak out against child labor, only to be killed in suspicious circumstances at just 12 years old. Their remarkable stories are brought together in Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery, a two-in-one book which shares simplified versions of their stories appropriate for young children. I love the kite image found in the illustrations throughout the book, including the centerpiece which connects the two tales.
For children ready to learn more details about Malala, For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story is a great choice. This beautifully illustrated book tells of Malala’s love of learning and the courage of the students and teachers in the face of increasing opposition to girls’ education. One detail I loved was that instead of using henna to decorate her hands with beautiful designs, as many of her schoolmates did, Malala used it to cover her hands in scientific formulas.
Older children can learn more about child labor in Pakistan with The Carpet Boy’s Gift. It is the fictionalized account of Nadeem, a bonded laborer in a carpet factory who is scared after an attempt to gain freedom for himself and his fellow workers. Yet he gains courage after seeing Iqbal lead a parade through his town. A powerful portrait of the life of a child laborer, with detailed descriptions of what it would be like to work in a dim, gloomy factory from sunup to sundown. Includes resources at the end on child labor and how to get involved in this issue.
This post is part of our series Global Learning for Kids. Each month we will feature a country and host a link party to collect posts about teaching kids about that country–crafts, books, lessons, recipes, etc. It will create a one-stop place full of information about the country.
This month we are learning all about Pakistan, so link up below any old or new posts designed to teach kids about Pakistan–crafts, books, lessons, recipes, music and more!
Ever since I was a girl I was fascinated by India, that wonderfully diverse country with such a rich cultural heritage. And now I’m lucky enough to get to study it with my kids as part of our world cultures curriculum. Here are some of my favorites resources about India for kids, including websites and books appropriate for elementary school students.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of A Puzzling Tour of India for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
India for Kids: Favorite Resources for Elementary Students
We love A Puzzling Tour of India! It is perfect for schools and homeschoolers, or for anyone looking to do some really fun educational games with their kids. I love integrating subjects, so I was so excited to learn about this incredible activity book that combines STEM activities with learning about the cultures and history of India for kids. Best of all, the puzzles are really fun! And trust me, this book is packed with information about India plus a variety of types of puzzles, like mazes, hidden objects, and more. Here are just a few examples: write a story based on a painting from the Warli tribes, complete a picture of the Mahabodhi Temple by filling in the missing shapes, connect the dots to reveal a favorite resident of Jim Corbett National Park, and unscramble a picture of the Great Indian Hornbill.
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Another great STEM book about India is Endangered Animals of India by Meera Sriram. It is a wonderful way to teach kids about the wildlife of India as well as raise their awareness about the environmental challenges they face. You can also try the learning games we did to go along with this fantastic book.
Our study of India included learning about Hinduism. By now hopefully you are not tired of hearing me go on about how much I love books by Demi, but if you are teaching your kids about world religions, her books are essential! As mentioned in my Ramadan lesson plan, I love that her books are so respectful and authentic to the religion being presented. The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna is no exception. It is an exciting tale of Krishna’s life, though be warned that a sensitive child may find some of the battle scenes and illustrations a little s-c-a-r-y. (Having said that, these were my son’s favorites!)
There are so many general reference books available about India for kids that it can be quite overwhelming. One we liked was India (Eyewitness Books). The photos are outstanding, and the information is comprehensive and engaging.
Another great reference book is A Historical Atlas of India. The maps are fantastic and showcase how India has changed throughout time.
My son loves science, so Science in Ancient India was a fun way for him to connect with the history of India and the important scientific contributions it has made to the world. For example, we learned about ayurvedic medicine and even figured out what our doshas are! (You can also take an online quiz, though you have to give your email address to receive the results).
To learn more about ancient India and in particular the Indus Valley civilization, check out this BBC website for kids, which has great visuals to talk about everyday life, artifacts, and the mystery of what happened to this ancient civilization.
The island nation of Singapore is known as a melting pot that is a heaven for foodies young and old. So to sample some of the amazing Singapore cooking, we decided to try kaya, or coconut curd. My kids have major sweet tooths (okay, and so do I!) so I thought this would be a fun recipe to try, and manageable during Baby’s nap time.
Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
Singapore Cooking: Coconut Curd
As in the past, I turned to Global Table Adventure, which has a beautifully done recipe plus background information. Kaya shows some of the British influence in Singapore, as it is reminiscent of British lemon curd and is often served on toast at tea time.
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The ingredients are simple and easy to find in any grocery store. The only change we made was to substitute coconut sugar, which adds a deeper note as well as that nice rich brown color. Both of these led my kids to decide it tasted more like chocolate sauce than coconuts!
Ours didn’t thicken up quite as much as it should have – next time I’ll cook it for longer and/or increase the heat – but it was still delicious. And while we did enjoy it the traditional way, served on toast, I’m also curious to try it in other ways. I bet it would taste wonderful mixed in with oatmeal or yogurt!
Another fun pairing is Nuts for Coconuts. Though it doesn’t mention Singapore, it does talk about the many uses of coconuts in countries around the world, including nearby Malaysia and Indonesia. (Read my full review).
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As part of our history studies, we have been studying about the ancient Phoenician way of life, including their beautiful glass making. (For more ideas on studying the ancient Phoenicians with kids, read about our Lebanon unit study).
We read about how as they made their highly prized glass objects, they would often incorporate colored threads and jewels. So as a fun craft, we made our own “glass,” decorated with faux jewels. It was easy and fun, and they were pleased with how they turned out! It’s also a great activity for building those fine motor skills.
For the glass, we used contact paper. For the jewels, we used bits of faux jewels we had left over from a long ago craft. This would also work well with sparkly stickers, especially those ones designed to look like jewels.
This may seem like a craft that boys wouldn’t be interested in, but mine loved it. My three year old kept saying how “boo-tiful” his creation was (and it was!), and my 6 year old kept trying to identify which “gems” we were actually working with. (“This one is iron. And here’s quartz. Do we have any rubies?” Um, no. We don’t have any rubies in the craft closet).
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For each child, cut out a rectangle of contact paper, twice the size of what you would like the end product to be. Remove only half of the backing and let the child make his creation on the exposed contact paper. Make sure they do not put anything too close to the edge, as you will need room for the edges to seal together. Once they have finished, remove the remaining backing and very carefully fold this half over their art and press down to seal it in place. Makes a great a sun catcher!
Add a little exotic flavor to your Easter menu this year with this super easy Easter dessert from Brazil! Paçoca de amendoim is a peanut candy common to the rural areas of the southeastern parts of Brazil, around the states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. Since so many kids have peanut allergies, I’ve made a peanut-free version using almonds instead – still delicious!
Last year we really enjoyed making an Easter bread from Ethiopia, but with a newborn I knew that this year we’d need something much simpler. There are many different recipes out for paçoca de amendoim, all slightly different, but most use peanuts, sugar, condensed milk, and manioc (cassava) flour. Traditionally the peanuts were pounded in a mortar, but most cooks today use a food processor. Basically you just throw everything in and mix: I love any recipe that only requires that I push a button!
The toughest thing is getting the consistency right, which is always difficult if, like me, you’ve never tried the real thing. It should be dry but not too crumbly – just wet enough to come together without turning into a paste. If yours turns out too wet, try mixing in extra flour or putting it in the refrigerator over night – if you can wait that long! The best thing, though, is to start too dry and add the condensed milk only a very little bit at a time.
Either way, it will be delicious! Happy Easter and enjoy!
Easter Dessert from Brazil: Paçoca de Amendoim
Inspired by these two versions: from Cyber Cook and About.com (the latter was one of only English versions I found).
1 cup of peanuts or almonds
1/2 cup manioc (cassava) flour or coconut flour*
2 T brown sugar (I used coconut sugar)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk (you will not need the entire can)
pinch of salt
*look for manioc flour or manioc starch in international grocery stores. Ours unfortunately did not have it, so I substituted coconut flour instead.
Add all ingredients except condensed milk to your food processor and grind to desired consistency. (I did ours into a fine powder, but some prefer to leave slightly larger bits of nuts). Add the condensed milk just a little bit at a time until the mixture starts to come together. Press into an 8 x 8 pan or other mold then cut into pieces.