On this blog we talk a lot about activities to teach Spanish or resources for raising bilingual kids, but for many parents, a foreign language is not a high priority to add to their child’s already long list of activities. Many wonder, why should my child learn another language when they have so much on their plate as it is?
I recently had the pleasure to interview an amazing musician and advocate for teaching Spanish, the wonderful Super Stolie. Below she talks about her own journey to learn Spanish, and why she feels it is so important to expose children to other languages and cultures.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Why My Child Learn Another Language?
Interview with Super Stolie
Super Stolie (that is, Rebecca Stoelinga) has been performing for children for over a decade. While she has incorporated Spanish into her music previously (see my review of her album Family in Harmony), her latest album Hola Ola is her first fully bilingual collection. Her music is fun and super catchy, and, on a personal level, I have to say how encouraging it is that Super Stolie is not a native speaker, yet she still has achieved a high level of fluency in Spanish!
But given that she is not a native speaker of Spanish, why is it (and the culture) so important to her, and why does she feel so strongly that children should learn another language? Read my interview below to find out!
1. Tell us more about your love for Spanish and Latin culture! How did it begin, and why does it continue to be important to you today?
When I was in junior high, we were allowed to pick between Spanish or French as a foreign language to learn. Even at 12 I was aware of the influence of the Spanish language and culture, so the decision was clear! I think being able to communicate in another language is like having a super power— I actually have lots of memories of when my language skills saved the day! Since I’ve been making connections through music for so many years, combining that now with my second language seems like a job for Super Stolie!
2. Why do you think it’s important for children to learn another language?
I think it’s important for children to be globally educated, and knowing another language connects us with more people in the world, opening doors to new opportunities in travel, career and friendship. Plus, exposing yourself to a new language can help increase comprehension and speaking abilities overall by literally developing your tongue!
3. What can parents do to encourage their children to learn another language? (Or to learn one themselves??)
The first part of the journey is to increase awareness and exposure to another language, and preferably in a daily practice. This can be with books from the library, watching programs in the second language, using apps or flashcards, calling a relative or family friend who can pepper the language into a conversation. But my favorite — listening to music! One of my early practices was singing along to songs I loved (usually with lyrics printed in front of me) because it really helps with language fluidity.
4. What is the story behind your latest single, “Fuerte sin parar”?
In 2012 I released an album called Press Play! with a song called “Top of Our Lungs” about singing and back-seat leg dancing in the car. “Fuerte sin parar” is a pop remix of that song, with an additional Spanish translation of the original lyrics weaved throughout the song. The new version is totally different, very poppy! I used the Spanish lyrics for the chorus and reworked the original English chorus to a rap in the bridge of the song.
5. What message do you hope your young listeners take away from your music?
There are plenty of materials already out there for language learning. As I’ve been shifting into making bilingual music for kids, I’ve discovered that my expertise as a songwriter, and now a bilingual speaker, is to offer music — for entertainment — for those children who are being raised bilingually or who already are. Why should your favorite music be in just one language, if you can speak or understand two? I hope listeners who share a passion for multilingualism continue to support a world where language crossover is another way we can unite as a whole!
Want to help get more diverse, multicultural children’s books out into the world? Support Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25, 2019 with free resources and a classroom kit offered on their website. And be sure to use #ReadYourWorld on social media and spread the word!
Welcome to our 6th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day! Here’s how to celebrate:
Link up your diversity book reviews below.
Join us tonight at our 6th annual Twitter Party! Follow @McChildsBookDay to join in on the diverse book discussions, discover new titles and authors and for a chance to win one of our twelve book bundles. Party time is 9 pm to 10 pm EST. RSVP here. Use hashtag: #ReadYourWorld.
We want to extend a huge THANK YOU to all of the Sponsors, Authors, Publishers, Organizations, Book Reviewers, Book Donators, Parents, Caregivers, Educators and Librarians who devote their time and energy to helping us to achieve our mission of getting multicultural children’s and YA books into the hands of readers. We appreciate you!
Teach your students all about the upcoming Lunar New Year with these wonderful Chinese New Year books for kids! They include picture books as well as easy readers and a chapter book. Some are straightforward informational books, while others are fairy tales that bring to life some of the aspects of the Chinese New Year, like the animals of the zodiac. Some focus on the difficulty of being away from family during this special holiday, or the challenges of finding your identity as a Chinese American.
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below 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 at no extra charge to you.
18 Chinese New Year Books for Children
Bringing In the New Year is a wonderful board book that introduces the youngest readers to Chinese New Year. In colorful illustrations, it demonstrates how a family prepares for the New Year – by, for example, sweeping out the old year and hanging up spring-happiness poems. Little ones will especially enjoy the depictions of the celebration with lion dancers, firecrackers, and a dragon parade!
A cute book to teach older slightly children about the holiday is Chelsea’s Chinese New Year. Chelsea and her Chinese-American family are getting ready for the Chinese New Year, and she can’t wait! Most of all she wonders how she will stay up so late the night before! Can be read as a simple story, or add in the fun facts that are seen in bubbles throughout the book. A fun look at the celebration through a child’s eyes. Includes a glossary, list of zodiac animals, and additional resources.
PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year also follows a young Chinese-American girl celebrating Chinese New Year, but with a twist – she is learning all about it from her grandmother (PoPo), who is visiting from China! The first thing she learns is that there are a lot of rules to bring luck for the New Year, like don’t wash your hair on New Year’s Day, and don’t use knives and scissors. Can she follow the rules to have the luckiest year ever?
This Next New Year is another great introduction to the customs of Chinese New Year. One thing that makes this book a little different is its emphasis on how people of different Asian cultures (and many who aren’t Asian at all!) celebrate this holiday, including the main character, a young boy who is half-Chinese and half-Korean.
In Li’s Chinese New Year, Li learns about Chinese New Year and the zodiac as he tries to decide which animal to be at his school’s Chinese New Year parade. Read to find out more about his teacher’s clever solution!
Home for Chinese New Year is a very sweet story about a father going to great lengths to return home for Chinese New Year. Jiajun’s father works in a city far from home, but takes a train, bus, three-wheeled motorcycle, and ferry before walking many miles to make it home to his family for Chinese New Year. Emphasizes the importance of being with family for the holiday, and the incredible efforts people make to celebrate this special holiday together, even if only for a few days.
A New Year’s Reunion is a very similar story of a little girl whose father builds houses far away and only comes home for a few days a year, at Chinese New Year. This book captures the mixed emotions the young girl feels – excitement as she waits for her father’s arrival but fear as he looks so different than she remembers, joy as they celebrate Chinese New Year together and finally sadness when he leaves again just a short time later.
A Gift also emphasizes the importance of family during Chinese New Year, even when it is impossible for everyone to be together. Amy’s mother is from China, and although Amy has uncles and an aunt there she’s never met, they always remember her during Chinese New Year. This year they send a special gift all the way from China, to show their love and bring her luck for the new year.
In New Year we meet a young boy who has just moved to Los Angeles from Hong Kong. At first he is excited to go to school, but he quickly becomes frustrated when he doesn’t understand anyone else, except for another Chinese student who is embarrassed to talk to him in Chinese. Yet with help from his teacher (also an immigrant, from Mexico) and his mother, he learns to be proud of where he is from. Through his art, he gains confidence and shares with the other students his special memories of Chinese New Year.
If the story of a little girl walking through the woods to give her grandmother a present sounds familiar, don’t worry! In Ruby’s Chinese New Year no one gets eaten by a wolf. In fact, all of the animals Ruby meets on her journey are friendly and want to help her take a special Chinese New Year card to Grandmother. A clever way to introduce children to the animals of the zodiac and learn about the true spirit of Chinese New Year along the way! Includes additional information about the zodiac and Chinese New Year crafts.
When Xingling learns from her PoPo (grandmother) about the Nian monster who used to terrorize the countryside every year on Lunar New Year, she never imagines it will come back to life! In The Nian Monster, this clever girl must figure out how to use the traditions of Chinese New Year to defeat the Nian Monster before it devours her and the whole city of Shanghai! Beautifully told story that not only showcases many of the features of Chinese New Year but also landmarks of Shanghai.
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas is a fun retelling of the classic tale, this time set during Chinese New Year. Poor Goldy Luck just can’t catch a break. She tries to help her mother delivers a plate of turnip cakes to their neighbors (a family of pandas), but instead ends up stumbling into their apartment when they aren’t home, spilling the cakes, eating a whole bowl of congee, breaking a rocking chair, and – to top it all off – falling asleep in the little one’s bed! Find out how Goldy turns her situation around and finally finds some good luck to start off the new year. Includes a recipe for turnip cakes.
Inspired by the Danish folktale the Talking Pot, The Runaway Wok tells the story of a poor family in Beijing, who wishes they had enough food for a proper Chinese New Year feast to share with their neighbors. When the son finds an old, battered wok at the market, he is shocked when it begins to sing to him! Sure it must be magic, he brings it home, and soon the wok goes to work to make this a Chinese New Year to remember for this generous family and the other poor families of Beijing.
In The Runaway Rice Cake it’s the food itself that’s on the run. The Chang family only has enough rice flour to make one rice cake for the whole family to share for Chinese New Year, but when it is ready, it jumps up and runs out the door! The resolution to the story emphasizes not simply cleverness but kindness and generosity. In the end, the family is rewarded for their selflessness when they (and their rice cake) find someone in even greater need than themselves.
If you have a Curious George fan in your house, you won’t want to miss Curious George Dragon Dance. This time George’s curiosity leads him to investigate a Chinese New Year parade and help a new friend by becoming a lion dancer! Includes a craft.
Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year is different from the others because it follows a real life boy as he gets ready to be a lion dancer for Chinese New Year. It is chock full of beautiful photos of this family as they prepare for and celebrate in New York City’s Chinatown.
Max Celebrates Chinese New Year is part of an easy reader series. In this simple story, Max learns all about Chinese New Year as he helps his friend Lily and her family celebrate. A good introduction to basic traditions of the holiday.
The Year of the Dog is told from the point of view of a Chinese American girl, one of the only non-Caucasians in her town. According to her mother, the Year of the Dog is all about finding yourself, so the young girl struggles with her identity: Should she be called Pacy (her Chinese name) or Grace (her American name)? Is she American or Chinese or Taiwanese, or can she be all three? And can she find her own special talent before the Year of the Dog is over? Author Grace Lin started the Pacy Lin series because it was the kind of book she wished she could have read when she was growing up. Pacy/Grace faces problems any child will recognize (whether a crush likes her, getting a role in the school production of The Wizard of Oz), but these are sometimes complicated by her background (can Dorothy be Chinese?) The characters in the book are so well-written, and the story is both poignant and quite funny. And what pulls it all together is the idea of Chinese New Year, and how the concept of the Year of the Dog shapes Grace/Pacy’s quest for identity. While most children’s novels take place over a summer or over one school year, this one starts and finishes on Chinese New Year. Will one year be enough time to find herself? Highly recommended.
What are your favorite Chinese New Year books for kids?
Welcome to our fifth annual Chinese New Year blog hop! Lunar New Year, more commonly known as Chinese New Year, starts on February 5. It is the beginning of the Year of the Pig, and we have lots of great ideas for celebrating it with kids! Don’t miss our series from last year, 2017, 2016 and 2015, and you can find even more on our Chinese New Year Pinterest board:
Take your kids around the world this holiday season by hosting an around the world holiday party! It’s the perfect way for a school club or a homeschool group to celebrate this festive season.
Host an Around the World Holiday Party for Kids
Last year we started a World Explorers Club in our homeschool group. Each month we get together to learn about a different country with the kiddos. Earlier this month the World Explorers Club put on our second annual around the world holiday party. Everyone had a blast!
Each family picks a country to represent and shows how a popular winter holiday is celebrated there.
At our party this year we learned about Christmas in Sweden, Russia, Italy, UK, and the Netherlands; Hanukkah in Israel; Diwali in India; Chinese New Year in China; and Ayyám-i-Há. (The Bahá’í holiday of Ayyám-i-Há was a bit of an exception, since it isn’t based in any one country).
For their chosen country, each family prepares 1) a craft or activity, 2) a traditional treat. So, for example, last year our family did the Philippines, so the kids made a version of a traditional star decoration and sampled some homemade coconut milk cake. For India (Diwali) this year we brought ladoos to share and helped the kids make paper diyas. For Sweden, the kids crafted some adorable Christmas gnomes and decorated cookies, while for Israel (Hanukkah) they played dreidel to win chocolate coins.
We have done this two different ways, so see which works for your group! Both times, we set up “stations” around the room, generally one country per table, and the kids could spread out and take turns visiting each.
Last year, the food and the craft were at each station, whereas this year we moved all the treats to a food table and saved them until the end. They were only able to get the food after completing a quiz about the countries they had learned about!
The holiday quiz! They had to work together to answer the questions before they could have their treats 🙂
Whichever way you do it, make sure to have their first stop by a station where kids decorate treat bags. They’ll need one to collect all the crafts they will be making! This is a great activity for them to do as people are arriving and setting up.
Next year, we definitely have to add a Mexican style piñata!
The children are the future, and as parents we want to prepare them for it and inspire kids to make the world a better place. But often parents struggle with how to talk to their children about real problems faced by the world today in ways that are age appropriate. That is why I am so pleased to share with you a wonderful new resource aimed at parents and children, designed to inspire the next generation of world citizens through teaching them about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Disclosure: This blog post was sponsored by Mattel but all opinions are my own.
5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make the World a Better Place
We all want to raise children who will make a difference in the world, but often we don’t know where to start. Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Everyone’s favorite tank engine has teamed up with the United Nations to educate families about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Thomas & FriendsTMinteractive Global Goals website has resources to help parents and children learn more about six of these goals:
Clean Water and Sanitation
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Responsible Consumption and Production
Life on Land
For each goal, the All Aboard for Global Goals! website provides a Thomas & FriendsTM video Life Lesson, Parent Tips with conversation starters and activities to educate about the goals and get kids excited about achieving them.
Here are 5 tips on how you inspire kids to make the world a better place through using this incredible resource.
1. Educate Yourself
It’s impossible to teach what you don’t know, but this doesn’t mean you have to be an expert. What you do need is some background knowledge and – even more importantly – the right tools to teach the whole family.
One thing I love about the All Aboard for Global Goals! website is that is designed to educate parents and children. It gives you the materials and language for talking to your child about these important issues, so that you can learn about them together.
2. Talk About Real Issues – in an Age Appropriate Way
If we want to inspire kids to make the world a better place, we can’t shy away from the tough issues we face globally – but we must do so in ways that are appropriate for young children. That is why the format of these upbeat Thomas the Tank Engine videos is so effective: they present the material in ways that children can easily understand without becoming overwhelmed.
The information and activities come with suggestions for older and younger children, so you can adjust to what is appropriate for your child.
3. Use Media Thoughtfully
Children immediately warm to familiar characters like Thomas & FriendsTM, and using the videos as part of your discussion will help children get excited and engaged with the material. Rather than being asked to sit through a dry lesson, you will be playing together and watching a short video with some of their favorite characters! My favorite is the one on “Gender Equality,” which uses the examples of different tank engines from the show to demonstrate that girls and boys can do the same jobs!
4. Nurture a Sense of Empowerment
For each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals presented, the All Aboard for Global Goals! website offers ways that children can get involved and make a difference. At every turn they are invited to see themselves as having an important role. For example, for “Life On Land” (about caring for the environment), children can plant seeds and learn to care for their seedlings, while in “Gender Equality” they are asked to dress up as a superhero and think of tasks they would perform as a hero.
5. Keep It Fun
More than anything, for young children it is important to learn through play, especially when talking about potentially difficult topics. This wonderful resource means that you can engage with your child in fun learning activities that will inspire kids to make the world a better place.
Join Thomas as he learns about the Sustainable Development Goals! Learn together with your child through fun videos, meaningful discussions, and playful activities on the All Aboard for Global Goals! website.
As a Spanish (non-native) speaker, I have mostly blogged about my experiences teaching Spanish to my children. Last year, however, we decided to try something new and add French to our repertoire. I have always wanted to learn myself, and it has been a very different experience learning a language alongside my children instead of teaching them from years of experience! Here are our favorite resources to learn French no matter what your age!
And don’t miss out on receiving a FREE code for a French learning app for kids! Details at the end of the post.
Disclosure: I receive complimentary copies of many of the products below 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 at no extra charge to you.
Learn French as a Family: Favorite Resources
I am so excited to learn French with my kids! It is a language I have always been fascinated with, but I have had only limited exposure over the years. I have no formal training in French (I studied Spanish and a little Portuguese in school), so there were many surprises for me. (Did you know that when you say eighty in French you are literally saying “four twenties”? And why do they pronounce so few of the letters in their words??)
Beep Beep In Paris is a very sweet picture book about a little car who is off having adventures in Paris. It is a wonderful way not only to practice French but also to learn about famous landmarks of Paris. As we are just learning French, it is very helpful to read a bilingual book like this, so we can check our understanding without missing the flow of the story. Be sure to enjoy with a warm cup of chocolat!
At Home with Betty & Cat is part of a series of unusual bilingual books. Most bilingual books have the complete text in one language alongside the complete text in a second language. Yet the concept of these clever books is based on how children often play with language, frequently switching back and forth between languages (“code switching”). In the Betty & Cat stories, the dog in the story speaks one language, while the cat speaks another. This language distinction is just one of the differences between the pair!
This series is available in a variety of combinations (we chose Spanish and French!) The ideal reader is one that already has a basic understanding of the target language, though this need not be perfect. Especially great for kids that have started at an immersion school, whose grandparents speak another language, or whose families are bilingual.
Apps & YouTube
Gus on the Go is a super fun, play based app that will have your children learning and playing with French words right from the beginning! Your child does not need any prior knowledge of French to get started, as vocabulary is gradually taught with fun visuals and games. But as they work their way through the levels, they gain nearly 90 new words in French!
My kids took to this app right away. They thought the games were really fun, and they loved earning rewards – always a great motivation!
Now you can try out this app, too, just by being one of the first to comment on this post! (See details at the end).
Another great language learning app is Duolingo. In fact, it keeps popping up in chat groups as an app that works well for adults as well as older children. It is easy to use and very engaging. I love that it utilizes several different kinds of questions to learn the same vocabulary – matching, translating to/from French, writing what you hear, and so on. My only problem with it is that it doesn’t actually explain the rules of the language. For an analytical person like me, it’s easier to be told the grammar rule rather than just having to guess it from the examples.
Which is why I also love Learning French with Alexa on YouTube. Alexa has a very funny personality, with well organized lessons. So you can systematically go through them, or jump right into one that grabs your interest (or that you didn’t quite understand from other sources). Also, I love getting more exposure to proper pronunciation, as this is a real challenge for me coming from Spanish.
All you have to do is scan the QR code on each flashcard to hear a native speaker pronounce the word. (Btw this is a great way to engage tech-loving kids! Mine love scanning the code themselves). And in the time since I reviewed their Around the Spanish Flashcard Game (read my full review), Linguacious has come out with their own app to scan the QR codes. It works so much more quickly, making learning new vocabulary even easier than before!
Now, if you are like me and want to feel like you’re taking a class (without actually having to take a class), I recommend Living Language French, Essential Edition: Beginner course. It comes with a coursebook, 3 audio CDs, and free online tools. Last summer I spent time reading the book and doing the exercises, but what I really loved was listening to the CDs. It was so easy to put them on when we were running errands, and, though it is aimed at adults, it was great to expose the kids to more French!
There are so many wonderful language learning ideas out there. Find even more on these Pinterest boards – I’m always finding something new!
The Thunderbird is an important symbol found in legends throughout North America. Sometimes friendly, sometimes threatening, this awe-inspiring bird was a supernatural creature that derived its name from the flapping of its powerful wings, which was said to produce thunder. Read on to find resources to teach children about this widespread Native American legend, as well as a new middle grade fiction series that celebrates mythical creatures.
The Thunderbird appears most frequently in legends of the Pacific Northwest, yet it can be found throughout North America. It appears in songs and oral histories, even in ancient stone carvings. With the flapping of their powerful wings and the lightning that would shoot out of their eyes, the Thunderbirds were said to bring rain and storms.
A Note About Sources
When learning about Native American cultures, it is extremely important to interrogate your sources. This is a highly sensitive topic among Native communities, and with good reason. For hundreds of years outsiders have appropriated and interpreted Native culture. Even when done with good intentions, this can distort the original context, so it is important to make sure that your source is reputable and respectful.
For example, when searching for resources on the Thunderbird legend, I came across many entries from “cryptozoology,” a branch of pseudoscience that attempts to prove the existence of creatures from legend. As a result, there is a lively search for the “real” Thunderbird, sometimes thought to be a surviving pterosaur and sometimes a monstrous creature related to the condor.
You also run into a lot of links about the cars and the airplanes named after the powerful Thunderbird!
As a result, I’ve collected for you reliable resources about the supernatural Thunderbird from Native American legends, so you can learn more about it with your children. Keep in mind that the Thunderbird appears in legends across North America, so you will run across some variation.
I also found a beautiful book at our local library, called Brave Wolf and the Thunderbird: Tales of the People. This traditional Absaroka (Crow) tale is here retold by Joseph Medicine Crow. It is an example of how the Thunderbird often is friendly towards humans and can help them. It is part of the Tales of the People series created with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
If you have a child that is fascinated by mythical creatures, then you don’t want to miss the wonderful new middle grade series The Unicorn Rescue Society. In the first book, The Creature of the Pines, we meet Elliot, a bookish boy starting his first day at a new school. He quickly teams up with Uchenna, his polar opposite in many ways except for how neither of them seems to be a bit of a misfit. But my favorite character is the wild-haired Professor Fauna, a mysterious teacher feared by most students. But when the children find a mysterious creature on a school field trip, they find that Professor Fauna is the only person in whom they can confide.
And thanks to him, they are introduced to the Unicorn Rescue Society – much to Elliot’s chagrin and Uchenna’s delight. Young readers will delight in their adventures with the Professor, and travel along with them to save a dragon in the just released second book in the series, The Basque Dragon. Highly imaginative book for anyone who believes (or wants to believe) that mythical creatures might still exist!
This book is part of the Basque Dragon book tour. Find out more in the links below!
The wedding season is upon us, highlighted by the recent royal wedding. But if you are invited to a wedding from a culture other than your own, it can be difficult knowing what to expect – especially if you have children. Are children included in the invitation, and if so, how are they expected to behave and dress? I’ve asked parents from around the world to share their tips for wedding etiquette for families from their own cultures, and it’s a fascinating view!
Many thanks to those that graciously shared their experiences with me for this article! Share your tips on wedding etiquette for families in the comments, and don’t miss my review at the end of the post of a new children’s book about Indian weddings!
Multicultural Guide to Wedding Etiquette for Families
What to Expect
India: Sumiti: “I grew up in a big Punjabi family. And weddings were a big affair. It was minimum 4 days affair (could go up to a week) and the relatives and friends from across the world would stay at our house. The meals (breakfast/lunch/supper/dinner) were catered for all or women of the house would take turns making meals.There is one big evening only for Henna Ceremony, where men are at the bar and women are getting henna done and it’s an evening of dance and fun. All the neighbors are invited for the functions and are treated as family.”
India: Puneeta of Maple and Marigold: “Indian wedding celebrations traditionally carry on for many days. Close family and friends will often travel far distances to attend…Mid-morning naps, dinner before you leave home and comfortable shoes, all work for kids. And parents too. There’s usually loud music so carry headphones for the little ones.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “A Chinese wedding is like marrying two families. It is a huge event, and it often starts from the engagement ceremony and the delivery of engagement cookies with fancy packaging to relatives and close friends. A Chinese wedding can be extravagant, and it can easily have several hundred guests in a hotel ballroom, a restaurant, or a huge block wedding feast with live music entertainment.”
Mexico: Becky of Kid World Citizen: “There is a lot of dancing, and the party goes on very late.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “There is a mass or wedding vows at a town hall and then a wedding party at a ball room/hotel,etc. Loads, loads of food. Traditionally people had a band playing live music instead of a DJ. Many still do. Tons of food and vodka during the whole night. Hot food is served all the time. It’s not a single dinner. There is often a brunch on the next day also involving alcohol.”
Fiji (Indian): Ashi: “Indian weddings in Fiji are traditionally multi-day affairs which encompasses many elaborate ceremonies such as putting hardi (turmeric) on the bride and grooms body, henna (mehndi) which is painting beautiful designs on the hands and feet of the bride, prayer ceremonies and etc. I would say, the weddings are divided into three segments, pre-wedding, main-wedding celebration and post-wedding celebrations. For each daily festivity, they expect close to 100 people to show without any RSVP. In Fiji, people do not believe in the concept of RSVP. My grandma always said to us guests is like gods. They’re okay having extra food prepared but no one should leave the wedding functions hungry.”
Mexican-American: Chantilly of ChantillyPatino.com: “People stay forever, eat, drink, dance, visit, etc. A wedding is an opportunity for community and reuniting family you might not have seen in a while. There’s usually recuerdos, candies, cake or centerpieces to bring home. Nobody goes home empty handed.”
Russia: Varya of Creative World of Varya: “In Russia the wedding is celebrated 2 days – first day at the bride’s home where her parents give her away, second day – at her new home, where the groom’s parents receive her into the family. Lots of food, dancing, some love inviting entertainment.”
Across the board, the safest bet is to not wear white – no matter what the bride is wearing! Rita of Multilingual Parenting shares, “I once wore a cream dress when the bride had chosen dark red and felt a bit awkward.”
USA: Even within the US, there is some debate about what is appropriate to wear. Diana of Ladydeelg in NYC thought wearing black was very chic, while Mary-Helen, who grew up in New Orleans, said that “In the South, wearing black to a wedding is a passive aggressive way of saying that you REALLY are unhappy with this particular union” and are treating it “as if there has been a death in the family.” Instead, one should wear something “floral or happy looking.”
India (Punjabi): Sumiti: “Wearing black and white outfits to the wedding or reception is a total No No. The outfits should have bold colors and ladies were expected to wear heavy jewelry.”
India: Puneeta of Maple and Marigold: “Since Indian wedding usually involve dancing until late in the night, comfortable shoes are great for kids and adults. Wear leggings underneath the lehenga (Indian skirt) in case a quick change of attire is needed on the dance floor.”
India: Charu of Ketchup Moms: “In India kids are expected to be dressed in Indian attire for weddings mostly. And interestingly a young boy from the immediate family of the groom’s side is dressed just like the groom and then he ride on the horse with the groom (another custom) to the house of the Bride to marry her. He is called ‘Sarwala’.”
Mexico: Becky of Kid World Citizen: “People get VERY dressed up. Here in the Yucatan, men always wear a guayabera, but everywhere else it would be a suit or tux.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “You will see children dress in new clothing to attend a wedding. Red is always a good color but any bright happy colors are good choices. No black clothing for children or adults.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “You should not wear white to the wedding. Or black (brings bad luck).”
Read about the tradition of a “cake pull” in the US South!
Should Kids Attend?
One of the most hotly debates aspects of wedding etiquette for families in the US is about including children. As we saw at the recent royal wedding, children are often included in the wedding party at British weddings, while in the US they are often not even invited! So how do you know whether or not to bring your kids when you receive an invitation? It depends on where you are:
India: Sumiti: “Children are expected to attend, and it is a fun event for all ages.”
India: Vandana: “Kids are a part of the celebrations and very welcome. When we give the invitation, it’s implied that it is for the whole family, unless specified, which is very very rare.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “Children are always welcome to the wedding. You will see children dress in new clothing to attend a wedding. Children are an important part of a Chinese wedding because they bring happy spirit to the bride and the groom. They are also a reminder for the bride and groom of having a family. There is a Chinese tradition that one healthy happy little boy of a close relative of friends will be chosen by the bride’s or the groom’s family and this child will jump on the bed of the newlyweds prior to the weeding banquet to symbolize the couple will have happy healthy kids.”
Latvia: Ilze of Let the Journey Begin: “In Latvia kids are welcome to all weddings, have never heard of asking people to not bring their children to the wedding (or a part of it) as it sometimes happens, e.g. in the US. Most commonly, the wedding takes place in one location and then the party at another with accommodation included (hostel-style and free of charge for the guests). So many parents just let the kids stay up until they drop, put them to bed, and continue celebrating. On the second day of the wedding, as the guests are slowly getting up, having breakfast and getting ready to leave (noon-ish) you’d usually see children running around and playing.”
Fiji (Indian): Ashi: “When people give out wedding invitation cards, they generally expect everyone from the family to attend most of the festive activities. They’ll invite everyone they know (the whole village). Kids are the blessings of the family and they’re included in all the wedding festivities.”
Poland: Hanna of HannaCheda.com: “Kids used to take part in the wedding, but many parents including us do not bring them. Preferably I prefer to have fun on that night, drink, dance and not to chase after my kids. Only took them to one wedding when they were small and didn’t enjoy it at all.”
USA: In the US, it is mixed whether or not children are included in a wedding. Many report that children are often excluded from weddings, while others say that they are usually invited to daytime weddings. Often people assume that children are not invited and so leave them at home. Even Martha Stewart (or at least her organization) weighed in on how to decide whether to include children at a wedding. Your best bet? Unless it is specifically stated on the invitation, be sure to ask.
But keep in mind this is not true for many groups in the US. Chantilly of ChantillyPatino.com shares that for Mexican-American weddings, “Many times it’s expected that you’ll be bringing the little ones, grandma, etc. I’ve heard that in many American weddings (at least those uppercrust ones) that people have to request to bring their kids. In MexAm culture, for most, it’s expected you would bring them…from newborns to teens. This is a family event after all.”
How Are Kids Expected to Act?
If you do take your children, what behavior will be expected of them? Here are tips on wedding etiquette for families from experienced parents!
Mexican American: Elizabeth says, “Kids were always included and expected to act like kids – dance silly, run around, fall asleep.”
China and Taiwan: Amanda of Miss Panda Chinese: “Children love going to the wedding as well. They always have fun with the candy and soda provided on each table prior to the beginning of the 10 or more dishes are brought to the table one by one. The tips for bringing kids to a Chinese wedding is to make sure they sit through the wedding ceremony (it can go up to an hour) before the banquet starts.”
Latvia: Ilze of Let the Journey Begin: “On the second day of the wedding, as the guests are slowly getting up, having breakfast and getting ready to leave (noon-ish) you’d usually see children running around and playing.”
Fiji: Ashi: At a wedding in Fiji “you’ll hear screaming, crying, whining, kids running around but we’re all accustomed to all these noises. Children are considered blessing, they’re included in all the functions in Fiji Islands.”
New Children’s Book About Indian Weddings
I received a complimentary copy of Let’s Celebrate an Indian Wedding 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 at no extra charge to you.
And now you can share the joy and beauty of an Indian wedding with your children thanks to the new children’s book Let’s Celebrate An Indian Wedding! (Maya & Neel’s India Adventure Series, Book 9). This book is a great way to prepare if you are attending an Indian wedding or simply want to learn more about it. This is the latest installment of the adventures of Maya and Neel, and it does not disappoint!
I love the emphasis on the diversity of Indian weddings. While Maya and Neel are attending a wedding in New Delhi, there is also information about weddings in other regions, such as Tamil Nadu, where the bride and groom sit on a beautifully decorated swing!
Maya and Neel get to participate in all stages of the wedding, including of course lots of dancing! Kids will love learning about lovely traditions such as stealing the groom’s shoes in order to get a treat!
This is a wonderful book to share with children if you are attending a wedding this summer, or if you’d like to learn more about Indian culture!
What are your best tips on wedding etiquette for families?
Are you homeschooling Spanish for multiple children? It can be a real challenge to meet the needs of all of your children at their different stages of learning.
Visit us on Spanish Playground today to find out what works for us! I’m sharing tips for how you can balance group activities with individual attention and an immersive environment so you can meet the needs of all your children and their learning needs:
South Asian culture is so rich and diverse, that it is a fertile topic to return to again and again with your students. Whether you are interested in religion, history, the arts, food, or folk traditions, there is so much to explore. Here are some wonderful new children’s books about South Asian culture that you won’t want to miss!
Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below 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 at no extra charge to you.
Learn About South Asian Culture Through Books
Let’s Celebrate Vaisakhi! is the latest Maya and Neel adventure, this time exploring a joyful spring harvest festival from the Punjab state in India. Fans of Maya and Neel won’t want to miss this latest adventure into the rich traditions of South Asian culture! Punjab, which borders Pakistan, is known for its large Sikh population, so Let’s Celebrate Vaisakhi! features a section on Sikhism as well as information about the food and dances associated with Vaisakhi. As always, the illustrations are so beautiful and engaging, and the wealth of information is presented in a way that is easily understood by young readers. I love how there is an emphasis on the natural world of the region and how it is showcased in the various aspects of the Vaisakhi festival.
One aspect of South Asian culture that cannot be glossed over is the caste system, which historically designated people into a rigid hierarchy from birth. The Boy Who Asked Why: The Story of Bhimrao Ambedkar is a beautifully done book about a civil rights hero you probably have never heard of who fought against this hierarchy and the injustices it engendered. Bhimrao Ambedkar grew up in the early twentieth century, when the caste system was still entrenched. As an Untouchable, the lowest caste of all, others were not allowed to touch or even interact with him. Overcoming incredible odds, Ambedkar pursued his education and became a successful lawyer, but he still faced many prejudices despite all of his achievements. He led a movement to break down the barriers that held the Untouchables back. Great book to inspire children to allow ask why in the face of injustice.
One of the smaller countries that makes up South Asian culture is Bhutan. In the West, it is principally known for its use of the “Gross National Happiness” instead of “Gross National Product.” This joyful, kind attitude can be clearly see in the lovely folktale Room in Your Heart. Can you imagine going to a country with no hotels, where instead visitors could stay with a local family? This was a reality until the mid-twentieth century in Bhutan. Inspired by this tradition, Room in Your Heart is a beautiful story of a woman who, despite having so little herself, welcomes those in need who appear at her door. Wonderful way to teach children about generosity, and that “there will always be room in your home, as long as there is room in your heart.”