6 WAYS TO EXPLORE IRELAND’S CULTURE CLOSE TO HOME
You’ve heard of armchair quarterbacks. Well, we think it’s time to put armchair travelers in the game, too! Plumb the depths of Irish culture for kids, and help broaden their global horizons from the comfort of your living room when you pull out these simple activities on a crisp fall day. Explore food, stories, art and more when the travel bug bites, but you’ve got nowhere to go. Step up, armchair traveler. It’s time for you to play!
COOK UP AN IRISH FEAST
Fall is an ideal time to explore traditional Irish dishes. Ireland’s hearty stews, crusty breads and of course potatoes are cultural staples that pair nicely with fall’s wool sweaters, caps and mittens. So take a day to eat like the Irish with your kids. For breakfast, we recommend the Full Irish, or “fry up,” as the locals call it. It’s a traditional dish you can easily find anywhere in the UK, that includes bacon, sausage and eggs. In Ireland they like to add black or white pudding (which are types of sausage, not a dessert!), tomatoes, mushrooms and a slice of soda bread to the dish. And while we think it’s a great way to start the day, there are plenty of people who serve a Full Irish for lunch or dinner too. Start your day with this easy Full Irish recipe, and bake a loaf of soda bread while you’re at it; it’ll come in handy throughout the day!.
For lunch, explore Irish culture for kids with their favorite potatoes. Choose between Colcannon or Boxty to be the centerpiece of your mid day meal. If mashed potatoes are your jam then Colcannonshould be right up your alley. This recipe will get you started making this traditional dish that mixes cabbage, bacon and scallions into your meal. But if fried potatoes are what you’ve got a hankering for, put Boxty on your menu. Simply put, Boxty is the Irish twist on a potato pancake, or latke. Use this recipe as a starter, then get creative with your toppings to make it your own. Finish up your Irish food odyssey with an Irish Coddle. Traditionally made from the week’s leftovers, Coddle is a stew that has its roots in the Irish working class. This recipe uses pork loin and an assortment of fall vegetables to give it a rich flavor. It’s sure to be a hit on a cold fall night.
BAKE SOME IRISH LUCK
If a whole day of Irish eating doesn’t sound palatable to your family, don’t worry, armchair traveler, you can make a big play with Barmbrack, a traditional sweet bread. It’s usually served with afternoon tea, but (and here’s the fun part) at Halloween, bakers hide objects in the bread that are supposed to tell your fortune, depending on what slice you get! Here’s what to bake into your barmbrack loaf:
- A pea—means you won’t get married that year
- A ring—means you will get married that year
- A matchstick—means lots of fights or an unhappy relationship
- A piece of cloth—points to bad luck for the year
- A coin—points to good luck or riches for the year
Since these fortunes are pretty grown up, try making up your own meanings before you slice into the bread. Or even come up with your own items to tell fortunes that make sense to your family. What a fun way to add to the Irish culture for kids experience!
MAP AN “IRISH” TOWN
Armchair travelers can learn a lot about a place just by studying maps. Maps of Ireland, for example, will be full of place names that have their origins in English, Gaelic or Viking languages. But what about Irish place names in the U.S.? Can you find any? Maybe you live in Munster, Indiana (named after a province in Ireland)? Or Dublin, California? How about Antrim, Michigan or Belfast, Maine? Clare, Iowa and Newry, South Carolina have their roots in Ireland too. And while it’s fun to seek out names like this on a giant map, it’s even more exciting to make your own. So get your colored pencils and creativity at the ready… your kids are going to create and map their own town, naming roads, rivers, forests and more using Irish place name starters as building blocks. Here’s where to start:
- Ard, Gaelic, means “high place”
- Knock, Gaelic, means “hill”
- Kil or Killy, Gaelic, means “church”
- Glen Gaelic, means “valley between mountains”
- Ford Viking and Gaelic, in Gaelic it means “shallow crossing point”
- Drum Gaelic, means “ridge”
- Down, Dun or Don Gaelic, means “fortified place”
- Derry Gaelic, means “place for oak trees”
- Clon or Cloon Gaelic, means “dry place”
- Beg Gaelic, means “small”
- Bally, Gaelic for “place of”
Maybe your town will have a Ballysafe St. (Place of Safety) where the police station sits. Or a Glenmore Meadow below an Ardmore Hill. The possibilities with this one are endless!
DRESS UP LIKE A FAMOUS AMERICAN OF IRISH DESCENT
A majority of Irish immigrants came to the U.S. between 1820 and 1860. Many came to lend their skills to construction and engineering projects, while others (in the later years) came to escape the potato famine. So it should come as no surprise that many well-known Americans have their family roots in Ireland. Take for example, every President of the United States from Jimmy Carter through Barak Obama (plus a whole lot more!). And did you know the Disneys are also of Irish descent? Or how about the famous painter Georgia O’Keefe or the award-winning writer, Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone with the Wind? Even Muhammad Ali has Irish ancestry! From scientists to artists to actors and politicians, it’s time to pick your favorite and play dress up. Here are some names you might recognize to inspire your afternoon of play!
- JFK or RFK
- Jackie Kennedy
- Neil Armstrong
- Astronaut twins Scott and Mark Kelly
- Henry Ford
- Jason Kidd
- John Cena
- John Elway
- Conan O’Brien
- Rosie O’Donnell
- Alec Baldwin
- The Unsinkable Molly Brown (who survived the Titanic)
- Soccer player Heather O’Reilly
- Michael Phelps
- Maureen O’Hara
- George Clooney
- Anne Hathaway
- Ella Fitzgerald
Who will you be?
SIT AND LISTEN TO A TRADITIONAL IRISH TALE
Every good game should end on a high note, and this one’s no exception. On a cozy fall evening, snuggle up by the fireplace for a fantastic retelling of an Irish folktale. Parents, you take on the role of seanchaí (a traditional Gaelic storyteller or historian) while your kids gather round… Chances are your little ones are familiar with St. Patrick—or at least his day. But beyond building leprechaun traps and wearing green to avoid getting pinched, St. Patrick has an interesting history they may not know. Read this short biography of St. Patrick to them so they can learn more about who St. Patrick was and why he’s celebrated. Follow this story steeped in history with a fable about Fionn MacCumhain, aka Finn McCool, the gentle giant. This story, about the origin of the rock formation Giant’s Causeway, is a great way to connect storytelling to natural phenomenon and give your kids another opportunity to explore Ireland! If you need one more for your list, read The Salmon of Knowledge, a well-known tale your kids will love.
Finally, Imagine Your Own Ireland Adventure with Whole Wide World Toys’ new World Village Playset Ireland! This time Joe and Emma are checking out the sights and sounds of the Emerald Isle, recording their thoughts and experiences in their Travel Journal, as they make their way around the beautifully detailed play mat. Find out what they’re up to when this exciting new playset is released! Bring Irish culture for kids home to play. “Slán agus beannacht leat!”, which means “goodbye and blessings,” good traveler! What armchair traveler activity sounds good to you? –Allison Sutcliffe
Looking for more Kids Adventure Day ideas? You Might Also Like: