You can hear it in the excited chorus of kids playing outside and the hum of lawnmowers echoing around the neighborhood. There’s something about this time of year that seems to put a smile on people’s faces and add extra pep to their step. For parents and kids it feels like they can take on the world. So why not harness all that momentum and focus it on summer planning? It’s easy to jump-start your adventures with a creative project that pays off all summer long. Here are a few summer fun ideas that mix global cultures into that ongoing endeavor…
Give Postcrossing a Try
There’s something magical about receiving mail, isn’t there? Opening your mailbox and finding a hand-written letter is oddly exciting, no matter what age you are. And it’s one of the reasons kids love Postcrossing, an interactive activity that allows them to collect picturesque postcards from all over the globe, and write some too! Since 2008, this small operation has grown from a single postcard sent by founder Paulo Magalhães from his home city of Portugal, to include over 40 million postcards crisscrossing the continents between Postcrossing’s more than 600,000 registered users. That’s a lot of pen pals!
Getting in on the postcrossing action is simple, and kids of any age can give it a try. Here’s how it works… after creating a free account on the Postcrossing website, you’ll receive an address you can use to send your postcard. Now comes the fun part—picking out and writing your first one! Not sure what to say? Postcrossing’s got some great ideas kids can use to pen their notes before sending them flying all over the globe. After your postcard arrives at its final destination, your name pops up as next in line on the receive list, which means daily trips to the mailbox hoping you’ve got mail. If your little one is super anxious to receive that first card, try sending out more than one at a time (you can send up to 5 cards at once). Fingers crossed!
Keep track of your many postcard comings and goings on a map to add to the fun. Or use them as inspiration for other activities on our list, like planning an international week and growing a recipe garden.
Plan an International Week
Taking a week to introduce kids to a different culture is a great excuse to get out and explore this summer, and learn a little bit in the process too! To get started, have your kids pick the “destination,” then launch into it, using local activities and resources to guide the way. We bet you’ll be surprised at what you can find around town and online to help you learn about traditions, recipes and fun facts from whatever country or culture you choose. These five ideas make planning the better part of your week a breeze:
- Head to a festival. Challenge yourself to find a fun summer festival that’ll get your International Week off to the
right start. Maybe the International Festival of Language and Culture in Washington, D.C. or the
Chinese Lantern Festival in Philly piques your curious kid’s interest. Or how about taking them to the Tejano Conjunto Festival in San Antonio, Texas to listen to some of the best Conjunto musicians around? A quick Internet search should help you locate interesting options nearby. Then it’s off to enjoy new-to-you sights, sounds and tastes!
- Dig into the museum scene. If you don’t have a cool cultural museum or nearby exhibit to check
out, like the collection of global puppets at the Puppetry Museum in Atlanta or Phoenix’s Musical Instrument Museum that has a world gallery, start with your city’s art museum. It’s a good bet that they have artwork from artists around the globe you can take a look at. Traveling exhibits scheduled to hit the local museum scene or upcoming fairs they’ll host are another way to insert a little global exploration into your museum experience. Who knows, the range of exhibits offered at your local museum might surprise you.
- Watch a foreign film. Chillax with your kids and watch a movie one night. Use cultivated lists like Common Sense Media’s kid picks or Edutopia’s suggestions if you need ideas. Or, depending on your choice, go with popular picks that have been around for a while, like The Triplets of Belleville , Rabbit Proof Fence, or a favorite Miyazaki film. To really kick the summer fun up a notch, pair your favorite movie-watching popcorn with a snack from your chosen country, like samosas, plantain chips, pot stickers, naan… The possibilities are endless and delicious!
- Read folk and fairy tales. Fitting in cultural exploration before bedtime is easy when you replace
your regular nighttime reading routine with tales from your chosen country. Pull out a familiar favorite like Cinderella, and then pair it with one of these similar fairy tales from around the globe. It’s an easy, fun way to bridge cultures. Parents, you can also take the night off and let someone else do the reading for a while when you select a story on World Stories. If you’re looking for an Iranian folk tale, a Spanish short story, or a Bengali adventure, you’ll find it here!
- Dish up interesting meals. Adventurous palate or not, there’s always a way to fit new foods into your International Week. Whether you hit up an Asian grocery store to complete an atypical shopping list, sit down for dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse, or pull up for lunch at a taco truck, this is one activity that’s a guaranteed pleaser.
Grow a Recipe Garden
Nothing says summer fun like fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs from the garden. This year, rather than planting the
same-old-same old, pick seeds and starts with an international flair. Squash blossoms, Bok choy, basil, Japanese eggplant, lemongrass, jicama… are you hungry yet? The possibilities with this one are endless, so start with a few recipes to guide your growing garden. Sort them by continent at the Global Table Adventure. They’ve got plenty of tasty, authentic dishes you can choose from. Or narrow your search by country using A Big Slice’s thoughtful search options. Tending the garden will keep your kids busy when the sun is shining; cooking (and eating) the recipes will be their big payoff for all that hard work!
Create a Culture Kit
If sleuthing and collecting are two of your kid’s favorite activities, compiling a DIY culture kit should be a hit. Picking a country to focus on is key. Maybe you want to learn more about your heritage? Or are interested in traveling to a particular country? Whatever criteria you use, this will be your starting point. Then it’s time to hunt down the basics at the local library, where they’re sure to have a selection of kid-friendly travel books, online databases and more. Collect little bits of information as you go—like currency used, crops or materials produced there, inventions, basic phrases, English words originating from the local language, traditional clothing, traditional arts and crafts, well-known artists, political leaders, national songs, spices used, staple foods, packaged foods (like sweets!), traditional meals—anything that catches your kid’s eye can and should be included.
Once your list is done, it’s time to start collecting the artifacts. Something as simple as a walk through your house might unearth gems you can add to your kit—leftover coins from an overseas trip, a map from the dusty National Geographic collection taking up space in the closet, picture books, old postcards….there are sure to be a few good finds hiding around your house. Then it’s time to widen the search by planning field trips to track down what you need. Head to the bank and exchange a few dollars for coins from your country. Or visit an international district to see what authentic pieces you can find there. Even creating your own list of commonly used phrases (like please, thank you, how are you, my name is…) is fair game in this process. If you keep adding to it all summer fun long, you’ll be ready for show and tell on your first day back to school this Fall.
Start an Ongoing Project
When it comes to ongoing projects, art projects can be easy to set up, and many can be spread out over the whole summer fun without getting old. Think about using an old bed sheet and some leftover house paint to create a canvas a la Jackson Pollock, working on it here and there when the sun is shining and your kids are itching to be outside. Watching it transform from a bed sheet with a few splatters here and there into a sublime web of colors can be a really exciting process. The same can be said for folding origami peace cranes and stringing them up. Legend has it that whoever folds 1,000 of them will be granted a wish by the gods. Good luck with that! Your kids could also follow in Monet’s footsteps, painting and re-painting a serene scene (like his Water Lilies) at different times throughout the day. Find an art project that inspires your kids and then keep going back to it from now until Labor Day. In three month’s time, you’re sure to have created something spectacular!
Setting up an on-going building project is another way to entertain kids from Memorial through Labor Day. Whether your budding builder wants to construct a cardboard box city, plant a fairy garden village or has visions of large swaths of LEGO buildings taking over part of your house, projects like these never get old with kids. All you need to make it happen is a space for your little one to work and an easily replenished supply of materials. They don’t need to be fancy; they just need to inspire creativity.
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