Our World At Home: Germany- Whole Wide World Toys
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Our World at Home: Germany

Get ready, armchair investigators! The next stop on our world at home Germany. And we think this collection of popular German foods, toys and inventions that you’ll finding hiding in plain sight at your place will excite you as much as it will intrigue you. And the best part? They’re all focused on the concept of play. Let’s go explore!

Play School!

Whether your kids have already gone, or are counting down until their first day, kindergarten is sure to be on their radar. And would you believe this American tradition comes from our world at Germany? True story. Even the word “kindergarten” is German. It translates to “children’s garden,” don’t you love that? So here’s how it happened….

It all started when Friedrich Froebel, an educational theorist, began to question what young children needed. At the time, children under the age of 7 weren’t formally educated, but Froebel thought children between the ages of 3 & 6 should be in school. So he opened the first kindergarten in the world in Blankenburg, Germany in 1837. There, students learned through “creative, imaginative and spontaneous play,” by singing songs and playing with toys, radically different notions at the time.

It was German immigrants who brought Froebel’s kindergarten to the states, where they were known as German language schools. Froebel’s model stayed within the immigrant community until an English speaker and educator, Elizabeth Peabody took an interest in them. Once she did, they took off and blossomed into the kindergartens we know and love today.

The first way to play like a German is to play school. Set up a kindergarten classroom with your kiddos—stations are the easiest way to do it. One for music, one for reading and one for play time. Stock them with the “necessary materials”—books, CD’s or a smartphone playlist, and plenty of toys that engage your crew—then, move between them at kid-pace, following their lead for maximum fun. And we’ve got a few other station ideas below, too. Keep reading to find ways to fold your investigation of German artifacts at home into your kindergarten playtime. Talk about a great classroom experience!

Play with Words!

It’s always fun to find words that your kids are super familiar with and pair them with their country of origin. So here’s our list of our world at German words that we’re betting are already in your lexicon. At the end of the list you’ll find our station idea, too:
·     Delikatessen (delicatessen)
·     Fest
·     Gesundheit
·     Poltergeist
·     Nudel (noodle)
·     Cobalt
·     Bretzel (pretzel)
·     Streusel
·     Waltz
·     Dachshund
·     Schnauzer
·     Bagel
·     Hamster

Station idea: Play a picture/word matching game with homemade cards. To play, make two index cards for each word—one with the word written on it and one with the image. Then set the kids to task matching word to image. Turn this exercise into a memory matching game by flipping the cards upside down, and having kids turn them over two at a time, trying to find a word/picture match. If you don’t find one, turn them back over and let the next player take a turn.

Play Restaurant!

We hope you won’t be too disappointed to learn that two of America’s most classic foods—the hot dog and the hamburger—aren’t American at all. It turns out these favorites got their start in Germany. The history of both is a little sketchy, and may depend on whether you call your hot dog a “frankfurter” or a “wiener.”

There are some who claim the hot dog originated in Frankfurt in 1487, while others believe the tasty sausage came out of Vienna (Wien), Austria. And don’t even get us started on which German immigrant first had the crazy idea to serve the “little dog” sausage on a bun. Either way, this American classic is anything but.

As for the hamburger, its history is similar to its meaty, bunned counterpart, with even muddier waters. But at least in one version, Germany has claims to the creation of the hamburger—also reflected in its name. There are some who believe Otto Kause of Hamburg, Germany is the man behind the bun. As the legend goes, in 1891 Otto cooked a beef patty in butter and served it with an egg on top. And the rest, as they say, is history. And a pretty tasty one at that! Station idea: Set up a pretend restaurant that sells hot dogs, hamburgers and other favorites too. Be sure to dress the part, create some mouth-watering menus full of fun condiment ideas, and use play money to pay for your delish dishes. Order up!

Station idea: Set up a pretend restaurant that sells hot dogs, hamburgers and other favorites too. Be sure to dress the part, create some mouth-watering menus full of fun condiment ideas, and use play money to pay for your delish dishes. Order up!

Play with Toys!

If there’s one universal truth about kids, it’s that toys are always tops with them. They can thank the toy makers of our world at home Germany who started the trend back in the Middle Ages for their wooden toy favorites. In fact, at one point in history, the world’s largest toy factory was in Nuremberg, Germany. (And here your kids thought it was at the North Pole.)

The tradition of wood toy making in our world at home Germany started in the Ore Mountains, when residents turned to wood toy making after the silver mining industry dried up. This area in Eastern Germany became the hot spot for traveling salesmen, who would come through to buy wooden knights, saints and hobbyhorses they would then sell at open markets around Europe. The tradition still continues today, although it has spread throughout the country. We bet you might even find a few German wood toys among your kids’ favorites. Look for Haba, HaPe and Grimm labels to find some German treasures right at home.

Station idea: Set up an imaginative play station with whatever wooden toys your family already has—trains, rattles, figurines, puzzles and more. Bolster it with other German brand toys that are hiding in your closet or toy chest. Did you know Bruder trucks come from Germany? Playmobil does too! Once your German-inspired play space is assembled, all that’s left to do is play!

Remember to include your Whole Wide World Playsets at this station too! Little globetrotters can explore world cultures with World Village Playset Ireland or World Village Playset China. Both come with engaging travel journals that drop kids into authentic travel experiences without having to leave the house. Kids can always count on Joe and Emma, their travel companions, to show them around town, depicted on a beautifully printed play mat. What they explore and what they learn is limited only by their imaginations! Which way is your favorite way to play?

–Allison Sutcliffe

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