From the food we eat, to the games we play, to the clothes we wear, it’s easy to find global influences at home… if you know what to look for. Each month, we’ll choose a different destination and play detective, investigating ways different cultures have influenced our own. It’s just one more way parents can raise global citizens and engage them in creative play. Our first stop? Mexico! Mexican culture is all around us.
Cook Off Challenge!
Who doesn’t love learning about food from other cultures, especially when you get to sample your finds? That’s just what this Mexican culture activity is all about. Taste testing kid-cooked recipes that include foods native to Mexico that are most likely already at home in your kitchen.
Yummy everyday ingredients like corn, sweet potatoes, avocados and cocoa beans (a.k.a. chocolate) are on the list, as are sweet potatoes, beans, peppers and vanilla. Imagine life without these delicious foods that came to us from Mexico! If you need more ideas, check out this map for some inspiration.
Then it’s as simple as pairing your ingredient with a recipe and turning on the stove. Maybe your kids would like to transform avocados into fresh guacamole? Or roast corn to make a tangy side dish? Sweet potato fries are a tasty and easy option, as is a fresh salsa made with spicy peppers like this one. Whatever your kids choose to cook is up to them. But everyone gets in on the taste test challenge. Time to sample the goods!
Host a Mexican Feast!
After learning about everyday foods that have their roots in Mexico, it’s time to try some traditional Mexican dishes. And while your kids are probably familiar with tacos, fajitas and quesadillas, this activity puts the spotlight on authentic Mexican dishes that differ from these Tex-Mex favorites. It’s time to hit the kitchen!
Start your day with a hearty helping of chilaquiles. This simple dish that features tortillas, cheese and eggs is traditionally served at breakfast or for brunch. Then it’s time to invite neighbors, friends and family over for a tamale making party. Tamales have been around forever. No joke! Their history in Mexico and Central America stretches all the way back to 5000 BCE (possibly earlier) and the Aztecs.
Today, tamale recipes are passed down from one generation to the next, and they’re so commonplace, they’re eaten at virtually any meal on any given day. The recipe we’ve shared makes about 36 tamales (plenty to share!) and offers a few tasty suggestions for fillings. Head to the local grocery store to find the dried corn husks that wrap these hand held treats. You can usually find masa harina there too (the corn flour used to make the dough), but if not, here are a few ways to substitute this unique ingredient. Add to your authentic experience by serving Mexican horchata to your helpful cooks. What a way to spend a Mexican culture day!
Seek out a Song!
Sticking with the food theme, it’s time to hit a Mexican restaurant as we continue our search. The criteria? It’s got to have a mariachi band! Mariachi music has been an integral part of Mexican culture since the 19th century, where it originated in Jalisco. Over the last two centuries, it has transformed from a rural music tradition to a cultural phenomenon.
Traveling around Mexico, you might find mariachi bands playing in the city plaza or wandering through outdoor restaurants to entertain customers. It’s this tradition that has found its way north, to the states, where mariachi musicians, dressed in glittery charro outfits serenade diners while they enjoy Mexican eats. We’re sure your kids will love it!
Ride ‘Em, Cowboy!
For many, cowboys are about as American as you can get. But would you believe the cowboy tradition actually started in Mexico? It’s true! Vaqueros, Mexican cattle ranchers, are the original cowboys (in Spanish the word “vaquero” translates almost directly). Like cowboys themselves, many other aspects of cowboy life have been imported as well, like rodeos and lassoing. Both were methods developed by Mexican vaqueros to help herd and handle individual cattle as they moved them around on the open ranges of Mexico and what’s now Texas.
So to round out our Mexico-at-home tour, we’ve come up with two easy activities that celebrate all things cowboy.
- Find a rodeo near you so your kids can see real cowboy skills in action!
- Work with leather. Cattle raised by vaqueros were mainly used for beef, but they also used the tallow to make candles and turned the hide into leather. Introduce your kids to hand stamping and leather work by making a simple bracelet.
Continue your child’s global exploration with Whole Wide World Toys’ World Village Playsets. Kids can explore a Chinese village or a town in Ireland, with puzzle piece travelers and a detailed travel journal to guide them along the way. Each playmat is beautifully designed and acts as a perfect backdrop to your little one’s imaginary adventures. Which country would you like to explore?
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photos from Pixabay.com