Summer Kids Activities for World Exploration!
Between summer camps, staycation getaways and spontaneous beach excursions, there’s plenty to do around town on summer vacation. In fact so much so, it can make the great big world seem far away. But it’s easy to infuse global exploration into local adventuring if you know what to look for. Here are five summer kids activities you can do at home that put the focus on global cultures around you!
Explore Lucky Charms from Around the World
For your first summer kids activities, ask your kids if they know of any lucky charms, and you might get an answer about cereal. But we bet they’ll be surprised to find out that good luck charms from around the globe are hiding in plain sight just around the corner. An outdoor adventure will set your luck hunter off on the right track—to a nature preserve, forest or the local zoo. Here’s what luck you’re sure to come across when you hit the road:
- In Germany pigs, or more specifically Glucksschwein (“lucky pig”), are seen as a sign of prosperity and fertility. Thankfully, marzipan pigs are often given rather than real ones!
- In India elephants are considered good luck, because so many stories of Hindu gods include elephants bringing about lucky circumstances.
- In ancient Greece and Rome, dolphins were a symbol of good luck. They were a sign to sailors, who had been at sea for months, that land was near.
- 4 leaf clovers are considered lucky in many countries, but most notably in Ireland. Have you ever spotted one?
- Acorns are good luck charms in Norway. When you place one on a windowsill, it’s said to ward off lighting and protect your house.
- Give someone a lucky bamboo plant in China and they’ll thank you for bringing good luck to their home. If you place the plant on the east side of a room it’s said to improve your chi.
- Crickets are another lucky symbol in many cultures, including Native American and Asian cultures. As protectors of the house, they stop chirping when danger is near.
- Ladybugs are another biggie. In Swedish, Australian, Italian, American, Scottish and Chinese cultures they are thought to bring good luck in the form of safety and protection.
How many good luck charms did you find on your hunt?
Set Out on a Food Fact-Finding Mission
Turn your typical summer picnic into a fact-finding mission when you dig into the origin of some of your favorite summer foods. Think: watermelon, corn on the cob and corn. Here are a few things we like on our summer menu and some fascinating history factoids that go with them. Who knew a simple picnic could be so enlightening?
- Watermelon. Your kids are all about holding a seed spitting contest when it comes to this summer fruit. But they might be just as interested to learn that watermelon is believed to have its origins in the Kalahari Desert in Africa, and it was first harvested over 5,000 years ago! It made its way to our picnic blankets by way of China (in the 10th century), on to Europe in the 13th century and finally to the shores of the US with the slave trade.
- Corn on the cob. That buttery corn that completes any summer picnic has a very long history. It goes back about 9,000 years ago to central Mexico where scientists first thought field corn was domesticated. Through spontaneous mutation, field corn became sweet corn (the yummy stuff we eat) and was first given to European settlers by the Iroquois tribe in the late 1700’s. Field corn is the largest grain crop grown in the Americas!
- Lemonade. We can thank them for the pyramids and ingenious mummification techniques. Turns out we can thank ancient Egyptian cultures for lemonade too! The earliest written evidence of lemonade’s existence has been found there, dating back to about 1,000 CE. And many think that the Egyptian version of this sweet and sour drink originated in Asia, around 700 CE. It would have been made with lemons, dates and honey.
- Iced Tea. Tea has a long and intriguing history that goes all the way back to the Yunnan region in China, during the Shang Dynasty. The people of China have consumed tea (in its hot form) for thousands of years, and it moved slowly west through Middle Eastern cultures on to European cultures through the centuries. But iced tea is a pretty American invention. The first modern version can be found in an 1879 cookbook.
When you think about your favorite summer menu items, be sure to look into their origins as well as their trade history and uses. We bet you’ll be surprised at what you find!
It may be sunny beach weather where your family lives, but did your kids know that half way across the globe it’s winter now? Looking into opposite seasons in opposite hemispheres is a great way to make global connections from home.
Think about the fact that it’s the dead of summer in Australia when Christmas rolls around. Ask your kids what they think Australians do to celebrate—do they go surfing?.
Grill Christmas dinner fixings outside? Or consider the fact that while your kids are outside running through the sprinkler in their bathing suits, skiers in South America are heading to the Andes to hit the slopes. In fact, the ski season in Argentina and Chile run from mid-June through mid-October, just about the time North Americans are trading in their bathing suits for winter gear.
Turn these curiosities into an activity by getting out flat global map and marking daily temperatures in some key cities in the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western hemispheres. Track the weather for about a week and then see what observations your tiny scientists can make about weather around the world. Don’t forget to pay special attention to cities along the equator, where there are wet and dry seasons, but the temperature is warm to hot all year long.
One of the cool things about clouds is the perspective they must have. From up so high, they can see for miles and miles in any direction. And when the wind blows, off they go, to find a new place to stand watch and keep an eye on things. Clouds are a perfect starting point for summer kids activities!
Take the kids outside to investigate clouds and consider where they’ve been and where they’re going to next. Through the water cycle, the droplets of water contained in each have certainly been suspended over each continent at one time or another, and now they’ve landed in your backyard! Here’s how you can investigate clouds with your little scientist:
- Watch a simple Free School video that explains how clouds form and reviews the 5 basic types of clouds.
- Have your kids identify and classify the different types of clouds they see outside.
- Draw pictures of different clouds you find or “recreate” them using materials like cotton balls, tissues, paper scraps or batting.
- Sing a simple cloud song about cirrus, cumulus and nimbus clouds to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider.
- Look for cloud shapes!
If necessity is the mother of invention, then boredom is its cousin. Because having down time, unscheduled time, and time with nothing to do engenders creativity in kids as well as or better than planned summer kids activities. Consider Dan Siegel, UCLA Clinical Psychiatry Professor’s reminder that, “having nothing going on and working to invent an activity is good for [kids’] minds.”
In short, making time to be bored can be an important summer pursuit as well! Set your little imagineers up for boredom success by challenging them to create a story about a child who lives half way around the world. They can invent (or investigate) answers to questions like:
- What makes that child happy?
- What makes her sad?
- What does he or she like to do for fun?
- What does his or her everyday life look like?
- What does this child’s family look like? The house they live in? The foods they eat? The traditions they celebrate?
What other questions can your kids’ little minds come up with as they create a story? Add to the fun by inviting friends to participate, round robin style, where each friend shares something fun about their fictional character or adds to the story in some way.
And of course, you can always lay out an intriguing invitation to play with Whole Wide World Toys World Village Playset, China Adventure Kit. Down time is all your kids need to start making up their own stories about Joe and Emma exploring a Chinese village, as they move the wooden puzzle pieces around the heirloom quality playmat. The story cards, journal and companion pack buildings are just the starting point they need to fan the embers of imagination.
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