Globally aware child and the importance

What is a globally aware child and why is it important? Learn to bring easy, different cultures into your home, minus the travel.

A globally aware child realizes that while there are many similarities among all of us on Earth, there are many differences as well. We don’t all speak the same language, wear the same types of clothes, celebrate the same holidays or eat the same foods. A globally aware child learns to appreciate the differences and realizes that differences are OK.

Why spend time teaching children about different cultures? Michigan State University Extension recognizes that the world has become smaller through technology and increased travel. Learning about and celebrating diversity can affect relationships for the rest of a child’s life. There are many opportunities to teach children global awareness through daily living. Below are some easy ideas to help families achieve this.

  • Buy a globe or a world map and choose a different country to learn about each month. Make this a family project and have each member report what they discover. To enhance what you’ve learned try one or two of the following suggestions.
  • Try new foods. While there are many restaurants featuring ethnic eats, you can stay home and make your own. If you have access to the internet look up new recipes. No internet at home? Visit your local library. A trip to the grocery store can be a global awareness exercise by checking out the international foods aisle. Pick a food and research what country it comes from.
  • Listen to a variety of music. The former preschool teacher in me has to recommend a CD called Multicultural Children’s Songs, by Ella Jenkins. Another great resource for multicultural music is a company called Putumayo. I am familiar with, and can recommend the following CD’s from them: World Sing Along, Raggae Playground and Acoustic Dreamland. Also check with your local library for these CD’s to borrow, possibly without charge.
  • Visit the library for books that show different cultures – here’s a short list to get started:
    • Material World by Peter Menzel and Charles C. Mann. Suitable for all ages. This beautiful book of photographs and cultural anthropology is a fascinating exploration of how families live around the world. Photojournalist Peter Menzel depicts the lives of typical families in 30 nations across the globe.
    • Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz and the Boston Children’s Museum; illustrations by Meilo So. Appropriate for ages 9-12. Nina Simonds created this book for children to understand five major Chinese festivals, highlighted through tales, recipes and activities.
    • Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, for ages 4-8. This is the story of Maria, a little girl who is excited to help out with her family’s Christmas tradition of making tamales.
    • The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin, best for ages 4-8. A young girl wishes her family would plant pretty flowers like others in the neighborhood instead of “ugly” vegetables. But when the vegetables are harvested and made into soup, guess who shows up to eat?
    • Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions From Around the World, by Selby Beeler and G. Brian Karas. Appropriate for ages 4-8. All kids lose their teeth, but are all kids visited by a Tooth Fairy? This book describes tooth traditions from around the world.
  • Many urban and rural areas have historical villages families can visit. Learn where the first settlers of the area came from and how they lived. Every village, town and city has their own cultures. Visit local museums and the local Chamber of Commerce office for a list of places to visit and local celebrations.
  • Look within your own family, what country did your family come from? Talk with older members and learn about your family history. The holiday season can be a great time to learn about family history and cultural traditions.
  • Celebrate globally. Looking for a theme for your party? Try Cinco de Mayo, Bastille Day, Chinese New Year or Mardi Gras. A great resource for books, crafts, flags, music and other activities for different cultures is the popular Pinterest website.

It’s easy to bring the rest of the world into your home, along with the benefits of what you learn which can make a lifelong difference.