I am always looking for ways to introduce my children to new languages, and also to the idea that we live in a world with many different cultures, traditions, foods and lifestyles.
A friend recently shared an idea her mom used to help her brother and her learn about the wide world from their home in Maryland. Once a month they had a “French night” or “Spanish night” or “Chinese night” where they would eat the foods of that country (imagine crepes, burritos or dumplings) and learn about the places the food came from. They would cook together, look at maps, browse through guide books, play music from the country in question, and talk about what they knew about that country. Sometimes they had a guest at dinner from the chosen country or watched a movie in that language.
She and her brother loved these festive, themed evenings, and they are among her happiest family memories. I thought that seemed like a pretty easy and fun way to bring the world to your dinner table, without having to wait on any long lines for check-in!
If you want to try “country night” at home, here are some web sites that can help you fill in the gaps. I suggest you plan three nights at once so you can stock up on ingredients, music and images. It’s also a really fun thing to do with other families. Your kids will get even more excited about country night if they see that other kids are also participating. And remember, kids will only sometimes do as you say, but they will *always* do as you do! By making this a regular event and spending time on it, they will learn from you how important it is to know about, respect and enjoy other cultures. If your kids are very young, you can still do this activity to broaden their palate and introduce them to the sounds and rhythms of other languages. You might find you have a pint-sized flamenco music enthusiast or sesame noodles-lover in your family… Bonne chance!
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