- Family and Parenting
Cultural Nights for Toddlers
As a parent of two toddlers (aged 18 months and a little over 2.5 years), one of my goals is to expose them to a variety of different cultures. I've always loved learning about, and experiencing, the types of music, literature, dancing, and food that different cultures have to offer (pretty sure I could eat falafel all day, every day!) This is something that my husband and I want to share with our sons. We want to learn together, and build a family tradition of our own, by periodically holding a cultural night in our home. We've done this several times since our sons have been born. Typically, we select a country, then choose a recipe and music to listen to while we eat. And as the boys grow, we can do even more!
Why have cultural nights for toddlers?
To learn about the rest of the world! My husband and I would love to travel more, but with two small children, (plus having enough time and resources) that can be a challenge. Crafting a cultural night is one way to experience the world from your own home.
This idea is also two-fold. My hope is that exposure to new and different foods will allow my boys to become well-rounded eaters. It's well known that toddlers can be very picky eaters and this can be frustrating for parents. And do I ever understand! Overall, my boys are fairly accepting of new foods, but there have been situations where they've refused food, thrown it on the floor, or carried on about how they wanted something else (an orange, a banana, anything but this black bean burger!) During a cultural night, we can push their taste buds and encourage adventurous eating. It also makes the meal fun, and not a power struggle.
Tried and Toddler Approved
So what Cultural Nights have we tried so far?
- Costa Rican Night
- Cuban Night
- Italian Night
My honeymoon was in Costa Rica. While we were there we ate tons of Gallo Pinto, a staple dish in Costa Rica. It was so delicious that we had to try it at home. Gallo Pinto means "red rooster" or "painted rooster," and is a combination of rice and beans (red or black), seasoning, and Salsa Lizano. Salsa Lizano is a Costa Rican condiment, and it is the best! We also paired this dish with roasted plaintains. The boys loved this meal!
During Cuban night, we tried Cuban chicken with mango salsa. This turned out quite well! My 18 month old wasn't as thrilled as the rest of us, but he did at least try a few bites. The combination of orange juice, coriander, cumin, lemon, honey, and soy sauce was definitely a new flavor for all of us. I plan to make this again soon.
Our third night was Italian Night. I am part Italian, so Italian food is a given in my family. Growing up, my parents and paternal grandmother would make ravioli, sauce, tortlach, casanti, and more. The boys love pasta, so Italian night is always a big hit. Making casanti is always a memorable event. Casanti is dough, flattened and baked between two heavy irons, then filled with "goop." Goop is garlic, butter, asiago cheese, and salt pork. I can just smell the aroma of garlicky dough in the air as I type. Making casanti is a family tradition, and I have high hopes that my boys will learn how to make these as well!
During each cultural night, we logged into our Pandora Radio account and searched for music from each respective country. You could browse your local library for cd's as well. Or check with your friends and family to see what they have in their music collection. Pairing the food with music created a festive atmosphere!
The options are endless! There is a never-ending supply of good recipes and ideas to make your cultural night a success. Our next night will be Moroccan themed. As the kids grow older, we plan to share more information about each country, and their histories. We can read books, do arts and crafts, and watch documentaries on each country. I'm looking forward to it!
Have you shared new, exciting foods with your toddler? What type of cultural night would you plan for your family? What ideas do you have for me? I'd love to hear from you!