How We Teach Our Children About Other Cultures
As a parent of two toddler children, one of my goals is to expose them to a variety of different cultures. I've always truly loved learning about, and experiencing, the types of music, literature, dancing, and food that different cultures have to offer. This is something that my husband and I want to share with our sons. We want to learn together by periodically taking time to focus on and learn about a particular culture. We've done this several times since our sons have been born. We'll pick a night, select a country, then choose traditional foods to eat and traditional music to listen to. As our sons grow, we will be able to incorporate even more!
By teaching your children about other cultures, you're helping them to learn about the world and about the great diversity our planet offers. 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. Teaching at home, trying new foods, and listening to new music, is one way to experience the world from your own home.
In addition to learning more about our world, I also hope that exposure to new and different foods will allow my boys to become well-rounded eaters. As I said earlier, I have two toddlers and it's well known that toddlers can be very picky eaters. This can be frustrating for new parents. And do I ever understand! Overall, my boys are fairly accepting of most 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!) By trying traditional foods from other countries, we can push their taste buds and encourage adventurous eating. Bonus: it also makes the meal fun, and not a power struggle.
Tried and Kid Approved
So what countries have my kids and I started learning about so far?
- Costa Rica
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 very soon.
Our third night was Italian Night. I am part Italian, so Italian food is a default 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!
While we cook the different foods, we log into our Pandora Radio account and search 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 creates a festive atmosphere!
There's so many ways to teach your children about different cultures. There is a never-ending supply of good recipes, resources, and ideas to help you as you learn. As our kids grow older, we plan to share more information about each country, and their histories. We can read books, study the globe, do arts and crafts, learn words from different languages and different types of etiquette, and watch documentaries on each country. I'm looking forward to it!
Have you shared new, exciting foods with your kids? What activities do you use to teach about other countries? Do you have any ideas for me? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!